Let's get the obvious out of the way. Under the hood of this '70s classic is a boosted inline-six we know as the 2JZ-GTE. Sick? Yes, but now take a closer look at the car. The hood ornament should give it away but you're lookin' at the one and only 2J-powered Mercedes 280c! Crazy ain't it? That's exactly what we thought when we strolled into the SEMA Show finding it showcased at the Nitto Tire booth. It's not your typical show car, or Super Street feature for that matter, but it deserved props for its creativity and balls it took to even take on a project like this.
We tracked down the builder to a shop in El Monte, California called Ranz Motorsport. Ranz isn't your typical tuning house that's regularly in the spotlight. They are an underground shop that started eight years ago doing routine collision repair. In the last few years, they've gotten more in touch with their passion as car enthusiasts which led to some amazing projects and a solid reputation for custom fabrication work. For example, they built a Honda-powered '76 Celica that graced the pages of our sister mag Modified not too long ago. This Benz was next up to bat and Ranz stepped their game up more than a couple notches on this project.
A customer brought in the 280c with a general repair but the owner couldn't fork the bill. As a compromise, Ranz bought the car from him knowing that it would make one sick shop project. The original game plan was to turn the car into a rat rod, which they did, painting it matte black and slamming it to the floor. But they weren't feelin' the style in the end. When the 40-year old Mercedes motor gave way, it was time to change the game.
Starting with the swap, the twin-turbo Aristo motor was imported from Japan along with the accompanying five-speed tranny. Ranz customized nearly every bit of the powertrain to fit inside the bay. The wiring was perhaps with most trick part. With the help of Tweak Performance in North Carolina, a self-contained harness allowed the car to read both the Toyota motor and the Lexus electronics. Oh, did we forget to mention that? The dash, center console, power windows and rest of the electronics come from a Lexus IS250. Here's the kicker...everything works like factory! No check engine lights or faulty switches. Even the power seats are legit working pieces except modified with chopped headrests and tan suede upholstery.
There really isn't anything to hate about this Mercedes, unless you can't appreciate cars. It's got something to please everybody. Whether you're into old school or new, Euro or JDM, this Benz rolls with a special blend of style, performance and class.
Hometown South El Monte, CA
Occupation collision and custom fabrication
Engine 3.0 liter inline-six twin-turbo 2JZ-GTE swap; 3" downpipe and straight pipes by E's Technical Roadsport; XO2 Racing intercooler with custom piping; DNA Motoring Honda radiator; HKS air filter; OE Honda A/C condenser
Drivetrain Five-speed automatic with custom two-piece driveshaft mated to Mercedes rear differential; Lexus IS300 steering rack
Footwork & Chassis CKS coilovers custom-tuned by Ranz Motorsport; custom spring perches
Brakes Honda S2000 rotors and calipers (front); OEM Mercedes (rear); Lexus IS250 master cylinder
Wheels & Tires 17x8.5" front, 17x9" rear VIP Modular VXS 210 wheels with polished faces and step lips; 215/45R17 front, 235/50R17 rear Nitto Neo-Gen tires
Exterior PPG Piano black paint; shaved side moldings and roof rails; STM Solar Solutions window tint; OEM replacement headlights with custom fog lights; smoked taillights
Interior Lexus IS250 interior wrapped in alcantara and leather with power seats, door locks, window controls, center console and pedal assembly; door panels, headliner and OEM rear seats wrapped in alcantara; Nardi steering wheel; two ARC Audio amplifiers; two 12" Kicker subs; MB Quartz components and 6x9" rear speakers; alcantara trunk enclosure