Skyward Thinking: A 2JZ-Swapped Saturn

Saturn was the god of dissolution, the dismissal of an official body or partnership. Well, this Sky is certainly a cessation of typical GM swapping because there is no GM engine under its hood.

There are usually two trains of thought when it comes to engine swapping the Kappa chassis: you swap in the LNF 2.0-liter Ecotec Turbo from the Saturn Sky Red Line or Pontiac Solstice GXP, or drop a LS-based V8 into it. Paul Clark decided to go against the norm and install another legendary engine that makes immense power – the venerable Toyota 2JZ-GTE. This is the non-VVTi version, so it doesn’t have the variable timing gear on the intake camshaft.

Uncommon Swap, At Least For The Sky

Once he had his hands on it from his Florida importer, Paul began to modify the engine. He wanted to do the swap once and be done, so out went stock parts and in went ARP head, rod, and crank bolts. The turbo and fuel system were replaced with a new aluminum fuel rail with 2000cc/min injectors to match the 66mm BorgWarner turbocharger. Since it needed a bigger exhaust down pipe, a four-inch custom turbo-back exhaust was installed. The car was doing great, but then the ECU became a brick and melted a piston.


Undeterred, the engine came back out and a new set of forged pistons from Diamond Racing Pistons went in with Brian Crower rods for a 10.0:1 compression ratio, King Bearings keeping things spinning properly. A pair of GSC Power-Division S1 camshafts were also swapped in.

With a ProEFI 128 as his new full-standalone ECU, Paul can run the engine with E85, control the dual Walbro 450lph fuel pumps, and there are other features to make running future quarter- and half-mile events with minimal turbo lag at take off thanks to anti-lag functionality.


Interestingly, the Sky retains its original Aisin AR5 transmission with its 3.75 first, 2.26 second, 1.51 third, 1.00 fourth, and 0.73 overdrive ratios. The Toyota R154, by comparison, is 3.251, 1.955, 1.310, 1.00, and 0.753. The AR5 would give better acceleration until fourth where they begin to equal out – on paper, anyhow. The other interesting revelation from Paul is that the MA5 and R154 are the same, but when you remember that the R-family of transmissions were also built by Aisin under the AR family, it makes sense. The R154 is just a Toyota-badged MA5 which is the Aisin AR5. With a Toyota bell-housing and clutch fork working with the ACT Xtreme pressure plate, the six-puck ceramic disc was able to spin the GM input shaft. This also means the driveshaft, differential, and axles are also all stock Sky parts.

Understated With Subtle Style

The beauty of this car is that it doesn’t stand out, well, other than being a Saturn Sky. At first blush, you probably wouldn’t even look at it funny; then you start to notice the Luma Sport rear flares straight from Germany, fitted because the Forgestar F14 18×10-inch wheels and 275/40R18 Nitto NT555 tires all around poke out in the rear. Then you look between the spokes of the front wheels and see the Wilwood 4-piston calipers with custom floating rotors that get this Sky stopped like lightning.


Looking up to the front fenders, you realize those aren’t stock, either; they’re custom-made items by Norm’s Fiberglass Design Studio. The hood vents? From a Mustang, while the overall stance is achieved through a set of BC Racing coilovers. Inside, the original Sky interior remains except for one feature: the custom gauge pod with Prosport Premium Evo series gauges for engine vitals along with a tachometer and GPS speedometer.


Plans are in the works for the next evolution of this Sky: Paul wants to go half-mile racing, so will add racing seats, a roll cage, and a Ford 8.8-inch IRS swap. The Ford 8.8 is a popular swap to use for both IRS and solid axle because the 8.8 ring and pinion are the same, and Ford used it on nearly everything.


This not only makes ring and pinion choices cheaper, but locating one is as easy as getting to a junkyard, pulling it out, and then finding something to put it in. Want more axle strength? The axle carrier (the part inside the differential where the spider gears live and axles attach to) can also be swapped out for a 31-spline equivalent from either a solid axle or IRS Explorer, but putting one into the Sky would require some fabrication.


When it was released, the Saturn Sky and all the Kappa-chassis cars were a sign that GM was trying to be sporty and keep up with the likes of the Mazda Miata and Honda S2000. When Saturn and Pontiac died, so did the Kappa platform and the amazing ideas that were coming down the pipe from GM. However, owners like Paul Clark show that these cars remain alive and well all these years later.

Words by Justin Banner
Instagram: jb27tt
Facebook: racerbanner
Twitter: RacerBanner

Photos by Louis Yio
Instagram: lusciousy

Cutting Room Floor


Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

I've never seen this car before now I like it .... but with the 2JZ swap ... Now I love it.


Usually the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky are swapped with GM V8s, which honestly make a lot more sense than a 2J. I am curious as to how much power this engine makes.


This is so cool! You usually see them V8 swapped but this is actually dope! Got kind of bored of 2JZ swaps but not this.


Have never understood the appeal of 2Jz swaps given how heavy they are. Would be very interested to see what the weight distribution of this car is and how it handles compared to an aluminum LS swap. Wouldn't bet on this having very neutral corner entry at speed. 2JZ are heavy as shiiiiit.


How about...beeing able to achieve 1000hp reliably? And a wide range of cheap and quality mods?


1000hp reliably is never expensive. I can tell by that comment you have never worked on anything or built anything to 4 figure horsepower. I worked for one of the top LS tuners in the world for 2 years. Cheap and quality mods I wouldn't go near a 2jz over an LS in the states.


I didnt say you can get 1000 hp with cheap mods. I was saying you can get 1000hp easily AND you have a wide variety of cheap or cheapER mods then other engines/platforms. Also, good for you that worked at the top. Maybe he picked a JZ becouse its more unique then a v8, especially in a car that can come in stock with a v8?! Btw, if this car would be in Europe believe me that 100% of the time people would pick a 3l engine rather then a 5-6l engines if they want to drive them on the street(taxes).


Well yeah, but you can't talk about politics and taxes when you factor in a build if you're talking about a build itself. Factoring in economic issues is separate thing. Europe is pretty fucked when it comes to modding cars. Yeah cheaper than other platforms. I live in the U.S. so I can only speak to my experiences. My employer at the time shipped engines all over the world: Norway, Japan, Switzerland, Dubai etc etc. All the guys with huge money came to him for LS builds because they got tired of 2JZ or other motors shitting the bed at huge power levels (2000+)


Yes, JZ heavy as a bag of shit, especially when you consider that Sky is very similar to RX-8 and MX-5 by ideology. Most likely it will not be controlled, but judging by the fact that the owner is preparing a car for the quater, it is not necessary to turn it to him, except that it is necessary to deal with the hook on the axles. In advance, I'm sorry for the clumsy translation, I'm from Russia)


They are in comparison to the LS. Have you ever had one on a scale + trans compared to an all aluminum LS? I have. They results are staggering. Quarter mile is ruled by V8 motors. with blowers. It's called Top Fuel.


I've noticed that JZs tend to go into cars built more for straight-line work. Weight, while still important, is less so in that case.


Damn it must haul some major ass


I always loved this design, sold here as Opel GT, but has very bad opinions regarding chassis... Yeah I would definetly throw an LS inside.


Still living in your natal country or moved out? Having a 6l engine here its not cool :)) Also, Salut!


Nope, moved out 15 years ago :( It's not cool anywhere in EU but can be done. Sarbatori fericite!


I've read somewhere that someone dropped in a 2JZ into a Sky before. I want to exaggerate "dropped' because apparently, the mounts off a Supra 2JZ will directly bolt to the stock engine mounting points in a Sky Red Line chassis, and all that's left after that is adapting the AR5 as stated above and you finish 80% of the hard work, right then and there.

Oh, OEMs and their easter eggs.


I am surprised how stock the interior is compared to the drivetrain and motor. Quite a sleeper (even though the rims would kinda give it away, but you don't expect a 2jz in one).


The single cool car Saturn ever made, now made better.


Не понимаю эту манию жизетовставляния во все, что движется. Да, мотор надежный, но тяжелый. Не знаю, какая была управляемость/развесовка у этого Sky до свапа, но если эти машины сравниваются с RX-8 и MX-5, то наверняка баланс веса неплохо так сместился на переднюю ось. Соответственно управляемость приносится в жертву. Хотя эта штука вроде как никуда поворачивать не планирует, раз хозяин готовит ее к 1/4 мили.


Я бы не сказал, что такой уж тяжёлый. Чуть за двести килограмм, незначительно тяжелее ЗМЗ-40*. Чугун, такие дела.
Что поделать, после развала СССР в мире почти разучились делать алюминиевые двигатели.
Ну и в сравнении с американскими восьмёрками это вообще пушинка, при этом восьмёрки в эти машинки активно втыкают.
Так-то какой-нибудь 4A-G* или что-нибудь хондовское в этой машинке прописались бы хорошо, но где же логика, когда руки чешутся соорудить что-нибудь лютое, не-такое-как-у-всех.
From now speedhunters is renamed to ruhunters lol.


I had to use Google Translate to read this, but Bakuro, the aluminum LS-engines do weigh less than a 2JZ-GTE.


Interesting. Is all LS-series engines are made out of aluminum? From what i can see ('80-'90 US used cars and whole load of EU used cars) most of imported to ex-USSR counties cars has cast iron engine blocks, so it's not strange that i suggest that there are few all-aluminum V8 among US engines (or none at all).


The LS-blocks are part of the Generation III and Generation IV GM V8 platform that started in 1996 with the LS1 and the 1997 model year C5 Corvette debut to 2013/2014 with the introduction of the Generation V blocks based of the new LT architecture and the introduction of the C7 Corvette. The clean sheet redesigns improved upon the original cast iron small block V8s from General Motors from how the block was cast to the new firing order of 1-8-7-2-6-5-4-3 (original GM V8 firing order on the small block was 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2, with #1 cylinder being positioned driver's front of the block on a LHD vehicle on both applications). Typically, you'd see an LS aluminum engine in a performance car and the LS-based iron blocks in trucks, SUVs, and vans. However, this wasn't always the case as you'll see below.

Generation III aluminum blocks include the 3.898-inch bore blocks of the LS1 and LS6 and the 3.78-inch bore blocks of the L33 and LM4. The LR4 (3.78-inch bore), LM7 (3.78-inch bore), L59 (3.78-inch bore), and LQ9 (4.00-inch bore) are all Gen III but iron blocks that usually came in trucks, SUVs, and Vans.

Generation IV aluminum blocks include the 4.00-inch bore blocks of the LS2, L76, L98, L77, LFA, and LZ1, 3.78-inch bore blocks of the LH6, LC9, LH8, LH9, and LS4 (a FWD variant of the LS family), the 4.06-inch bore blocks of the L92, LS3, L99, LS9, and LSA, and finally the 4.125-inch bore block of the LS7. Gen IV Iron blocks include the LSX (from Bowtie to the 454R), the 3.78-inch bore blocks of the LY2, L20, LY5, LMG, and LMF (again, found in trucks, SUVs, and vans).

Typical weight I've seen reported of an aluminum long-block LS-engine is anywhere from 445-530-pounds where as the 2JZ-GTE is about 503-pounds as a long block without a turbo and associated components to 594-pounds and heavier fully dressed. The LSA, the supercharged variant of the LS3, is about 550- to 600-pounds, including the supercharger.


Throw a turbo k20 is a nice choice tho


Years ago, I remember not really liking this car too much, but this one is changing my mind. The body is actually pretty attractive (especially lowered on wheels) and I'll always have a sweet spot for hoods opening the "wrong" way...haha now I'm checking craigslist to see how cheap I could get one


The hood vents are made that way to vent air, this is done by creating a low pressure zone when the air flows over the vents and the hot air from the engine bay is sucked out of the vents. If you want to force air into the engine bay (have the vent facing the right way according to you), you’d want to get NACA ducts.


I think he's more referring to the fact that the clamshell hood opens forward, similar to a Corvette. :P


Oh man!! I read that post incorrectly. Thanks for the heads up.


I was planning to not like this car, until I saw in the article and comments how "in the family" this swap actually is (same gearbox with a different bellhousing and gearset, same engine mounting locations, and so on). Of course, once I realized how much weight he was giving up, I started to not be so sure again. As for the people saying the 2JZ can't really keep up with the LS at ultra-high power levels, I don't think he's reached that point quite yet.


Very nice, very clean build. And a good article too!