They are of different worlds, of different generations, of different social strata. One was common, the other high-fallutin’; one was delightfully simple, the other deviously complicated. The AE86 lived its life briefly and brightly, Japan’s tightly-structured four-years-per-generation rule all but ensuring that the Corolla GT-S would be replaced before it got hoary and old; the Honda S2000, home of the F20C engine now seen between the Toyota’s strut towers, lived for an entire decade and seems to have barely been missed since it went away.
Conceived relatively near each other yet born decades apart, both were, and remain, highly respected for their abilities, even today. Few knowledgeable folks in the scene have a bad word to say about either. Yet their spheres of influence seem not to have intersected.
Until now, anyway.
It took someone coming in fresh to put it all together. Enter Al Duyungan, who had spent the past few years playing with VW Jettas and was immersed in the Euro scene. Time for a change, thought Al: “I was pretty much done with the Euro scene. I did all that was there to be done to my VW and I wanted to start fresh.” Aaah, but where?
It started with the car, a clean ’86 Corolla GT-S, undamaged and “98 percent rust free,” according to Al. So what? So Al lives in Chicago, a town where your own breath would rust, given half a chance. Snow, salt, and Japanese carmakers’ improving-but-not-perfect grasp of treating their metal for wintertime American roads meant that, in Chicago, a solid hachiroku was as rare as an un-bribable local politician. A friend saw it posted on a semi-private message board and turned Al on to it. Days later, he went to see it, checkbook in pocket.
What he found was shocking. Engine? Gone. No steering wheel, mismatched rims, and a gutted interior save for the rattlecan insulation sprayed all over. It had been something of a local drift-scene hero whose owner had fallen on hard times. And Al still shelled out $3800 (!) for it. Sounds like a lot for a 20 year-old Corolla missing an engine... but for the plan that Al was quickly formulating in his head, it would be perfect.
That plan revolved around Honda’s F20C engine. “I wanted to go a different route,” he explains. “I always wanted an S2000, but didn’t have the cash at the time. But I’d just bought this car that had no heart in it. What better engine to drop in a perfectly-balanced AE86 than an F20C, one of the best engines ever created, and something that wouldn’t throw off the car’s balance. Plus, I wanted to ditch the Toyota engine because I just wasn’t going to receive a lot of power with that 4AG.”
For some, this mixing of marquees would be heresy, but from Al’s point of view, it was actually simpler. “It would cost an arm and a leg to get that engine to where I would want it; in the end to me it just wasn’t worth it. With the F20C you get more bang for your buck.” Ah yes, that old hot rodding trope, swapping in an entirely different, newer, more powerful engine rather than sinking money into the old one (see sidebar).
“If you do your homework, any swap is achievable,” “You know what they say...measure twice and cut once. You do that and you’re golden.”
And it is a thing of beauty. All-aluminum construction, 11.7:1 compression, 51-degree valve angle, heat-treated and surface-carburized forged alloy crank and connecting rods, forged aluminum pistons with short skirts, the engine’s five main bearings incorporated into a single girdle for strength, an 8300rpm peak and a 9000rpm redline are among the specs. More impressive: a naturally-aspirated 120hp per liter, or converted to English measure, nearly two horsepower per cubic inch. Two hundred and forty horses from two naturally-aspirated liters. By comparison, a 2006 Subaru WRX needed a turbo to get 230hp out of 2.5L; this isn’t meant to slight the Rex, but to point out just what a remarkable piece of engineering Honda’s F20 is. What’s more, the S2000 is a 2700+-pound car, capable of low-5-second 0-60s and 14-second-flat quarter-mile times. That same driveline, minus about 700 pounds, would be absolutely ballistic. Sourcing a clean 38,000-mile 2001-vintage S2000 from a wreck gave all of the engine and transmission pieces necessary to make the swap.
Making the thing physically fit wasn’t that big a deal. New engine and tranny mounts, plus a couple of moved and re-shaped crossmembers, allowed everything to clear and nestle down beneath the hood. Accommodating the Honda’s six-speed was a little tougher: some metalwork was required on the firewall and trans tunnel. “If you do your homework, any swap is achievable,” Al tells us (and all of the potentially-inspired reading this now). “You know what they say... measure twice and cut once. You do that and you’re golden. You just gotta be patient with it.”
And there were the usual mechanical hiccups; weird things that you had to hunt down and kill in order to make everything right. “We had a couple of electrical issues. The car would start and idle fine, but when we started driving it, it would die after like five minutes. Or, it would short out every time we started it up. Fuses were being blown and replaced left and right.” Some quality time tracing the source of the short meant that it was dispatched in short order. “One other weird thing— the engine would die if the fuel wasn’t topped off; we remedied that by making a custom fuel sump, and changing the fuel pump. After that, all was good.”
And so, other than the basic shell, little of this former Chicago street-drifter remains; compare these photos to the husk of a machine it was three years ago, and you’d never know they were the same car. The disparate elements of body and driveline matter not to the owner; ours is a classless society, and chat about whether an F20C should be in a “mere” AE86 is as pointless as the result is fast. Parentage and the past are immaterial here. “It’s cool that this car has a history behind it,” Al tells us. “Time to make my own history.”
Swap and Drop?
What we celebrate here at Super Street, at its core, is hot rodding. And hot rodding has been around almost as long as there have been cars, and roads to drive ‘em on. Every modification we make, every wrench we turn (or photograph others turning), every computer we re-flash, every engine we swap, every tail we hang out in the twisties, is all for the latest in a line of hot cars which dates back almost as long as the history of cars themselves. Sure, we prefer our metal to have come from Japan; we groove on the style and the technology that comes to us from the Far East (and just as often, that which the Far East doesn’t see fit to send here). As modern as our methods are, in truth, we are simply honoring the spirits of our forefathers in the never-ending search for speed and personalization. Don’t let the sneering attitudes of the narrow-minded old farts in their Chevelles ever convince you otherwise. We are kindred spirits, more than they (or perhaps, we) want to admit. (They’re just mad ‘cause our girls are hotter.)
The engine swap is as old as rodding itself. Hell, engine swaps have come to define hot rodding (and its more polished and grown-up cousin, street rodding). Hot rodding started with hopping up four-cylinder engines—through the mid-1920s, that’s what most of the affordable cars ran, and it’s another connection to what we do today. Many more ran straight-6s, but there was never enough room ahead of the firewall to accommodate them in the affordable cars that needed more power. But starting in the mid-‘30s, great-grandpa can tell you about dropping a 75hp flathead Ford V8 into a Model A that had previously only seen 25 horsepower; a choice between spending hundreds to make a Four reach 50hp, or drop in something that offered triple the power before tweaks, seemed an easy one. Adding power on top of that, with carburetor and cam tweaks, was just gravy.
Post-WWII, with a squadron of ex-soldier engineers, pilots, motor pool workers, and people with mechanical hands used to working on airplanes (and their associated high speeds, which made even the quickest cars seem like a snooze in comparison), the world of hot rodding picked up steam. Backyard specials popped up everywhere. The increasingly voracious OHV V8 (first by Cadillac and Oldsmobile in 1949, and later Chrysler in 1951 with its various flavors of Hemi) became a substitute for both the four and the flattie in rods and customs. But the cars they were in were expensive, even wrecks.
So when the OHV small-block Chevy broke through in the fall of 1954, the democratization of horsepower was upon us: even the base 165hp variant offered more than six times the horsepower of a stock Model A. (The extra weight over the front wheels mattered little, as these were meant to go fast in a straight line only—handling was a scant consideration.) That engine’s rapid factory development, its adaptability to aftermarket parts, its cheap and reliable nature, its ease of use and fitment, and its sheer ubiquity made it a favorite among those who sought out cheap speed. The old-timers even had a rhyme for it: Ford for go, Chevy for plow. Meaning: Ford may have had the style people wanted, but if you really wanted to get cooking, you needed Chevy power. It’s so dominated the American-car scene that even now, it’s shocking to look under the hood of a hot-rodded pre-1948 Ford and see a Ford engine. In ‘50s boats through today, the tendency has been to keep at least the same marquee of engine with the car; anyone who’s into a certain brand of car deep enough may see an engine of a competing marquee as a sort of betrayal of brand values, or some such trumped-up nonsense.
Today, cars are technically complex enough that switching engines from different companies would seem difficult, if not impossible: computers don’t just control engine functions, they invade every corner of the car, and all must be just so for them to crunch the numbers as they should. For large chunks of the ‘90s, the hot move was dropping an Integra engine into a Civic, and all but the dopiest scenester knew that Honda and Acura were the same company. As technology marches on, and as the once-complicated systems of yore grow increasingly quaint with time, engine swaps could once again be as common as they once were.
1986 Toyota Corolla GT-S (AE86)
Owner Al Duyangan
Hometown Chicago, Il
Occupation Respiratory Therapist
Power 215hp at 8,300rpm; 153lb-ft
Engine Honda F20C; custom short-ram intake, wire tuck and engine mounts; modified HKS exhaust and piping; Walbro 255lph fuel pump with Fuelab 525-series pressure regulator; Koyo aluminum radiator
Drivetrain Honda F20C 6-speed manual; custom mounts
Engine Management AEM EMS
Footwork & Chassis Cusco rollcage; NEXT Miracle X-bar; custom trans tunnel modifications; relocated and reshaped chassis crossmembers; Carbing strut-tower brace; Stance GR+ coilovers
Wheels & Tires SSR Formula Mesh wheels (15x8" -14(F) / 15x10"-38(R); General Exclaim UHP tires 195/50R15(F) / 205/50R15(R)
Exterior Origin Lab fender flares (25mm front, 40mm rear) and Stylish-line side skirts and rear bumper; Shine Auto Type 1 front bumper; J-Blood hood; TRD wing; JDM Kouki lights all around; relocated fuel neck
Interior Bride Low Max Maziora seats; Schroth Rallye 3 harnesses; Trueno door cards; Nardi Deep Corn 330mm steering wheel with Works Bell Rapfix II quick-release and Boss Hub kit; K-Sport Hydro E-brake; S2000 gauges in custom carbon-fiber bezel; AEM wideband 02 air/fuel UEGO Gauge; Marshall fuel pressure gauge; Summit 12-gallon fuel cell with custom enclosure, lines and connectors; custom battery relocation kit
Thanks You One6 Motorsports; THMotorsports; Touge Factory; Pro Function; Panda Garage; Z1auto; Ryan Belville; MPH Motorsports, Matthew, Muhammad, Toti, Lito, Ryan, and my cousin Jeff
WWW aempower.com; cuscousainc.com; more-japan.com (Bride/SSR)