Back in 2008, I participated in the Scion Tuner Challenge and built a first gen. tC. The Tuner Challenge takes 3 competitors and pits them against each other in a build-off. Each competitor receives the same budget and about 3 months to build their version of the vehicle. Back then I really wanted to build a complete show car and had the goal of winning the competition using my experience from past car show competitions. I also wanted to make a good friend of mine, the world renown automotive illustrator Jon Sibal’s rendering come to life. His vehicle renderings amongst the best in the world and I wanted to make a speculative rendering into reality.
Original Rendering for 2008 Scion Tuner Challenge – Rear Angle
I was lucky enough to beat 2 very competitive vehicles, one being my good friend Mark Arcenal’s (Fatlace), to take home the Tuner Challenge title. This tC ended touring with Scion making appearances at the LA, Detroit, and New York Auto Shows. It has also been featured in Modified Magazine, ADDX Magazine from France, and a Toyo Tires ad campaign. Scion used the vehicle for their marketing creative for awhile as well that included a motorsports trailer, catalogs, and even a billboard. That was a great experience and I learned a lot from that project that translated into this new project.
So this year when I was asked to participate again for the Scion Tuner Challenge I was excited, not because I wanted to compete, but more because I love building cars. My initial idea was to build another complete vehicle with some signature styling (custom bodywork and clean paint). But after really thinking about what direction I wanted to go in, I became infatuated by the idea of building a race car. Besides the Formula D cars that I’ve been exposed to that last 7 years I’ve always been a fan of DTM and Super GT cars and lately FIA GT1 has caught my eye. So the final decision was made to think outside the box and become creative, challenging myself with a style of build that I’ve never done before. I knew going in that I would stick to my “theme” and that may hurt me in a car show setting, but I didn’t want to compromise building something that I am proud to put my name on (literally.) I also wanted to make sure the car could be used by Scion and Scion Racing for all their marketing needs because at the end of the day they are the ones that made this all possible.
When entering into a new project I look at it like I’m the architect and need to create a blueprint to plan the build. Once the initial plan is set into motion I assemble the designer, sponsors, and team. I again enlisted Jon Sibal for the initial rendering. Working with Jon is always a treat as we both have similar tastes and design style and can collaborate fluidly over a few phones calls and emails. After a couple discussions and ideas were tossed around he was able to put together the first initial rendering that I absolutely loved. Read his detailed blog on the build to learn more about the inspiration behind the rendering. Once that was out of the way the process was set to create my first race car.
Creating a SEMA show worthy car in a short amount of time, with a full time job and a tight budget is very difficult and it becomes necessary to work with the right team. Since this was my first race car project I needed to find a fabricator that had experience with racing and could complete everything within a specific time frame. Luckily, I found just that shop, which is only about 5 minutes from my house. Many nights after work were found in the shop with the guys. They did a fantastic job on the custom roll cage that was built to spec for Time Attack as well as helping finalize the vehicle during the last weekend of the build.
I also relied on great bodywork to help make the rendering come to life. To create a custom bodykit from scratch takes many hours of handcrafted work. The guys at Seibon Carbon worked relentlessly to get the work done in time and keep the build on schedule. In order to get this type of support from one of the leaders in the industry I had to put a plan in place that made sense for all parties involved. The custom Jon Sibal designed Scion tC GT widebody will now be created for production by Seibon for sale next year and the Formula D team at Papadakis Racing with driver Tanner Foust (Formula D 2-time champion, X-Games Gold Medalist, and now host of Top Gear USA) behind the wheel will be using the same kit in full carbon fiber on their competition tC. To see something we designed on a track in competition will be an honor in itself and I am excited for April when their vehicle will make its debut at Formula Drift.
But with great bodywork there needs to be great prep work. And a special favor from Tito and the guys was called on to prep the car for paint. They were able to work a miracle during a weekend to have the car stick to schedule and get it to my paint shop in time.
From there it was off to Kelly & Son the Crazy Painters in Bellflower, CA to apply the killer paint job. There are multiple reasons that I went with a new paint shop for this build. A couple was quality of work and timing. I needed a place that could apply the paint scheme and design to the car. The livery also has inspiration from the Lexus LF-A that participated in the 24hr battle at Nurburgring using the Toyota color scheme. Applying details from the traditional racing heritage was important to me to give the exterior some meaning, but yet also make this project distinct. Kelly & Son brought in PPG as the paint sponsor and knowing the quality of this paint it was a no brainer and I jumped at the opportunity to work with these guys and look forward to working with PPG and Kelly & Son for future builds.
I pride myself in being able to work with some of the top companies and brands in the world. I am fortunate to work with them at a client level and also at a personal level. This build would not have been complete without these companies and I feel like that car was made because of the quality of their products. Each company was selected for this build for their proven performance and dedication to motorsports including Lucas Oil, AEM, Toyo Tires, NOS, HKS, Brembo, Recaro, KW Suspension, Decendant Racing, Odyssey Battery, and Rays Engineering. Of course there are the other companies that were brought on for the slight little touches of detail and “cool” factor including Gallery Dress-Up Parts (anodized engine dress-up), Baller Bolts (titanium lightweight bolts), Wraptivo by Meguiar’s (added to the glass roof for the carbon look and to the Recaro seat – no performance, but a lot of style.)
Attention to details and limited edition products for vehicles is similar to that in the fashion world. For this build I wanted to personalize and customize it to my tastes. From the “Scion Racing” embroidered Personal steering wheel to the Wraptivo carbon fiber vinyl wrapped roof and Recaro seat. But my favorite touch of detail is the rare custom hand crafted collaboration between Recaro and Willans. This harness is nearly impossible to get, but thankfully I was able to call in a favor to get these made and it was well worth the wait and the cost.
Other customization parts on this car come from Brembo. In keeping with the race theme I had the calipers painted in Brembo race bronze. When trying to retrofit the big brake kit a custom bracket had to be fabricated and luckily my shop had the right tools and knowledge to do it. I also was lucky enough to get the help and support of brake guru Jaime from Race Technologies. He was able to determine that rather than the 12.3 inch rotors I could upgrade to a pair of 14.6 inch beasts. And somehow with all that they fit within the 18″ Rays G2 wheels (size chosen again for performance and weight – for all those wondering why I ran spacers keep in mind the body kit was designed for a drift set-up to be functional).
KW Suspension was also used on the project. But not just any coilovers this was a special set of the HLS height adjusting system. This system and the brakes alone cost more than the entire car itself. Learning from the previous tC build I knew that air ride suspension would be needed in order to safely tour the car with Scion. So rather than traditional air suspension I wanted to really keep with the race theme and luckily KW was able to supply the product for it.
Every race car needs a driver and the driver needs a race suit. So I called a favor from Alpinestars for a suit and they offered to help design a custom suit to fit the build. Alpinestars is one of those brands that I’ve always respected for their technology and working with them to create my own race suit was simply awesome. After designing the suit to match the livery of the Scion tC GT I wanted to add another touch of the fashion element into play. Mark provided me with the Fatlace “safari” print and Astars suggested using a reflective print, which was a great touch. They also provided me with some overseas only colorway driving shoes and a pair of gloves. I went to Downtown LA and purchased a mannequin to display it all. I had a spare Fulmer helmet at the office and had it painted to match and it also received the carbon fiber Wraptivo treatment.
I won’t go through the entire build, but the Decendant turbo kit puts out about 330 hp to the wheels with about 8lbs of boost. This is without full tuning and without the NOS. Unfortunately, the car will never see the track, but will be used on tour to promote the new tC.
What seemed like endless nights working on this project finally came together during the last weekend. 4 straight days of multiple people coming together to complete the project was required and I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of the team and good friends. I learned a lot during this project and gained a new found respect for race engineers and builders.
During this 3 month build time I also took on other projects and another car build (ID Agency x James Bond Lincoln MKX) for the SEMA convention. But all the hard work paid off as I feel both vehicles did very well at the tradeshow and I was proud to be involved with both. I received 2nd place overall in the Scion Tuner Challenge, but it was never about the victory or the money. Congrats to Shawn Baker for his very clean and detailed build. The Project Scion tC GT will be seen next at the Los Angeles Auto Show within the Scion manufacturer booth and I will be sure to follow-up with a few pictures and a another video to complete the series.