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Introduction

Toronto’s Motorama Custom Car & Motorsports Expo is an event that spans several halls. Between the cars, celebrities, and exhibitor booths it’s easy to miss something, especially if you’re the type of person to be distracted.

While I am most certainly distractible, at this year’s show I did manage to quickly identify four builds that I thought the Speedhunters audience at large would be interested in seeing. As a bonus they are all quite different from one another; we tend to get pretty creative during the long winters here in Canada…

A 2JZ-Swapped KE70 Corolla

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Khurram Awan is a local drag racer with an affinity for the Toyota badge.

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His current garage consists of two 1993 Supras – a naturally aspirated street-going car and another turbo car that has run a quarter-mile best of 8.91 seconds at 164mph (264km/h).

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Motorama 2024 served as the reveal for Khurram’s latest build – a 2JZ-powered KE70 Corolla. He has been building this drag machine with a local fabrication shop known as Chassis Stop.

Chassis Stop doesn’t fool around and their handiwork is behind all of the cars above. They’re quite good at blending race car with street car and vice versa.

This project is a purpose-built (stick shift) drag car with an attention to detail that rivals a show build. The car has been caged throughout and features carbon fiber floors and wheel tubs. The Precision Turbo-equipped 2JZ is backed by a Tremec T56 transmission.

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Simply calling the car a ‘crowd favorite’ would be selling it short; I found it surrounded by show-goers every time I wanted to go in for a closer look. Intriguing builds always have a way of drawing people in.

Holy Gasser, Batman

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In the world of car show bingo, I am willing to bet there isn’t a single card with an aluminium-bodied Batmobile gasser on it.

The original Adam West-era Batmobile – which George Barris custom-built for the 1966 Batman TV series – was based on the Lincoln Futura concept car built by Ford in 1955. Naturally, Batman’s car was painted black and filled with gadgets. The version at Motorama wasn’t black, but it was stacked with gismos all the same.

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The lack of black paint can be forgiven because it would have hidden the meticulously hand-crafted aluminum bodywork.

Recreating the Batmobile body has been an ongoing project for Fugitive Customs Cars. At one point in time, the car sat on a more traditional chassis, but it now has proper period-correct drag car underpinnings.

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Go go Bat Parachute! And yes, they are Batman-themed.

Real Carbon, Real Cool

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In 2023, Harse Autocraft impressed at Motorama with their stunning Alfa Romeo finished in a beautiful green hue. This year, they brought along that car’s carbon copy.

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Harse has called this the Ampia GTA-00, and it features a complete carbon fiber body with House of Kolor Kandy paint graphics. The car builds on what Harse achieved last year, and under the skin is a similar twin-cam 2.0L Nord engine with side-draught Weber carbs, and a 5-speed manual transmission.

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These bodies are going into production in 2024 and beyond, making the applications limitless.

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The second production body Harse had on display showed just how far things could go given enough time, creativity and capital.

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The LS2-based project was sitting on a Schwartz Welding-built chassis. Grant Schwartz was previously employed by Vegas Rat Rods, so he is no stranger to unique requests.

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All of the carbon reproduction bodies are based on Alfa Romeo GTA-M cars. These had bolt-on flares, but Harse has emulated them in a single piece for a more refined look.

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As a well-documented non-purist, I feel the Harse Alfa Romeos look stunning in either metal or carbon fiber.

Merkur RS4Ti

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The final car I chose to spotlight is JH Restorations’ take on a Merkur X4Ti – the RS4Ti.

No, this is not a Ford Sierra, but I can’t fault you for thinking it is.

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The X4ti is the North American version of the Ford Sierra. There are visual differences between the two models, but JH has gone to great lengths to remove most of them. This includes installing larger, single-piece rear side glass.

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Unfortunately, the Merkur X4Ti didn’t sell well here in North America. Worse still, the salt we put on the roads sent some of the cars to early graves, while others fell victim to the same problems many mid-’80s turbo cars suffered from – neglect.

Seeing a Merkur today is quite rare. Catching one at a show is similar to spotting a leprechaun.

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Jesse Henke and the crew at JH built this car over three years for the SEMA Show, and Motorama 2024 served as its Canadian debut.

Under the hood is a Ford 2.3L Ecobeast crate motor from Ford Performance. The ‘Ecobeast’ differs from the standard Ecoboost with upgraded camshafts, rods, pistons, a larger throttle body and a bigger turbo. A Blower TKX 5-speed transmission and Ford 8.8 rear end back it up.

The Ecoboost motors are pretty tall and getting the hood to close with the motor in place necessitated a cowl.

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With the body modification bandage removed the JH team crafted their vision for the X4Ti’s exterior. The car was 3D-scanned and wider fenders and quarters were designed virtually before being constructed. The JH Restorations body package includes a taller wing and a more aggressive chin spoiler.

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The ’80s are embraced with the Merkur’s interior. To me, it is much more welcoming than the original design but retains all the charm.

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Dakota Digital provided the custom gauges, with a Blaupunkt head unit and digital equalizer mounted underneath. This is all installed within a blue leather-wrapped dash and center console combo.

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This might be the best-ever example of a resto-moded Merkur, so the RS4Ti deserves much more than just a parting glance. I hope to travel west of the city to spend time with the guys at JH sometime this year, so stay tuned for a closer look.

Dave Thomas
Instagram: stanceiseverythingcom



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