A New Project (Yes, Again…)

So here we are again. The start of a new project with the promise of consistent blog updates. I know, I know- I haven’t been the most reliable in this department in the past, but I am really going to do my best to make this the home for my new build. I’ll probably have a build thread on a couple of other forums, but my hope is to make this blog the most thorough and up to date. With Modified Magazine going under, I’m going to use this as my outlet for writing until another opportunity comes along.

I’ve had a few people ask me for some info about the Evo situation, so I’ll address that before I dive into the new build. My wife and I are having our second daughter next month (or sooner, depending on when she decides to arrive) and are in need of a larger vehicle. While our 2004 Highlander is pretty spacious and has served us well for about two and a half years, it’s going to be a tight squeeze. With our dog Tomei taking up the whole trunk and two car seats on the back seat, we aren’t left with much room for all of the cargo that comes along with having kids- strollers, pack-and-plays, etc.

With discussion swirling of our predicament, I felt a bit guilty having a $15,000 Evo with a bunch of Voltex goodies bolted to it sitting on my side of the garage. I ultimately decided to sell the majority of the parts I put on the Evo (since most were removed for winter driving anyway) and part ways with the car. While the Evo has been an awesome car and is perfect for my current life situation, now just feels like the right time to let it go and pick up a nicer vehicle for the family to cruise around in.

I just finished selling all of the modifications from the Evo last week and the car is more or less back to stock. I replaced the wheel bearings, front lip, and fender liners over the weekend to try to get the car ready to sell. All that’s left to do now is change the oil and clean it up before I can officially post it for sale. Once that’s done, it’ll be time for us to shop for a minivan. GASP! Yeah, I said it… the “M” word. Trust me dudes, when you’re the one playing Tetris with kids, dogs, and strollers on the weekend for a trip to the in-laws’ house, you’ll worry more about making your life easier than you will about what the car you’re driving looks like. Besides, I’ve got a solution for that…

Essentially, I am living out the scene from The Fast and The Furious when the Supra shows up at the shop. I recently took a liking to the Toyota Aristo/Lexus GS300 and decided to look into one as an affordable alternative to the Evo. I’ve loved Chasers and other cool big-body, RWD, JZ-equipped Toyotas from Japan ever since my mom bought me my ’94 Camry in high school. It’s unfortunate that none of those cars ever made it to the US market. The Lexus GS300/400/430 are about as good as it gets here, so I decided to see if I could scoop one up.

Most used GSs were going for $4,000-9,000. I really wanted to do the 2JZGTE swap, but if I bought a running car for five grand or more I wouldn’t have the funds to do the engine swap. A friend of mine contacted me on our local forum and told me he had a GS400 with a blown engine that he would be willing to sell. He bought it at auction with 200k on the clock and a few dropped valves back in 2012 with a similar vision, but had lost interest after pulling the engine. I went and checked it out and everything looked decent enough, so we worked out a deal. I traded my AME Tracer TM-02 wheels and tires I had purchased for the Evo for the GS400 roller, the blown 1uZ-FE V8 engine, and an MK3 Toyota Supra R154 manual transmission.

The color combination wasn’t my first choice, especially considering the fact that I am under sixty years old, but I had to take what I could get. I can actually see the green growing on me, but the tan interior will be a tough sell. The body has its fair share of dents and dings throughout, but it could be worse for a sixteen year old car with over two hundred thousand miles on the clock. It’ll be a while before I can address the exterior, wheels, or suspension anyway so I’ll just have to live with it in the mean time.

As stated, the current plan is to source an Aristo 2JZGTE motorset to swap into the car. I’ll be at a slight disadvantage starting from a 400 instead of a 300, but I think I have found some wiring information on the forums that should help. I haven’t decided yet if I am going to buy an entire front clip or only the drivetrain, but I hope to have one or the other ordered by the end of the week if at all possible. I’d love to have the engine in the garage before my daughter is born since that will make my life easier.

The Aristo and GS300/400 were never sold in the US or Japan with a manual transmission. I was debating running the auto trans that comes with the swap, but I really don’t think I can enjoy a setup like this without a third pedal. A number of people have done the R154 swap, so fortunately there is some information out there about what needs to be done. I’ve found a lot of useful swap components on DriftMotion.com, as well as some great advice from Mr. Chob of JUNKHOUSE fame. He’s been a great help so far and has a really nice GTE swapped GS equipped with an R154, so I am sure he’ll be a big help and inspiration for the project as well.

Anyway, that’s where I am at the moment. I’ll do my best to keep this updated as the parts begin to come in and I can make progress on the build. Life is going to get wild for me in the coming months, so I do expect this build to move along at a slower pace than my S13 did. I might only manage to order parts for a couple of months before any actual work gets done, as I am sure I’ll be suffering from massive sleep deprivation and a lack of free time. But for now, I’m feeling motivated to get all of the components into the garage and get to work on this thing!

A parting shot of the ladies in the garage this past weekend. It’s kind of awkward to bring the new one home before the old one has moved out… lol.

Thanks for reading.


PS- I haven’t forgotten the Cozy Coupe. Hoping to get that tuned up and slapped together for warmer weather if it ever arrives!

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11 Responses to A New Project (Yes, Again…)

  1. That’s about the best reason one can have for parting ways with a car like your Evo.

    Good luck with the GS, as for the minivan, there’s only one option:

    Honda Odyssey.

  2. titopr06 says:

    Im sure this will be great Damon.
    check out nagano for your engine needs, ask for fabio.

  3. Tier Dolo says:

    Big Body styling! This is exciting already!

  4. therealregis says:

    Great blog, and good luck with the GS. Also, a resounding plus one for Nagano as far as your engine needs. I’m in SC and they have been taking care of us (full time mod shop) for two years now! I had a GS on bags and wish I still had it for my cruising, can’t wait to see how yours turns out. Couldn’t help but notice your 180 pic as well, that’s what I actually sold my GS for haha.

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