The duality between automotive design and production is a cold one. Car designers can be thought of as the good guys; gearheads like us who want to see their concepts born with all the power, performance, and aggressive styling they envisioned at the drawing board, no matter the cost. The suits, on the other hand-the statisticians, marketing execs, lawyers, and the like-would have just the opposite, forsaking excitement and enjoyment for practicality, safety, and economy, wrapped in a product with the highest possible profit margin and lowest possible risk. And while what eventually does make it to production is a compromise on both sides, the balance is determined by how heavily the opinions of each weigh. Fortunately for us, Scion is run mostly by gearheads.
Whereas many late-model production manufacturers ditch the support of sport-tuned independent suspensions to shave a few bucks off production costs, bulk up in size and weight to increase luxury and comfort, and lose the power of high-flow heads and large-displacement blocks to gain fuel economy, Scion has stuck to their guns. From the gearhead perspective, the '11 tC has improved in all the right ways: The four-wheel independent suspension stays, overall dimensions haven't changed (while interior amenities have for the better), and the engine bay's new powerplant boasts increased displacement, a higher-flowing cylinder head, more power and torque, and even better fuel economy compared to the previous model. And that's barely scratching the surface; digging deeper, the gearhead will find more unexpected perks-almost as if the car was designed with future performance upgrades in mind.
This month, as of press time only three months after the car's showroom availability, we bring you rolling proof of the true tuning potential of the import world's newest FWD platform, with two rival, polarizing builds that suit the new car perfectly in their own right. The best part: while other carmakers frown upon performance modification, sometimes voiding warranties upon even the suspicion that a car was in the vicinity of a racetrack (research: JDM Nissan R35 GT-R), Scion supported these builds 100 percent, via their now-annual Tuner Challenge, in which these two tCs took First and Second. The game is changing. Here's why:
The Race Car
John Pangilinan's track-built tC.
John's name might not sound familiar, but if you've ever even heard of Formula D, you're connected to him. An account executive for The ID Agency by day, one of John's preeminent tasks is working directly with race teams, shop and company owners, and the media to promote Formula D and the sport of drifting. "It's funny," he says, "because before that, most people in the car world knew me from the E46 show car I built years ago." It was a car he bought for himself as a daily driver, and one that he gradually built to show off at Import Showoff, Hot Import Nights, and in features on the pages of 10 different magazines, including the cover of sister publication eurotuner. The experience, coupled with his background in marketing, showed John the mutual benefit to be found collaborating with manufacturers and shops to build a badass car. He went on to build a 240SX for BN Sports, a G35 for Motegi Racing to road rally, a Supra for Speedwell Footwear, and more before trying his luck at the 2008 Scion Tuner Challenge.