How many times have you looked at a car, admiring the craftsmanship of various components and thought to yourself: ‘I wonder what the fabricator’s personal vehicle is like?’ It would likely be a fun format for future features.
The best fabricator I’ve ever worked with is Billy Freed, who along with his brother Ben, own and operate Freed Engineering. Billy was responsible for fabricating the titanium header and exhaust, radiator, shroud, coolant pipes, swirl pot, power steering reservoir and fluid lines on my long term Z31 project.
Although Freed Engineering might be most known for their Supra builds, it’s as much about Toyota 2JZ swaps in other platforms as well. The Freed brothers have been at this for over a decade now.
“While we do love the MKIV Supra and owe much of our past 11 years of business and passion for building cars to it, a big part of what we do is JZ swaps into other chassis,” says Billy. “Ben had a 2JZ S14 and I had a 1JZ S13 coupe as our first major swapped cars over a decade ago. Since then, we have done a fair amount of oddball JZ-powered cars, so it’s nothing new to us.”
While Billy does own a MkIV Supra – a project that he’s setting up for half-mile racing – it’s one of this other cars that we’re going to take a closer look at today. Specifically, Billy’s 1989 Toyota MX83 Cressida, which he’s owned for the last seven years. But why this platform in the first place?
“I had a silver MX83 Cressida with cut springs and Q45 wheels when I was younger that I aimlessly drove around blasting Danzig and Mercyful Fate cassette tapes. At the time, I had some other projects so I couldn’t do what I really wanted with it, but I have loved these cars ever since. One day, seven years ago, my brother Ben showed up to the shop with this one on the trailer. It had a really rough stock 1JZ swap, and the front had been crashed into a tree or something. He bought it to yank the R154 [transmission] out of and scrap, but I knew I had to save it. I wanted to build a car that used all the parts we typically use on mild customer builds. I wanted it to be able to hit Friday night test and tunes, drift days at Club Loose, and cruise around on the street every day”.
It pleases me that Billy chose an everyday sedan for his project, because as much as I can appreciate anything cool with four wheels, underdog builds are my favorite.
The first thing you might notice is the JZX81 Chaser front end conversion which fits the look of the car incredibly well. A SerialNine Type II bodykit, rear trunk wing, fog light kit and an OEM JX81-style roof wing gives the Cressida a really aggressive and purposeful look that catches your attention without being over the top. The bodywork and paint was handled by Matt at Hustleworx, and the color is a pearl white from Porsche. Finishing things off are Enkei RPF1 wheels in 18×9-inch and 18×10.5-inch fitments.
With the wide range of uses Billy intended for this car, the engine and chassis mods are quite extensive but also needed to be reliable. The car sits lowered on BC Racing coilovers, while the rear subframe is modified with control arms and subframe bushings by SerialNine. To compensate for the lower ride height and aggressive camber, Billy added negative camber roll center adjusters and custom steering knuckles. There is an MX73 steering rack installed up front and in the back, power is put to the tires through a JZA80 2-way LSD. To stop the car, Billy installed a set of Z32 front calipers paired with Z33 rotors and Hawk HPS pads. The rear is upgraded with an Xcessive second caliper kit actuated using an ASD hydraulic e-brake.
Under the hood is a 2JZ-GTE bottom end mated to a 1JZ non-VVTi head. The valve train consists of Titan 272-degree cams modified for the 1JZ head along with Supertech dual valve springs and retainers. Boost is forced into to the 2J by a BorgWarner S361SXE turbo with a Precision 46mm wastegate; fuel is fed through a Big Daddy rail and FIC 1,350cc injectors regulated by an AEM FPR. Exhaust gases exit via a 4-inch turbo-back stainless exhaust with a Freed 4-inch titanium muffler. Lastly, the engine bay features a custom hidden A/C system for the hot months.
Billy’s brother and business partner Ben custom-built the wiring harness for an AEM Infinity ECU, with a subsequent flex-fuel tune by Jason Hunt. Power is transmitted through an AR-5 transmission with Marlin Crawler upgrade kit and a Southbend stage 3 clutch.
The excellent ’80s burgundy interior is fairly sparse, but features a Grip Royal steering wheel, the aforementioned e-brake, a Sparco EVO II seat, custom-built harness bar and G-Force harness belts.
I had to ask Billy for his thoughts on building a project car for himself while doing this for a living. “It’s far too easy to get wrapped up in the stress of the shop and just want to head home at the end of the day, but I always tell everyone how important it is to just have one for yourself. This car specifically has made me so many great friends and experiences that I’ll never forget,” he says.
When I mentioned how I intended to approach this feature, Billy had this to say: “Everyone always assumes when they’re gonna check out the fabricator’s personal car that it’s going to be totally bonkers. But honestly, whether it’s our own or our customers’ cars, we really try to keep it as simple as possible. Clean and functional always achieves the best result.”
Billy and I sometimes discuss music, as we have some similar tastes. I also might be one of the few others out there who are into Japanese cars and know who King Diamond is. “Everyone always laughs at my King Diamond sticker [on the rear window], says Billy. Music has always been a really big inspiration for me. It has always kept me going and motivated me in my work, even helped me learning to weld which most people think I’m joking about. You need to learn a certain level of limb independence when welding and I already had a head start from playing drums for years. Also I really just love King Diamond and I think it sums up this car for me.”
The Cressida and the aforementioned MkIV Supra aren’t the only vehicles in Billy’s project stable either. He also has 1993 Toyota JZX90 Mark II drift car, 1972 W108 Mercedes-Benz 280 SEL cruiser, a 2JZ-swapped 1991 Nissan Z32 300ZX, and even a 1979 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead lowrider. Maybe we’ll even see some of these on Speedhunters in the near future.
Billy Thanks: “To all my Cressida and X-chassis buddies, the guys at Club Loose NJ, everyone at SerialNine, Norm at JRP, Matt Pratt from Hustleworx, and the Freed team – Ben, Chris, Bryan, Jason, Danny, and Kevin.”