Master Tuner's Engine Teardown Explains Why the Toyota 2JZ Is Such a Legend

You’re watching two legends in the American tuner landscape. One is Stephan Papadakis, the first person to put a front-wheel drive car past the 9s. The other is the Toyota 2JZ. You know its reputation of being an indestructible powerhouse. Now get a good look at why.


What you’re looking at here is a later 2J with variable intake timing, which is interesting to see that it has an external hard oil line running to it. You can see it pictured below in a screencap.

I knew that the 2JZ was a long-running engine design that was updated over the years with some new tech. This actually shows how that tech was physically grafted on.

The teardown continues to show interesting parts of the 3.0-liter straight six, with four valves per cylinder.


I mean, Papadakis is also giving a clinic on how exactly to take this engine apart. Which bolts should come out when, why you should not use a pry bar on certain parts but a dedicated puller tool instead, and so on.

I’m, of course, a long way from a 2J, but I am interested in seeing what makes it so strong.


Papadakis shows that not only is this a cast-iron block (nice and strong) but it’s importantly a closed deck block. The cylinders don’t have a water jacket running all the way round them. It’s metal all the way around, with dedicated smaller passageways for coolant to travel. This is something Subaru owners lust after and modify engines to be like. Stock on a 2J.


Papadakis also points to the triple-layer steel head gaskets. These would be things that you would upgrade to in a lesser engine. The 2JZ came with them stock.

The crankshaft is forged and super tough. Stock. The bearings are “really wide with a lot of thrust bearing as well,” as Papadakis notes, explaining why these engines are so stout in stock form.


The bottom part of the block also has a lot of built-in reinforcement, as well as a big girdle that bolts to it, adding rigidity far beyond what its stock power levels might require.


The 2JZ is something you could call “overbuilt,” a product of the Bubble Era, when Japanese carmakers had money to spend (or waste, depending on how you looked at it) on designs and parts.


That’s what really earned them their reputation. You can make many motors get to 700 or 800 horsepower with a lot of work. Papadakis’ team is known in Formula Drift these days for making Toyota four-cylinders out of minivans put out more than 1000 HP. But on a 2JZ big power can be safely made on stock parts inside the engine.

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Raphael Orlove

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.