Project Lexus SC300 Road Racer: Part 1 - Intro and Fuel Cell

by Erik Jacobs

This is Damnit. I’m not kidding you. All of my cars have nicknames, but this one earned its name long before I ever picked it up. I could write a book about everything that’s either been wrong or has gone wrong during the previous phases of this build. Ask me about it sometime - it’ll keep you entertained for hours. That being said, this is my first “real” race car. Real in the sense that I’ve had race cars before that were hack-jobs that just barely managed to pass tech in the old days of Formula D (some of you may remember me from the first 3 seasons). Real in the sense that I’m trying to do everything right and not build some ghetto contraption that might kill me. My wife would probably be pretty mad at me if that last part happened... I intend to use Damnit as a real race car, targeting NASA Pro Racing’s ST2 class. Super Touring is a power-to-weight class with fairly open rules. Pretty much as long as you don’t move suspension pick-up points you can do a lot of things. ST2 is limited to 8.0:1 (lbs per horsepower) which, with a ~3200lb SC300 limits me to ~400WHP. Power, engine and other info will come in subsequent articles. More information on ST2 can be found in NASA’s rules section.


This is Sae. He passed away in 2006. Damnit was his car. I drove for his shop, Finishline Motorsports, in those first 3 seasons of Formula D.

If you don’t know Sae, that’s too bad, because he was a wonderful guy who lit up every room he ever walked into. His passing was sudden and unexpected, and he is still missed by many. His car disappeared after his death, and when I got a phone call that it had popped up on eBay, I knew that I had to bring it home.


This is Garage P.TEN Marketing, otherwise known as the garage at our house.

To the right of Project SC300 is Ainsley Jacobs’ turbo ‘93 Infiniti G20. You probably know her as SR20DETg20girl, and that car has its own fun history that may grace MotoIQ’s pages someday. Ainsley is the founder of P.TEN Marketing, and I’m just lucky to be her husband. But, anyway! That hole in the bumper? Just another Damnit moment. Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you about it.


Welcome to the fuel tank of an SC300. It’s not the prettiest thing. It’s also not in the best place. The one on this car is also not wired great. But, why replace it with a fuel cell?
You can’t tell from this photo, but the fuel filter is hanging down in front of the jack stand. At a track day the car started having fueling issues, so I decided to replace the filter, FPR and pump.

However, the filter had other ideas, and decided to be near impossible to get off. Hard-lines on both sides from the factory and a careless previous mechanic caused me to second-guess my own home-based mechanical skills. It all had to come off and be replaced, so I figured why not go with a fuel cell? That few thousand bucks was burning a hole in my pocket anyway. 

SAFETY WARNING: By the way, safety first when under a car! A jack is not sufficient and there are numerous horror stories of people crushed when jacks failed. Not only did I also have a jack stand or two, I also had a wheel. This car is haunted. I don't take chances.

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Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 4:06 AM
"This will eventually be replaced with a semi-custom, 4-channel motorsport ABS system." Not going to lie, looking forwards to that. Cool project in general.
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 5:32 AM
I've always loved the SC300/Soarer.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 8:39 AM
I'm curious why you (and a lot of people) didn't go with a cell that sat in the factory location? Aside from cost, it's why I've kept my stock tank in my race car. You even hit on it yourself.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 1:05 PM
I cant imagine a situation where the new fuel cell is safer or better placed than the stock one...way in the back if you hit it or anyone comes hard in your back you can say good by to the nice stuff.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 1:08 PM
I almost bought an SC before I got my Z33. I'm also interested in the ABS system install.
And is that a power wire running right across where the fuel tank was? That can't be safe.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 1:21 PM
"We wanted to get it as low as possible, but also as far forward as possible to aid in the center of gravity."

So you put it in the trunk? :| Wut?

I'd think that putting it where the passenger seat/rear seat used to be would be a lot more centrally-located than the trunk. I suppose you chose to mount it in the trunk for fear of being immolated in a '90s action movie C4 fireball, though. Some food for thought, though: I've seen a real-life gas tank explode--don't ask--and it is not even close to a '90s action movie. I would feel comfortable with even an 80L fuel cell sitting close-ish to me in the passenger compartment (I'd probably make some kind of firewall or something anyway, though. LOL.)
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 2:15 PM
I've never been to a racetrack with a right hand pit wall and I can't think of one. My racecar has the filler on the passenger(right) side of the car so I'm always filling it on the wrong side of the car.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 4:29 PM
Sorry, not familiar with the underside of the SC300, but what's under the rear seat where most unibody cars put the fuel tank?
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 5:00 PM
Thanks for all of the great comments and questions!

@Supercharged111 We didn't go for the factory location primarily because of weight distribution. While moving ~150lbs further back may not have helped, moving it much lower will provide a very positive change in weight distribution.

@hexer While the new fuel cell is more "exposed" in the case of say a rear-end collision, the fact that the cell is FIA-FT3 rated means that it is extraordinarily unlikely that the cell will rupture/puncture or be destroyed in a collision.

In general, look at most vehicles in the World Challenge or Tudor championship series - all of them have cells placed low and in the trunk.

@Monkius While putting the cell in the cabin might seem ideal, there are a number of factors that make that pretty dangerous. For example, currently if the fittings or hoses spring a leak, that leak is contained within the trunk compartment which will eventually be almost completely sealed off. If that was in the cabin, there's a risk of fuel getting on the driver, unless the cell and lines were inside another containment apparatus, which adds weight.

If you look at the Robertson Racing article, you'll see that the Ford GTs actually have a custom-built fuel cell that runs the length of the center-line of the vehicle. There happened to be space on that particular chassis to accommodate such a fueling system. While the SC300 is cavernous, it doesn't quite afford that luxury. Also, see the first comments regarding overall weight distribution.

@buzzboy VIR, Atlanta Motorsports Park, Road Atlanta's "pro pits", and Road America, for example, have passenger-side pit walls. Barber Motorsports Park has a driver-side wall. It really just depends. AMP, RA and VIR are "home" tracks for me.

@mike156 the unibody on an SC300 is similar to an S14 240SX in that the space for the spare tire is where most vehicles would put the fuel tank, but because of the position of the rear differential the fuel tank also can't be below the "centerline" of the car. This is why both of these vehicles happen to have the fuel tank up higher in the cabin (among other reasons).
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 5:01 PM
@jeffreyball610 there is a lot of unsafe stuff on this car that is slowly being rectified. You'll see some examples of the disasters that we found in the next installment. Stay tuned!
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 6:09 PM
Blackhawk Farms has passenger side pit wall too... I honestly have trouble thinking of tracks with driver side pit walls.
Nick B
Nick Blink
Thursday, June 25, 2015 8:56 AM
@Dan - Most of the tracks we run here in SoCal are driver side pit when ran in their common configurations. Willow Springs (both tracks), Buttonwillow, Autoclub, Chuckwalla, Spring Mountain.
Monday, June 29, 2015 9:44 PM
Whats going on with that exhaust?
Friday, July 03, 2015 6:48 PM
@Mr.B Not sure I understand the question. The "original" dual outlet exhaust was in the way of the fuel cell, so it had to get chopped off. In one of the future parts we will re-route the exhaust and wrap up the project. Thanks!
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