Street Racing Illustrated | Evolution of the Beast

EVOLUTION OF THE BEAST

Fr8train’s journey from contender to king and back.

Story | Phillip Pratt

Photos | Phillip Pratt / Gerry Burke

 

Evolution of the Beast | C&S Transmissions in Miramar, FL

Carlos’ Firebird “Fr8train” | Home at C&S Transmissions in Miramar, Florida

 

When the word “evolution” is mentioned, at least in the circles we run in any way, most immediately relate it to other words like “Mitsubishi”, “Lancer”, the engine code “4G63”, or, if you’re a die-hard Subie driver, “@#$% you!”. But to the rest of the sane world, the word “evolution”, derived from the word “evolve”, is the gradual development of something, especially from a simple form to a more complex one. It’s typically a slow process that begins to help an organism survive in whatever ecosystem it lives within, as the environment or other organisms around it change. Some develop rock-hard shells or the ability to change their color, maybe even to secrete venomous slim from their skin; it’s all done to better their chances in a world that’s out to kill and probably consume them.

 

Evolution of the Beast | Twin-Turbo LS

Carlos’ Firebird “Fr8train” | Original Twin-Turbo Set-Up, utilizing the stock ECU

 

Carlos, owner of the Trans Am named “Fr8train”, and the former king of the SRMS (Street Racing Made Safe) Top 10 List down in South Florida, knows this process all too well. Anyone familiar with the SRMS program in SoFlo knows his tenuous rise the top of the pack. The low-profile Firebird went from contender to top dog defeating every challenger put in its way. Having anywhere between 700 to 850-wheel horsepower, provided by a twin-turbo LS powerplant would generally make this a reality. That power combined with a rock-solid transmission built to necessity, in-house, by C&S (Carlos’ transmission shop) in Miramar, led to several run-ins with the ever-popular Danny “Frustrate” Rodriguez and his then B-Series powered, EG Civic. Losing to Frustrate during that friendly rivalry was enough to trigger Fr8train’s growth, but it most definitely wouldn’t be the last.

 

Evolution of the Beast | Carlo's Twin-Turbo Firebird

Carlos’ Firebird “Fr8train” | Party’s Over Indeed

 

The car wasn’t purchased as we see it. It was acquired by Carlos’ father as a mere shell. From there, they decided to drop in the 5.7L LS V8 that’d you’d typically find in a WS6 but built it out with forged internals stroking it out to a healthy 393. Instead of going down the familiar avenue of a bottle nitrous (something they were used to) and calling it a day, they decided to go turbo. And not just a single snail either, two big boys. Utilizing the stock ECU (yes, the stock computer) and manual boost controller, they tuned it out to a ripe 711-wheel horsepower on only 3lbs of boost! That was enough to get him into the top five, and on the way, set up dances with several impressive contenders including a couple ridiculous Fox Body Mustangs, big power Supras and a wicked Evo or two. By the time Carlos was ready to challenge for a top-three spot, he’d turned up Trans Am to about 8lbs making more than 900-wheel horsepower. Finally, he was set to face-off with his target; Frustrate, and his boosted EG, who much like him had fought his way up the list over the last few months and wasn’t interested in letting go his crown. It was a close race, but Frustrate held on and did so for several months and just as many races. It forced Carlos to take his Firebird back into the lab.

 

Evolution of the Beast | Carlo's Twin-Turbo Firebird

Carlos’ Firebird “Fr8train”

 

The next time we saw Carlos, a couple things had changed. At a Super Chevy show, he snapped the timing chain on the Trans Am. It turned out to be a blessing-in-disguise as it led him to switch from a hydraulic to a solid roller which allowed the car to shift at higher RPMs and make a little more than 150 extra horsepower. This pushed the Trans Am well into the 1k+ club. That, combined with some needed track testing, was enough to dethrone the “People’s Champ”, Frustrate, at the next event and hold onto the #1 spot for quite some time. He even took the show on the road with a trip to Orlando Speed World. After some heated back-and-forths and the changing of the day (the race happened several minutes past midnight, in front of a handful of people), Carlos and Fr8train walked a local LS-powered Fox-body, with no more than two wheels on the ground for half of the 1320.

 

Evolution of the Beast | Firebird Vs Civic

Carlos’ Firebird “Fr8train” | Facing off against “The People’s Champ”, Daniel “Frustrate” Rodriguez

 

Carlos’ success didn’t go noticed, however. There were several groups from around the area that wanted a shot at him. Even Frustrate returned with a new set-up. This time utilizing a fully-built turbo-charged K-series motor. He was most certainly faster than before, but it still wasn’t enough to dethrone Carlos, who since their last meeting, had pushed the Trans Am to hold more than 1200 horsepower, converted to an automatic tranny and by then was consistently popping up on two wheels… and still had A/C. It wasn’t until weeks later, when Miami Performance Inc. and Fabshop Miami (no relation) showed up with their frighteningly fast GTRs, was anybody able to contend for Carlos’ crown. Ultimately, the younger, more advanced cars proved too much for the Trans Am and both, at one time or another, bested Carlos, controversy on roll-speeds and jumps notwithstanding, mind you.

 

Evolution of the Beast | Carlo's Twin-Turbo Firebird

Carlos’ Firebird “Fr8train” | Warming up the tires on a cold night in Orlando

 

With all that behind them, the boys at C&S are looking forward. They hadn’t originally built the Trans Am to be a “world-beater”. It was a passion project. Something to play around with on the weekends. Even after the big pressure contests, he endured against his friend Frustrate, it was just always just about fun at the end of the day. Now it’s a little different. During Carlos’ bouts against the MPI (Miami Performance Inc.) GTR there were a couple of dust-ups between the two crews. Ok, maybe more than a couple. Just about every time these guys got near each other there were most certainly words and always the chance of an altercation or two. I don’t want to claim it’s “personal” but I’m also not going to assume it’s just about going fast anymore.

 

Evolution of the Beast | Carlo's Twin-Turbo Firebird

Carlos’ Firebird “Fr8train”

 

With the intention of making a comeback, C&S have completely torn down the Trans Am; A stiffened-up chassis, a completely new rear-end, and a more advanced, substantially larger engine that will put out more than 2000-wheel horsepower (shhh…). The only thing that will remain from the previous power/drivetrain is the tranny because you know… C&S is a tranny shop. Carlos doesn’t plan to be present at the beginning of the new season of races in West Palm Beach. However, he does plan to be offer takers both rolls and digs, and promises “When I do come, they’ll know.”

 

Evolution of the Beast | Carlo's Twin-Turbo Firebird

Carlos’ Firebird “Fr8train”

Street Racing Illustrated | “Bigger than Business”

Bigger than Business

From humble beginnings to becoming one of the most reputable tuners and JDM importers in the area

Story | Phillip Pratt

Photos | Clifton Hernandez /  Wendy Evans

 

Tony Folks, owner | Island Boy Tuning

 

Down here in South Florida there are a few shops that are universally acknowledged as ‘reputable’ if you ask people that are in the know; Drag, AG, WRXperts and the topic of the day; Island Boy Tuning, also known sinply as IBT.  Started in Plantation, Florida in 2006, tucked away in a row of bays off of Peters Road, it was a bit hard to see from the street, or even know it’s there unless you’re already looking for it. For all the initially perceived clutter within, the shop is immaculately kept in order. Seriously, you can eat off these floors (Disclaimer: probably not a great idea to eat off any floor)!

 

Walking into the left side of IBT, which encompasses four bays, you’d probably scoff at the shelves filled with random ‘dirty’ alternators, oil pumps, and starters, not to mention the smattering of complete engines decorating the space. That is until you realize it’s not so random. Everything is in its place alongside others of its kind and that those power plants are all fully operational. Who created this controlled-chaos? None other than Jamaican born, Landris “Tony” Folkes the mechanic, mastermind, Renaissance-man, and the proprietor of IBT.

 

1JZ Swapped IS300 | Island Boy Tuning

 

I have to admit, when the idea of featuring IBT was brought up, I recognized the shop as a place that builds and maintains some sick Hondas. That short-sighted view was quickly put to pasture, and not just by the three 1JZ-VVTI engines within the shop (one of which was quietly nestled inside the body of a white 94’ BMW like it belonged there), but by Tony himself that wasn’t shy about making sure I understood that he’s not just a ‘Honda guy’. After seeing some of his past projects, such as a one-thousand horsepower Supra that he built from the floor up himself, to refer to him as ‘just a Honda guy’ would be paying him a disservice. With that said, he still builds and maintains some sick Hondas!

 

Passion isn’t just skin deep | Island Boy Tuning

 

As Tony walked my photographer and me through some old projects and talked to us about his sixteen-year long career as a mechanic which humbly began in the driveway of his home in 2004, I gradually realized that this gentleman truly loves what he does. He lives and breathes for it. Assuming the IBT logo tattooed on his forearm didn’t say enough, that is. It’s not about the money at this point. He takes great pride in what he does.

 

“…humbly began in the driveway of his home in 2004”

 

The fact that IBT has survived as long as it has while others have come and gone, is a testament to that. While showing us how he’d rather take the time to gravity bleed a radiator, than taking shortcuts, he simply proclaimed to us that he ‘gives a damn’ about what he puts out on the road. It’s a fact that’s also well known to his customers and peers. When asked if he has any designs on competing at track events such as Street Racing Made Safe’s ‘Top 10 List’, he laughed and confessed to us that any time he finishes a build for himself or as a showpiece for the shop, he immediately receives offers on it, often before it’s even complete.

 

JZ swapping the world | Island Boy Tuning

 

That was exactly the case with the aforementioned 1156whp Supra, as well as an IS300 wagon love project that he converted to a manual transmission. If that wasn’t enough ‘wow factor’ for a potential buyer, Tony then dropped in a 1JZ power plant and custom installed a pair of Supra brake calipers. A feat that he nonchalantly referred to as “easy”. Tony doesn’t limit himself to South Florida, or even this hemisphere. He habitually travels to the Land of the Rising Sun to source his own engines and other sweet, sweet, authentic pieces of JDM goodness. Walking the streets there, Tony was surprised to find that his YouTube antics of starting engines on the floor of his shop had garnered him some measure of fame among the tuner community there. “One time, while I was out buying, some guy came up to me with his phone…” Tony remembers “it was me on YouTube cranking one of my motors!”

 

Island Boy Tuning

 

Tony is as enthusiastic about building monsters as he is maintaining the IBT culture, which I can honestly say is beautiful to witness. During our visit with him, he invited a couple of friends, who, in reality, are customers, but you wouldn’t guess that by the way they talk and joke around. Everyone that was there seemed more like family and old friends. The only thing missing was a grill and a drunk uncle’s inaccurate tales of yesteryear. Frankie Lugo, the proud owner of a 2JZ-swapped, IS300, built by IBT, makes the drive all the way up from Miami, as he refuses to let anyone else touch his car.  “I met [Tony] through my brother…” Frankie recalled. “He had an Accord with a Prelude motor, a swap he told me Tony did in a single day.”

 

When Frankie visited IBT for the first time and met its proprietor, he described Tony as being down to earth. That he took the time to explain everything he could do for him, and his then stock Lexus, sporting nothing more than a K&N filter. “He didn’t try to sell me on anything.” From that point, it’s all history. The two collaborated on building one of the most unassuming sleepers this side of the Pacific Ocean. “I trust him,” Frankie remarks. “My wife and I may be relocating in the near future, further up the East coast… I’ll ship my car to Tony. It’s more than a client/ customer relationship.”

 

Island Boy Tuning

 

That kind of loyalty doesn’t come cheap. Scrolling through Facebook reviews, you’ll find nothing but shining testimonies of satisfied customers and not just from the tuner community. He lovingly performs maintenance on everyday commuters with the same fervor he does 1000hp highway-killing machines. Being an IBT customer comes with more than a guarantee of first-rate service. It includes an invitation to become part of the family. Even with lasting success and a laundry list of incredibly built cars Tony, remains humble and welcoming to new customers and challenges. Something that other equally fruitful establishments can forget from time to time.

 

“My first car was an 88’ Civic DX… I respect the guy who owns a hatch’ the same way as another with a GTR because, at one point, I was that guy.”

 

Since the writing of this article, Tony and IBT have moved out of their Plantation digs and journeyed a bit south to the Town of Davie and settled into a new 4000sgft facility, located at 5420 W State Rd 84 #2-6 (Davie, FL 33314). Do yourself a favor and go check Island Boy Tuning out!

 

 

Instagram: @ibtuning

Ph: (954) 704-3988

Street Racing Illustrated | “For the Love”

For the Love

A generationally owned MK3 Supra that is more than just eye – candy

Story | Phillip Pratt

Photos | Phillip Pratt / Gerald Burke

 

Daryl’s 1989 MKIII Supra

 

Getting bit by the “car bug” as a young adult is a hallowed time. A fresh license and a newfound sense of freedom. Nothing like it. Still, there is something to be said by having it ingrained into your upbringing. It’s more than just an adopted culture or learned habit. It’s a lifestyle. It’s your breath, your every thought and only real concern. Nowadays with social media feeding us new ideas and inspirations every minute of the day, video games, and cinema; it’s even more encompassing. It allows perspective tuners to immerse themselves in the lifestyle while they are still deciding whether they want to reach the pedals or see over the steering wheel while playing in their parent’s parked car. Daryl Seepersad is such a person and his 1JZ – swapped MKIII Supra is all the better for it.

 

Daryl’s 1989 MKIII Supra

 

The 1989 base model Toyota in question originally belonged to his father, the proprietor of Lincoln Auto Body Creations (also known as ‘LAB Creations’). The family – owned operation helped incubate Daryl’s passion, while dreams of driving the Supra and making it his own, lit his imagination aflame. Growing up in what many would incorrectly consider being the “millennial age”, Daryl, like most of us, embraced simulator games such as “Need for Speed” as well as movies, namely the “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. While some may scoff at such a thing, don’t be so short – sighted.

 

Daryl’s 1989 MKIII Supra

 

Being able to constantly reconfigure hyper-realistic digital models helped do what many of us couldn’t; avoid the pitfalls of ‘trial and error’. It was on these games that Daryl, with the help of the good people at LAB Creations, created and laid on thick coats of custom paint he named “Japanese Sunrise” on his Toyota. If you came to the conclusion that the spicy orange he painted the Supra originated from his exposure to the original ‘Fast and Furious’ movie, you’d be right. Daryl has a deep admiration and appreciation of what the movie series did for the tuner culture, especially Paul Walker

“[he] was my idol…” Daryl remembers. “I wanted to be just like him.”

 

Daryl’s 1989 MKIII Supra

 

His journey from dreamer to owner wasn’t without its difficulties, however. He junked his first car (a PT Cruiser) while boosting 24psi. It was at that point where he probably chose to take things a bit more seriously. After acquiring the not – to – stock MKIII from his father, he decided on the now vaunted 2500cc 1JZ VVTi motor. Seeing as the engine was only native to Japan and Australia at the time of sourcing, there was little to no aftermarket or even OEM support stateside. Thanks to some custom manufacturing and ordering some key parts from Japan, by way of Texas, Daryl and his mechanic Andrew Gibbs, were able to give the Supra a second life.

 

1JZ swapped 1989 MKIII Supra

 

The fully built ARP block is stuffed with CP 9:1 compression pistons among other pieces. The head sports a set of Brian Crower titanium springs and retainers. The ports are gasket matched on both the intake and exhaust sides and hold a custom made exhaust manifold. A Borgwarner S366 turbo makes the power for the Supra, as a Tial wastegate and BOV expel excess pressure from the system keeping it safe and under control. Fuel is adequately delivered the 1JZ with a Sard fuel rail and Injector Dynamics ID1300cc stainless injectors and controlled with an Aeromotive regulator.

 

Engine management is taken care of by a Professional EFI Systems Pro128 unit that offers everything from ignition timing to two-step launch control. Making sure all the power finds its way to the floor is a R1 54 tranny built by drivetrain experts, Marlin Crawler, while a Competition Stage – 5 clutch, Weir differential and aluminum flywheel with ARP fasteners, help with the transfer of power.

 

Daryl’s 1989 MKIII Supra

 

Daryl’s Supra sits on a classic set of staggered 18” Volk GTC wheels, w rapped in Achilles ATR Sport 2 tires. For racing duty, Daryl switches the rubber to MT Slicks. Tucked behind those legendary rims are Brembo brakes, which reliably accept the vehicles’ stopping duties. With the rolling stock taken care of, Daryl chose a se t of Megan Trak Pro coilovers to keep his MKIII securely floating over the pavement, while a combination of ST and Cusco braces sure – up the chassis. Adding that extra bit of strength and security to the suspension are Battle Version cambers and toe arms.

 

Daryl’s 1989 MKIII Supra

 

Getting back to that “Japanese Sunrise” paint we spoke of earlier, I believe it’s safe to say these photos don’t do it any justice. From afar the paint can appear to be red, especially out of direct light. It’s not until you get a bit closer is it obvious that the Supra sports that fantastic pearlescent orange. Underneath the oceans of color is a custom made hood and handcrafted, metal, wide – body that gives the Toyota a much beefier look than you would find in its stock form. Again, all done in-house by LAB Creations.

 

1989 MIII Toyota Supra

 

From the dreams of a video game playing, movie watching, kid, to the envy of any who see it, this vision of an MKIII Toyota Supra is more than a project to Daryl. It is a hallmark of creativity, ingenuity and a reminder of how far he and his family have come. Like he acquired it from his father, Daryl plans to pass the Supra down to his son or daughter in kind, but don’t worry, he’s not rushing things “Until that happens I plan to enjoy it!”

 

Daryl’s 1989 MKIII Supra

 

Instagram: @disisntdaryl

 

Street Racing Illustrated | “Jill of All Trades”

Jill of all Trades

Aisha Christian’s 97’ Honda Civic Hatchback

Story | Phillip Pratt

Photos | Ralph Gabaldon

 

Aisha Christian’s 97’ Honda Civic Hatchback

 

We’ve all seen the decal “Built not Bought” pasted on windows at every show, meet or parking lot we’ve been to in the last five or so years. In reality (where most of us live), very few can say they performed all the work on their car. And by “work”, I don’t mean installing a new intake, or even painstakingly swapping out the spark plugs on a Subaru. It’s the reason why shops exist and professional technicians can charge upwards of $50 an hour in labor. While we are all enthusiasts, most of us don’t have the expertise, confidence, or patience to acquire the knowledge necessary to build our dreams into reality. Now that we’ve outlined that small minority of enthusiasts, take that image and turn it into a woman. Crazy, right? Ok, just for kicks, let’s name her Aisha Christian and imagine she built, with her own two hands, one of the most awe-inspiring complete, turbocharged B-series, Honda Civic hatchbacks you’ve ever seen. Got it? Great, now start subtly nodding your head in respect, because every word you just read is true.

 

Aisha Christian’s 97’ Honda Civic Hatchback

 

Honda Civics are a plentiful breed in the tuning ecosystem. They are so plentiful, in fact, it is hard to find standouts among the throngs of coupes, sedans, and hatchbacks. It really isn’t hard to make a Civic look good (funny though, spend enough time in Pep Boys, it’s easy to make an ugly one). What makes Aisha’s 1997 hatchback special has more to do with its builder than its bolts. Many moons ago, the alternator of her first car, a 1990′ Civic, did what alternators normally do when you don’t have the money to deal with it. It died. After shelling out what she believed to be too much for a simple repair job, Aisha purchased a Honda repair manual and never looked back.

 

Aisha Christian’s 97’ Honda Civic Hatchback

 

“They charged me $250, not including the cost of the alternator,” she remembers. “I was so upset that I had to pay someone that much money to do something so simple. Something that I was capable of doing myself.” If you’re not aware of what’s inside that book of spells, it covers everything from basic maintenance, to a complete engine tear down; obviously, a chapter Aisha didn’t skip a single page of. She’s responsible for everything on her car, short of machining and bodywork.

 

Aisha Christian’s 97’ Honda Civic Hatchback

 

Like everything else with the Honda breed, deciding on the power plant can be one of the most daunting of tasks. These days, many builders choose the newer, larger displacement, K-series motors. In Aisha’s case, she decided to be more of a traditionalist. She went with the tried and true B-series for her hatch, and not just something sourced from another car. Under the hood, you’ll find a B16 head married to a B18C1 (GSR) block; a classic set-up among Honda enthusiasts, especially those that have forced induction on the mind. In preparation for the snail, the lower half of the engine was expertly fitted with a set of Supertech 9.0:1 pistons with Eagle rods, crank, and a Golden Eagle block guard. Legendary names like Skunk2 and AEM join in on the fun supplying the EJ with an intake manifold, fuel rail, and pressure regulator as well as cam gears that Aisha always seems to keep spotless. Fastened to a Blackworks manifold is a Borg Warner S200SX-E T4 turbo, mated to a T3 turbine housing. A Tial blow-off valve and wastegate handle the expulsion of excess pressure from the system, whilst a Treadstone intercooler brings the charged air to lower temps. A Competition Stage 5 clutch and X pressure plate help transfer all this power the floor, and there are a handful of ego-thrashed natives of the West Palm Beach International Raceway that can attest to this fact.

 

Aisha Christian’s 97’ Honda Civic Hatchback

 

If you look at Aisha’s hatch and it reminds you of something else, it should, if your V-Dub fan, anyway. The eye-catching spicy hue is named Magma Orange, sourced from a Fahrenheit Edition 07′ VW GTI. The 97′ front end underwent surgery and was upgraded to that of a 99′-00′, EDM power adjustable headlights, and sports a JBlood bumper with a gorgeous, one of its kind Kevlar lip. Adding a couple angles to the car’s particularly rounded rear is a Bomex wing. The Civic is equipped with a set of 15×7 Work Emotion CR Kai wheels, wrapped in Hankook Ventus R-S3 rubber, proving that Aisha wanted nothing less than the best for her ride. Stopping duties are handled by Wilwood DynaPro series 4-pot brakes. Allowing the hatch to hover securely above the pavement are a set of Function& Form Type 1 coil-overs, enhanced with FRP Eibach springs. To better manage body roll Aisha installed an ASR subframe brace, Beaks tie bar with front and rear cambers and a traction bar provided by Hard Race.

 

Aisha Christian’s 97’ Honda Civic Hatchback

 

The interior of the EJ is no less impressive than anywhere else. The dash and trim look as new as they did rolling off the showroom floor. Her gauges aren’t squeezed into every crevasse possible, but tastefully and functionally placed in the most appropriate of places. Ensuring she’s securely planted inside while pulling Gs, Aisha installed a lovely pair of Recaro seats, and color matched the inserts of the doors with the same sexy red. Her ‘racecar meets street-dream’ approach is completed with an NRG quick release hub and a Momo steering wheel combo.

 

Aisha Christian’s 97’ Honda Civic Hatchback

 

By no stretch of the imagination is Aisha’s Civic a secret in the South Florida scene. She’s pulled down awards from Wekfest, Clean Culture, and Honda Fest, while still managing to snatch wins in front of thousands at SRMS track events. But she’s not satisfied, nor does she plan to slow down. Aisha harbors aspirations to install a roll cage, lighten the body, and get into Circuit Racing. Like I’ve heard from so many before her, Aisha doesn’t do it for the accolades or recognition. “My biggest achievement is ‘self- achievement’, it’s such a good feeling knowing to myself that when I look at my car, I did that.” It’s a sense of accomplishment, setting out to do something and completing it. Even though I consider my car as still ‘under-construction’. It’s a never-ending project. I always want to do more…”

Amen, sister. Amen.

 

Aisha Christian’s 97’ Honda Civic Hatchback

 

Instagram: @aisha_ladybuilt