Built not bought. It’s a humble concept that most of us aspire to and dream about, building up a project car from scratch — with nothing but your bare hands and hard-earned coin to create perfection. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. Can an owner’s idea of perfection be obtained by starting with something someone else has begun? We think so, and so did Remo Grand with this 1999 Toyota Altezza RS200Z.
Remo also shared the dream, a dream in which he would build his ultimate street-sweeping turbocharged Altezza — so he purchased a completely factory example. “I started with a completely stock-standard Altezza RS200,” Remo said. “However, after owning it for a few months, I spotted a 1999 RS200Z with the turbo conversion already done and a bunch of other supporting mods.”
Remo had to make a decision: continue with his recently purchased project and lay out the cash, or buy a better-condition vehicle with an array of goodies that would save him both time and money. “The deal was too good for me to pass up, so I ended up buying it in January 2014 and selling my non-turbo Altezza,” Remo told us.
‘Array of goodies’ truly is an understatement — this was no previous owner’s slap-together shed project. The conversion had taken place in 2011, four years before Remo purchased it, a timeframe that had proved the engine package’s reliability and durability, imparting confidence that this was a sensible purchase. There was no laggy and generic T3/T4 turbo in sight but, instead, an HKS kit, comprising an HKS GT2530 turbo with matching low-mount manifold, an HKS SSQV blow-off valve, HKS intercooler and piping kit, and HKS Hi-Power exhaust system. And, as per the seller’s promise, the Altezza had been strapped to the dyno at ST Hi-Tec for a health check and retune to prove that the package puts out the numbers. Thanks to the naturally high compression of the internally factory Beams 3SGE engine and the appropriately sized HKS GT2530 turbo, it produced 209kW (280hp) at the wheels on only 11.5psi of boost.
Soichi Tate of ST Hi-Tec was able to retain factory-like response and excellent fuel economy with the sought-after HKS F-Con V Pro ECU, in a package that was now much quicker than a factory RS200.
No ultimate streeter is complete without an interior to match. The factory RS200 was blessed with an attractive cabin in stock guise, with a Swiss watch–like gauge cluster, comfy seats for the occupants, and a near-on-ideal driving position. ‘Near-on ideal’ wasn’t what Remo was after, though, so a pair of fixed-back Bride Low Max seats was installed where the stock items used to sit. Funnily enough, the biggest bonus with the Brides is the extra legroom for the rear occupants.
Remo was nearly there; all that was left was to add the very costly TRD leather steering wheel and a Waffenschmiede short-shifter kit. Strapped into the cockpit, the car was starting to feel how he had dreamed it would, but there was probably the most costly component still left to complete — the exterior.
‘A little rough around the edges’ would’ve been an accurate description of the Altezza, but, with the ultimate goal in mind, Remo pressed on. A set of genuine black-housing headlights was sourced to set the front end off, and the same-style black-housing tail lights were also fitted — something you don’t notice right away unless you’re an Altezza enthusiast. To spruce things up, the body was resprayed in the factory white hue, but it wasn’t completed until some serious metal work went down, involving the guards so that they’d fit the enormous wheels Remo was after. “I always knew exactly what kind of wheel I wanted, which was something with a lot of concave to give the car an aggressive look rolling down the street,” Remo explained.
The hunt began for such a wheel, but nothing in a suitable width and offset was available on our shores, so a set of Japanese Racing JR11 wheels was ordered in, measuring in at 18- by 9.5-inch and 18- by 10.5-inch, both with a positive 22 offset, which meant that they simply weren’t going to work with the factory guards. Yes, a widebody was considered to give the width needed, but Remo decided to widen the factory guards instead: “I got the factory guards modified and widened enough to allow the wheels to fit under. I was super happy with the result, as it kept the car looking clean and also gave it a super-aggressive stance with the wheels poking out a little all round.” There’s certainly no denying how menacing this Altezza appears as it comes at you through the twisty hills of West Auckland.
Although the Altezza is complete for now, Remo does plan to upgrade it further. Apparently, the HKS ECU will be swapped for a more modern Link ECU, he’ll add a vented bonnet to reduce the extremely high under-bonnet temperatures, and he might even throw on a bodykit to mix things up a bit.
Yes, Remo did purchase the Altezza already turbocharged and modified to an extent, but he’s done a fantastic job of bringing it up to his own spec — without veering from his original dream.
1999 Toyota Altezza RS200Z
- Model: 3SGE, 2000cc, four-cylinder
- Block: Factory
- Head: Factory dual VVT-i
- Intake: GReddy Airinx air filter
- Turbo: HKS GT2530, HKS low-mount turbo manifold
- BOV: HKS SSQV
- Fuel: Walbro fuel pump, 550cc injectors, Mines fuel-pressure regulator
- Ignition: Denso Iridium Power IK22
- Exhaust: HKS Hi-power exhaust
- Cooling: HKS intercooler and piping, alloy radiator
- ECU: HKS F-Con V Pro
- Other: A’PEXi AVC-R boost controller, oil catch can
- Gearbox: Factory six-speed manual
- Clutch: TRD sports organic
- Flywheel: TRD lightened
- Diff: A01B torsen LSD, Motul Gear Comp 75W140 fluid
- Other: Waffenschmiede short-shift kit, Laile/Beatrush solid shifter bush
- Struts: BC BR series coilovers
- Brakes: Znoelli brake pads, TRD RBF600 brake fluid
- Other: Cusco three-point front strut brace, Cusco rear strut brace, Cusco boot brace, TRD front sway bar, Cusco rear sway bar
- Wheels: (F) 18x9.5-inch (+22) Japan Racing JR11 (R) 18x10.5-inch (+22) Japan Racing JR11
- Tyres (F) 225/40R18 Falken FK452 (R) 245/35R18 Falken FK452
- Paint: Factory 040 ‘super white’ respray
- Enhancements: Custom widened steel guards, genuine Toyota black headlights, tinted tail lights, rear window spoiler
- Other: Legana front bumper, Elegance rear lip and side skirts, Legana mesh grille
- Seats: (F) Bride Low Max (R) factory
- Steering wheel: TRD leather airbag
- Instrumentation: Calibre boost gauge, Calibre oil pressure gauge
- Other Trust gear knob
- Power: 209kW (280hp) at the wheels
- Driver/owner: Remo Grand
- Age: 25
- Location: Auckland
- Build time: One year
- Length of ownership: 1.5 years
- Thanks: Big thanks to the Altezza Club NZ and the boys at North Shore Toyota
This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 231. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: