By the age of 9, Brendan Taft was well on his way to becoming a professional athlete, training with the U.S. Olympic badminton team and competing internationally. Being half-Indonesian (the other half Irish) likely had a bit to do with his sport of choice, but it also came naturally for him—"talent" they called it, hard work and dedication is what it felt like. Prodigy status and the accompanying career opportunity left little time for much else; his daily routine consisted of practice in the early morning, school, practice in the evening, then finally a few hours to relax. That was Brendan's life; naturally, the time he spent with his family became increasingly important to him as his athletic career blossomed. The travelling, however, provided rare opportunities to read something other than textbooks, and picking up issues of Super Street and Import Tuner at the airport became an integral part of Brendan's routine.
Brendan found little need to change this routine into his teens despite having become a nationally ranked player. At the age of 16, he was given his parents' old Accord to get himself to and from school and practice. But on the weekends, he made use of his newfound freedom and attended car shows whenever possible—driving as far as San Diego to experience the fascinating "import culture" firsthand. Brendan's parents were supportive of his interests, his father especially, who was very much a car enthusiast himself. Despite his father's interest in older domestics, Brendan was drawn to Japanese imports, intrigued by the smooth body styling and the ability to further customize them aesthetically. His first love was the "FD" Mazda RX-7; he loved every aspect of it and knew he had to own one someday.
In '03, at 17 years old, Brendan's life began to crumble before his eyes. As a professional athlete, the majority of his social life had been his family—the single constant that he'd been able to count on, and for that he cherished them. When his parents decided to file for a divorce, Brendan had no choice but to accept that life would never be the same. It was during this trying time that Brendan's father approached him with the idea to sell the Accord. Brendan would be responsible for posting the car for sale—should he succeed, they would look for a replacement car together. Brendan saw this tough situation as an opportunity to finally get his RX-7. He helped his father sell the Accord, and the money went toward the search for his dream car.
From that point on, all of Brendan's free time was spent on Craigslist and eBay—he even went as far as to test drive several RX-7s. Exhibiting incredible restraint, especially for a teenager, he turned down all of them, partially due to the disappointment he had experienced with the FDs he'd driven thus far. Brendan considered expanding his search to more than the one model. He came to the realization that the FD may have been keeping him from appreciating other cars, namely the A80 Supra. Despite it being the height of the Supra's mainstream popularity thanks to The Fast and the Furious, Brendan was able to find several that fit his criteria and his budget. Together with his father, they pored over online listings looking for "the one." Finally, they decided on a low-mileage, red, manual, non-turbo model located clear across the country in New York. Payment was sent, transportation was arranged, and they waited. The car arrived a month later, and upon initial inspection, it became apparent that it was not quite what was advertised. The paint was faded and the body, although straight, was home to an ungodly amount of dents. Nothing could dampen Brendan's excitement, and he embraced the car for what it was—10,000 door dings and all.
Among its many merits, the relationship between Brendan and his Supra became an outlet for him emotionally—helping to diffuse the issues at home, a sanctuary of sorts. The new responsibilities associated with car ownership—paying for registration, insurance, and general upkeep—created the need to pick up additional shifts at his part-time job, adding to his already busy schedule. Brendan continued his athletic career, until unfortunately an injury forced him to retire at the age of 20—he was ranked fifth in the country. Brendan embraced this change in his life and was appreciative for the time he had been able to commit to the sport and the decade's worth of lessons it had taught him. Naturally, the Supra had been mildly modified by then with a set of TEIN coilovers, a Bomex bumper, Stillen skirts, Racing Hart wheels, and a respray. Brendan had been active in the online community since his initial purchase, but following his retirement from badminton, he became increasingly involved by attending meets and shows whenever possible. Despite the jokes surrounding his car's lack of boost and engine modifications, he found a solid group of close friends who supported his build.
The logical next step for Brendan and his Supra was to upgrade the 2JZ-GE. All signs pointed to forced induction, and sure enough, an aftermarket turbo kit was purchased. Somehow, this milestone meant far less to Brendan than he had expected—there was something lacking emotionally. As long as the uncertainty persisted, he held off on the install. It was around this time that Brendan came across images of a certain Supra built by YSR Japan—naturally aspirated with individual throttle bodies and a custom tubular exhaust manifold. Something stirred within him and he knew that despite openly laughing in the face of logic, an individual throttle bodied-2JZ was what he needed to experience.
What began as a relatively simple individual throttle body conversion and tune using AE111 4A-GE components became the beginning of a partnership between Brendan and FSR Motorsports that would continue to this day. The drastic improvement in response alone was enough to remove any doubt in Brendan's mind that he was making the right choice. He was committed to this new goal and spent the next several years working alongside FSR Motorsports optimizing every possible aspect of the 2JZ head. This process proved to be more difficult than anybody could have possibly imagined. There was simply no information available on the subject. Of course, the polar opposite of turbo setups had been tested and refined thousands of times over the last two decades, yielding countless foolproof formulas available to just about anybody. But for Brendan and FSR, they conquered a brand-new challenge—reworking the entire top end until their uncompromising standard was fulfilled to the tune of 260 rwhp, incomprehensible response, and the aural qualities of nothing else in this world.
All too often, we allow popular opinion to make decisions for us. After all, following a path forged by another and beaten by many who've found success simply makes sense. Why risk extra time, money, and possible disappointment when a clear-cut process and result are readily available? For the automotive community, the very existence of a naturally aspirated Supra of this caliber provides undeniable proof that passion is relevant yet. We are reminded that in this day and age of cars being built for instant gratification and appealing to the masses, there are still heroes pursuing perfection for their own reasons and nothing else.