There's an easy way to own a high-profile project car-just spend boat-loads of cash. Start with an expensive platform, then install the most expensive products available for each portion of the build. Better yet, hire someone else to do the work for you. Your car might even end up on some reality TV show. With the easy way, you're pretty much guaranteed to end up with a car that everyone will like. But if you're like Lindy Melendez, you'll do things the hard way and end up with a unique whip that everyone will respect.
Of course, building a car like this SC300 without breaking the bank takes some experience. "My first project car was an S13, and in '97 I did the swap so it was one of the first ones in Tampa with an SR20. It seemed like I spent twice as much as I did on the SC just because everything was rare on that car. Whereas with this car, because everything fits on the 2JZ and the Supra, I was able to build it a lot cheaper," Melendez says. Fortunately, he got rid of the 240SX at the right time. He continues, "I sold it right when '2 Fast 2 Furious' came out, which unbelievably helped me sell that car; it went on eBay in like an hour for 15 grand!"
When the time came to find a replacement, his logic for choosing the SC seemed questionable, but looking at the completed car it's hard to argue with him. "I always liked the shape of that car. If you look at an S13 coupe, the SC almost looks like what the next one should have looked like instead of the S14. Unfortunately, at the time the SC was so expensive, but later it depreciated a lot. I bought my original one for $3,500 at an auction. I totaled that about two years ago when some lady made a U-turn right in front of me, but then I bought this shell for $900." With a fresh chassis, a parts car and a healthy amount of experience, Melendez got started on the car that you see here.
The first task was to get it looking right. His previous SC had a Bomex bodykit, but he thought it was a little too loud. So this time around he went with a more subtle kit from JIC and a lightweight carbon-fiber hood from Seibon. For a little bit of JDM subtlety, a rear window with its OEM wiper from a Toyota Soarer replaced the rear glass and Ganador mirrors went on as well. The only real exterior fabrication was the gutting of the spare tire well to make room for a custom center-exit exhaust. Of course, the crucial elements to making a first impression are the paint and wheels. The paint code was lifted from a Lamborghini Diablo and Melendez splurged on a staggered set of Volk GT-C wheels. Peeking out from the spokes are massive 8-piston HP brakes in the front and a Supra TT setup in the rear. The lowered stance is handled by Maxspeed coilovers, with Daizen camber adjusters and polyurethane bushings to keep everything in line.
With no tint on the glass, the immaculate look of the exterior flows right inside. The front seats were replaced with slightly more supportive versions from a Supra. Those were then reupholstered with new leather. While they look very nice, we normally discourage people from using four-point harnesses, especially with slippery leather seats. In a hard frontal impact the occupants tend to submarine under the lap belts and experience something similar to what my nearly empty tube of toothpaste did this morning. That's our only gripe, though, and it shouldn't discourage people from learning from the very clever modifications throughout the rest of the car.
The really trick stuff can be found in the dash. Instead of going with an aftermarket stereo, Melendez built a computer that can do anything the best head unit can and more. "I can go online, I have navigation software, it plays MP3s, videos, it's basically a computer that costs like half of what a head unit costs. I only have about $600 in it. I used the factory face since it's kinda contoured and then blended in the touch screen so it all looks factory." If that weren't cool enough, the IS300 steering wheel has shifter buttons that actually work. They're wired into the monster that resides under the hood.
The scene in the engine bay is a sharp contrast to the subdued exterior. In place of the naturally-aspirated 3-liter lies a JDM 2.5-liter 1JZ-GTE with a massive GReddy T78 turbocharger. The hard-core Toyota tuners have been keeping quiet about this engine. But truth be told, these things are stout enough to crank out more than 700 bhp all day long and currently they're selling for around a grand. Melendez got this one for $1,200, shipped to his house in Florida. Like everything else on the car, he did all of the installation himself. While the motor and transmission bolt right up to the SC's attachment points, he did a good deal of fabrication to get the output up to where he wanted it. Using his skills as a graphic designer, he drew up plans on a CAD program and had the throttle cable and catch can brackets cut out with a water jet. He also cut all of the intercooler and exhaust piping and had a local welder zap it all together.
The engine has had no trouble producing horsepower. However, the automatic transmissions have not been doing as well. "The stock one breaks at close to 450-475 ft-lbs of torque, the last one broke in one day, it took me longer to put it in than to break it. The one I'm currently building is supposed to hold the horsepower. I got the valvebody modified and I bought all of the Raybestos clutches and springs from Import Transmission Performance," Melendez says. And while he may have to go easy with the throttle pedal for the time being, that hasn't kept him from showing people what can be done with the right car, the right mods and a whole lot of hard work. "I'm trying to show the car as much as I can because it's been such a long process." Indeed it has. But the results are not only well worth the long hours and hard work. Melendez has a very unique (and incredibly fast) example of a modified SC300 that he has built himself. That's also something to be very proud of.
2.5-liter Toyota Soarer
1JZ-GTE turbocharged inline-6
GReddy T78 turbocharger, SS turbo manifold, KU Engineering intake manifold and 90mm throttle body, Spearco FMIC, HKS BOV, Tial 60mm wastegate, modified 2JZ-GTE cams, Fidanza cam gears, GReddy timing belt, Titan fuel rail, Aeromotive FPR, Boost Logic 780cc injectors, Haste 4-row radiator, Samco hoses, Flex-a-lite fans, Optima battery, custom-fabricated aluminum IC piping, catch cans, power steering reservoir, brackets, and SS downpipe and center-exit exhaust w/ MagnaFlow mufflers
A'Pexi Power FC
ModificationsSuprastick V4 transmission controller w/ paddle shifter, Import Performance Transmissions' modified valvebody and torque converter w/ Raybestos Blue performance clutches and plates
Maxspeed coilovers, Daizen camber kit and polyurethane bushings, Tanabe sway bars (f/r)
Wheels, Tires And Brakes
Volk GT-C 19x9.5 (f) and 19x10.5 (r), Kumho tires 245/35/19 (f) and 275/30/19 (r), HP 8-piston front brake kit and Supra TT rear brake conversion
Lamborghini Diablo gunmetal paint, JIC bodykit, Seibon CF hood, Ganador mirrors, '98 grille, foglights, taillights, and door moldings, JDM Soarer front bumper lights and rear glass with wiper, HID headlights and foglights, Shaved antenna and emblems, dual-center exhaust tips
Supra seats w/ custom gray leather, modified Sparco harness bar w/ Corbeau harnesses, IS300 steering wheel w/ Rav4 airbag, Razo pedals, CF shift knob and handbrake, custom housing w/ Defi gauges, 7" touch-screen computer, back-up camera, Power Acoustik speakers and subwoofer
Roque Machine Shop, Garret at LatentSolutions.com for all his help w/ the transmission controller, TheBoostLab.com, TampaRacing.com, and all the guys in the 1JZ section on SupraForums.com for all the great information