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 |   |  2008 Scion xB - A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing
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2008 Scion xB - A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

Take the clothes off this widebody Scion xB and discover a 400whp rear-wheel drive surprise

Aug 30, 2011
Photographer: Scott Dukes

Forget if you love or hate Scions. This xB isn’t your typical project car with rims and a body kit. It’s also not some ridiculous showpiece with ten subwoofers or a retractable DJ booth. To keep it real, this ‘used to be’ econo-box fucks shit up. Underneath the hood is a 400whp Supra motor, while hidden underneath the body is a rear-wheel drive conversion. So what’s this mean? Don’t be fooled by its cute blue wheels; this little box will eat you for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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The builder behind this project is none other than Johan Esbenson. Not your average Scion enthusiast, Johan is a lead partner behind DTA/Rogue Status. For the unfashionable folks, Rogue Status has been a popular streetwear company based in Los Angeles since ’05, most recognized by its gun show monogram. It gained global popularity with investors like Travis Barker and Rob Dyrdek, and the brand has continued to push the edge with its adventures into motorsport.

Johan and company have built several cool rides in the past including a VW Fastback, Nissan Silvia, Jeep SRT8, ‘61 GMC Apache and ‘84 El Camino. In recent years, they’ve sprung a relationship with Scion Racing offering some sweet co-branded shirts. To tie the brands together more, Johan came up with the idea to build this sideways-hungry Scion.

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This xB has been with Johan for a few years, having competed in the ’08 Gumball 3000 race from San Francisco to Las Vegas. Only outfitted with the stock 2.4-liter and a TRD blower, the car turned heads being one of the first modified second-gen xBs around. But the car didn’t have enough balls in a rally series where more than half the competitors were Italian. “So we came up with the idea of converting an economy car into a drift car that could keep up with the exotics,” explained Johan. History was about to be made and asses were about to be handed to them…

For eight months, the transformation kicked into high gear. In charge of the Supra 2JZ-GTE VVTI engine and drivetrain retrofit would be Papadakis Racing. No stranger to racing, drifting and doing crazy things, Papadakis is also responsible for building the ’11 Formula D Scion tC for Fredric Aasbo which features a 500hp turbo four-cylinder and chassis and drivetrain designed for the drift series.

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So with Johan’s box, the team began by pushing the firewall back to make room for the larger inline-six. This even included moving the pedals to fit the new six-speed JZA80 transmission. Before the motor was put in, Papadakis ensured the engine would have some more juice behind it. The twin-turbo setup was ditched for a single GT35R turbo along with upgraded wastegate, intercooler and blow-off valve. The thirstier motor meant more fuel so the Supra fuel pump was carried over, plus uprated injectors and a fuel cell were installed.

With the components finalized, new piping, mounts and months of adjustments were required to get everything happy in the xB. Then the task of setting up the rear-end for the Supra drivetrain became an even a larger headache. This entailed swapping the brakes, suspension, differential and driveshafts.

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At the same time, Johan took the liberty of upgrading the suspension to stiffer Tein components. The front brakes were replaced with Wilwood calipers and rotors while the rears received Supra-spec goodies.

Of course having 400whp meant the car needed some beefier rubber so a custom widebody designed by Fred Cheng was installed. 18x9" front and 18x10" rear Advan wheels were custom painted in blue and mounted to some hefty Hankooks.

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The exterior then received a Five-Axis body kit off the shelf, plus Seibon hood before it was resprayed non-metallic grey to pay tribute to the US Navy color palette.

As for the interior, Johan kept it simple. This xB wasn’t meant to be a show car so there were no audio upgrades — just a pair of Sparco seats, AEM gauges and a few Rogue Status additions including the steering wheel cover.

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So if you love Scions, you’ve probably already blown your load. But if you hate ‘em… good luck keeping up with Johan at the next Gumball rally.


It takes a team of genius technicians and engineers to get a crazy car like this to perform and drive correctly, whether it be for the street or track. Johan entrusted Papadakis Racing. We asked founder Stephan Papadakis a handful of questions to give us a little more insight behind his experience and this build.

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SS: What’s the story behind your shop?
Papadakis: We are a racing team that builds our own race and competition cars. To be more specific, front-wheel drive drag racing ‘96-‘01 and rear-wheel drive drag ‘03-05 with several championships and wins. Then we started building drift cars ‘05-now with two Formula D championships.
SS: What did you think of the concept behind Johan’s car?
Papadakis: We thought it would be a fun project to build. Others had tried to build a reliable RWD conversion street car in the past with mixed results. This is a nice mix of high horsepower and good handling but without the loss of street drivability.
SS: What were the major projects to getting it to work?
Papadakis: To get the engine to fit we modified the firewall for extra clearance. The floor was also modified for the transmission and driveshaft clearance. In the rear we made special mounts and modified the shock towers to allow all the factory Supra rear crossmember and shocks to be bolted in. This allows the use of any shocks, rear end and suspension designed for the Supra to work in this xB.
SS: How much pre-planning and testing had to be done?
Papadakis: We spent a few weeks measuring and researching several ways to do the swap. The goal was to modify the least amount of the xB and keep the Scion reliability. There are still a lot of upgrades and tuning we can do to the xB at this point. I’d really like to up the power and see what top speed it could get to.
SS: Is this a service you could do for any Scion or car owner?
Papadakis: Not normally. Our main focus is racing teams. Plus, projects like this take many months and are quite expensive.
SS: How many hours did the whole project take?
Papadakis: 500+ hours of work including the fabrication, paint, engine, wiring, etc.

Sstp 1109 08+2008 scion xb+engine Photo 9/13   |   Yep, that’s a 2JZ-GTE in a friggin’ Scion!

Tuning Menu

2008 Scion xB
Owner Johan Esbensen
Hometown Los Angeles, Ca
Occupation Co-Owner Of Rogue Status
Power 400whp on 91-octane fuel
Engine 3.0 liter 2JZ-GTE VVTI swap with Garrett GT35R turbo; Precision 46mm wastegate; GReddy intercooler and RZ blow-off valve; 850cc injectors; Supra Denso JZA80 fuel pump; Fuel Safe tank; AEM fuel pressure regulator; Motec PDM 30 power distribution module; 3" exhaust; mil-spec wiring
Drivetrain rear-wheel drive conversion by Papadakis Racing; six-speed Supra V160 transmission swap; ACT clutch kit
Engine Management AEM EMS
Footwork & Chassis Tein Type Flex coilovers; Supra JZA80 rear end and axles
Brakes Wilwood front big brakes; Supra JZA80 rear brake conversion
Wheels & Tires 18x9'' ET+22 front and 18x10'' ET+25 rear Advan RS wheels with custom RAL blue, 245/40 R18 front and 265/35 R18 rear tires
Exterior After Hours fenders; Five-Axis aero kit; Seibon carbon vented hood; tinted head- and tail lights; grey non-metallic paint
Interior Sparco seats; Rogue Status steering wheel cover and shift knob; AEM gauges
Thanks You Steve Hatanaka, Fred Chang, everyone at Beyond Marketing and Scion Racing, big shout out to Stephan Papadakis Racing and the boys at AEM

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Sam Du
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