This 2003 Honda S2000 could be used as a rolling example of just how much versatility the celebratory 2-seater offers, especially as it relates to engine choices. Two decades after Honda introduced its high-revving, rear-wheel drive convertible, it still stands as one of the most desired by enthusiasts, with some opting to keep them rather mild, and others, like Alex Graf, choosing to go completely nuts with the iconic platform while taking advantage of the various swap options that have become more common and readily available.
Graf picked up his AP1 back in 2014 from the car's second owner and it came with a few issues. The check engine light burned brightly on the cluster due to the F20's burnt valve. Unable to register the car due to the error code, Graf took ownership and enjoyed the car in stock form with temporary tags for a few weeks before jumping headfirst into deep modification. "It was my first RWD. I knew I chose a solid platform to build," he adds. The process began by updating the factory exterior parts to AP2-spec before a color change that did away with the original black paint in lieu of Blue Raspberry Pearl Metallic that he borrowed from the Fit.
While the aesthetic was being taken care of, Graf pieced together a fresh F20 block, this one fitted with sleeves, boosted with a Borg Warner s362 and sipping on e85—an effort that more than tripled power output to 700hp at the command of tuning guru Jamie Marsh. "I installed an 8.8-in. IRS rear end from an Explorer to handle the power and ran that setup for two seasons." During his drag strip journey, Graf sacrificed four S2000 transmissions and had enough. "I decided it was time for a change. I knew the car needed a solid transmission for the F-series engine to make it reliable, but I wasn't convinced I wanted to go that route."
Being that the S2000's engine bay welcomes a number of swaps with open arms, including cross-platform options, Graf weighed the pros and cons of a V-8 LS or an inline-6 2JZ-GTE. "I pulled the car apart and decided to try something new (to me)—I decided to LS swap it. My decision was based on coming across a brand new built LQ4 engine from a local part out for well below market value."
The V-8 grunt wasn't going to be enough on its own, so the car was brought to Little Innovation LLC in Connecticut where a pair of BorgWarner s366 turbos were set up to pound out over 1,000hp after Derek Burton had finished his tuning work. The glitz of nailing 4-digit power numbers was slightly toned down by the car's behavior away from the strip. He adds, "It was fun to drive but was built into more of a drag car and took the fun out of driving it around town. I ran this setup for a couple years but couldn't get over how cluttered the bay looked. The alternator placement always bothered me, and I had no other options for relocation due to space." Once again, it was time for a major shakeup.
In December of last year, Graf decided to revisit his original power plant crossroads and this time decided on 6-cylinder power by way of Toyota. Since he'd be completely revamping the engine bay, it felt like the right time to update the car's exterior as well. "I had never been 100 percent happy with the color I chose, so I decided to do a whole makeover. I'd always wanted to shave the bay to clean it up but never took on the challenge." With the challenge accepted, Graf and a friend who worked as a welder at a local shipyard embarked on completely smoothing out the bay before the car was brought to B&D Autobody where a complete color change to Valencia Orange Metallic took place in just two days.
The bright paintwork is topped with a carbon fiber hardtop and offset by classic white TE37. In terms of additional exterior changes, you won't find much else, other than the trio of holes cut into the factory hood to allow the hellfire to escape—even the front lip is factory AP2 issue.
Using Hasport engine mounts teamed up with Full Blown mount brackets, a USDM 2JZ-GTE was carefully put in place and joined by a Nissan CD009 transmission by way of a Fisch Racing bellhousing adapter. In the space that was once occupied by the factory battery and fuse box, you'll now find a Borg Warner S369sxe single turbo conversion backed by a pair of TiAL MVS wastegates that exit to the atmosphere through the modded hood.
From Ashy to Classy
On the opposite side of the engine is an E Fab intake manifold and 90mm RMR throttle body that, like the rest of the turbo tubing, relies on Vibrant VanJen clamps. It's apparent Graf put as much effort into the turbo setup layout as he did the shaving and general clean-up of the engine bay. Both the cold and hot sides are tucked closely to the engine itself and disappear under the radiator panel where they meet a Schmuck Built intercooler. With the ABS out of sight and the even the brake booster deleted, the 2JZ looks very comfortable between the AP1's shoulders.
Internally, the only changes thus far are ARP head studs, BC Racing valvetrain and a set of HKS 272 cams dropped into place. External changes include the aforementioned intake manifold and throttle body that are met with custom 3.5-in. piping (3-in. on the hot side), and LS ignition coils—a nod to his previous swap. Fueling is handled first by a pair of Walbro 525 Hellcat pumps that send fuel through a Radium filter and Titan Motorsports fuel rail before it's sprayed from ID1300s. Happy with his latest swap choice, Graf seems to be content, though there's still some work to do. He states, "I've been street tuning it myself and I'm hoping to get on the dyno soon." This winter, the plan is to pull the engine back out in order to build the block for increased reliability and the option to turn things up.
Cross-platform swaps have been commonplace in the import enthusiast world for years now, but that hasn't prevented many from voicing their displeasure, especially when the domestic golden child LS is brought into the conversation. "I haven't had any negative feedback...YET. I used to get a lot on the LS swap, but I don't care about the negative feedback—I'm open to constructive criticism and always looking to learn. I'm happy with my car and I'm the one driving it, lol!"
4-, 8-, 6- and 0-Cylinder
So, what could possibly be on the horizon once the 2JZ is fully built and properly dyno tuned? "I plan on driving this car for a few years. My next future swap that I'd like to try is a Tesla powerplant. The electric motors really catch my attention."