Tom Nguyen had to build his 1994 Toyota Supra. And that's pretty much what he tells himself whenever doubts of whether or not the tens of thousands of dollars spent on it was a good idea. Turns out, though, that a 697whp Japanese classic is exactly the sort of image management that an auto customizing business like Nguyen had just taken over so desperately needs.
Nguyen assumed the western arm of Toronto's Nextmod shortly before picking up the Canadian-spec Toyota. "I couldn't pass it up," he says—not about the Supra, but about the chance to run his own retail shop and garage and to build what's become one of the wildest, most controversial Supras ever. Nguyen is happy to tell you about some of the cars Nextmod's been responsible for, like what he says was the first Powerhouse Amuse GT1 widebody S2000 and Varis widebody Evo X, for example. "Based upon that lineage," he rationalizes, "I had to build something that was also a first."
Which is exactly what he did and which begins with a peculiar alliance of the sort of horsepower you'd come to expect from a 2JZ-GTE, air suspension fit for a luxury sedan and an exterior eclectic enough to chafe even mild-mannered Supra purists. Underneath the hood, the inline-six retains its factory internals, but its twin-turbo layout and side-mount intercooler with its plastic end tanks have been pushed aside for a single GReddy T88 and all-aluminum front-mount heat exchanger. Titan Motorsports fuel injectors and an AEM engine management system tuned by local partner Advance Power House results in the 697whp and 652 lb-ft of torque.
How Nguyen ended up here with a Mark IV chassis that gives the finger to any sort of Supra builders handbook isn't much different than how you ended up with your aunt's four-door Accord on cut springs and a nitrous bottle in the trunk. "It began when I was 16 and watched The Fast and the Furious and started reading car magazines," he says. Hollywood's featherbrained interpretation of Southern California street racing ultimately led to a career in the auto industry for Nguyen, who's done everything from tell people what to do from behind a desk to paint the sort of cars F&F franchise followers aspire to.
Following all of the MoTeC system exhaust nonsense and living lives quarter miles at a time, Nguyen went on to own multiple modded Civics, an RSX track car and a 500hp S2000 before testing Toyota's waters with a GS300. As it turns out, though, all along he was hoping for a late-model Supra, but finding the right one was about as easy as finding a Honda that hasn't succumbed to eBay parts peddlers. "Finding a nice base to start [with] was damn near impossible," Nguyen says of the Supra search, which later led to a 1994 Canadian model whose purpose was to show what Nextmod was capable of. "Based on the company's lineage," he says, "I had to build something that was a first."
If you don't think that air suspension on a car designed to be the Japanese automaker's pinnacle of turbocharged performance makes a whole lot of sense, then you probably won't understand the coupe's outside that's made up of widebody pieces from Varis and updated lighting at both ends from Toyota's slightly revised 1998-and-newer model. A dramatic look it is and, if nothing else, it ticks Nguyen's box of being first to do it. Complementing the revised body are Work Meister S1 rims—12 inches wide out back—of which six- (front) and four-piston (rear) AP Racing brake calipers hide behind.
All of the challenges you'd expect found Nguyen, which compounded once he decided to relegate the Supra to daily-driver duties—something Nextmod's project fleet is often known for. "The whole build was a challenge," he says, describing the wheels that wouldn't clear the body and the brakes that wouldn't clear the wheels. Modernizing the coupe's 20-year-old electronics was even harder, like integrating its push-start ignition, proximity keyless entry, remote ride-height control and Bluetooth command center, all of which can be controlled through his smartphone.
"The goal was to be recognized and push the limits. I'd say we did that. The Supra has always been an iconic car with lots of potential," Nguyen says. Although the Supra's status of legend remains obvious, molding one the way Nguyen has wasn't. "It's definitely made an impact in the short period of time since its debut," he says. "I'm surprised of the amount of recognition." And assembling the car for the purpose of promoting his business made it all worthwhile, if you ask him: "As much time and effort that was put into this build, it never felt like work."