Super Street - - Contents - WORDS Austin Lott PHO­TOS Pa­trick Lauder

Like many of us, Diego Garibay grew up play­ing video games about cars be­fore he turned a wrench for the first time. Al­most all of us have played Gran Turismo, driv­ing the likes of GT-RS, Supras, and NSXS, but Diego’s in­spi­ra­tion comes from a dif­fer­ent game con­sole, and his hero car couldn’t haven’t been any more pe­cu­liar.

“The orig­i­nal Xbox came with a few demo games. One of them was called Sega GT 2002,” he be­gan. “I beat the game with a Starion and have never stopped lov­ing its fac­tory wide­body.” Not many of us have any gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with Sega GT 2002, but it must’ve been badass be­cause it paved the way for Diego’s fu­ture.

Even­tu­ally, Diego grew up, saved enough money, and found a Starion on Craigslist. It was black, and he fell in love with the whole ex­pe­ri­ence. But one night in the rain, he abruptly wrecked his first pro­ject car. He didn’t lose hope, as this mis­for­tune lead him to search for a new can­vas, which even­tu­ally be­came the blue ’88 Starion seen here. It had been rot­ting in a vine­yard field, ad­mit­tedly in pretty rough shape. Diego picked it up for just $500, swapped in the in­te­rior and pow­er­train from his wrecked Starion, and was back on track.

Af­ter a com­ple­ment of bolt-on up­grades to the stock engine, Diego knew he wanted more power. Com­mon prac­tice for Starion own­ers are Toy­ota JZ swaps. He opted for a JDM 1JZ paired with a Supra five-speed man­ual, giv­ing him his first taste of real power. He was hooked. Then, tragedy struck again: The pig­gy­back sys­tem he was run­ning let the 1JZ run too lean, which melted the pis­tons. At this point, it was ob­vi­ous Diego wasn’t one to give up as he moved for­ward.

On the ad­vice of his tuner, Lawrence Ship­man, Diego sourced a nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 2JZ-GE block from a Lexus GS300 at a pick ’n’ pull junk­yard; added ARP studs, a new oil pump, and a twin-turbo head gas­ket; then paired the re­freshed bot­tom end with the 1JZ head to make what many peo­ple re­fer to as a “1.5JZ.” Diego rea­soned since the 2JZ was a 3.0-liter, he ought to get a big­ger turbo, hence the Borgwarner S366. He also ditched the pig­gy­back in fa­vor of an AEM V2 ECU.

The trans­mis­sion would even­tu­ally give way when a thrust washer broke while drag rac­ing. He was mak­ing about 650 hp when he stripped third gear and the five-speed was chucked in fa­vor of a six-speed man­ual from a Nis­san 350Z. That, with a six-puck South Bend clutch, was enough to hold the power he was mak­ing. But with E85 read­ily avail­able in his home­town, Diego was able to re­tune and safely dial up boost to 32 psi and make 791 whp on the ethanol blend. When it comes to week­end track events, E85 and rac­ing slicks are a must; how­ever, for driv­ing around the neigh­bor­hood, he keeps it tame us­ing 91-oc­tane, which puts out 473 whp at 13 psi—not a slug by any means, ei­ther. In fact, we saw the car in ac­tion with our own eyes as Diego com­peted in our first-ever Odd Swaps Chal­lenge that pit­ted a group of cars with un­com­mon pow­er­plants against one an­other. Of the bunch, this Starion proved to be the most pow­er­ful in our dyno test and ran the event at But­ton­wil­low Race­way with­out a sin­gle is­sue.

Diego told us he also en­joys Shift­s3c­tor’s Airstrip half-mile events. “You buy a race pass and race from a stand­still,” he ex­plains. He adds that he has trou­ble get­ting Lam­borgh­ini driv­ers to line up against him. Once they see him run, though, they all want to know what’s un­der the hood. His best trap speed to date is 167 mph when the car was mak­ing around 700 hp. “At first I was hav­ing is­sues brak­ing from that speed,” he ad­mits. “Af­ter the brake up­grade, it’s fine.” He added that stop­ping from 167 mph on stock pads and calipers was “pretty sketchy.” Even the op­ti­mistic fac­tory speedome­ter only went to 150 mph!

››Those fender flares are all fac­tory, with a few sub­tle tweaks to suit Garibay’s tastes. Smoked lenses up front cover the turn sig­nals and a low wing out back keeps the car steady at speed.

Run­ning half-mile events where you’re push­ing your car to its max­i­mum limit, there’s bound to be other ca­su­al­ties. Diego men­tions a few bro­ken drive­shafts, axles, a rear hub, and he’s sheared a few teeth off the fi­nal drive. Not bad con­sid­er­ing the car still rocks a Starion stan­dard is­sue rear end. Noth­ing Diego and his friend Michael Ne­varez couldn’t han­dle. Michael is re­spon­si­ble for help­ing Diego with al­most ev­ery up­grade on the Starion, even re­paint­ing the ex­te­rior its glow­ing Nis­san blue paint. One thing Diego pointed out that’s been chal­leng­ing about build­ing the Starion is the lack of aftermarket parts. Be­ing that it isn’t as easy as, say, a Honda Civic, he has had to reach far and wide to make the build hap­pen, not to men­tion lots of weld­ing and cus­tom fab work from his buddy Michael.

Most young builders to­day can’t imag­ine stay­ing true to their first love, let alone a first love from a video game 15 years ago. But Diego stayed loyal and was de­ter­mined, and de­spite all of his set­backs, he ac­com­plished his dream of turn­ing a vir­tual car into a 791-whp re­al­ity.

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