Roadkill has always had a reputation for doing things to cars that might upset the die-hards in any particular automotive camp. Take for example, Blasphemi, Mike Finnegan’s Hemi-powered 1955 Chevy. To some, a Mopar engine in a Tri-Five Chevy just isn’t done, hence the name. Finnegan is at it again, this time swapping the Mopar 383 out of his NASCAR 1968 Dodge Charger for a Toyota 2JZ (well technically it’s from a Lexus SC300).
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That’s right, what many refer to as the Japanese LS is going into Death Metal Charger. The 3.0-liter DOHC inline-six engine is legendary for its capacity for huge power figures, durability, aftermarket support, and mechanical simplicity. But is it sacrilege to swap a Japanese six-cylinder into one of the most iconic American muscle cars of all time? Not on Roadkill.
American Icon Meets Japanese Legend: Dodge Charger 2JZ Swap
Tony Angelo is helping out with the swap at KSR Performance in Gainesville, Florida, and the former pro drifter is 100 percent on board with the 2JZ swap. Purists, find a pillow to yell into (or punch), because we love this swap, too. You might be yelling, But it’s a 1968 Dodge Charger! This Mopar B-body hasn’t been a 1968 Dodge Charger since the original builder got his hands on it in 1971.
Death Metal Charger was built by a farmer for NASCAR racing but for a set of rules that no longer exist—meaning it was already gutted when it joined the Roadkill fleet. The builder didn’t destroy a pristine 1968 Dodge Charger, either; he started with a wrecked example purchased from a friend.
The four-wheel drum brakes came out of a Ford F-250, the rear axle is an ancient Willys Timken that is impossible to rebuild, the roll cage too heavy but at the same time not safe in any way, and the little bits of 1968 Charger sheetmetal that are left are just as much rust as they are metal. Mike Finnegan and Tony Angelo named the 1968 Charger “Death Metal Charger” for a reason. The thing is a legitimate death trap. Every time they want to change anything, they have to fix nine things around it.
When a car is as far gone as Death Metal Charger, preserving any sort of originality is pointless. That’s why we think a 2JZ swap is perfect! Death Metal Charger was built for going around turns, and the much-lighter 2JZ will aid in maneuverability. Plus, as long as Finnegan and Angelo don’t dial up the turbo too much, it should last longer than the 30 laps the 383 V-8 did. Then again, this is Roadkill.
What Is a 2JZ Engine?
Muscle car and Mopar enthusiasts might not be familiar with the JZ family of engines from Toyota, but HOT ROD Garage is. For episode 62—LS vs. 2JZ vs. 12V Cummins – Superstar Engine Comparo!—Tony Angelo and Lucky Costa compared the three most popular engine swap candidates around today: GM’s LS family of pushrod V-8s, the Cummins 12-valve inline-six diesel engine, and Toyota’s 2JZ inline-six. Spoiler alert! All three engines can make about the same amount of power for about the same amount of money and enjoy about the same amount of availability and aftermarket support—read: ample.
The JZ family of engines was first introduced in 1990 with the 1JZ-GE and was in production until 2007. The 1JZ is an over-square (86mm bore x 71.5mm stroke) 2.5-liter naturally aspirated inline-six with belt-driven dual overhead cams and 24 valves, designed for longitudinal mounting in front-engine rear-drive vehicles. 1991 saw the introduction of the 1JZ-GTE, the turbocharged variant of the 2.5, and the squared-out 2JZ (86mm bore x 86mm stroke) 3.0-liter variants. For the North American market, only four vehicles were equipped with 2JZ engines: Lexus IS300s, GS300s, and SC300s had the 2JZ-GE, and the Toyota Supra RZ came with the 2JZ-GTE.
2JZs aren’t just 2.5-liter 1JZs with longer strokes, the 2JZ block has a taller deck and longer connecting rods, too. Naturally aspirated and factory turbocharged 2JZs are not all similar inside, either. The 2JZ-GE (naturally aspirated) has different connecting rods, pistons, head gasket, and combustion chambers than the 2JZ-GTE (factory turbo) engine.
Related: The 10 Coolest 2JZ Engine Swaps in Super Street History
Converting your own 2JZ-GE to a 2JZ-GTE isn’t impossible, especially with help from Jay Magher from Real Street Performance in Orlando, Florida. He’s helping the whole crew at KSR Performance get everything they can out of the Lexus SC300 engine Mike Finnegan is swapping into Death Metal Charger.
A Motec ECU that will make use of the factory variable valve timing, eBay stainless steel turbo plumbing parts galore (that are magically cheaper than the raw stainless steel they’re made from), and the smallest turbo Jay is willing to bolt to a 2JZ are all going under the hood of Death Metal Charger. The bottom end in the naturally aspirated 2JZ-GE might not be as durable as the 1,000-plus horsepower capable 2JZ-GTE, but Finnegan’s Charger should definitely benefit from its Japanese heart transplant.
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