When Gordon Ting debuted this 2JZ -powered 2014 Lexus IS at SEMA last year, it was bound to stir up some controversy. An old Toyota motor in a brand new luxury sedan... Was it crazy? Were people going to get offended? Yes and yes! But we had no objections to the idea; in fact, we loved it so much we wanted to put the world's craziest 2JZ third-generation Lexus IS on the cover! And why not throw in a bonus poster for you guys while we're at it!
We don't always give something with the Lexus badge this much attention. Most builds are either VIP, stance or simply too tame (or lame!). But Gordon was given the opportunity to build two new Lexus IS models and create some buzz. He hit not one, but two home runs with a show-stoppin' IS 250 AWD (see P. 30), plus this panty-droppin' IS 350... or shall we say, IS 340 thanks to the built 2JZ-GTE motor!
"We've had a history of building SEMA vehicles for Lexus over the last few years," Gordon explained. "There have been a lot of builds out there that claim crazy horsepower, but it's never proven. That's where this 2J project came in... We built this car, not just as a badass show vehicle, but also as a badass performance vehicle. So right after SEMA we took it to Buttonwillow Raceway and tracked it."
And just like that, Gordon shut up the skeptics. It was shocking to us because even the bigwigs at Lexus supported the project. Currently, the new Lexus IS is only offered with a 204hp 2.5-liter V6 and 306hp 3.5-liter V6. So getting monster power from either of the factory engines in a two-month time frame wasn't going to be easy, and would take months of testing. So the idea of a 2JZ-GTE swap was born. Plus, it's a Toyota motor so it keeps things in the family.
With time ticking and SEMA approaching, Gordon brought on the help of his good friends who are also experts when it comes to turning wrenches and custom fab work—Philip Chase and Ben Schwartz. The two managed the project through its entirety, which started by simply removing the stock 3.5-liter V6. They had placed an order for a JDM 2JZ via eBay Japan, but it hadn't arrived in time. So the team borrowed a spare motor from a friend to get things going. Phil and Ben fabricated custom brackets using the temporary inline-six while they determined stock Supra parts could be used for engine mounts. Once their actual engine arrived, it was torn down and assembled with the help of Evasive Motorsports. A 3.4-liter stroker kit from Brian Crower came first, which included a stronger crank and beefier rods. Forged JE pistons were added while the cylinder head was given the whole nine yards via CNC work by Mission Critical. The valvetrain also received Brian Crower cams and valves. For boost, the original twin-turbo setup was ditched for a Garrett GTX3582R turbo mounted to an ETS manifold. Cooling and fuel upgrades weren't forgotten either with a GReddy intercooler, 1000cc injectors, dual fuel pumps, custom surge tank and oil coolers thrown into the equation.
Once all the engine hardware was buckled in, it came time to shoehorn the beast in. To everyone's surprise, it fit almost like a glove. No cutting was needed, the subframe and oil pan fit perfect, and the firewall wasn't even touched. With the motor in, a custom 4" exhaust was crafted as well as a custom engine harness from Rywire. Puttin' all that power to the wheels is an R154 tranny out of a Mk3 Supra. While it might not be the Supra Getrag tranny that costs as much as $7,000, the five-speed manual is affordable, strong and gets the job done. To ensure power transfer to the rear wheels, an OS Giken triple-plate clutch and limited-slip were installed.
With the expertise of Evasive and an AEM standalone, the 2JZ beast was tuned on the dyno with a final result of 639whp (731hp at crank) and 596 lb-ft (685 lb-ft at crank)—it's not wild for a 2JZ but the power is usable for road course and some street duties. With its extensive work, Phil tells us this motor setup is over-built. Eventually, the plan is to upgrade to a GTX4088R and reach the 800whp—this is similar to the turbo used in Ken Gushi's Formula D car. We can't wait for that!
Because the factory steering is electric and controlled by the ECU, a manually hydraulic one was swapped in. Other upgrades to complement the additional power included Lexus IS F axles—the stock 350 ones were puny—plus a custom driveshaft. Chassis upgrades weren't skimped on either with Brembo supplying front and rear big brakes, coilovers from KW using stiffer spring rates, custom a-arms and lightweight Advan wheels matched to some very sticky Toyo R888s.
After 60 days with many sleepless nights, the 2JZ -powered IS 340 was finished and transported to Las Vegas for SEMA. It was easily one of our favorite cars from the convention. It still baffles us that there were no major complications with the swap and we are impressed with how quickly Gordon and his team finished it. It might not be competitive in a true time attack race because of how heavy a Lexus is, but it does have a powertrain and chassis that's proven on the dyno and road course. How many show cars can claim that?