We've heard the story too many times to count. It starts with "I never intended to fix up my car." Next thing you know, the thing is pumping out ungodly amounts of horsepower and working the dyno to world-record heights. Such is the scenario for Michael Carlin of Algonquin, Ill.
Carlin, a computer technician, wanted to celebrate his gainful employment with the purchase of new car and levitated toward a Lexus IS300; a nice place to levitate for sure. Into all things exclusive, he was looking to be the first in his city with a modified IS300.
After picking up the car in October 2000, he went into cyber space to see what the tuning scene was all about. The seeds were planted. In the spring of 2001, he moved from cyber space to 3-D reality and met up with some of the people he had been chatting with. One of these enthusiasts was Marcus Frost, who owned a startlingly swift JZA80 Supra.
Carlin's posting on t04r.com puts the meeting into context. "This was the first MkIV I'd ever seen, and my heart stopped, my jaws dropped, I lost a few breaths. I truly believe it was that first ride in a BPU MkIV Supra that has corrupted me so, but I have no regrets."
Carlin wanted to get in on the fun, which is when he met Larry Prebis of Sound Performance in nearby Bloomingdale, Ill. A plan of action was forged, but the price tag for a 600-hp "four-door Supra," while reasonable, was still way out of reach. Like many of us, Carlin was in no-man's-land; it cost too much put the boost to his IS and he thought a Supra was equally out of reach. The group of enthusiasts Carlin met became known as SuperCarsChicago and they peppered him with reasons to step up, score a MkIV and live the dream.
He sold the IS300 at a loss and started the search. In October 2001, Carlin's prey was in the crosshairs--a Quicksilver 1998 with an automatic and 32,000 miles. Carlin wanted to drag race and wanted an automatic so this was the car; it was even local and the color was rare.
It was during the first year with the Supra that his power addiction festered and intensified. By December 2002, the car was at full BPU-spec but the 406 whp just wasn't enough.
Less than 18 months after seeing his first JZA80, Carlin took his newfound hobby to a whole other level when he, Frost and two other enthusiasts formed Garage Dynamics, a company that imports rare and exotic performance and styling parts. With that, the Supra was soon skyrocketing past BPU+++.
Impressed by Prebis' knowledge of the JZA80 and his patience, Carlin sought out Sound Performance again. From this brainstorm session, historic events were set in motion. He knew a bulletproof automatic was key to drag racing success and Sound Performance was ready with its SP400 unit.
The SP400 is a GM TH400 internally fortified and outfitted with a custom bellhousing to join with the 2JZ-GTE with no cutting. Sound Performance also added one of its Level 2 torque converters to the combination. The converter was a 4000-rpm stall unit with a CNC-machined turbine hub, sealed Torrington bearings, furnace-brazed impeller and turbine, a trick anti-ballooning plate and reinforced turbine vanes. Carlin elected to swap in a six-speed LSD for added zip on the street. He addressed getting the power to the ground before approaching the task of generating said power.
Not to worry; while all the gearbox stuff was going down, the engine program was in full swing, which isn't saying as much as you'd think because the plan was originally for a fully stock bottom end. Carlin pieced together a single-turbo conversion kit made of parts he believed in and put it together at Garage Dynamics. It consisted of an HKS turbo kit with a Sound Performance turbo. A stainless-steel HKS turbo manifold, a GT-spec wastegate and Type II blow-off valve were joined by a wicked SP77 turbo.
The SP77 is a standard in the Sound Performance line-up, featuring a .81 A/R turbine housing and a highly efficient GT42 turbine wheel joined to a 77mm compressor wheel. ADFX Racing fabricated a 3.5-inch downpipe and a trick intake system to complete the kit. He wanted an intake that didn't rely on the stock intake runners. ADFX fabricated a CNC-flange to mount the manifold to the head and custom runners that ran between the flange and the intake plenum. The runners were port-matched to the head and designed for optimum flow. This work of art was finished off with a huge 90mm throttlebody originally destined for a Mustang.
Carlin also had to feed his need to be exclusive. His car was going to run a Do-Luck front bumper cover and Carlin knew no one made a FMIC kit to work specifically with the Do-Luck piece so he and ADFX Racing collaborated on a custom, one-off FMIC. The result is a humongous 18x24x4.5 core. Other tidbits created by ADFX include a custom battery box, one-off radiator, catch cans, exhaust housing shield, spark plug cover and a six-point roll bar with swingouts. Meanwhile, the cylinder head was getting some attention. Ferrea 1mm oversized valves were installed using Crower springs and retainers. The plan called for a set of HKS 264 cams and ARP head studs.
Every build-up has its challenges and Carlin was about to face his. With the long block together, the crank was hand turned to check everything out and an eerie "snap" echoed around the shop, followed by flowery expletives, most starting with "ohh!" The exhaust cam had snapped in three places. Carlin lined up a warranty replacement, which turned out to be a bigger 272 bumpstick. A blessing in disguise; this was actually a better fit for the project.
The fuel system on Carlin's Supra features two in-tank Walbro pumps, -8 lines, an SX regulator and 1000cc injectors planted in a custom ADFX billet rail. The spark side was enhanced with the trusty HKS Twin Power DLI. He also bought an EMS, a 5-bar MAP sensor and a wideband O2 controller.
When that highly anticipated moment when a fresh engine is first brought to life arrived, it was followed by silence and dejection. The demons were showing their faces once again. Flabbergasted and at his wit's end, Carlin sent the Supra packing to Larry Prebis and Sound Performance in April 2003. One of the most difficult things any shop can do is take over a project in mid-stream. Taking over on a project with demons hiding deep within is worse still. You have no idea what was done, either right or wrong. A quick forensic look at the 2JZ revealed a number six cylinder full of fuel, which could have been catastrophic had it tried to fire. Prebis tenaciously tracked the problem to miswired MAP and IAT sensors.
The car was brought to life and strapped to Sound Performance's dyno. Asked how to tune the car Carlin bowed to Prebis' best judgment but added he had dreamed of sporting 800 whp. Initial tuning netted 720-plus at 28 psi but the wastegate spring would not allow more boost. Prebis swapped springs and continued pounding the laptop.
Carlin explains the following IM reports: "She's all done." Larry says. "You can pick her up." I asked what was the final number and Larry wants me to guess. I say, "750?" "Nope, higher," he says. "775?" Higher. "799?" (Figuring it would be my luck to just barely miss 800) Higher. "At this point, I thought he was BS-ing me. I said 825. Nope. 850? "Almost," he says. "Almost! Stop %#$*ing with me, Larry," I say. "That's not funny. He says "I'm dead serious; 844 whp at 33psi with timing very conservative at 15 degrees." Carlin was floored.
After driving the Supra around for a short while it would be down for five weeks at Custom Cars Unlimited for some body tuning. Carlin wanted a one-off look so he added C-West side skirts, a TRD hood and wing and C-West rear skirts.The fenders were rolled to accommodate Carlin's exclusive Braid wheels. With the help of BASF, Custom Cars Unlimited was able to perfectly match the Quicksilver paint. It also created custom ducting to cool the brakes, made brackets to mount HID components and polished numerous underhood parts.
Inside, Custom Cars Unlimited flush-mounted some of the tuning electronics, mounted the gauges and a high-power stereo system. A very exclusive Alpine IV900 DVD stereo head unit featuring a huge 7-inch display is the cornerstone of a hard-hitting system. The remainder of the interior consists of a 10,000-rpm TRD tach, Sparco Milano bucket seats, Blitz SBC-id boost controller with power meter, Defi gauges and a Blitz DATT turbo timer.
Fast forward to September 2003, the stock-block 2JZ power record was held by Peter Blach.
Carlin decided to take a swing at Blach's 958-whp record.
"Off to Sound Performance I went; the car keys in one hand and a broom in the other," says Carlin, who knew the prospects of a catastrophic engine failure were staring him in the face. The car was tested in second gear and the first pull netted 870 at 25 psi.
"I stood there in agony," relates Carlin, "just waiting for that fatal pop, the inevitable grinding sounds and billowing smoke."
With the AEM tuned and boost set to 36 psi, a nerve-wracked Carlin watched history spool up in front of him.
"The turbo was screaming like a wild hyena in the night, the sounds were frightening for my wallet. At the end of the run, there was a big backfire and I thought the motor was toast. Larry, with his infamous smirk said that was only the rev-limiter. The dyno spit out a 980.55 whp chart and we were shell-shocked." Prebis was a bit skeptical and he strapped another car on the dyno to verify the result. That car repeated its earlier testing, a sign that Carlin's Supra's test was accurate.
When the warm afterglow wore off, Carlin was determined to check the Supra's performance on the quarter-mile dyno. With slicks and skinnies mounted, he brought up the boost on the line and launched. The engine was outfitted with a NOS kit, a 100-shot dry setup that's run by the AEM EMS, is tuned to kick in at 80-percent throttle and turn off at 20 psi of boost, and is activated by a switch hidden in the center console.
Instead of sitting at the line for 20 seconds trying to get the turbo spooled up, the nitrous spools it almost instantly, preventing the converter from burning. The turbo is so big, the car is terrible off the line without the NOS. Carlin has a dual purge kit that purges the NOS through the TRD vents. With nitrous blazing, the Toyota stopped the clocks in 10.1 at 138 mph--quite good for the first time down the track.
Power records like this are fleeting, but getting to the summit is all you can do. Carlin and Sound Performance reached the summit at 980 whp and did it funneling power through an automatic transmission. They deserve big props for that. Will they go for 1,000 whp? We think yes; Carlin's addiction wouldn't have it any other way.