What Happened to July?

Somehow it has been nearly a month since my last update. It’s hard to believe how fast time flies when life gets busy! Family life has been wild and we did a little bit of traveling recently for our anniversary, so updates have fallen a bit behind. Let’s get everyone up to speed with the current state of the build.

I found after putting my transmission back together that I couldn’t get it to go into gear. I had never torn into a transmission before aside from replacing seals and whatnot, so I called my cousin Nick up for some assistance. Nick is a mechanical engineer for Aisin, the company that just so happened to design and build the R154 transmission.

We were able to take the trans completely apart and verify that everything appears to be in good working condition. I probably could have beefed things up a bit more with some more accessories from Drift Motion and Marlin Crawler while we were in there, but my setup probably won’t see a ton of abuse anyway.

With everything properly reassembled, I installed my Marlin Crawler shifter base bushing, Freed extended shifter housing, and 1JZ bellhousing. The transmission is now finished and ready to be installed in the car, which is a great feeling. Couldn’t be more grateful to my cousin for his help with this.

Next up was the installation of the replacement OEM Toyota water pump. I nearly missed the o-ring located on the block, but after seeing the condition of the seal that was in there I am really glad I caught it.

With the o-ring replaced and the new water pump bolted on, I decided to reinstall my camshafts and replacement cam seals. These are a common oil leak culprit on this engine, and I could tell that the seals on my engine were beginning to fail when I first tore into it.

I was really hoping to install a set of Tomei Poncams while the engine was torn down, but I just couldn’t justify the cost right now. There are a lot of other things I could use the money towards to get this car into a semi-completed state, so those items needed to take priority. Definitely something I would love to install someday down the road though. Here’s a shot of the water pump and camshafts installed. Note that the new timing idler assembly is also now in place:

You can also see that I installed my GReddy oil filter sandwich plate and a new OEM oil filter, as well as the sensors for my Defi oil pressure and oil temperature gauges:

Next came the cam gears. Again, something I would love to upgrade down the road (at least the exhaust side anyway):

With everything set in the valve train, the next step was to install the valve covers with a pair of fresh gaskets:

I tossed a new PCV valve in while I was at it for good measure. My oil cap is cracked, so I’ll need to replace that with a much cooler piece in the near future:

Next it was time to put the timing belt in place:

It was at this point that I realized my lower timing cover was looking a bit worse for the wear. It was caked in old oil and had a few broken tabs, so I decided it would be a good idea to replace it:

The last piece to the timing assembly puzzle was a new timing belt tensioner:

So at this point I am feeling pretty good- the majority of the engine is put together and I can move on to installing the intake and exhaust manifolds, right? Well, when I went to give the engine a couple of quick rotations by hand to ensure everything looked good, I hit hard resistance at just under one rotation. Total bummer… I checked the alignment of the VVTi cam gear and found that I did not have it rotated all the way to the right, but that didn’t solve my problem. If I get the time this weekend, I need to remove the camshafts and try putting everything together again. All of the timing marks are aligned, but I had to have made a mistake somewhere along the line. I suppose that’s all just a part of the build process, but it can definitely be frustrating.

As for new parts arriving, things have been pretty quiet this month. I did however decide on a turbocharger after finding a great deal on one of the forums I frequent. I decided to keep things fairly old school and go with a GReddy T-78 journal bearing tubo. The unit I found was installed on an RB26 but the engine build was never completed, so it is essentially brand new.

I’ll probably get a lot of flack in the 2JZ community for choosing to go with this turbo as there is a lot of newer and improved technology on the market today. But as I am sure most of you know by now, I really enjoy staying true to genuine Japanese components whenever possible with my builds. This setup is sure to be reliable, and will look and sound awesome in the process. While it may be contradictory to the approach a lot of people take, it’s the way I prefer to go.

I also managed to source a second hand GReddy Type R wastegate to use with the setup. These are typically more than $1k new, so I was more than happy to find one in decent shape that has seen a bit of use over the years. The dump pipe was included and I don’t think it is a GReddy piece, so I am not sure if I’ll be utilizing it or not. This is my first externally gated setup, so I’ll have to make that decision when it comes time to fab the downpipe and exhaust.

 The next order of business will be to source an exhaust manifold and complete the water and oil lines for the new turbo setup. My hope is to find a TRUST manifold originally designed as a part of the T-78 kit, and I believe I might have a solid lead on one of those. We’ll see what happens though.

Finally, I got bored and decided to toss the hood on the car while it continues to wait patiently for the new drivetrain. I can’t wait to see some crystal clear headlights, a new bumper, and my GReddy intercooler looking back at me from the garage. Here’s a blurry photo that I’m going to post anyway:

I’ll try to do better at keeping everyone updated through the rest of the summer. In the mean time, keep an eye on www.Speed.Academy for updates on my build. Speed Academy is the new venture headed up by my friends David Pratte and Peter Tarach, the guys that ran Modified Magazine before it was shut down earlier this year. I’ll be posting updates on the build over at their site roughly every two weeks in addition to here on my personal blog. I’ll go into a bit more technical detail over there as well, so if you’re looking to rebuild your 2JZ or swap your Lexus GS it should be worth checking out!

Thanks as always for reading.


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Progress Report

Fairly light update once again this week. My oldest daughter Kinsey turned two over the weekend, so we were pretty busy. I managed to sneak a couple hours in last week though. Here’s a recap of what went down.

The first order of business was to tighten up the head studs. I finally managed to find the proper 12 point deep socket and was able to get this all taken care of. The next step will be to install the cams. I’m thinking I will install the factory cams for now so that things keep moving and I’ll add a set of Tomei Poncams later on when I can swing it. I’m starting to get a little anxious to have the engine assembled.

My intake cam gear bolt is stuck in the camshaft and beginning to round out, so I ordered a replacement bolt for when I finally break that free. This is one of the reasons I want to purchase new cams instead of messing with it, but maybe the machine shop can break it free if I am not able to figure it out. I also picked up the pilot bearing needed for the automatic to manual swap:

Some of the paint was coming off of the block, so I decided to hit it with a quick coat of high temp silver. I guess iron blocks are typically black and not silver like aluminum ones, so maybe it was in poor taste. I might shoot it black, but I might leave it too- we’ll see what happens.

The engine mounts that came with my swap were old and brittle. One of them managed to snap in half during my test fit, so I needed to replace them. I am not usually one to buy parts from Megan Racing, but I could not find any other aftermarket replacement engine mount for this chassis. I had hoped to find some solid Cusco mounts like I had in the S13, but no such luck. For now I guess these will get the job done.

Old broken engine mount vs. the new mount:


With progress slowed down a bit on the engine, I turned my attention to the transmission. I started by installing the output shaft seal:

Next I moved on to installing the shifter extension, rear case, and shifter housing:

I also installed the Marlin Crawler shifter bushings while I was at it.

Next up will be installing the bellhousing, input shaft seal, and slave cylinder. One last piece of the puzzle arrived last week- a set of 840cc SARD fuel injectors.

Perhaps these are hinting at something else that might show up soon? Stay tuned to find out…


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Engine Assembly

It feels as though progress has been painfully slow as of late, but life is crazier than ever with summer in full swing. With my wife’s maternity leave drawing to a close and my oldest daughter’s birthday coming up this weekend, the build has taken a back seat to my usual day-to-day craziness. I’ve just got to remember that this was supposed to be a long-term build, as hard as that is for me to do sometimes. I’m terribly impatient, haha.

It took quite a while to remove all of the old head gasket material from the block. I was really nervous about damaging the block or introducing junk into the bottom end, so I had to spend a ton of time with a razor blade cleaning the surface. Hopefully I got it clean enough though and things will seal up nicely.

I installed the ARP head studs, followed by the Apexi head gasket. I learned the hard way that the head needs to be mated to the block before the head studs can be installed or you won’t be able to put the washers onto the studs. After removing each stud individually and placing the washer in first, I was able to get everything all buttoned up.

I must have borrowed a 12 point deep 1/2″ socket when I did this with my SR, because I didn’t have one to torque the head studs down. I’ll have to pick one up this week and take care of that.

I got my valve covers came back from powder coating last week. They didn’t turn out as chrome as I had expected, but they look kind of cool. Much better than the dirty and dull condition they were in previously.

The next order of business is to decide on camshafts. The cam gear bolt on the intake side is stuck in the cam, so I need to break that free and replace it regardless of if I go with OEM cams or Tomei Poncams. Everything else for the intake side and timing related should be ready to go once that is sorted out though. I’m thinking about painting the block silver while it’s apart as well.

I can’t wait for the engine to be back together and ready to drop in. Thanks for reading!


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FIPG Everywhere…

I’m a little behind on my update for last week, but I knew that I had a three day weekend for Father’s Day and was hoping to get some work done on the car during that time, so I decided to hold off on posting an update until today. I didn’t get as far as I had hoped, but things always take longer than I think they will. So with that being said, I’m happy with my progress!

After checking out the bottom end a bit, I decided to proceed with reassembly without getting into pistons, rods, etc. I took the same approach with my SR20DET and was happy with the results, so fingers crossed that I’ll end up in the same place with the 2JZ.

The first order of business was to remove the timing gear from the front of the engine, allowing me to swap the old oil pump out for the new unit. I had to purchase a gear puller from Auto Zone since my typical two-jaw puller wouldn’t work with this type of pulley. The included bolts were too large and standard thread pitch, so I had to make a trip to the hardware store for some new bolts. Once I had those in place, the puller made quick work of removing the gear.

With the gear out of the way, I was able to pull the oil pump. I needed to press the new front crank seal into the new oil pump, but was having a hard time finding something to press the seal in evenly with. I read that a piece of PVC pipe worked well, but it was about 1 AM at the time, so all of the local hardware stores were closed. I ended up removing a piece of PVC pipe from the side of my house that I had repaired at one time (something to do with my washing machine) and it was the perfect diameter! A redneck solution? Yes. But it got the job done! I promptly reinstalled it before my wife noticed I ripped the house apart…

Here’s a shot of the old oil pump and front crank seal with the new OEM Toyota unit:

I also replaced the three o-rings on the engine block- two of which are situated behind the oil pump. Seemed like a good time to get these freshened up:

With those seals installed, I was able to bolt the fresh oil pump into place. Much better:

I also took the time to replace the rear main seal. I didn’t have any reason to believe it was bad, but this is a nasty one to get into once the engine is in the car. Might as well, right?

Next up was the upper oil pan, oil baffle plate, and a new oil strainer & gasket:

And finally, the lower oil pan. Here’s how the engine sits today:

I got the head back from the machine shop late last week, freshly decked and with new OEM intake and exhaust valve stem seals installed. I was hoping to have the head, head gasket, and ARP head studs installed by this morning, but the surface of the block still needs to be cleaned up quite a bit before I am able to complete that work. Hopefully by the next update it’ll be back together.

So, on to the items that arrived since last time. I had great luck with my Apexi head gasket in the SR, so I decided to grab one for this engine build as well. The OEM gasket would have been a little cheaper, but hey, bonus points for my mod list. Thanks to Mike at Evasive Motorsports for helping me out with getting this quickly!

I’ve been meaning to order Bride seat rails for a while now, but drivetrain components have taken priority. I spent some time translating Bride’s website to find the rails I need, but just hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. Fortunately, I just happened to find a fellow in Chicago selling the driver’s side seat rail I was after for a great price. Not to mention the fact that next day shipping is essentially a guarantee from Chicago to my house. Really excited to have the seat rail here so quickly without a long wait from Japan:

I sat it in the car, but got distracted before I bolted it down. It was fun to actually sit in the car since the factory seats were removed when I got it and I hadn’t bothered to bolt the black leather OEM seats into the car previously.

And hey, here’s an out-of-focus photo of the seat:

Speaking of long waits from Japan, I finally got a nice box from the motherland early last week after waiting about two months. Inside I found a really clean Bride Ergo that I picked up from Juicey on Zilvia for an awesome price. This was an impulse buy that resulted in me picking up the Zeta II to match, but I am really glad I did:

I also grabbed a Nardi Classic 350mm steering wheel to complete the package. I’m really excited about this setup since it is so similar to my S13 interior that I miss immensely:

I just need to pick up a Works Bell hub and a Bride rail for the passenger side and then the interior should be very close to complete. I’m sure a set of red checkered mats from Japan for the Aristo will be the icing on the cake. I’m still considering installing red Bride fabric on the door panels, but I almost prefer the subtle black leather look with the contrasting red seats in this car.

Alicia was kind enough to give me some more time in the garage last night after our Father’s Day festivities to reset things a bit and get organized. The garage was completely out of control and I was worried about losing critical engine components, so it was great to be able to get a handle on it to stay organized.

I’m looking forward to getting the drivetrain assembled and into the car soon. This might happen before my turbo setup is all sorted out and installed, but I am guessing it will be much easier to install a single turbo with the engine in the car than it would be to install the twins. I have a lot of research to do before the turbo setup will be here and ready to go, but I pretty much have everything to get the rest of the engine and transmission together and in the car. I always seem to under estimate how long these things take, but here’s to hoping I’ll be dropping it in within the next month or so.

Thanks for reading!


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A Slow Week…

Not a lot to report from the garage this week. I spent some time in Georgia with family and the craziness of traveling with two little ones did not lend itself to much work getting done in the garage in between. In fact, I’m not sure I touched the car or the engine since my last update.

While I may not have accomplished much this week, I did have some parts arrive for the build. The first was a small order from Curt at Elmhurst Toyota. I really can’t say enough about their customer service. I emailed Curt some part numbers and he responded within ten minutes to say everything was in stock. The parts showed up at my door the next day- pretty impressive.

I had originally purchased only the gaskets I planned to replace in my mild overhaul, but after tearing the engine down more than I anticipated there were more items I needed. I’ve essentially bought the entire engine gasket kit at this point, but oh well. This order consisted of exhaust and intake manifold gaskets, a few miscellaneous oil and water related gaskets, and valve stem seals.

I dropped the head off at the local machine shop to be inspected, decked, and to have the new valve stem seals installed. I didn’t take a decent photo, but here’s one from Instagram on my way to drop it off:

I also decided to replace the oil strainer and gasket. It was common for SR20 engines to suffer oil starvation from the pickup failing, so I replaced it on that build and figured it was a good idea to replace this one as well despite the fact that I haven’t necessarily heard this is an issue with the 2JZGTE.

The last major piece to the drivetrain puzzle was the driveshaft. I decided to have The DriveShaft Shop build me a custom 3.5″ aluminum driveshaft to mate the GS400’s rear differential with the R154 manual transmission. They told me the lead time was four weeks on this piece, so I was pretty surprised when they sent me tracking information only four or five days after I placed the order.

Quality looks to be top notch. Hopefully my measurements check out and this thing fits like a glove when the time comes to bolt it in. Something tells me the stock open differential is going to need to be replaced ASAP…

The price also included the necessary adapter to mate the driveshaft with the car’s differential flange:

I’ve got another busy weekend ahead, but my hope is that I will find the time to remove the oil pans to inspect the main bearings. If things are looking good, I can begin to reassemble the engine. Fingers crossed! Thanks as always for keeping up with the build.


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Back to Business

Alright, after taking a brief break last week to finish up the Cozy Coupe, Kinsey’s project is officially on the road. With her out cruising in this beautiful summer weather most evenings, I’ve got some free time to focus on getting my own car together.

So let’s see… I believe the first thing I did two weeks ago was pick up my painted Ganador Mirrors from Superior Collision. I always use the same body shop for all of my projects and they do a really nice job for me considering the price. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out:

Ganadors just manage to make any car look so much cooler, haha:

I received my shifter housing and linkage back from Ben at Freed Engineering. The turn around time was less than a week on this work- very impressive! Ben was great to work with and the welds look top notch. I had them extend the housing and linkage 2.5″ to center it in what will now be the manual transmission center console. Still need to install the Marlin Crawler bushings when the assembly goes back together.

It seemed like the shifter was going to be too short and sunken down into the Lexus’ beefy center console, so I picked up a cheap shifter extension on eBay. Not normally the route I go with my parts, but it seemed like a fairly tough thing to mess up. I’ll have to try it when the transmission is back in the car to see if I like it.

Next, I tore into the engine to begin the routine maintenance work. When I removed the front cover, I found a decent amount of oil had been leaking from the cam seals. After taking it apart further, I decided it was best to completely tear the engine down to replace a number of the aging components and reseal things as nicely as possible.

The crank pulley was giving me a hard time when I tried to remove it on my own, so I ended up picking up a pair of pipes from the hardware store. I used one as a cheater pipe and the other as a brace against the floor on the crank pulley removal tool and that allowed me to break it loose. Forever Alone, haha.

From that point, I went ahead and removed the camshafts and pulleys. I was not able to break the VVTi pulley loose and nearly stripped the nut holding it on, but fortunately I was able to remove the cam with the gear installed. The pulley is showing signs that the internal o-ring may be bad anyway and I wouldn’t mind a set of Tomei Poncams, so I might just replace the whole assembly- but we’ll see about that down the road.

Next I removed the wiring harness, intake manifold, fuel injectors, AC compressor, and power steering pump. But the worst part of tearing down this engine has got to be removing the twin turbo assemblies. I seriously can’t imagine doing this while the engine is in the car! I was hoping to find that the turbos were in decent condition, but sadly they have seen better days. I found a pretty hefty amount of shaft play in each of them. With the amount of time it took me to remove them, there is just no way I am putting those back on the car.

After tossing the turbo assemblies across the garage, I was finally able to put the engine back on the stand. From there, I removed the head studs and lifted the head off of the engine. Here are a couple shots of how the engine is sitting at this point:

Next I need to remove the lower and upper oil pans, replace the oil pump and strainer when it arrives, and inspect the main bearings. Hopefully the bottom end is in good shape because I really don’t want to get into messing with that portion of the engine.

Will all of this add a decent chunk of time to the build? Yes. But will the car be more reliable and better off for it in the end? Man, I sure hope so. I am getting into a little more engine work than I had originally anticipated, but what else is new? I’m glad I am taking the time to learn the ins and outs of the drivetrain so that when problems do arise down the road I will have a better understanding of what the culprit may be. It’s annoying to have to take longer now, but hopefully it will pay off in the long run much like it did with my SR20.

I picked up a couple of shelving units from my in-laws to get our basement organized, but I ended up using one of them in the garage to keep track of all of the engine parts and hardware during the rebuild process. Fortunately my wife doesn’t mind if I park her car outside for a while. At least the snow is gone for a few months!

My cousin Nick was gracious enough to take my valve covers in to a connection he has through his work to have them powdercoated, so those should be cleaned up and ready in about a week or so.

I had a few other necessary parts show up during the last week or so, including my SARD jet pump killer and low temp thermostat. I still don’t have a solid handle on exactly what the jet pump killer does, but I know it has something to do with the split design fuel tank and preventing fuel starvation. Not to mention it sounds “killer” on the mod list. heh… heh…

My ARP head studs and GReddy oil adapter plate also arrived from BaoHouse Tuning- a small, local outfit that has been helping me source a few items for the build. It’s great to have things arrive so quickly- kudos to them!

My man Gazi hooked me up with a pair of radio and climate control mounting brackets from a car he was parting out since my car was missing these pieces when I got it, so now I can bolt those items in. He is responsible for sourcing and shipping me the majority of the items I needed for the black interior conversion. I haven’t even touched the car itself in the past couple weeks with all of the engine and transmission work going on.

Tonight my OEM oil pump arrived, as well as a couple new resistors that should hopefully get my tail lights working when the time comes:

So that just about brings us back up to speed. Stay tuned and thanks for following along!


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Cozy Coupe Project Part 4: On The Road!

It’s hard to believe how much time has passed since my last update on the Cozy Coupe my daughter Kinsey and I have been working on. We were making steady progress as of last October when we last checked in, but a combination of factors including the worst winter since modern record keeping began and the birth of my second daughter Hattie kept us from getting the car on the road.

For me, the XceedSpeed.com Spring BBQ is the unofficial start of summer each year. I’ve been apart of this online community for several years now and have made a ton of friends as a result. It’s always fun to get whatever project car I may be building at the time put back together and bring it out to the event. But after selling the Evo a couple months back and picking up my Lexus GS400 long-term project, I didn’t have a car to bring this year.

Admittedly, I had kind of lost interest in the Cozy Coupe over the last few months. I wasn’t even sure that Kinsey would fit in the car anymore with the chop top considering how much she had grown over the last six or seven months. The Xceed Spring BBQ was just the motivation I needed to spend some time in the garage and get the car put together.

The first order of business was to cut the axles down to the proper length. I was able to find the original red axle nuts at Lowe’s thanks to a tip from a friend, so those were a nice touch. I gave the wheels a quick coat of silver paint just to spice things up a bit before installing them on the car. The fender flares were painted matte black and glued in place.

I had originally made a trunk out of a flat piece of plexiglass for the rear wing to be mounted to, but I wasn’t happy with how flimsy it turned out to be. Concerned about downforce on the end of the back straight, we ultimately decided to sacrifice some height in order to chassis mount the wing directly to the car via metal rivets.

I lost some of the hardware I purchased to mount the wing over the winter, but since I was working late into the night on Saturday before the event, I was kind of in a bind. I just happened to have some metal rivets left from the Evo’s JDM rear bumper install that were the perfect size.

My wife Alicia came out to snap a photo of me hard at work on the car around 11PM or so Saturday night. I know others were doing the same thing in their garages, but probably not on a car this size…

The other main issue that needed to be sorted out was the floor. With the car this low to the ground, Kinsey would no longer be able to move it with her feet. The solid front axle runs through the front of the car, and I was worried about her legs getting hurt by coming in contact with it. I ended up cutting and mounting a plexiglass floor to separate her feet from the drivetrain and the pavement speeding by beneath her. I ended up painting it black as well. I could have probably sealed it up a lot better, but the car is only driven during the summer in dry conditions (it does run slicks after all…) so we should be OK.

The exhaust was installed fairly hastily since it was really starting to get late. Any parent of one or more kids knows that if you stay up too late, your kids are bound to decide to wake up extra early the next morning, so it was crunch time to say the least. I hope to make a metal slip-mount hanger system for this at some point, but the glue held it in place enough to get us through the day.

If I have learned anything as a parent of a toddler, it’s that hunching over and pushing your kid around the neighborhood can get old really fast. I managed to break both of our snow shovels during the horrendous winter we had this year, so I decided to drill a hole into the back of the Coupe and mount the handle from the snow shovel to the chassis. This comes in handy for mom and dad when pushing (or drifting) the car around the neighborhood.

I was a bit nervous when we arrived at the BBQ. Kinsey was obviously asleep when I finished the car during the wee hours of Sunday morning, so I didn’t even have a chance to test it to see if it would even roll. I was kind of worried the handle would snap, a wheel would fall off, or the cockpit would be too small for Kinsey (now nearly two years old) and she wouldn’t even want to be in the car at all. Fortunately, the car held up great and Kinsey loved driving around the meet in it.

Here are some photos that people snapped of the car during the course of the day. Many thanks to the people that took these photos for us! I have to say, Kinsey’s car got far more attention than any of my cars ever have!

It has become somewhat of a tradition to have a “car limbo” at the XceedSpeed BBQ. This involves a limbo bar being set up and people driving their cars under it to see whose is the lowest. It inevitably becomes a Miata contest, and is a bit strange overall, but entertaining nonetheless. People even go so far as to have other people sit on the car and let the air out of the tires to get just a bit lower…

I’m proud to say that we gave those Miatas a run for their money…

We needed to go just a bit lower, so I had to step in and add some additional weight:

In the end, it was a great event as always and I had a blast cruising around with the girls showing off our build. It’s a great feeling to have a long-term project come together and to be able to take it out and enjoy it when the weather finally clears up. Much like the real thing though, a project car is never done. We’ll probably enjoy it as-is for a while before we tear into it again, but there will always be things to upgrade and enhance.

Thank you to everyone who has followed along with this project. Kinsey and I really appreciate all of the support and positive comments. We will probably pass the Cozy Coupe on to Kinsey’s sister Hattie as she continues to grow and look into building something with a bit more power (hint: think Power Wheels. Please Mom, can we?!)

I’ll leave you with a couple shots of Kinsey enjoying cruising in the completed Coupe around the neighborhood last night.

Thanks for reading!

Damon & Kinsey


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