When it comes to the school of automotive enthusiasm, there will always be those who feel cars should be built in a certain way with particular rules to be followed. Cross-brand engine swaps, non-period-correct parts and exteriors with patina are just a few things that might catch you some flack from the so-called establishment depending on your preferred car scene.
It seems that one of the most vocal groups out there are those opposed to putting American V8 engines into Japanese or European sports cars. Despite the proven performance and cost benefits, they just can’t get on board with it, and many feel that a V8 engine somehow ruins or cheapens a car.
While the great V8 debate will probably never be settled, the popularity of the swaps shows no signs of slowing. These days it’s hard to think a of a vehicle that someone hasn’t swapped an American V8 into. But how about opposite? How many vintage American machines are out there with non-American powerplants?
The answer is not many, but they do exist – and we recently had the chance to spend some time with one of the most unconventional Mopars we’ve seen in a while. One that’s powered by a turbocharged Toyota inline six.
The story of this 1971 Plymouth Valiant Scamp (the sister car to the Dodge Dart Swinger) begins when its owner, Dave Buckshaw, found the car wasting away in a scrap yard and decided to save it from the crusher. Dave was working with Fram Oil Filters’ marketing team in Detroit at the time and it was decided that an unusual project car might help the brand reach a younger generation of enthusiast.
Prior to this point, Dave’s personal project cars had included unusual sleepers like a Buick Grand National powered Cadillac Fleetwood, but he hadn’t yet tried any cross manufacturer engine swaps. Even so, he had no qualms about tackling this build and quickly got to work sourcing a powerplant for the Plymouth.
Thanks to the power of a thing called Ebay, Dave found an engine and transmission freshly pulled from a Japanese market Toyota Aristo priced at a reasonable $2,200. Many options were considered initially, but given the 2JZ’s legendary reputation among the tuner crowd, it was the perfect choice for an outside-the-box build.
Over the next six months, Dave and some of his friends spent every spare hour in the Fram training garage putting the car together. Needless to say, there’s no swap kit for dropping a 2JZ into a Mopar A-body, so pretty much everything had to be fabricated from scratch.
Along with the help of his buddies and the support of his boss during the build process, Dave’s personal experience working with turbocharged motors and EFI systems also helped greatly when it came to getting the 2JZ up and running in the Valiant.Old Tricks, New Tricks
From the beginning, the idea was not to build an outrageous pro-touring car designed to attack the road course or drag strip. Instead, the plan was to have a fast and unusual street sleeper that could be used for comfortable long distance cruising.
While the engine choice was unusual, this car certainly isn’t one of the mega high budget pro-touring builds you see at the SEMA Show every year. There have been suspension and chassis upgrades, but they were done to bring the Valiant’s handling up to modern standards rather than make an all-out track machine.
The suspension modifications on the car use a lot of the tricks learned from 1960s Trans-Am racers and include Firm Feel torsion bars and Reilly Motorsport tubular control arms and strut rods. New York’s Bergman Autocraft supplied custom-valved Bilstein shocks and road racing spec leaf springs for the rear. This is all in addition to the custom-fabbed front subframe and additional chassis reinforcement performed during the build.
Braking performance has also been significantly improved thanks to a set of 13-inch front and 12-inch rear discs sourced from 1995 Ford Mustang Cobra.
The wheels are 18-inch Mustang FR500 replicas in Anthracite gray that have actually been narrowed to correctly mate with the Scamp’s chassis setup. The tires are 245/40R18 Pirelli P Zero Neros all around.
Exterior changes to the Plymouth have been kept simple and include a coat of Big Bad Orange paint from AMC’s 1970 color pallete along with trimmed quarter panel lips and LED light conversions in both the front and rear.
Inside there’s a pair of power bucket seats from a 1994 Camaro along with custom upholstery and door panels from PJ’s Trim Shop.
There’s also a Vintage Air setup, a Kenwood Bluetooth stereo deck and lots of Dynamat to help keep NVH as low as possible.
One of the coolest things in the Scamp’s cockpit are the instruments – a set of ’60s-style gauges mounted in a custom cluster.Mixed Reactions & Hurt Feelings
With the build complete and essentially running the stock Aristo 2JZ, Dave set out to take the car to events like the Hot Rod Power Tour and get some exposure. Unfortunately though, changes in the company’s upper ranks saw funding pulled and Dave found both himself and the Plymouth without a home.
It wasn’t an easy time, as Dave had invested a huge amount of his own time and money in a project that had been abandoned right when it was nearing completion. After strongly considering selling the car, Dave realized he had grown very attached to the Scamp and eventually decided to continue on with the project on his own.
For the next stage of the build, he got in touch with Jose Valle at Kaizen Performance in Southern California – a well respected tuning shop that specializes in tubrocharged Toyota engines. Dave was already quite familiar with the performance potential of the 2JZ, and he knew Kaizen would be the perfect place to extract it.
In its initial spec the car made right around 400 horsepower, but the goal version for version two is a streetable 700 horsepower – which anyone familiar with the 2JZ knows is a walk in the park. The car is already well on its way to that mark, with a single turbo conversion using a 67mm Comp Turbo turbine. Supporting upgrades will include an upgraded fueling system and a MegaSquirt MS3-Pro engine management system.
Up to this point that car has been running the factory Aristo A340 automatic transmission, but another major change coming will be the installation of a Tremec TKO 600 five-speed gearbox with a twin-plate clutch.
When asked about the kind of reactions the car gets, Dave says they are mixed. On the highway back in Detroit he often gets the thumbs up from patriotic muscle car lovers who have no idea the Plymouth actually has a heart made in Japan. When driving through parking lots he gets confused looks from people who don’t expect a bright orange Plymouth to be so quiet.
When people do finally discover that the Scamp has six cylinders of turbocharged Toyota power beneath its hood, reactions range from big grins to downright anger from hardcore Mopar guys. A lot of people will just scratch their heads – and that’s exactly how Dave likes it.
For as many V8-swapped cars we’ve seen from around the world, it’s always nice to turn the tables and look at things the other way. As much as tradition and age-old knowledge are part of car culture, so too is thinking outside the box and upsetting the establishment with unconventional ideas.
We really wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photos by Larry Chen
Dave you did an awesome job on this car, the 2J swap was a great idea, light, powerful and reliable big HP! Ive seen this car in person, its a riot. I got my feather all ruffled because the tasteful choice in parts design of this project. Im not much of a fan of this type car in the past or general, but this build gave it a whole new and better perspective to me. Larry Chen did a great job as usual on the photos.
Mine is similar but different. Aussie Valiant with a turbo 1UZ. Hopefully mine turns out half as nice as this did...
OK he did something unusual and difficult. Did he improve the vehicle? What about 1/4 times. I think this is just an exercise in being different without good reason.
@mtnmopar a 700hp 2jz improve 1/4 mile times? Id say yes.
I love the car, but why the 10 foot long intake pipe running under the car? Why not run it behind the grill? Is the intercooler in the fender? Is this why the air intake comes in from the drivers side inner fender? Im confused
I would love to see a Mercedes 190e (Cosworth bodykit or not) with e46 M3 drivetrain. Now that would be a unique sleeper that would ruffle feathers.
Great car, but lets ruffle some feathers, Chrysler/Mopar is dead. Its has been for years. First the German's and now Fiat (Italian), Hellcat or not, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) is not an american company. Just wait for the the Jeep/Ferrari SUV. So let the old diehards hang on to the old brand, which only survived because of the Jeep Wrangler and the mini van.
i hate this car beyond belief.
not because he put a japanese engine in an american car, but because he put a 2J in it, instead of something that isn't massively shitty, like an RB. Toyota has never designed a good engine by themselves, they can't even build truck frames that last more than one or two years.
@Toyota is Bad I'm sure if the 2jz was that bad of the engine people wouldn't have been using(and still continue to use) them for all these years. It's the same with people that despise the Sr20 and how they claim it's an unreliable engine due to the weak rocker arms, etc....
@MoparianHow about we stop tossing the word rape around. You sound like a complete assclown. Sexual assault isn't the same as transplanting an engine from another manufacturer into a Mopar. In fact, can we remove this comment altogether?
@rumpledunks: Disagreed. Words and nuance are all you have to show for yourself on the anonymous Web. I'd rather trust someone like FunctionFirst, who tries to set a useful and worthwhile example, than an apathetic slob.
@Moparian At least it's still on the road and not in a scrap yard.
@FunctionFirst bruh stop being such a social justice warrior on a car site, honestly who cares what verb he used. it's pretty obvious your entire education comes from tumblr. god you're such a pleb
@tim_sandmeyer holy s**t!!!!!! NO F**KING WAY!!!!!!!! \U0001f631\U0001f631\U0001f631 that's the coolest thing I've ever seen. Hands down.
@tim_sandmeyer that was so sweet Hahha. 2JZ Mopar. That's bad ass!
@AstidySRT AND it'll have a manual before the year is over. And eventually 700HP
@AstidySRT It sounds like something the Aussies would do.
@tim_sandmeyer hahah I can agree there. They say the car culture down there is HUGE!
@AstidySRT They have an event down there every year called Jamboree. I will go one year but its all drag racing with the fastest cars
@tim_sandmeyer man that sounds sweet!
@tim_sandmeyer that's too cool man!!!!
@AstidySRT it's stuff like this that makes me prefer Australian drag racing to American
@tim_sandmeyer it gives it a run for it money !!!!!
@AstidySRT it's just the variety. I love V8s, nitromethane, and superchargers as much as the next guy. But sometimes I like to switch it up
@tim_sandmeyer I couldn't agree More man. I like diversity
@AstidySRT @tim_sandmeyer Aussie car culture is pretty solid. Particularly jdm stuff. Lots of big power RB's, JZ's and 4g's.
Have a search on youtube for Powercruise, an event where people just bring their street cars to have a hoon around a racetrack with other modifieds. Run what ya brung usually has some 8 second R32/33/34 GTR's running always a good show.
@RacingPast Slant 6, not inline and also 318 V8s
@RacingPast @Moparian A slant-6 is a raked inline-6... 'designed such that the cylinders are inclined at a 30-degree angle from vertical. The 30° inclination of the Slant-6 gives a lower height overall engine package, which enabled vehicle stylists to lower hoodlines, and also made room for the water pump to be mounted with a lateral offset, significantly shortening the engine's overall length. In addition, the slanted cylinder block provides ample space under the hood for intake and exhaust manifolds with runners of longer and more nearly equal length compared to the rake- or log-style manifolds typical of other inline engines. The Slant-6 manifold configuration gives relatively even distribution of fuel mixture to all cylinders, and presents less flow restriction. This, in turn, makes for relatively good airflow through the engine despite the intake and exhaust ports being on the same side of the head rather than in a crossflow arrangement'.