740WHP Spotless GS300 Proves 2JZs Are Always Worth It

Photography: Jonathan DeHate

  • The Lexus GS300 comes with an NA Toyota 2JZ-GE engine from the factory, but big power comes from an upgrade to the venerable 2JZ-GTE like this.
  • Massive engine power, cheeky AEM Performance Electronics tech, a custom-adapted CD009 transmission, and BC Racing/BC Forged parts completely modernize this older Lexus into a subtle street sleeper.

Crypto and Tesla stocks populate most people’s hotlist for regrettably missed investments this year. However, no one’s talking about the outrageous spike in engine costs. Have you looked at the prices of any beloved JDM engines recently? It’s kind of absurd. Price points initially only reserved for premium engine choices have now trickled down into their once-less desirable relatives.

Capable of being built to handle extreme power specs, the 2JZ engines, specifically those available in the US market Lexus models, are becoming more desirable. This increase in 2JZ value, in turn, has raised the prices of entry for many of the models that house it from the factory. However, with that inflated price comes an ever-expanding aftermarket ready to welcome all 2JZ projects with open arms, thanks to a wealth of swap information now present on the Internet.

Such is the case with today’s article about Florida-resident Dan Young and his 2003 Lexus GS300. A build that — had it not been for the aftermarket support in the industry — would have never happened at all.

INTERVIEW WITH DAN YOUNG

Let’s start with a little background. Tell me a little bit about yourself and what got you to where you’re at?
That’s a long story. I started working in the aftermarket industry out of high school at a performance shop. I got into the scene in general and liked it. From there, I found out that my niche was in selling parts, and what made the most sense profitability-wise was to sell wheels. So it kind of trickled from there. I wound up moving away for a little; I went to Tennessee to work for my uncle installing closets. While I was up there for no more than three months, I got a call from John Purner at CCW (Complete Custom Wheels) because he was looking for a website guy. My old boss [from the speed shop] and John knew each other from racing, so that’s how my name got passed. I took the job sight unseen and moved back within a week of talking to him. I worked there for almost ten years. Through that, I met Pete [Melian], who owns BC Racing. After [CCW] was purchased by Weld, Pete offered me a job, I decided to make the switch over to BC, and it was a heck of a transition.

Do you have people in your family who were into cars that influenced your job after high school?
I had an uncle who was into cars. He worked as a mechanic for the city, repairing cop cars and he always had modified vehicles. But, oddly enough, my dad wasn’t super into it. He was in his early ages, but nothing that he tinkered with. I don’t know what drew me into it, but I saw it as functional art. Where you could take your time and get it to look a certain way, but then you could physically use it. From the graphic side of things, I like designing stuff, I like drawing stuff, I like making things look better, and I think that’s why I was drawn so much to wheels.

With all of that exposure to various chassis in the aftermarket, why build this particular car?
When I purchased the car originally, I had an IS350, and I was just looking for something I could daily. I was originally a Honda guy, but I felt like Toyota always did an exceptional job making a reliable vehicle. Knowing what I know about the 2J, their motors are built to two or three times whatever the requirements are. So obviously, that’s where the reliability falls into place. Nothing is on the verge of breaking. Guys are making three or four times the power that the motors were designed for.

I think with the IS350, I did so much aesthetically to it and liked it. But, when I wanted to do anything else, it was a letdown. The factory ECU was limited, and it didn’t have the same support as if you bought a 335i, where there are tuners and things you can do to modify the performance. So, I wound up backpedaling due to the lack of support and eventually sold that car and just decided to build the GS.

Oddly enough, I had no intentions or care to build the GS — at all! However, one of my good customers I dealt with a ton at CCW was always doing 2JZ-GTE swaps, and he led me down that path. I sent it to him, and it definitely was a battle with the car from that point forward. It wasn’t as simple as I thought it was going to be, but I learned a lot on the way, and that’s how it came to be.

That’s usually how these types of things begin. What would you say is your favorite modification on your car? Wheels aside.
I have a love/hate relationship for it because it’s not as refined as I’d hoped it would be, but manual swapping the car changes it completely — in my opinion. It turned it from a very mundane, boring car, and I never got much use of driving it with automatic transmission. I just had problems with auto after auto, which got me into the CD series stuff so early on. So, that made the biggest change. It might not be the coolest part, as so many people are doing it now, but it’s less common to see as much done with the manual swap because it’s just so much work to do. Not even just mechanically, but electronically because I started with a GS. Had I picked an SC or an IS, it would have been much easier to do because they make those vehicles with a manual, so you can just buy an ECU, and everything functions.

That makes sense. What was the most troublesome aspect of the car to either find, modify, or pull off correctly?
The most difficult was the transmission stuff; that’s caused me the most grief out of everything. Although the product support was there, it was just so early in production or people doing those swaps that they hadn’t fine-tuned all of the problems people ran into and corrected.

The other thing is there weren’t a lot of fab shops around where I’m located — until recently. So unless you wanted something MIG welded at a Muffler Man, you weren’t getting anything nice in terms of quality. I can’t just rent a U-Haul and drive the car onto it, so getting places to have work done was an issue, too.

Now, switching gears, let’s talk about your favorite memory with the car.
Probably last year around Simply Clean time. That’s when I got it back from Induction [Performance] with the last set of modifications that were done. I had upgraded from an inexpensive manifold to a nice manifold and from the BorgWarner turbo (that was actually off of Wray’s del Sol) to the 6766 that’s on it now and had it re-tuned. Driving the car for the first couple of times after that was pretty fun. A lot of people were in town, and I let some of my close friends drive the car and feel it out. It was pretty crazy to drive. It went from 500 on the setup before to making 740 wheel, and that 240hp makes all the difference in terms of the car being scary. Everyone else who was in it said things like, ‘the car looks tight and makes all sorts of crazy noises!’

That was probably the most fun moment within owning the car. Sadly, it was only just within the last year. It’s been a lot of crap leading up to that, but that’s just how it goes.

What is a future plan for the car that you didn’t get to yet?
I think I’d like to put a Plazmaman intake manifold on it to clean up the bay a bit more with a set of new slightly smaller 1400cc injectors and some real mild cams. At some point, soon after that, I’ll work on building a motor for it, not that it really needs it but always nice to overbuild it and maybe toss a little more boost at it reliably. I always thought it would be really cool to get a billet block and polish it (just because) since the price of used OEM 2JZ-GTE motors isn’t as far off as they used to be. That, combined with Mazworks and numerous other 2JZ-specialized shops within a 100 miles radius, doesn’t help the itch at all.

Well, Dan, thank you so much for taking the time to go over your build with us. It’s been great to hear the backstory of how it came to be. Good luck with the car in the future!


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