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2011 Scion tC - Brand New

Changing the face of Import Tuning.

Luke Munnell
Feb 24, 2011

The duality between automotive design and production is a cold one. Car designers can be thought of as the good guys; gearheads like us who want to see their concepts born with all the power, performance, and aggressive styling they envisioned at the drawing board, no matter the cost. The suits, on the other hand-the statisticians, marketing execs, lawyers, and the like-would have just the opposite, forsaking excitement and enjoyment for practicality, safety, and economy, wrapped in a product with the highest possible profit margin and lowest possible risk. And while what eventually does make it to production is a compromise on both sides, the balance is determined by how heavily the opinions of each weigh. Fortunately for us, Scion is run mostly by gearheads.

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Whereas many late-model production manufacturers ditch the support of sport-tuned independent suspensions to shave a few bucks off production costs, bulk up in size and weight to increase luxury and comfort, and lose the power of high-flow heads and large-displacement blocks to gain fuel economy, Scion has stuck to their guns. From the gearhead perspective, the '11 tC has improved in all the right ways: The four-wheel independent suspension stays, overall dimensions haven't changed (while interior amenities have for the better), and the engine bay's new powerplant boasts increased displacement, a higher-flowing cylinder head, more power and torque, and even better fuel economy compared to the previous model. And that's barely scratching the surface; digging deeper, the gearhead will find more unexpected perks-almost as if the car was designed with future performance upgrades in mind.

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This month, as of press time only three months after the car's showroom availability, we bring you rolling proof of the true tuning potential of the import world's newest FWD platform, with two rival, polarizing builds that suit the new car perfectly in their own right. The best part: while other carmakers frown upon performance modification, sometimes voiding warranties upon even the suspicion that a car was in the vicinity of a racetrack (research: JDM Nissan R35 GT-R), Scion supported these builds 100 percent, via their now-annual Tuner Challenge, in which these two tCs took First and Second. The game is changing. Here's why:

The Race Car

John Pangilinan's track-built tC.
John's name might not sound familiar, but if you've ever even heard of Formula D, you're connected to him. An account executive for The ID Agency by day, one of John's preeminent tasks is working directly with race teams, shop and company owners, and the media to promote Formula D and the sport of drifting. "It's funny," he says, "because before that, most people in the car world knew me from the E46 show car I built years ago." It was a car he bought for himself as a daily driver, and one that he gradually built to show off at Import Showoff, Hot Import Nights, and in features on the pages of 10 different magazines, including the cover of sister publication eurotuner. The experience, coupled with his background in marketing, showed John the mutual benefit to be found collaborating with manufacturers and shops to build a badass car. He went on to build a 240SX for BN Sports, a G35 for Motegi Racing to road rally, a Supra for Speedwell Footwear, and more before trying his luck at the 2008 Scion Tuner Challenge.

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A bit of background: Started five years ago by Scion corporate, the Tuner Challenge invites the world's top builders to create their version of the ultimate tuned Scion of each model produced by the company (currently the xD, xB, and tC), to be judged at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas. Anyone with a strong plan of attack and reputable experience is encouraged to apply, though only the top, most proven builders in the world will make final competition-this year, a field of nine competitors: three for each Scion model, each one given a car and a $15K budget to get the job done. "I built a tC in '08 and pulled every string imaginable to get it done the way I wanted. And it hurt," laughs John, "I dug pretty far into my own pockets to finish it, but fortunately it paid off." John's tC won top honors. "When the specs of the '11 tC were released, I knew I wanted to do it all over again, but from a perspective that would really complement the car."

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John's track-inspired approach shouldn't be a surprise; Ken Gushi and Tanner Foust's RWD-converted machines are at the top of Formula D ranks. Unlimited FWD time-attack is a game owned by Christian Rado's '08 tC, and even import drag racing has been conquered on two fronts by the first-generation Scion coupe: Rado's 6-second Pro FWD dragster (currently the world's fastest FWD car), and Kenny Tran's Jotech 8-second Hot Rod competitor. "Once we tore into the new car," elaborates John, "we saw even more performance potential than in the previous generation."

You know a new model is going to be hot when the first production modification for it is a full turbo kit. You know that the manufacturers of that model are behind it 100 percent when they contract one of their winningest racers to develop it. "With help from Scion, Chris Rado and the guys at World Racing formed Descendent Racing and developed a full 55mm turbo kit for the car before it even entered production," states John. Almost immediately after taking delivery of the car, John had it shipped over to the World/Descendent facility in Torrance, CA, for the installation. A quick tune made 333 whp and 303 lb-ft of torque at only 8 psi of boost, revealing the tC's first hidden gem: its 2AR-FE engine, carried over from the Toyota RAV4 and Camry. "The increased 2.5L displacement, 10.4:1 compression, and VVTi head really help make a lot of power and torque easily," explained Chris. And then, almost at a whisper, "I've pushed our test car to over 12 psi of boost and have made well over 400 whp so far on the stock internals with no problems." Chassis reinforcement came second, and it was here that John unearthed another gem with the new tC. "You can fit really, really wide wheels and tires on the new car," he says, "which is very important in a track car. We were fitting 265-series rubber all the way around with no rubbing under the stock fenders, and Chris has gone even wider with just a little bit of fender rolling." Impressive, but not as much as John was able to fit with by widening the fenders the way he did.

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"I've always liked the look of widebodies-I've done them on nearly all my cars," says John. "I wanted to do one here, but keep it fully functional." He had two birds to kill, but only one stone: design and produce a fully custom, one-off body kit, and design it around a track-specific suspension and stance . . . all within one month's time. The car was wheeled to Seibon Carbon headquarters in City of Industry, CA, where John brought his good friend and automobile illustrator John Sibal to meet with Seibon craftsman Mike Burless, and Steph Papadakis-technical guru for Tanner Foust's racing efforts-to produce two renderings of the car in its planned widened state to be used in the production of new front and rear bumpers, side skirts, widened front fenders and rear over-fenders. "They're all car guys," says John. "They get it." Steph measured the suspension and planned wheel/tire sizing and offset, told John how wide to go on the corners, John designed a kit to follow suit while complementing the OE lines of the car, and Mike and his team physically brought it to light. In fact, what you see on the car is actually the wood/fiberglass mock-up (called a "plug") they designed from scratch-the day after our shoot, it was literally cut off of the car so that Seibon could use it as a mold for identical carbon-fiber pieces to be sold as a new Scion TC Carbon Fiber widebody kit. You'll see the race version in a few months back on John's car, as well as Tanner and Ken's FD machines, and the street version on shelves.

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With the car in unfinished shape, John wheeled it over to a secret shop in Long Beach, where fabricator Shawn Moore (of West Coast Choppers and Monster Garage fame, now front-man for Long Beach Clothing) got started with a full time-attack-legal rollcage, assembled with the interior largely intact. Shawn also tackled another vital part of the build: brakes. "Scion changes the hubs of the tC completely for its second generation," John says. "Brembo was nice enough to give us some killer brakes, but they would just not work. Until Shawn fabbed up some adapter caliper brackets from scrap metal just lying around his shop. They fit perfectly. I'm still amazed. No other shop could do that."

John took to assembling the remainder of the interior himself-including sourcing a one-off pair of Willans/Recaro harnesses-before calling upon his homie Tito to handle the bodywork. "What I handed them was a mess and a dream list of what I wanted done," John confesses. "And what I got back in only four days was hands-down the best paintjob and bodywork I've ever had-every seam is perfect, clearcoat like glass, and the design was just like I envisioned." And before you jump to the conclusion that the tC's red, white, and black scheme was chosen at random, do a Google Image search for "Toyota Racing".

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John's track-prepped tC clinched Second. Some think it got robbed, but John's not surprised. "There's no audio at all," he says. "That alone made it a huge longshot, but I'm OK with it. I wanted to stay true to a performance build and we did that." Besides its standings, and the multitude of production parts the car will have spawned by the time you read this, what's next? "It will go on tour with Scion and will be used for marketing promotions," says John. "If I'm lucky, it will be on a billboard over the 405 freeway, before going back to Scion for good. Hopefully I'll get a chance to track it first. But no promises." Wrong. We'll pull all our strings to see it happen. We promise.

The Street Car

Shawn Baker's '11 tC
Shawn's Scion Tuner Challenge experience dates back all the way to the beginning, to 2006 when it was called the Scion Team Challenge-pretty much the same as today's, but with entire car clubs/teams getting their chance to turn a wrench on a ride that would represent their efforts to the world. Shawn's WRTeam, an East Coast show-circuit powerhouse, had the unfortunate circumstance of going up against SoCal's Team Hybrid in the event; with a raspberry-red xA that appeared on the cover of HCI magazine, WR took Second to Hybrid's First, but Shawn walked away with a new mission: to one day level the playing field.

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Fast forward four years and Shawn and his team have built countless imports and developed more connections and gained more experience along the way. "When the 2010 Tuner Challenge was announced, I figured I might as well apply," he says, casually, "even though I figured they wouldn't select me." When they did, Shawn soon found himself with a brand-new tC and $15K from Scion en route to his Harrisburg, PA, home, and the need to put his plan in action-fast.

Over 15 years at the helm of one of the nation's most recognizable car clubs taught Shawn a few things. "I've seen styles change and trends come and go," he says. "But one thing that never changes is cleanliness. I tried to stay practical and functional with my build and just keep it simple." Shawn took delivery of the car at the beginning of August, and his first move was to gut it inside and out in preparation for the hoards of custom work that would be needed. If it wasn't bad enough that the car was all-new and unreleased to the public, Shawn was building it nearly 3,000 miles from the tuning epicenter of SoCal. "I made full use of the local scene," he prefaced, upon introducing his first collaborator. "I found an upholstery shop-Russ's Trim Shop, in Harrisburg, PA-that used to work with domestic and hot-rod SEMA cars 30 years ago. It took a little while for me to convince Russ that this was a legit project, but once I did the ball got rolling."

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If you're thinking Shawn's tC sports a Euro feel, you're dead on. His roots stem from the 10+ VWs he's modded and shown over the years, and as Russ worked his magic on that baseball-glove-stitched leather interior-admittedly, a cue taken from the first-year Audi TT-Shawn got started on that ever-important shaved/tucked bay the VW guys will be quick to tell you they did first. The entire bay was disassembled, and miscellaneous components sent to 4Ever Kustoms in Stevens, PA, to be polished and/or powdercoated in a translucent copper finish. Shawn wheeled the bare chassis across town to R Miller Auto for complete bodywork and paint, including welding of all extra boltholes and smoothing out of the bay. While they waited for parts, Shawn and friend Chris Basselgia began the wire-tucking process and further cleaned up the bay, discarding the A/C system and plastics, relocating the battery, tucking wires, and allowing the 2AR-FE's natural beauty to shine. Like John's track-prepped tC, Shawn fitted his street car with the very same Descendent Racing turbo kit literally as its parts became available.

"Everything was on rush order for this car," Shawn elaborates. "Parts started showing up little by little, and we began working on every area of the car at once to keep up." The crew at R Miller took to retrofitting a Racing Solution lip kit for the first-generation tC to the bumpers and side skirts of the new car, and fabricating a one-off metal duckbill spoiler on the trunk lid. A rollcage was fabricated in a manner that wouldn't affect rear seating-in order to ensure proper fitment, it had to be done after the backseat came back from the Trim Shop, but before the front seats and the rest of the interior went back in. The car was relocated to Creative Car Tunes for the audio install in the final two weeks before the show. "There was definitely a moment just over a week before the show," begins Shawn, "when I stared at my completely disassembled car and a pile of parts strewn about the shop, and thought, 'WTF did I get myself into?!'"

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One week prior to showtime, possibly the most important aspect of the build-the car's stance and fitment-hadn't yet been addressed. "Perfect wheel fitment was very important to both myself and the guys at Rotiform Wheels," says Shawn. Like John, Shawn had three problems to tackle in an insanely small amount of time: brakes, wheel sizing, and suspension. He needed an ultra-low stance to show off his future deep-offset wheels-another VW first, so say the guys-but keeping the car comfortably streetable was a priority. He knew he needed air. "With so many new components on the car, I was afraid a custom air suspension would take forever," he says. "But no B.S.-the Airlift Dominator system was the easiest part of the whole build. They sent me a complete kit, everything was bolt-on, and it all fit perfect." The wheels and brakes were a different story. We knew this when Shawn simply laughed in response to our questions about them: "What a nightmare!" Brakes came first, and like John, Shawn needed to have adapter brackets made to fit his monster Wilwood four-piston calipers. Then he needed to measure front- and back-spacing for the tC's fenders and wheelwells to determine wheel width, offset, and barrel size to have the perfect wheel custom-made. "I wanted a wide wheel all around," he says, "with deep barrels that would still clear the brakes." He measured everything three times and sent info off to Rotiform Wheels, and received a custom-spec set of 19-inch, three-piece SJCs that had been forged, cut, assembled, and shipped overnight literally on deadline. "We had to leave for the show first thing Monday morning," he says. "We got them the Friday afternoon before."

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The Creative Car Tunes crew skipped sleep that final weekend fabricating, wiring, and tuning the audio setup they'd designed only a few days earlier. Necessary hardware continued to trickle in until the very last moment-some of them were even picked up en route to Vegas, and installed at the show-and some smaller parts didn't make the cut altogether. "It was almost a breath of fresh air, being forced to let some things go," says Shawn. But an even bigger breath was the laugh he let out once the winner was announced. "We got our revenge!" he admits, respectfully. "I was so proud of my crew. We partied the next few days of the show without a care." And, we suspect, slept the entire next few weeks.

Behind The Build

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Shawn Baker


Harrisburg, PA

Graphic designer

Build time.
12 weeks


cars, travel, art/design

"To win!"

2011 Scion tC

333 whp / 303 lb-ft of torque @ 8 psi (est.)

Engine 2AR-FE engine; Green Filters intake and catch can breather; custom three-inch axle-back exhaust; translucent copper powdercoating applied to valve cover, catch can, coolant reservoir; Descendant Racing turbo kit (custom 55mm V-band turbocharger, stainless steel turbo manifold, downpipe, aluminum intercooler piping, S-pipe, MAFS-compliant intake, emission control brackets and mounts, plug-n-play wiring harness; Bosch recirculating bypass valve; Tial MV-S wastegate; AEM F/IC controller, water/methanol injection system; 750cc RC Engineering injectors; all necessary hardware, plumbing); SMax CO2 front-mount intercooler, coolant reservoir, oil catch can; custom bent aluminum coil pack cover, ECU panel, polished and flat black accessories, wiring harness

Drivetrain OEM six-speed manual transmission

Suspension AirLift Lifestyle & Performance airbag suspension, Dominator Series air springs, custom compressor cooling system; custom four-point rollcage, front camber adjustment

Wheels/Tires Rotiform Race SJC wheels (19x8.5 front, 19x9.5 rear); Falken FK452 tires (215/35-19 front, 225/35-19 rear)

Brakes Wilwood four-piston front calipers, 14-inch drilled/slotted rotors, stainless steel braided brake lines

Exterior Racing Solution RS2 complete kit (front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper); custom rear duckbill trunklid spoiler, windshield wiper delete tray, leather-backed Scion emblems, aluminum shorty antenna; Ignited HID headlights

Interior Full custom baseball-glove-style Coast to Coast Sedona Cognac Leather interior (front and rear seats, door panels, headliner, padded rear armrests, shift boot, e-brake boot); custom signature metal doorsills; Grey color-matched gauge cluster; Nardi Classic 360mm wood steering wheel; NRG quick-release hub; Nimbus vintage pineapple-style authentic (deactivated) hand grenade shifter

Electronics Stewart Warner Performance Competition Series gauge set (boost, EGT, oil temperature); JBL Audio MS-8 digital processor display unit, MS-8 digital processor; Pioneer AVIC X920bt head unit; Infinity by Harman Kappa 1-farad amplifier, 4-farad amplifier, 60.9 6.5-inch two-way front component speakers (x2), rear component speakers (x2), Kappa 100.9 10-inch subwoofer (x2); MobileSpec wiring; Optima yellow-top battery; Clear 4G wireless internet hotspot; AirLift AutoPilot digital air management system

Gratitude Ryan, Dan, Murph, Hess at R Miller Auto; Andy, Ian, Joe, Doug at Creative Car-Tunes; Russ at Russ's Trim Shop; Tyler at Gman Design; Correy and the crew at AirLift Company; Jason and Brian at Rotiform Wheels; Rob and Mike aka PeeWee at World Racing/Descendant Racing; Chris Basselgia and Dave Maurer for helping turn wrenches; Brian Fox at BASF paint; Bakari and Brian at Falken Tires; Brian at Racing Solution; Dave at SMAX Intercoolers; Christian and Stubby at Stewart Warner; Pioneer; Biggs at JBL/Infinity by Harman; Courtney and Manny "Bodega" at MobileSpec; Diemy and the 4EverKrew at 4EverKustoms; Optima Batteries; Jason at Green Filters ; Junk Styles; Jim and Donnie at Sutliff; Fred at Beyond Marketing; Steve H. at Scion; Peter at Mummbles Marketing; Goose, JD, Nate and crew at TraffikTour; Patrick at Carlisle Events; the WRTeam crew; Shai Nasuti for a few good design ideas

Behind The Build

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John Pangilinan


Long Beach, CA

Account Director, The ID Agency

Build time.
Three months


Surfing, snowboarding, photography, traveling, building project vehicles

"To showcase a motorsport-inspired tC build for the 2010 Scion Tuner Challenge."

2011 Scion tC

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333 whp / 303 lb-ft of torque @ 8 psi

Engine 2AR-FE engine, balanced and blueprinted by Gary Kubo; TRP oil pan; Descendant Racing turbo kit (custom 55mm V-band turbocharger, stainless steel turbo manifold, downpipe, aluminum front-mount intercooler, piping, S-pipe, MAFS-compliant intake, emission control brackets and mounts, plug-n-play wiring harness); Bosch recirculating bypass valve; Tial MV-S wastegate; AEM F/IC controller, water/methanol injection system; 750cc RE Engineering injectors; all necessary hardware, plumbing); NOS single-fogger wet nitrous system, carbon-fiber bottle, electric bottle opener, bottle warmer; custom HKS downpipe-back exhaust; Baller Bolts and Gallery hardware/dress-up; Odyssey lightweight battery; Toyota Camry valve cover plastic

Drivetrain Stock

Suspension KW Suspension custom HLS System coilovers; race-legal rollcage, fabricated by Shawn Moore

Wheels/Tires 18x10.5 Volk Racing G2 wheels; 295/30-18 Toyo Proxes R888 tires

Brakes Brembo Gran Turismo front calipers, 14.6-inch front rotors

Exterior Seibon Carbon carbon-fiber hood, trunk; prototype Seibon/Scion Racing widebody kit, designed by Jon Sibal (front bumper, rear bumper, side skirts, front fenders, rear over-fenders, fuel door); APR carbon-fiber side mirrors, carbon-fiber rear GT wing; PPG three-tone paint, applied by Mitch Kelly; S&A Design vinyl graphics; Wraptivo carbon-fiber-look roof wrap

Interior Recaro Pro Racer Hans front seats; custom Willians/Recaro harnesses; Schroth window netting; Wraptivo carbon-fiber-look wrap applied to seatbacks and custom rear seat deck; custom Scion Racing-embroidered Personal steering wheel; Works Bell quick-release shifter; ARC shift knob; DJ Safety fire suppression system, aluminum floor panels; custom carbon fiber door panels, center console

Electronics AEM gauges (air/fuel ratio, oil pressure), X-Wifi wireless real-time engine data monitor/log, water/methanol injection controller

Gratitude Danielle Varner; The ID Agency; Steve Hatanaka at Scion; Fred Chang; Stan at Toyo Tires; Jon Sibal; Shawn Moore and Long Beach Clothing; Lucas Oil; Mitch Kelly at Kelly & Son; PPG Paint; RJ DeVera at Wraptivo; Michael Macare and Mike Burlas at Seibon Carbon; KC at APR; George and Chris at KW Suspension; Eddie at Mackin; Rob Cardona and Chris Rado at World Racing/Descendant Racing; Blane at Holley Performance; Kirk at AEM; Ryan at HKS; Jerry at Gallery Dress-up; Odyssey Battery; Baller Bolts; Jonathan at Recaro; Brembo; Jaime at Race Technologies; Top Stitch; Contour HD camera; DJ Safety; HMS Motorsport; Steph Papadakis; Meister Watches; Incipio; Chris at Alpinestars; Mark Arcenal at Fatlace; and videographer Christian San Jose.


KW Suspension
Sanger, CA 93657
Hawthorne, CA 90250
RECARO North America Inc.
Auburn Hills, MI 48320
Mackin Industries
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Falken Tire
Fontana, CA 92335
Seibon Carbon
City of Industry, CA 91745
APR Performance. Inc
Walnut, CA 91789
Los Angeles, CA 90061
Torrance, CA 90505
Air Lift Company
Lansing, MI 48908
HMS Motorsport/Schroth
Danvers, MA 01923
Toyo Tires
BASF Refinish
Holley Performance Products
Bowling Green, KY 42101
PPG Automotive Refinish
R Miller Auto
Russ's Trim Shop
Rotiform wheels
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Long Beach Clothing Co.
By Luke Munnell
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