You know the sound of a well built exhaust is intoxicating. You roll down your window at a stop light just to listen to the rumble of a big horsepower GT-R. You look up from your lunch when you hear a Subaru boxer motor drive by. And perfect welds on a shiny muffler make you all antsy in your pantsy. Research and development fabricator Antonio Calvo not only feels that way everyday, but he also takes pride in making those perfect welds. At COBB Tuning HQ in Austin, Antonio helps create prototype parts that ensure customers get parts that increase performance, fit perfectly, and sound great.
What was your first car?
My first car ever was a 1990 twin turbo 300ZX. About a month after I got the car, the mod bug started with a downpipe, midpipe, and an HKS exhaust. Then a JWT chip and some welding tips in the boost control system got me up to 417 WHP on the stock turbos. I had just graduated high school when one of the turbos seized, so I decided to dive all in to this hobby and did a full motor rebuild in my mom’s garage over the summer. 520 WHP, 550 WTQ, and a misshift later, I was rebuilding the motor again with a custom turbo kit. The final number was 793 WHP!
What got you interested in fabrication and how did you learn to weld?
I was trying to get custom parts built for my 300ZX and got ripped off. After that, I swore to myself I would learn how to make my own parts. While I was going to school in Arizona, I started helping Geoff, the owner of Full Race, put together his R14 (a Skyline GTR conversion for the S14 240SX). He offered me a shot in shipping and every night I would practice welding. Eventually, I was able to make a Honda downpipe worthy of the Full Race name and I was moved to welding full time.
How does your design process work?
First, I see what type of flanges the car will need. If there aren’t any off the shelf, I’ll have the engineers draw one up to be machined or cast. I always try to make the least amount of bends, but modern cars make that pretty tough. On a car like the GT-R, the clearances are very tight. Lately I’ve been dealing with a lot of cars that have a single exhaust pipe that splits to a dual exit. Once things are welded together, the piping can warp and not line up well. So when I fab it up, I have to compensate for how the pipe will change during assembly so the tips are perfect. Once the exhaust comes together and I’m happy with the fitment, I make a jig. The jig has to be dead on or the production pieces will hit everywhere. Then, the engineers will scan the pipes into the CAD program and send the information to production to create the mandrel bends. Then I weld the flanges to the pipes and check everything in the jig, and then on the car.
I’ve seen you pushing around a Supra frame in your free time! What are your current personal projects?
I had a Lexus SC300 with a Getrag 6 speed, 6 speed rear end, and a TRD diff. Besides the turbo kit, the motor only had some headwork, ARP studs, and cams. It was about 744 WHP and a reliable daily driver. My latest project is a 1997 Supra rolling chassis with only 34,000 miles. I’m rebuilding the car from the ground up, installing a 6 point cage, a stroker motor, and a billet 82mm turbo. The more I take it apart, the more I find missing or loose bolts, but once it’s done, it will be pristine.
What do you like to do when you’re not working on cars?
Relax! But I do have two Weimaraners named Gracie and Kashi that I take for long walks or to the dog park pretty often.