We have to admit we were initially repulsed by the entire concept of swapping a perfectly good BMW M engine for a damn Toyota motor. What on earth were they thinking?
It wasn't until Mike Miranda from E-Shift Performance in Keyport, NJ explained the foundation of his concept that we were finally able to stop hyperventilating.
Established ten years ago, the company has a successful business modifying imports such as the Supra, RX-7 and 300ZX. A substantial part of their time is spent swapping the Supra's 2JZ 3.0L six-cylinder twin-turbo motor into cars such as the RX-7, 240SX and even into older Supras. And this is what they'd still be doing but for one fateful day...
Wayne Henry is Mike's partner in the firm. His wife Juliet had an E36 325i that had clocked-up an impressive 218000 miles when the fuel pump finally failed. Concerned about her 120-mile daily commute, a new car was purchased and the BMW relegated to the shop's hooptie.
Fate lent another hand when Wayne decided the BMW would be the perfect way to introduce his wife to his love of road-racing, since she was familiar with the chassis. So he removed the engine and six-speed manual from his Mk3 Supra and donated it to the project.
By doing this, Wayne started something he couldn't have envisaged. "With the import tuning scene slowing down in the recession, these BMW conversions have kept the business going," Mike admitted.
In fact, they've built about 15 cars over the past two years, with cars shipping in from as far as Florida and Arizona. So they're in the process of creating conversion kits under their Crossbreed brand for the E39 5-Series, with E30, E36 and E46 kits ready to go.
While we recoiled in horror at the prospect, Mike made a compelling argument: "The 2JZ is a very affordable engine that's both strong and reliable, and maintenance is significantly cheaper than a BMW engine. With very little tuning you can get 500hp from them, up to 800hp from the stock block. What's more, we're getting about 350-375hp in virtually stock form, and they'll even return better fuel economy than the M5 motor if you stay off-boost." At this point, we naturally covered our ears and ran away screaming.
A typical conversion costs $6000-7000 depending on the donor motor "but the majority of customers are spending $10-15k with engine and chassis tuning," Mike told us. Clearly, the ease of tuning is a major appeal of this conversion.
With engines imported from Japan, the cheapest option is a 2JZ with an auto transmission. These sell for around $2000 and are a great starting point. You can even upgrade to a five-speed manual for about $500-600. However, engines with the desirable six-speed cost around $5000 "because that's the one everybody wants."
Once you've chosen your weapon, E-Shift supply the engine and transmission mounts as well as the driveshaft. "Physically getting the motor into the car is the easy bit. There's lots of space in the engine bay for the twin-turbo motor. The problem is with the wiring," Mike continued.
The company has currently developed two solutions. For older BMWs with OBD1 Bosch Motronic ECUs, E-Shift can mate the BMW wiring to the Toyota ECU to run the engine and ancillaries. The later OBD2 BMWs are more complex, however, requiring the Bosch ECU to run the ABS, A/C, speedo, etc, while a tandem Toyota ECU controls the engine. The convenience of this solution is the car retains all its major functions. The only sacrifice is the on-board trip computer, which is a small price to pay.
The engine swap requires additional components such as a new exhaust, intake, custom intercooler and Walbro 255 lph fuel pump. These minor mods, along with dyno tuning, increase boost pressure slightly to realize the quoted 350-375hp. This level of power is certainly appreciated in an E30 or E36 325i chassis, but Mike stressed it's the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to the parts listed above, the E36 shop car seen here was treated to a custom E-Shift Turbonectics T72 single-turbo, GReddy wastegate and BOV, HKS 264° cams and a Mishimoto radiator. The result is a consistent and very entertaining 517whp at 17psi on 93-octane. "Mixing in some C16 race gas allows us to run 22psi and get 610whp," Mike laughed.
When the stock diff broke "after a few launches" an M3 LSD was installed, while StopTech big-brakes were also deemed necessary. They added an M3 spoiler and lighting before pulling the fenders to house 18x8.5/10'' Work wheels. A custom pearl paint job was then executed by Ted's Collision in Keyport.
Installing a Toyota engine in a worn-out 325i is one thing, but removing the 400hp 5.0 V8 from an E39 M5 is certifiable, maybe punishable by imprisonment, especially when owner Ed Mui admitted there was nothing wrong with the motor!
"I purchased the car in 11/07 as a daily driver in Manhattan and vowed to keep it stock," he said. Inevitably he started adding parts but it was the constant and expensive maintenance that took its toll. "Being around E-shift and all the 1JZ- and 2JZ-powered cars, I figured I could've spent all the maintenance dollars on mods if it were a Japanese import," he continued.
"After spending several grand on the car, I didn't even have any performance mods. So I started looking at prices and while everything would cost over $10k, I was disappointed to discover they wouldn't increase the M5's power by even 100whp. And with E-shift already doing several successful swaps, I thought why not the M5?"
For many of us, this might induce vomiting but Ed was convinced it was a good idea. "It seemed like an affordable option, with very high power as the major advantage," he said.
Selling the M5 motor and trans to fund the project, he only laid down an extra $10k for his 2JZ with six-speed and to build the engine to almost identical spec as the 325i above, with the exception of a Garrett GT35-R .82 AR turbo - the preferred option for E-Shift.
The electronics utilize the tandem ECU solution mentioned above, which has allowed Ed to keep the M5's functionality, while enjoying power in the region of 550hp and reduced maintenance costs.
Additional mods include KW V3 coilovers, 19x9/10'' Beyern wheels plus a carbon splitter and grilles. The owner plans to carry out additional work as his budget allows.
While we're obviously having some fun at the prospect of swapping a BMW engine for a Toyota, it's clearly a conversion that appeals to a group of people. "When we first started posting on BMW forums, there were inevitably plenty of haters," Mike admitted. "But once somebody sits in the car and tries it, they're usually won over. And there are people who like the idea of reliable power at a good price with cheaper servicing."
If you're interested, enter "E-Shift Performance" into YouTube and see these monsters in action. They're also continuing to work on the conversion kits - this will provide the major parts to carry out the swap yourself. You will need to send your BMW engine wiring harness to E-Shift, but they'll return it mated to the Supra loom, and will give you tech advice over the phone to help with the installation.