Project ZENKI

Friday 06 June, 2014 | By Ken


Although Darren Balico’s S14 has made it’s rounds on the interwebs since it’s debut last fall at the SNTRL Import Expo show in Atlantic City, it has been a constantly evolving, work in progress. Built right in his garage, much like his old ride, his Scion Xb, Darren’s S14 was built from the ground up after he picked up the Nissan 240sx shell last year. His Scion had been a crowd-pleaser at many shows and events on the East Coast, but now his sight was set on doing more than just competing in car shows.


Darren’s the kind of guy that takes pride in truly being hands-on, and when he started his latest project, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to build a multi-purpose project car. A vehicle that would give him the chance to break necks while parked, but to also live life behind the wheel, burning rubber and taking numbers (with a smile, of course). Taking cues from inspirational builds in Japan, Darren carefully planned his adventure while making sure to pay homage to those Japanese builds, and then got right to work on his “Zenki” S14. Check out some early teaser shots when the S14 build began by clicking HERE and scrolling down.


As you can imagine, things rarely go smoothly as originally planned. Project Zenki was no different. While there was a fair share of minor “hiccups” and “bumps” along the way of the build, the one that would probably stand out the most was Darren’s original plan to have a 1UZFE motor out of a Lexus LS400, be the beating heart of his ride. Mid-range, naturally aspirated balance for the proper slide and the sound of a V8 on individual-throttle-bodies would be equivalent to listening to angel’s singing at the gates of Heaven. But alas, it didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. Patience is something that is required through situations like this, and it was put to test a few times as Darren worked through the bugs.


“Itasha” translated from Japanese, literally means, “painful car”, and is a Japanese term used to describe car enthusiast who decorate the bodies of their rides with anime, video-game or manga characters. Inspired by Darren’s friend, Allen Castillo who was well known for his Itasha Toyota Supra from Chicago, Darren went with a SNTRL Itasha design featuring characters from High School Of The Dead manga series.


This build isn’t about competition. It’s about having fun. It’s one of the main reasons that Darren invests his time, sweat and bloodied-knuckles in his garage with his friends putting together Project ZENKI together. It’s also one of the main reasons that when he goes slideways, he’s doing it with one of the biggest smiles you will see. Not surprisingly, while you are reading this, Project Zenki has now undergone yet another transformation. The evolution only means Darren has turned it up a few notches, once again.



Rocket bunny 30mm front fenders
  |  Origin full body kit   |  
Origin 50mm rear overfenders 
  |   Rocket Bunny spoiler  |   
3m Matte blue wrap  |  
Itasha High School of the Dead graphics  |   
Clear corners  |  
Clear headlights  |  
Drift Armor bash bar  |  
Retrofit source 55w Bi-xenon HID kit



TF works Sparkle Silver racing seat
  |  TF works Sparkle silver red racing seat  |  
Custom team tech purple 4 point harness
  |  Digital Delay switch panel
  |  OMP 320 Deep concave suede steering wheel  |  
NRG neo chrome quick release v2  |  
Custom FD/NASA regulation roll cage  |   
Autometer gauges



Parts shop max coilovers
  |  Parts shop max forged knuckles
  |  Parts shop max bent style front lower control arms 
 |  Parts shop max extended inner tie rods
  |  Abercrombie motorsports outer tie-rod  |  
Parts shop max rear solid subframe risers 
 |  Parts shop max rear toe arms  |  
Parts shop max rear upper control arms  |  
SPL solid rear diff bushings


Brakes/ Wheels:

z32 30mm front brakes
  |  z32 rear brakes  |   
Chase bay in-interior brake booster eliminator kit  |  
Chasebays stainless steel braided brake conversion lines  |  
Custom Work VSXX wheels (F: 18×10.5 | R: 18×11.5)


Motor/Engine Bay: 

Chase bays dual core radiator   |  
Chase bays power steering kit
  |  Shaved engine bay with 
Toyota white 2 paint
  |  Motor during the time of this shoot: KA24de 
4-2-1 headers 
Isis 4” blast pipes
Isis 3” cat delete 
e60 MAF

New Motor: Built RB

 (Stay Tuned :))


About the author

Co-founder, Managing Director, Photographer, and editor for SNTRL. To many in the Tri-State, Kenny aka "MAD JDM" needs no introduction. Always out there, always ready, always down.


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