The Mark IV generation Toyota Supra is one of those platforms enthusiasts can't seem to get enough of, regardless of what normally floats their boat. It is an archetypal example of the pure long-nosed athletic coupe, flossing timeless, sexy lines, and a stock motor—the bulletproof 2JZ—with enough grunt to finish what it starts, as well as enough tuning flexibility to get pushed to mind-boggling extremes without skipping a beat. It's a 1990s-era Japanese sports car that deserves to be among the pantheon of benchmark high-performance machines, upon which all others are measured against.
As such, this version of the Supra was also a not unusual foundation to take racing. Today, Mark IVs are pretty common drag and roll racing challengers, but they've also campaigned touring and sports car races over the years, in addition to time attack and other disciplines. And then there's drifting; while not Nissan S-chassis popular, the JZA80 has been a chosen weapon for the likes of sliding superstars Max Orido, Rhys Millen, and Fredric Aasbo.
The Mark IV Supra is what driver, fabricator, and race car builder "Rad Dan" Burkett picked to tackle the 2015 Formula Drift (FD) Pro 2 Championship. Burkett and his wife, Renee, operate RAD Industries, a race shop in Orange County, California, and he had a different Mark IV Supra he owned featured in the June 2011 issue of Super Street. Since then, he's honed his drifting skills, most recently behind the wheel of a V-8-swapped Mazda FC RX-7 in Just Drift's Top Drift pro-am championship, finishing second in points in 2014.
"It's 100 percent my favorite car that's feasible to make into a drift car," Burkett says about the Mark IV Supra. "It came with a good motor; with minimal modifications you're at the power level you need [to be competitive in pro drifting]. It has a proven chassis for any form of racing. When you're going sideways, looking for forward bite, it's going to have what you need."
There's also the issue of wheelbase, which Burkett admits is an important reason for going with the JZA80 platform. When he drove the Mazda in Top Drift, he found the car to be somewhat "twitchy," which he attributes to the 95.7-inch space between the front and rear wheel centers. A longer wheelbase offers smoother transitions, particularly in the chase position. "I needed something 98 to 106 inches, which just happened to be where the Supra ended up. With a 100.4-inch wheelbase, it was meant to be."
He found the car on Craigslist and picked up the JZA80 in Riverside, a perfectly running, 231,000-mile, 5-speed, N/A Supra. As 2014 came to close, Burkett began transforming the sports car into a fishtailing beast, starting off with chassis prep and specifically stitch welding for rigidity in critical areas of the chassis, in addition to piecing together an FD-spec roll cage. He also fashioned and attached front and rear bash bars that lie just under the bumper skins - that is, tube structures for (you guessed it) bashing, as well as ideal for mounting cooling components, body panels, and lighting.
Speaking of cooling, like many drift cars and even more rally cars Burkett chose to run his radiator at the back of the Supra in the hatch. The custom setup is said to be more efficient and also helps the car achieve an ideal weight balance. He created and welded in supports for a C&R Racing rad, which sits at an angle, with two SPAL pull fans in a Derale Power Pack shroud sucking in through custom aluminum ducting that draws air through a large opening in the rear polycarbonate window. Air exits through more ducting and a hole cut into the rear bumper.
In fact, the cargo space at the back of the Supra is home to a few items that are normally elsewhere in the car. An electric water pump and one-off expansion tank and overflow reservoir supplement the new radiator location. Burkett also relocated the power steering fluid pump to the hatch, and he's also cut out a portion of the floor and added bracing for the vehicle's ATL fuel cell, which shares space with two fuel pumps and XRP filters.
Before he got too deep into the build, Burkett sent his Supra to Kings Auto Body in Huntington Beach, where they applied layers of gray paint inside and out, coloring the Shine Auto Project body kit and custom widebody fiberglass front fenders by Chance Jespersen of Lovely Idol. A bunch of other metal parts from the Supra, some custom, some stock—like the ducting for the intercooler and radiator, front bash bar, rear bumper, fuel fill tray and pipe, etc.—received a black powder coat finish courtesy of Embee Performance in Santa Ana; Embee also powder coated the STR wheels in blue.
When the car returned from Kings, it was high time to assemble and prep it for the critical tuning and testing phase. The 2JZ mill, built by S-Tech Motorsports, was dropped into the engine bay, now displacing 3.4 liters instead of 3.0 thanks to the Brian Crower stroker kit and 87mm bore CP aluminum forged pistons. The head meanwhile was upgraded with Deatschwerks fuel injectors, a Nuke Performance fuel rail, and Future Fab turbo manifold for a Garrett turbocharger; igniting the mix are six General Motors LQ9 coil packs, secured via Driftmotion brackets.
That Garrett turbo is a GTX4088R model, and turbine speed is regulated by a couple of Turbosmart wastegates; on the cold side, a Treadstone Performance Engineering intercooler lies on a nearly flat plane just ahead of the engine and is connected to custom RAD charge plumbing outfitted with a Nuke Performance blow-off valve. A Setrab oil cooler is also mounted to the front of the car, sort of the lower part of the "V" if this was an actual V-mount setup. Burkett cut out flow-through holes in the intercooler ducting in order to feed air to the mini heat exchanger, and oil lines run to a Driftmotion thermostatic sandwich plate.
Power is transferred to the gearbox via ACT steel billet flywheel, triple-disc clutch, and pressure plate, and the box itself is a G Force GSR four-speed racing transmission from Race Tech Services, which is connected to the power plant via Toyota J3 bell housing and Excessive Manufacturing adapter. Helping secure the G Force is a custom rear brace outfitted with a GM hardened polyurethane transmission mount, and a custom aluminum Driveshaft Shop (DSS) prop shaft sends twisting force back to the Winters Performance quick-change rear. Higher spline count DSS axles go out to each rear hub from the diff housing.
At each corner we find STR Racing 511 rims shod in Hankook Ventus R-S3 tires, and behind them Wilwood brakes—six-pot front and four-pot rear calipers (adapted to the knuckles with Arizona Performance caliper bracket kits) with slotted, vented rotors. Deeper in the wheel wells are Feal Suspension coilovers, Battle Version arms, Wisefab front lock kit, and Megan Racing rear arms.
All the factory glass was replaced with Makrolon polycarbonate windows, and out back an APR Performance GTC-300 wing aids in downforce making. In the cabin, this Supra is pure race car, rocking a full complement of Sparco gear—steering wheel, quick-release hub, seat side mounts, Circuit driver seat, and EVO II US passenger seat. A Racepak digital display replaces the stock gauges, while Ryan Clemens of Oppomoto wired a custom RAD Industries aluminum center panel integrated into the OEM dash into an all-in-one toggle switch and fuse panel.
We followed this project on our website (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Part 4, and Part 5) and feel pretty honored to have been around for such a kickass build. Burkett is for sure a one-in-a-million personality, and he's set to make this drifting JZA80 as indelible as Orido's or Aasbo's. Like his haircut, Rad Dan's Mk IV Supra is all business in front and a party in the rear, and we're looking forward to watching it lay down smoky tire destruction for a long time to come.
Q&A with "Rad Dan"
Why drifting? What attracted you to that motorsport over others?
The adrenaline you get when in proximity to other cars. The rush of following someone else, or trying to outrun the other car—and avoiding walls.
What was the biggest challenge in putting your Supra together?
It's either time or money. There wasn't one specific area that stumped me, where I was like, this isn't going to be possible. It was the first time I got to take my favorite car, the Supra, and do anything I wanted to it with the money I had and the parts I could get my hands on at the time. Probably time more, because I worked during the day to make money, and then from 6 p.m. until as long as I could stay awake [work on the race car,] and then do it again the next day.
Who do you look up to? Either in drifting or life in general
Growing up it was my dad. Right now, the one person I look up to who inspired me to do what I'm doing is Mad Mike Whiddett. I met him in 2010 and he didn't have a rich-kid lifestyle, he just kept pushing at what he knew he could do and believed in himself until he is where he is today. In 2010 he wasn't nearly as far along [in his pro drifting career] as he is now, but when I met him I knew, yep, this is what I'm doing, I'm going to [be a pro drifter], and I haven't stopped working on it since. When we met, he let me help out with his crew [during the Formula D season] if I could get myself to the round, and I got to see how much life was in him. That's when I knew I could do this. It's going to be hard but I can do this.
Why do you use "rad" in your name and your business?
I've always wanted to have my own shop, my own business, and one day it just came to me. I already had the driving nickname Rad Dan, which was given to me by Ryan Clemens because I accidentally broke a radiator on a car I was working on—so it was "Radiator Dan" before it became "Rad Dan." Then I thought, "RAD" could stand for "Renee and Dan" (his wife is Renee), which is why it became Renee And Dan (RAD) Industries.
What's with the mullet?
I just really like the '80s, and '80s music, and my favorite movie to this day is "Rad," the BMX racing film from 1986, because I really like BMX. So I was like, how can I be something '80s, and I had a Mohawk for a little while, actually more like a faux-hawk, and then I just grew the back out until it became a mullet.