Few things motivate me to wake up at 7 AM on a Friday. It only happens if there is an early morning photoshoot or the once a year family picnic that mother makes everyone go to. This Friday was slightly special though, so much so that I hadn’t slept the previous night because I feared I wouldn’t be able to wake up on time.
This week, we shot Emad Uddin’s 2ZZ-GE swapped Toyota Allion, the Toyota Saitama 60th anniversary edition to be precise. In a world of a thousand possible modifications, this car proves that less is indeed more.
Before I start talking about this particular car in question, I feel the need to waste a significant portion of my word limit by talking about the platform itself. The Toyota Premio and Allion, denoted by chassis code NZT240 from 2002 to 2006, came in by boatloads throughout the late 2000’s and proved to be a national favourite, so much so that one can’t go more than 500 feet without spotting one in Dhaka.
We see so many ill-maintained, battered up daily-driven work horses of this generation, finding a visually immaculate one is like finding a needle in a haystack. Over the years, the only thing the owner tweaked visually is the ride height and very recently the wheels, which means it boasts an original body kit and a very nice interior with a single Recaro bucket seat for the driver (plus a Celica steering wheel, which is one of the first hints to what hides under the hood).
The car has been in the family since 2007, and with the Allion, a young Emad discovered the fun of driving. Now, a veteran in our car scene, he still loves driving his old girl, albeit with a few tweaks along the way. The things done to it are simple, yet it presents itself so elegantly that I asked myself, do you need anything more in a daily driver? Emad commutes to and from Motijheel every day, which is the reason behind opting to keep the car automatic. Coated in a beautiful shade of silver, it shows no clear signs of being driven daily to Motijheel and back.
Onto the modifications, the car has everything done right. For suspension, it has BC Racing BR coilovers with adjustable dampening. He has stiffened up the chassis with front and rear Ultra Racing strut bars, and tightened the cornering capabilities with an Ultra Racing Rear sway bar. This makes for, as I later find out, a car that is very adept in the art of changing directions. The front brakes are from a Toyota Wish, and original rear disc brakes help it stop much better than the basic NZT240, and the owner wishes (heh, get the pun?) to upgrade to Project MU pads in the future. The car spent most of its life with the original 1.5 1NZFE that came with the car, which was later swapped out for a 130 HP 1ZZ-FE from a Celica, and most recently a 190 HP 2ZZ-GE variant from a Celica GTS. Most swaps in Dhaka use motors and ECUs from Toyota RunX T-sports or Aerotourers, but the owner proudly says his engine and gearbox combination is taken directly from a Celica, distinguished from the rest by a slightly different exhaust manifold and throttle body. It’s a common practice to buy reconditioned parts from Dholaikhal or elsewhere, but the owner cut no corners while building his car, so every part mentioned is imported from abroad.
We had spoken for a good 30 minutes when Ahbaar told us it was time to get some rolling shots. That meant it was time for me to get a ride along. We merged onto Airport Road, and after a few quick snaps we pulled ahead of the camera car and I got to experience what this thing is packing under the hood. 8 AM on a Friday is still relatively early, with little to no traffic. I held on to the handles as Emad wove effortlessly between lanes. The 2ZZ-GE engine, even with an automatic, put down considerable amounts of torque, enough to make it faster than almost every other car on the road. The lightweight VMS crank pulley significantly improved the throttle response, and the owner says it has given him much improved fuel economy, which is much appreciated in a daily driver. There was no need of any risky driving to make the fact clear that the car changed directions as the owner instructed it to. The addition of an aftermarket air filter makes the lift engagement audibly clear and a very fun experience. The exhaust, to my surprise, was locally made. Most, if not all “Bangla exhausts” sound terrible, sans this. The car is essentially quiet at idle, and makes itself heard only when it’s being stomped on. The car on throttle is super responsive and power delivery is very smooth because of the impeccable swap. The owner prioritizes handling over everything else, a belief solidified by the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres wrapped around original Japanese alloys. The coilovers were set up perfectly, and throughout our journey we scraped only once on the massive pothole in front of DL Filling Station.
I asked why he chose this platform, and if he plans on any future projects or not. Emad explains, this was the car that brought him the love of driving, and slowly over the years he has perfected this car to best suit his needs. This was, and is his companion during situations that are best compared to a certain someone’s now viral caption, challenging times. When necessary, he gets in his car and goes out for a drive whenever he needs a fix.