Saturday 21 October 2023

Project JZA80sHERO wrap-up: Don't Do what Donny Don't Does.

Yet despite the don'ts, do I did; Donny's doubters be damned - it's done. 

2017, 2019 and 2023; Benjamin Buttoning its way through 40,000km and $75,000 of questionable decision-making. 

The former used-up commuter, turned pretty-but-useless garage ornament, finally underwent the most financially-intensive step to become the car it always should have been. The one you want. The car everyone expects it to be. A turbo, six-speed Supra. 

Just as there's apparently many ways to skin a cat, I'd struggled with the scribbled shopping lists and mental maths on exactly which approach to take:
Do I build the 2JZ-GE in the car along with a modern, aftermarket drivetrain (a single turbo with the latest tech, infinitely-better manifolds, Tremec T56 Magnum and so on...), or take the punt on a complete factory-style conversion with used genuine-Toyota bits? Do I want VVTi? Could I settle on an R154? Hell, maybe I just want it to make turbo noises while skating on the thin-ice the W58 five-speed provides and call it a day? 
If your dream is a big-turbo, 1000whp monster, it sure doesn't make a whole lot of sense to buy an original drivetrain only to throw 90% of it in the bin. That decades-old 2JZ-GTE you're looking at is draped in absolutely archaic vacuum lines, valves and electronics; strapped to a drivetrain that's a very expensive gamble however you look at it - one in this day and age that's likely best kept for the collector cars. 

When I put on my pessimistic hat, I'm well aware that the reality of many custom/modified/'hot-rodded' cars is not quite what it seems. The cars you see parked at shows, shared in photos, or watch in videos can often be a lot more appealing on the surface than they truly are to drive or own. That rat-rod build with the random engine conversion and super-low stance? Yeah, there's a damn good chance that thing rattles and vibrates, wanders all over the road, smells a fragrant combination of electrical fire and burning coolant, and can only be stopped if you turn the ignition to ACC while simultaneously patting the battery and jumping on one leg. Then chocked with a brick to stop it rolling away. 
The difference between 'done' and 'done WELL' is often invisible from an outside perspective, despite having come at GREAT cost. It's that "Final 10%..." 
Embrace the gloriously-boring attitude that IS a hazy hybrid of pessimistic and realistic full-time.. and no, let's not go down that path. Aim low and never be disappointed. Yes, OEM+ style it is. 

So in ~June 2022 I finally pulled my finger out and started gathering everything required to turn my peasant SZ into what'd effectively be a lightly-modded RZ-S manual. Short of looking at the build plate, if done well you would never tell; you'd have no reason to doubt; for all intents and purposes that's what it'd now BE. 
And hey, it's not ALL dreary! In hunting all those original conversion components it's often cheaper (and certainly easier!) to find quality aftermarket pieces than some of the regularly replaced/binned factory parts. Like, do I need that plastic intake and battered old intercooler? Why not cut to the chase and create the car you'd inevitably want if you had a stocker anyway?

The Supra's huge (although fading) aftermarket is a goddamn delight for someone who's experienced a less-than-popular chassis before. I remember when I first got that Lancer EVO I wrote about in the previous post; to suddenly find myself presented with a parts aftermarket that's high-quality, affordable and AVAILABLE? Oof. Boy did I buy some nonsense.
There's parts from brands I'd always wanted to buy new, as embarrassing as that sounds. It's the Recaro seat, ARC intercooler, your first set of made-to-order wheels, or in this case... that HKS anything: quality products from an iconic part of Japanese tuning history. Even in a day and age where the Japanese aftermarket is clearly outgunned on some of the popular older chassis (whether it's Supra parts from the USA or Skyline GT-R parts from Australia..), HKS parts are just 'cool'. And I'm certainly not alone in happily paying up for a bit of nostalgia; I damn well want to pretend this is 2002 Japan and I'm perusing a HyperRev as-originally-intended, alright? Shoot me... 

So yes. The gathering.

The ball started rolling with the biggest chunk of all: a complete 2JZ-GTE. 
Finding one that hasn't had a stint in some E36 drift car or a damn jetboat was beginning to take some care by 2022, so anything 'local' where an importer/reseller could have less-than-stellar sources in order to make a dollar was off the cards. It has to be Japan. I managed to snag one off Yahoo out of a late JZS161 Aristo and get it on its way.
Many eye-watering hours were then spent trawling the Toyota EPC to identify any and all differences between the SZ/SZ-R and a manual RZ-S/RZ, part numbers collected and orders placed both locally and abroad.
Then to get the orders in for the new aftermarket bits. While amazing that this stuff is still available new at all, much of it is now only available in small windows after short production runs, or simply made to order. 
The HKS exhaust and nostalgic SSQV kit were ready off the shelf, but the induction kit was a few weeks wait, while the intercooler kit an excruciating 6+ months. I actually ordered a GReddy/Trust collection of the same parts just in case the others didn't make it in time, but ran into similar problems!
Other bits like the Koyorad radiator and Haltech ECU parts (particularly something engine-specific like the terminated harness) were in stock at the time, but no doubt vary. Best bet is to just order ANYTHING like this in advance. 
A used Japanese '96+ V160 spec 3.26 ratio 200mm diff was easy enough to source from a dismantler locally, but an OS Giken (and later resorting to a Cusco..) LSD proved to be an absolute ordeal. Plenty of calls, emails and cancelled orders. The standard A-series LSD will do for now.
As for the six-speed itself? Not only long-discontinued, but JZA80-specific; the conversion was not surprisingly the rarest and single most expensive element to source. But at least they're out there I guess. Unbelievably this setup came complete out of my old Abflug Supra project (a late 1993 TT6 RZ purchased as a roller in 2016), after a stint in another Supra that had since gone Tremec. Knowing the history and actual kilometres helped alleviate some stress from THAT not-insignificant purchase!

Six months of Christmas as the parts roll in...
Loading the 2JZ-GTE VVTi into my trusty '84 4Runner at the importers. 

The Toyota Electronic Parts Catalogue, or EPC:
How ridiculously helpful it is to have resources like this online. Simple, fuss free and not plastered in nonsense ads. I have no idea how this is supported, but good on whoever. 
The Toyota bits still excluding the myriad of service items also required; parts both to reconfigure the 2JZ from S160 to A80 fitment, and the chassis itself from SZ/SZ-R to RZ-S/RZ spec. 

The radiator and Koyorad-specific cap they sell separately for reasons unknown, HKS intake kit and SSQV BOV.

Argh, I know they're arguably terrible at actually filtering, but I don't care. They're just a bloody classic

I always appreciate a logo in the casting. When you're not even planning to polish, how could you not?!

Yes, apparently people still bought these in 2022...

...and again, a bit of silliness; but that's hobbies in general, no? I'm actually eager to swap the fin over with the original one off my old Evo as I'm sure that one sounded even more ridiculous. 

The basic GReddy/Trust intercooler kit I ordered in case the HKS didn't arrive in time...

The HKS R-Type intercooler kit that thankfully rolled in at the last minute. Getting this was an ordeal (more due to the reseller), but managed to be worth the trouble in the end!


Nice polished end tanks. 

Another logo on the cast aluminium hardpipes.

The HKS Silent Hi-Power. A simple stainless finish for a classic look. 

I guess it's silent if you say it is? Optimism!

Beautiful welds on another quality bit of gear. 

A Whifbitz 2JZ-GTE VVTi front pipe. 
Oddly HKS don't do front pipes for the 2JZ in stainless, so had to find something else along with a custom mid-section for future interchangeability.

Probably the most modern element of this project: the Haltech Elite 2500 ECU and a complete 2JZ terminated harness. 
I'd gone with a Haltech for my AW11's 4AG build over a decade ago, so uhh... for the sake of consistency? No, it's quality stuff. 

No crusty old clips and petrified plugs here. 

It wasn't till February that the car could be dropped off at the Supra-heavy workshop I'd chosen to do the conversion. And waited. And waited. I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind at least once a day. 
It was far from smooth sailing as extra parts required were discovered and frantically sourced, but by May 2023 it was done. May?! Yep, nil-stock on the kidding here; unfortunately the ceramic CT20 turbos hadn't survived either their 20+ years of boosted Tokyo oxygen or the journey across the ocean, so the late change to some Hypergear high-flowed steel-wheel CT20 turbos was an unexpected hurdle... not to mention sourcing a factory gasket kit that proved to be a weeks-long drama in itself. 

Not much to see here, but that's a pair of Japanese-market 2JZ-GTE CT20s with upsized steel wheels in machined factory housings. 

But we're done. Eventually this lot got wrangled into the car and off with a relieved smile I went. Donny Don't naysayers can get stuffed. 

The insurance-update photoset including a couple of the underside taken when ironing out some wiring at the gearbox. 
The eagle-eyed among you may notice I didn't use the proper turbo-spec fan shroud on the radiator. While I'd ordered the correct shroud along with the fan and whatever else, I'd missed the two small electric fans the prefacelift and non-turbo shrouds didn't include, and just couldn't get them in time. So something to correct later. 
I also wish I'd thought to order larger injectors for a bit more headroom on the tune. Simply helping the 2JZ breathe with the free-flowing intake and exhaust has seen boost climb to ~17psi, limited only by a restrictor added to the new front-pipe. The high-flowed turbos are happy to put in a bit more effort, as is the larger 460lph Walbro pump that went in the tank, so yeah, something else to sort along with a touch-up to the tune in the future. 

Now was it all worth it? Jesus...

If you were planning to follow in my footsteps in fast-forward from the moment of purchase? No. Don't be silly. Grit your teeth and pay up for a good one from the start. Enjoy it. You'll always be better off. 

If you're young, wanting a project or simply can't afford to throw a large chunk of money towards a hobby in one go? I like to take the piss out of my poor decision-making, but the truth is you can DEFINITELY do worse. Yes, you're upside-down in the end, but don't stray too far from what's generally desirable and worst-case-scenario (as of 2023 anyway) you're looking at 80c on the dollar return - unbelievable in the world of I-plan-to-restore-a-1990s-Japanese-car foolishness.
A hidden benefit of the latter is that it opens up your options to ALL variants on the market; as in, you might want one in a particular colour, or year, but can't get it in the spec/condition you want.
If little else, the example I started with was a desirable facelift car in a good colour with great options.. and absolutely, completely, without-exception unmodified or buggered with. The perfect base. While the drivetrain was wrong, once converted and restored it'd be just about my dream example. Sure a 6spd SZ-R or similarly-optioned RZ-S auto would've been a valuable step in the right direction, but an optionless 199 SZ auto would've been an even bigger step away from where I'd eventually want to end up.

I know personally I should have put this same effort into getting a proper damn garage built, but whatever. It's the same projects accomplished, just in the wrong order. The stupidity of eating desert before dinner.

Ultimately I'm chuffed as all heck with it, and have done over 5,000km of pointless weekend driving since May already. It's done. The car logic is screaming I should have bought from the start.

As I wrote in the previous post, the JZA80 was "...the flagship sporting chassis from one of the world's largest automobile manufacturers, designed during an epic era of Japanese vehicle engineering.", and as a sucker for Japanese cars and tuning of that whole era (the money of the late 80s and the otherwise-unjustifiable automotive projects it funded through the decade that followed..), the turbo, six-speed Supra is a dream come true. The fact the over-engineering and reliability makes them so easy to own long-term is just icing on the cake. 
With any luck I'll get many more years of enjoyment out of it.