Project SCerious is at that moment of maximum anticipation much like a rocket ship that has just lit the afterburners but has yet to be released from the launch pad. All the pieces are falling into place; Supra transformation is at hand. The goal here is to get Supra performance, durability and potential at a fraction of the cost of a real Supra on the highly inflated used-car market.
In 2000, when I was in the market for a new car after my white T-Type was stolen, a decent near-stock Supra was a $22,000-to-$25,000 proposition. After its popularity rose, fueled by "The Movie," that same car is $32,000 to $40,000. I ended up buying a low-mileage Grand National, but have always respected, read and lusted after, the 2JZ-GTE's extreme tunability.
The idea of the Supra swap had been orbiting around my cerebral cortex for some time. I've written a few columns about putting a 2JZ in an old Chevy pickup truck and the SC swap. Now it's time to step up and do it. You saw the car in the last issue. Since then we've been tracking down Supra parts and have enough to do the swap at a substantial savings compared to buying a real Supra. Supra parts can be difficult to come by; here's how we did it.
Supra Power USA Vs. JDM
In this debate, JDM is divided into two categories-standard JDM and VVTi. The standard JDM version of the 2JZ-GTE uses a speed density engine management system. The bonus is you can save money on a HKS VPC-type product that deletes the U.S.-spec engine's restrictive mass air sensor while realizing immense power gains via ROM tuning. The catch is finding a shop that can ROM tune the Japanese-spec ECU.
The standard JDM engine has much smaller stock cams than a U.S. 2JZ and smaller turbos, so the U.S. engine is better for those setting their phasers to Stun not Kill because you can get more out of it easier. For bigger power appliations, turbo size and stock cam selection are non-issues because these items will be replaced with hardcore aftermarket stuff.
Too often the lure of the high-tech variable valve timing in the VVTi setup blinds the enthusiast of more practical matters. The VVTi runs a mass air sensor setup, but it's a hot-wire strategy compared to the Karman Vortex frequency-style mass air meter on U.S.-spec 2JZs. So there's no crossover.
The biggest shortcomings for the VVTi are cams, namely exhaust cams. There are very few (maybe zero) aftermarket exhaust cam options in Japan, which makes it difficult to generate more than 550-600 whp in a VVTi engine. The VVTi head gasket is different, which complicates replacement, and the ECU is much more difficult to ROM tune because of the variable valve timing maps.
So the VVTi doesn't generate awe-inspiring power figures. There is little aftermarket support for the VVTi engine in Japan and virtually none in the United States.
In contrast, the U.S.-spec 2JZ has a stout aftermarket following where it counts most-right here in America. The standard JDM engine is in the middle, as many U.S.-spec parts will fit right on the motor. The bottom line here is availability.
We didn't want a VVTi, but beyond that we didn't care where the engine came from. We searched engine depots, engine rebuilders, engine recyclers, dismantling yards and engine importers. We found that advertising an engine and having one ready to roll were two different things. The truth is 2JZ-GTEs are hard to come by. They're about the same price as popular JDM Honda engines but not nearly as plentiful.