Should You LS Swap a Fourth Gen Toyota Supra?

Since I purchased it last year, my 99’ Miata has been burning obscene amounts of oil ­— 1 quart every 1000 km. In short, the motor is toast. Buying a new engine would likely cost around $1200, and would provide no guarantees about the engine’s mileage and condition. I’ve been quoted around $3000 for a full rebuild, which is a lot of money to end up exactly where I started performance-wise. I’ve always loved the idea of an engine swap; there’s something magical about lifting the hood to find something entirely unexpected. So, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about swapping something special into the Miata.

When I mention this little plan of mine, I’m immediately greeted with two responses:

“Please don’t tell me you’re swapping an LS in.”

or

“Dude swap an LS in!”

In case you’ve been avoiding the internet, car shows, or automotive magazines for the past twenty years, LS swaps have become more common than cold air intakes. Buy a wrecked 4th generation Camaro for cheap, pull its motor and transmission, and you have yourself a 400 hp V8 drivetrain. Swap kits for RWD cars are easy to find, and the LS’ compact size means it will fit into virtually anything. Miatas, 240sxs, 3-Series BMWs, Porsche 911s, and more recently, this:

Yup, someone swapped an LS motor into the JDM Legend: a 4th generation Toyota Supra.

I tend to look at engine swaps practically. Does it boost performance? Yes? Do it. Swapping an LS motor into a 240sx is arguably less interesting than a BMW V10 or a 26b rotary engine, but it’s affordable and makes loads of torque. So, I wholeheartedly support swapping LS motors into RX-7s and E30 BMWs, while other people would begin sharpening their pitchforks. In fact, I support swapping an LS motor into pretty much anything. However, the thought of an LS motor in a Supra left me deeply conflicted.

The Toyota Supra came with what is arguably the best alternative to the LS: the infamous 2JZ-GTE. It’s probably the only motor that responds to bolt-on engine mods the way Ebay would have you believe. Supra owners talk about 600 hp as being conservative. 700-800 hp is just a single turbo conversion kit away. This is an engine that’s known for making four-digit horsepower on stock internals. It’s no surprise that the holder “World’s Fastest Import” quarter-mile record, is held by a 4th generation Supra, finishing the quarter mile in 6.15 seconds at 230 mph.

What if you’re Supra didn’t come with a 2JZ-GTE? What if it came with 220hp N/A 2JZ-GE mated to an automatic transmission, and you have dreams of banging through the gears of a 700hp Supra? Most Supra forums usually stress that swapping in a 2JZ-GTE is hugely superior to turbo-charging the N/A motor. The 2JZ-GTE swap should cost you around $7,000 if you utilize a built five-speed R154 transmission. A single turbo conversion kit along with exhaust piping, an inner cooler, and an intake will cost you an additional $4,000. All in, you should be able to put 700 hp to the ground for around $11,000.

Pricing out the cost of swapping an LS motor into a Supra is tough because so few people have done it. One thing is for certain: you won’t make 700 whp on a naturally aspirated LS motor. You could achieve 500 whp from an LS7 with a much smoother torque curve than the peaky 2JZ. The LS is substantially lighter than the iron 2JZ — shaving off roughly the weight of a screaming passenger and improving weight distribution. You could even suggest that the LS with the long-legged T56 transmission will provide better fuel economy than a stock Supra... assuming you care. (based on fuel economy between a 2008 Corvette Z06 and a 1993 Supra). That being said, the 2JZ-GTE is the one thing that makes the fourth generation Supra special — it’s an incredible motor.

Should you LS swap your Supra?

Here’s the answer: If you want to LS swap your Supra, then LS swap your Supra.

If you don’t, then don’t.

Sources:

Phillip Oliveira is the writer and founder of DriverMod and has no intention of LS swapping his Miata.