It seems that in recent times more and more of the cars in our scene are going to one of two extremes — either very minimally modified, or all out, over-the-top, barely-legal race cars for the road, or simply trailer-only race cars, as is becoming more and more common these days. A valley in between those two extremes has been slowly widening, and though it used to be filled with a huge number of hard core street cars, these days there seem to be fewer populating the gap, as people split one of those two ways: street-legal aesthetics or race-only performance.

Aucklander Philip Hyunh shows that not only are there still cars in that gap, but it remains a viable option in a world where laws are getting tougher, and anything performance related is getting more and more expensive. Philip’s 1998 Toyota Chaser Tourer V strikes the perfect balance — it looks good, it’s alarmingly quick, yet it’s still completely streetable, not to mention comfortable — it’s a true all-rounder. 

“I had an S15 200SX [Nissan Silvia] prior to getting the JZX100, and it was actually an excellent car,” Philip tells us. “At the time I had just proposed to my now wife and decided to sell the Nissan for something a little larger with four doors — I guess you can see where it’s going from here. My intention was to own a practical car with enough power to keep it fun. I had always wanted a JZX100 and it was the perfect time — and excuse — to get one.”

Unlike finding a decent Silvia, however, finding the right JZX proved a little harder for Philip who, having owned a long list of heavily modified vehicles in the past, knew exactly what he wanted. Philips says, “It would have been nice if I had more of a choice! They’re so rare, and it’s not often you see one for sale that isn’t butchered or [complies with]  New Zealand roads. Beggars can’t be choosers with these cars in New Zealand, unfortunately, so I was very lucky to find mine.” By ‘very lucky’, Philip is referring to finding exactly what he was after — a genuine, immaculate Tourer V specced with a factory-fitted five-speed R154 manual gearbox, as opposed to the far more common automatic. Being a Tourer V meant it was also factory 1JZ-GTE VVTi-powered —with 2.5 litres of straight-six-cylinder turbo grunt.

When Philip picked the car up it was in near stock condition, simply sitting on a set of aftermarket rims and some HKS lowering springs, and that was how he had planned to keep it. “I promised everyone I wouldn’t modify it further, as I thought the days of spending money on cars were behind me. The boys placed a bet on how long that would last … it lasted a day before it was on a hoist getting the first modifications.” Giving in to the notion that messing around with cars was looking to be a lifelong affliction, he began slowly doing bits and pieces to the car as he went, until one fateful day when he noticed his beautiful JZX smoking a little more than it should — something that’s fairly unusual for anything in the near-indestructible JZ family of motors. “It was the valve stem seals,” Philip explains. “When the head came off for the repair at Racing Innovations, I figured it would have been silly not to replace and refresh everything else while it was apart. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, parts were arriving left, right, and centre from Japan and the USA.”

Now Philip knew that the motor was up to the task, he figured there was no better time to feed a little more power through the 1JZ through both a little headwork and set of angrier Tomei cams, as well as an upgrade in the turbo department to a Tomei ARMS M8280 direct bolt-on unit. “Tomei seemed the obvious choice to me,” he explains. “They have an excellent research and development team who release their findings to the public, so it meant I could guarantee the turbo and camshaft combo would tick the boxes and perform exactly how I wanted it to — just under 500hp [373kW] at the engine. The turbo kit came with everything to make it a bolt-on affair with the stock cast manifold. It keeps the turbo hidden away under the standard heat shield, too, which is a bonus. Aside from all that, Tomei’s pricing was far more affordable than similar bolt-on kits from companies like HKS and Trust, which were three or four times the price. At the end of the day, money talks!” With a fuel system upgrade, a decent exhaust, and a swap to a tried and trusted A’PEXi PowerFC L-Jetro computer, the JZX was bolted to the dyno at Auckland’s ST Hi-tec, where it spun up 306 very usable kilowatts (partly thanks to the retention of the VVTi variable valve system) at the rear wheels on 20psi.

The flow-on effect then continued from the motor and turbo to the rest of the car: “I wanted the handling to match the new engine set-up as well. The car is used for regular daily commuting and the occasional track day, so I wanted an all-round suspension set-up that would ride nicely for both the road and spirited driving around the track,” Philip says. The answer came in the form of solid BC BR-type coilovers which, like many parts on the car, were sourced with help from the boys at North Shore Toyota. Along with Hardrace extended tie rods, Cusco camber upper arms, KTS front and rear sway bars, and a front strut brace, the coilovers transform the car from a lumbering family vehicle into a surprisingly nimble, direct, and completely enjoyable daily driver and occasional weekend warrior.

However Philip has given up nothing for his quest for speed and the car still features all the creature comforts one might expect from a high-end sedan like the Chaser — AC, a good stereo system, comfortable interior, and an easy around-town drive, but challenge it and the Toyota comes alive.

“The car has been around Pukekohe a few times in the past and most recently attended a Hampton Downs track day. It leaves stock R35 GTRs for dust on the straights and enjoys a healthy dosage of opposite lock through the corners. Surprisingly, it drives really well; I haven’t had any problems so far on the track, and it enjoys the winding roads of the Coromandel despite its size and weight. Everything has been done with function in mind — it can still drive over speed bumps and navigate into driveways without ripping off bumpers or flattening chassis rails.”

With a few subtle exterior mods to carefully enhance the classic good looks that Toyota already gave it, the JZX is a great example of balance — it’s rapid, but it’s not unusable. It’s comfortable enough to drive every day, but it’s no lazy couch on wheels. Mind you, considering Philip’s track record when it comes to modifying cars, will this finely tuned balance remain?

“This isn’t the end result,” he admits. “If you know me, then you’ll know it’s probably far from it. There is always something to improve, change, or muck about with. I am happy with the current set-up for now, but the pursuit of perfection is a long and dangerous game!” Though we don’t want to see this brilliant all-rounder tipped in one direction or the other, we’re an understanding bunch — what if a forged 3.0-litre 2JZ block comes up for cheap? You’re not going to just not buy it …