A Celebration Of Life: The Speed Warhouse Toyota Celica
The TX2K drag racing event, which takes place in the Houston area each spring, breeds some of the nation’s fastest street cars each year. The vehicles built to compete at this event are of the highest echelon in the world of drag-racing-inspired street cars. They are the fastest of the fast; there’s something to be said for new projects which show up and shock the attendees with their appearance and performance. Earlier this year, when Pennsylvania-based Speed Warhouse (SWH) showed up to compete in their special 2JZ-equipped Celica, the drag racing world watched and was changed forever.
It all started with the online sale of a 1975 Toyota Celica ST from Tennessee. It was a super clean, white-painted example of the classic Japanese car. This stood out to Rob Bailey and Bill Peron, the founders of Speed Warhouse. The duo, along with their development and fabrication team, is responsible for turning automotive imagination into reality. In the process of making numerous custom vehicles, they have created a relaxed method of choosing their next project cars.
“We are always considering other chassis but we don’t actively look for them. We typically just come across a neat car, call a meeting, and go over the pros and cons. Most of the time if we’re all on board, we pick it up,” says Peron.
With only 8 weeks from the purchase of the car until its scheduled debut at the TX2K event, the Speed Warhouse team was forced into crunch time to outfit their newly-purchased Celica with the necessary components to make a splash, while retaining durability. The plan was to take the 2JZ-GTE engine – which makes approximately 800 horsepower – with its V160 six-speed transmission from Bill’s street car Toyota Supra, then mate it to a Ford nine-inch rear differential. All of these pieces were subsequently stuffed inside the small body of the 70s Toyota, creating a recipe for reckless speed.
They began by fabricating engine and transmission mounts as well as having a custom-length driveshaft produced. The chassis came equipped with a Techno Toy Tuning subframe from the previous owner, which the team at SWH then modified to position the 2JZ engine exactly where they wanted it in the bay for optimal weight balance. Other than a couple small changes including increasing the boost pressure to 49 psi, the now-1000 horsepower engine essentially stayed the same during its transplant.
Over the next few weeks, the entire team split every hour of the day between fabrication and installation of parts, filming the entire experience, and editing a video to document their madness.
“Long nights melded together with days,” Peron stated. “A stressful few weeks, but this is how we operate. No matter what, we get it done.”
They were able to complete the car the night before their proposed trip, then drove straight to Texas for an unveiling at what Peron calls the Super Bowl for street cars: TX2K16. Peron had never driven the car other than loading it onto the trailer, so its maiden voyage would have to take place at the event.
“Where else do we bring a car pushed to the limitations of physics? We enjoy the trip, the experience, and the widespread range of people we encounter throughout both the process and adventure,” says Peron.
In order to fit massive tires, shortened axles, and a solid Ford nine-inch rear differential, Peron and fellow SWH team member Mike Perez tag-teamed to create a completely custom four-link rear suspension setup on the Celica. Perez fabricated the mounts and arms, while Peron TIG-welded everything together. The OEM rear design was just too fragile to handle the outrageous power from the 2JZ, so the involved process of measuring and double-checking every piece throughout its fabrication was a necessary evil to sure up the car’s footwork.
Photo via Danh Phan
Once the car arrived and laid down its first pass, the Internet exploded with positive reactions to the car. Although the team had high hopes, they never dreamed it would reach the amount of people it did. You’ll remember it from our coverage of the event, where even we became smitten with the wild build, which led us to this feature. It was the perfect balance of ludicrous power stuffed inside a stylish vintage chassis riddled with custom fabrication – a car lover’s dream.
But the Internet wasn’t the only thing that exploded that weekend. A catastrophic combination of 49 psi of boost, VHT adhesive on the hot dragstrip, and sticky tires trying to absorb the half-ton of horsepower resulted in the exposure of the axle’s weak point. Not just one or two wheel studs, but all five of the pieces that mount the 345/30/18 BFGoodrich KDW drag radials – and the associated wheel – to the chassis were released in spectacular form on the starting line of the Royal Purple Raceway surface.
The famous moment has now been replayed over 474,000 times on Youtube, and almost 1.7 million times on Facebook!
After the event ended, the team loaded back up and returned to Pennsylvania, where they replaced the wheel studs with ARP studs to prevent any future failures.
Forever changing the design outline of any TX2K vehicle entry, the team at Speed Warhouse successfully created a perfectly unique combination of obscene power and vintage style. Similar to the modern-technology blended domestic muscle cars that populate SEMA, the import equivalent’s bar has been set, and the recipe has been made. Who will be the next to attempt this crazy mixture of speed and style?