Do not adjust your screen. If you have a feeling like you've been here before - like you've already seen builders Daniel K Song and Jonny Grunwald collaborate on a Toyota GR Supra once previously - you're not wrong. These two friends and teammates joined forces just a couple of years ago to assemble an A90 for Toyo Tires' Treadpass booth at the 2019 SEMA Show, and it was a beaut - but it was also 1 of 13 Pandem widebody-converted display vehicles at the annual trade event. In show car terms, that's what you call "saturation," and it can be a builder's worst nightmare. It's partly what pushed Daniel, owner of this different 2020 Mk5 Supra, to start fresh and map a new path forward with the A90 platform, something closer in spirit to what he wanted in the first place.
Both Daniel's and Jonny's names should be familiar to the Super Street fanbase. We met Daniel a decade ago through the Scion Tuner Challenge when he built the FR-S GT, an homage to the bare-naked carbon-fiber look Japanese Super GT cars have before they are liveried up. It was his JDM Legends-saved S30 we featured in 2018 that really blew us away, though, an old-school Datsun that Toyo even used in their 2020 calendar, and lately Daniel has been active promoting his DRVNmind brand. Jonny is the homie behind TRMNLracing and a longtime unofficial SS staffer, and we've featured both his TCP Magic widebody Mazda FD3S RX-7 and Pandem RX-8, as well as builds he's collaborated on like Tommy Babiarz's turbo MX-5 and the Lucky 7 Racing FC3S. If you get to know him, you also find that Jonny is an endearing mix of energy, vision, humility, and sincerity.
Independently each of these guys have been capable of executing high-level builds with an elevated degree of precision and working together on the first GR Supra they proved they could deliver quality, but in some ways the project's impact was lost in a sea of other similar A90 at SEMA. That wouldn't happen a second time.
Back to Square 1
Circumstances at the start were like night and day difference between the two project Supra. For the first A90 - which we'll refer to as V1 from here on out - Daniel had only 42 days to assemble and deliver a completed widebody display car for SEMA. For this V2 Supra, he had about six months, initially believing it would be for SEMA 2020 until the event was cancelled due to COVID - but then Toyo decided to still do their Treadpass, so Daniel committed to making that November deadline. In addition, the aftermarket for the GR Supra has grown quite a bit since Daniel and Jonny worked on V1, which gave them way more modding options to choose from for V2.
Rather than try to repair and reuse the V1 A90, Daniel decided to see if he could start with a fresh chassis, and fortunately he had a great opportunity to get out of the car and recoup enough that he was able to put toward a new GR Supra. He points out, "From an efficiency standpoint, starting with a literal blank canvas is a better way to do it."
Downforce, Weight & Rigidity
The biggest and probably most obvious change from V1 to V2 is the Varis Supreme 90 widebody aero the Supra wears, which debuted at the 2020 Tokyo Auto Salon and is the very first production version of the kit in the world. It's not nearly as wide as the TRA Kyoto setup used on V1 - the Varis kit has a 70mm-wide rear overfender, while in the Pandem aero the rears are an eye-popping 110mm wide - but Daniel wasn't looking for showstopping girth this time around. Seeing Varis as a brand more in line with the likes of J aero makers Voltex, Daniel explains, "Both kits 'fit' on a show car, but the Varis kit is seen as much more functional, whereas the Pandem setup is more of a styling-based kit."
The Varis Supreme 90 aero was also a more complete solution for the Supra project. The kit comes with a hood and rear carbon-fiber undertray diffuser, whereas the Pandem does not. The rest of the Supreme 90 FRP and carbon system consists of a front lip, canards, multipiece overfenders forward and rear, side skirts, door panels, and an 1800mm-wide rear wing made from an entirely new type of lightweight wet carbon, a composite material pinched from Varis's experiences building Super GT race cars.
The more functional aero on V2 is probably the most outward sign of this project's greater thematic embrace of performance. In addition to their past in Super GT, Varis has also dabbled in Super Taikyu enduro racing, time attack, and other Japanese circuit disciplines, so they know a thing or two about making body parts that consider elements like downforce, weight and high rigidity, as well as how to find that perfect balance between street concept aero and racing parts. With his JDM connections, Jonny was able to swing the kit for Daniel, and while it was one of the last things to go on the GR Supra (due in part to a COVID-related shipping delay), it's probably foremost in what sets this A90 apart from the rest.
The RKP carbon-fiber roof is another area where the Mk5 separates itself and was uncharted territory for Daniel. This is no vinyl wrap or carbon overlay; Daniel's team actually drilled out/ground off the factory welds and peeled back the steel roof, exchanging it with a composite piece that had to be re-bonded in place. The process also involved removing the windshield and rear hatch, as well as masking off the interior to protect it from hot debris that could damage the plastics and upholstery, but the new top is some 18 lbs. lighter than the old one. "This was the most complex process, the equivalent of doing heart surgery," Daniel remembers. "It could have gone wrong very quickly."
That Racing Vibe
Against the GR Supra's OE Turbulence Grey exterior color is a minimal Acid Green livery that Daniel envisioned and Flat Hat 3D Studio rendered. It's inspired by a look originally worn by the Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro V-12 hypercar, and Daniel employed the contrasting shade in order to break up portions of the exterior, for example making the front lip look like it's multipiece, or showing that the skirts dive behind the carbon side air panels. "The Varis kit is so complex and organic that the green accent lines allowed me to create more visual depth, to show shape," explains Daniel. "The eye can see there is layer and depth."
Curiously, the V1 Supra had an even more minimalistic livery that was based on the AMG/Petronas team colors in Formula One racing, which led us to wonder where Daniel draws inspiration from. Cars from top-tier series like F1 and in particular sportscars and prototype racers from traditional touring car outfits like IMSA and Super GT get his creative juices flowing, and at the extreme end of that spectrum are concepts and experimental race cars that push the boundaries of what aerodynamics development looks like, akin to what Vision Gran Turismo has prompted. Daniel adds, "I like cars that show us: This is what an aero designer could do if there were no rules."
Life Beyond the 2JZ
AMS Performance out of Chicago is a name synonymous with big horsepower, creating its almost 20-year bulletproof reputation for fast turbo cars first with Evo and GT-R before branching out into other platforms. One of the latest to get their attention is the GR Supra, with Daniel nabbing one of two developmental kits that AMS is currently working on, the other kit going to time attack driver Jackie Ding and his A90 (Jackie was actually the first to get it). The system in Daniel's car includes a Garrett GTX3076R Gen II turbocharger, downpipe, charge pipe, and EcuTek calibration, and is designed for functional, linear, low-end power.
On the photo shoot, we got a chance to listen to the GR Supra's turbo B58 inline-6 sing and gurgle in the Malibu canyons and it was glorious - seriously one of the best sounding A90 we've found, due in large part to the extremely limited Remark Ti-Spec exhaust on the car, one of only ten made in titanium (the setup, when widely available, will come in stainless steel). We don't yet know what output Daniel's modified Supra makes because AMS is still sorting out boost, but in between what others like the legendary Steph Papadakis are doing with the platform, we're beginning to believe that yes, there will be life after the 2JZ.
TRMNLracing and Jonny Grunwald are partners on Daniel's Mk5 build, but in truth Jonny is more like a facilitator, an enabler - or as Daniel puts it, "I'm the enthusiast and Jonny is the industry guy." Which is to suggest entirely that Jonny is in tight with some really cool Japanese tuning houses, as well as other aftermarket companies, bridging relationships that have obviously led to some remarkable and popular builds. That's some of what TRMNLracing does, it helps others find a way to bring in those rare JDM goods and establish partnerships to make their project cars one of a kind. Praises Daniel, "Jonny opened doors for me that would not have been open if he had not vouched for the project."
Make no mistake, the DRVNmind x TRMNLracing GR Supra is a confluence of heavy hitters, the sum of worlds colliding, bringing to life something a little different from a very crowded A90 show car space (and the platform hasn't even been out two years!) Daniel's artful but subtle emphasis on the performance side of things is what takes this A90 a step above, but we have a feeling if these guys teamed up to build a cheeseburger they would come up with something brilliant. If you're still being trusted to build cars like this after a decade-plus - still working at such a high level, like Daniel is - you are pretty obviously doing something right.