It’s a rare moment when a locally built project car leaves everyone on the Shift team in utter awe—having seen countless hack jobs and botched builds over six years of sourcing Bangladeshi enthusiast builds, we’ve pretty much seen the entire spectrum of what is possible with the unique constraints placed on project car owners in the country. This is one of those moments.
Don’t get me wrong, X-chassis builds are dime a dozen nowadays—with only a certain number of combinations available in 1JZ this, R154 that and X-90/100/110 there, the Toyota Mark II/Chaser/Cresta/Cressida series has become a staple of the project car builds on the road. It’s difficult to stand out, even with bodykits—after the 10th TOM’S style bumper, the visual impact of a kitted and lowered X-chassis car starts to wear thin. How do you differentiate yourself from the crowd, then? You go older. You start paying attention to the tiniest of details. You build something with a magnetic personality that simply cannot be ignored by those in the know.
That’s what S.M. Rifat Fahim did with his pristine X81 Mark II. This is clearly a different breed of project car—restrained elegance, huge power and performance potential, comfortable despite handling and going like a crazed maniac. It’s a very grown-up sort of project car, built by an enthusiast with over two decades of experience under the belt.
Under the long, sloping hood of what is perhaps the best looking Mark II generation ever (eat your hearts out X90 fans, I’ll stick by my judgement) beats the mighty twin-turbo 1JZGTE. 2.5 litres, six cylinders, breathed on by an Apexi intake. The 1JZ motor gives the X81 a menacing streak that is absolutely not evident upon your first encounter with the sleek black/silver two-tone sedan. But the way it squats, launches and disappears into the horizon in a furious frenzy of speed and fire and noise, you’ll remember it every time you see it.
While the Mark II whistles and cracks and growls on the outside, it’s very different on the inside. Think of it as a destroyer—hugely capable with an arsenal of artillery guns and cannons—but with the looks and the plush interior of a cruise ship. The interior has leather inserts and seats so well padded that you literally sink into them, with a healthy dose of 90s maroon and red everywhere. The digital dash instrumentation and the buttons are lifted straight out of the 80s, but the gold-standard Toyota build quality means there’s not a single rattle or shake from the interior, even as the Mark II goes over bumpy dirt roads and cracks in the pavement.
Where the Mark II excels is in the dry—with adjustable BC Racing coilovers, a stock 1.5 way limited slip differential and Zestino semi-slick tyres, the Mark II refuses to break traction without a solid stomp on the accelerator or some serious lack of heat in the rubber. When it does break traction, it slides beautifully in a controlled, composed manner (even with the automatic) that’ll put any GT86 to shame. In a straight line, the X81 feels untouchable—even by cars more powerful and several stones lighter—but that’s a feeling you’ll get in most turbo six-cylinder vehicles of this size.
Fahim is full of nostalgic tales of the early days of the local car scene. He’s had several project cars by now, including a 2ZZGE powered Corolla 90 (featured on Shift) but with the added responsibility of married life, he needed a car that would be a comfortable cruiser in daily driver mode and a powerful beast in weekend driving that would satisfy the hoonigan in him. In this gorgeous X81 Mark II, he found both, in seamless, perfect harmony.
Photos: Farhan Ahmed