Tom Cotter’s North Carolina adventures continue—as does the friends and family theme—in this episode of Barn Find Hunter. After getting to know a family that’s heavily into Japanese hot rods, Tom takes a short drive to meet another fam that wrenches together. While Brian, Lisa, and their son, Gauge, love cars and each other, they don’t love the same marques.
“I’ve always been a car guy … an old-school Fox-body guy,” says Brian, the patriarch. “When my son turned 18, we planned to build a car together.”
Brian thought that car would be a Fox-body Mustang. He was wrong.
“[Gauge] said, ‘Dad, I want a [Toyota] Supra. I said, ‘The only way you’re going to make horsepower is with a V-8, so let’s go get a Fox-body and build that thing, and it’ll be a hot rod.’ And he said, ‘Nah. Nah.’”
Supra it would be. Turns out, Brian never should have doubted his son. Gauge bought a gorgeous, one-owner 1989 Supra from a man in Missouri about seven years ago for $6K. Not bad, when you consider this one cost about $28,000 new (or about $67,000 today), and the only thing wrong with it was some spiderwebbing on the hood’s paint. Gauge had it repainted in its original color, and it looks new. It is powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-liter VVTi straight-six that produces 600 horsepower.
That isn’t Gauge’s only Supra. He also owns a 1987 with a Ford 302 mated to a Borg-Warner T5 transmission, that he planned to utilize as a drift car. However, Gauge says: “It’s hard to drift carbureted motors because they bog down in the corners. Now it’s just kind of hanging out.”
A couple of Gauge’s friends stop by to show Tom their cars, too. Cameron owns a late-model Ford Mustang Mach 1 with a 4.6-liter V-8 from a Cobra that produces about 530 hp, while Zach drives a 2003 Mercedes-Benz CLK 55 AMG with a 5.5-liter V-8 that makes almost 400 horses.
Pushing on to Rock Hill, South Carolina, Tom meets Shea, who is into Datsuns and Nissans. He bought his first, a gold-painted 280Z, almost a decade ago. He hot-rodded it himself. “It’s been a slow learning process,” he says, “but I’ve rebuilt everything on it”—including welding the floor pans and frame rails, adding coilover suspension and bucket seats, and making mechanical changes to the straight-six engine.
Shea also owns a rare 1977 Datsun 810, a model which Tom says essentially took the Z’s engine and put it into a four-door sedan, as well as a 1989 240SX that now has an L-Series straight-six turbo that was swapped for the original four-cylinder mill.
“Wow, you’ve got it bad,” Tom says.
“Yeah … It’s a bug,” Shea admits. “I think Hot Wheels [toy cars] were first trap … [and] I remember seeing a Datsun at a car meet when I was like 12 years old. It was in rough shape. It wasn’t painted, it was dented, it was running on like four cylinders, but the shape of it just really caught my eye. That’s kind of what fueled it for finding one later on … It was just a rabbit hole from there.”
Before this episode closes, we go back to where we started—in North Carolina with Brian, Lisa, and Gauge—and take a peek at Lisa’s 2000 Lexus GS300, which will soon receive a 2JZ inline-six engine. Tom hears that it cranks out 600 horsepower, and just has to ask … “Do you need 600?”
“Hey,” Lisa says, “I’ve got to get to the grocery store, you know.”