Even if you’re not big on stance culture, there’s a good chance you’d have seen pictures of Vladislav Skurko’s GX71 Toyota Mark II Grande before.
In the four years since he purchased the car, Vlad has been building and perfecting it. I don’t think he’ll ever be finished with the Toyota – such is life with a project car – but in its current form, it really is a work of art. The judges at Raceism in Poland think so too, awarding it the coveted ‘Car of the Show’ title at this year’s event.
It was on the way into the Stadion Wrocław venue that I caught up with Vlad for a quick photoshoot, at which time he filled me in on the build and what was a crazy couple of days leading up to Raceism 2019.
Vlad hails from the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. He studied economics at university, which would have put him in good stead for a suit-and-tie office job, but instead of spending time studying he worked on cars. The hobby quickly turned into a career, and today Vlad runs his own company, AceofAce. This GX71 is his business card.
Little time was wasted modifying the Mark II after picking it up in 2015, but once he had enjoyed the car in its first phase, Vlad passed it over to a specialist workshop for some custom touches. Unfortunately, quality metal fabricators are few and far between in Russia, and for the better part of two years the car didn’t progress much at all. Compounding the problem was the fact that it was all happening – or not, as it seems – in another city.
Fast-forward to Christmas Eve last year, when Vlad was able to retrieve the car and have the work completed by another workshop much closer to his home. After some time in their care, the GX71 was finally ready to be shown.Stance Is Pain
As I ran around the car, Vlad explained how his drive from Rostov-on-Don in Russia to Wrocław in Poland – almost 2,500km (1,550mi) each way – wasn’t at all straightforward.
One of the most painful parts was crossing the border between Belarus and Poland. The Polish Border Guard don’t seem to like letting strange-looking cars into Europe, and after waiting hours in a queue at the border, Vlad was refused entry on the grounds that his Toyota’s wheels were too wide and that the horn and reverse lights didn’t work.
Having come so far, Vlad wasn’t about to give up. He retreated to a local market in the city of Brest where he purchased the necessary wiring to get the lights and horn working, and then set about pulling the interior apart to get it all fitted. There wasn’t anything he could do about the wheels, so after remedying the electrical faults he made his way to another border crossing 40km (25mi) out of town.
This time he had more luck – sort of. While the Polish guards at this crossing didn’t seem to be overly concerned about the wide wheels, while the car was being inspected another electrical fault presented itself, and this time it was a little more serious. With no battery power and the engine refusing to start, a failed alternator was suspected. The border officers pushed the car back onto the Belarus side of the border and Vlad hitchhiked to the nearest petrol station.
Unfortunately, the petrol station didn’t sell batteries let alone alternators for a 3S-GE-swapped GX71, so Vlad put a call through to a friend to see if they could track down the right parts. The good news was they could; the bad news was Vlad would have to wait until the next day for delivery.
Not wanting to lose any more time, Vlad decided to hitchhike back to the car on the off chance he had overlooked some other fault. It’s lucky he did too, because on second inspection a blown fuse presented itself. This was a quick fix, and before Vlad knew it he was back in the border crossing queue. Five hours later, the car was welcomed into Europe, and soon after Vlad arrived in Wrocław.
Now it was time for me to take a closer look…What Makes It Special?
In Europe, and Southern Russia where Vlad lives, the GX71 Mark II is a very rare vehicle, so that made the model a very alluring proposition when he began his search for a right-hand drive and rear-wheel drive car to build into a stance-style showpiece.
What Vlad hadn’t banked on after acquiring the car were the difficulties he’d face modifying it. Not only are there no off-the-shelf tuning parts available for the sedan, low-hanging underbody components don’t make it all that well-suited for extreme lowering. Vlad says the rear suspension was also very hard to deal with.
Given the car’s age, just finding replacement parts was a real struggle too, so Vlad ended up buying a donor GX71, and then raided three other cars in order to piece together a complete and tidy interior. Just finding these things would have been a huge challenge in itself.
As mentioned earlier, the Mark II has been upgraded with a Toyota 2.0-litre 3S-GE – specifically a fourth-gen engine, otherwise known as a BEAMS unit – which is now backed up by a J160 6-speed manual gearbox. With 210hp on tap, the old GX71 has plenty of punch; the custom exhaust ensures it sounds the part too.Custom Everything
The Toyota’s custom bodywork is one of its defining features. Originally, Vlad ran with bolt-on fender flares, but they weren’t exactly in-line with his end vision for the car. The metal arches now used blend seamlessly into the Toyota’s body, all the while giving it a more muscular appearance and containing the wheels and tyres in millimeter-perfect fashion.
Shape-wise, the GX71 is actually quite complex; it’s both boxy and round, and also long. To pull it all together, Vlad went through three different custom front lip versions before settling on the one currently fitted to the car. Overall, the look is both modest and classic at the same time.
Given that the GX71 is a 35-year-old chassis it was always going to be a fully custom air install, and for this build Vlad has used a custom coilover with his own airbag setup at all four corners, the rear end requiring strut towers modifications in order to mount the new strut assemblies (the shocks and springs are separate in the factory suspension).
The front strut towers were also reinforced to deal with increased stress, and custom-extended front arms were added in order to achieve the same camber angle specification front and rear – an important aspect in the stance world. Air ride management is handled by his own controller system, with pressure gauges integrated into a dash space originally occupied by the factory clock.
It’s blindingly obvious that Vlad’s car is very low, hence why 3mm steel plates have been added to the underside – an absolute necessity in order to negotiate Russia’s less-than-smooth roads.
For me, one of the coolest features of this build are the 15×10.5-inch -54 offset wheels. They might look like a rare set of old school Japanese rims, but the JDM style is only by inspiration – Vlad designed the four-spoke centers himself. Look closely, and you’ll see that he even managed to incorporate his company’s logo. As for the tires, they’re Toyo Proxes T1Rs in 205/50R15 for a solid stretch.
As previously noted, Vlad spent a lot of time finding all the parts to piece together a clean interior, but there are a few other non-factory items in the cabin to further the pure ‘80s shakotan vibe the Mark II exudes. That includes the period-correct Fujitsu Ten cassette tape head unit that was hacked to stream music via Bluetooth and USB, and a pair of iconic Pioneer TS-X10 box speakers to finish off the audio side of things. And how’s that retrofitted digital dash from another ‘80s Toyota model – so rad.Future Plans
Around a month after Raceism I caught up with Vlad in Saint Petersburg, Russia at another show I was covering, and had a quick chat.
I immediately noticed that the car was now wearing a Japanese license plate, and it turns out that Kazuki Ohashi – a judge a Raceism 2019 and very well-known slammer of supercars – had gifted it to Vlad after removing it from his ‘89 Ferrari Testarossa. The ’71-17′ is perfect.
Although there are no major changes in store for the Mark II, Vlad isn’t totally finished with this build. As you can see from the renders above, he’s currently reworking the rear lower panels for a more aggressive look. Then there’s the maintenance stuff, plus updating some of the chrome and rubber trim.
Once you know how much work has gone into this project, it’s much easier to understand why the judges awarded it the most sought-after Raceism trophy. The concept itself, the small details, the custom-designed wheels and steel arches, and the continuity of the style – all these things mattered.
Video by Denis Holodkov