When most people are eyeing potential engines for a performance motor swap in their car, the 2AR four-cylinder engine from a Toyota Camry Hybrid isn’t going to be at the top of their list. Why would it be? Sure, it’s got displacement, at 2.5-liters, but it doesn’t make much power, and it’s not like anyone is going to make performance parts for it, right?
Well, that isn’t entirely accurate, as you’ll see in this video series from YouTube’s Gears and Gasoline, in which one of the Bens replaces the blown 1ZZ engine in his MR-S with a highly modified 2AR with some help from Frankenstein Motorworks. But how exactly do they turn this 150-ish hp turd into an actual performance engine?
The answer to that involves a surprising amount of stock Toyota parts. For example, because the 2AR runs on a simulated Atkinson cycle for efficiency (like basically all Toyota hybrids), the intake camshaft has huge lobes, but the valve timing is retarded to use that lift and duration for efficiency. By taking the cam and pushing the timing forward by a tooth, they take an efficient design and turn it into hot, nasty, badass speed.
The cam shenanigans (shenanicams?) don’t stop there. Our intrepid swappers ditch the 2AR’s wimpy exhaust cam entirely for — surprise! — another intake cam. Yeah, weird, right? But by running a stock 2AR intake cam in the exhaust position at stock timing, they get all the benefits of a high lift cam without spending a bunch of cash.
The swap requires some other more mundane mods, like, for example, an alternator and starter being added because, as a hybrid, the Camry didn’t need those. They also required a six-speed manual transmission, which they got from a Scion TC, but then that needed a shift component changed so that the gearbox had all the necessary detents to avoid money shifts. The swap axles are cobbled together from three early RAV4 half shafts.
Throw in a boatload of wiring, a Haltech Elite 1500 ECU and a few custom parts from Frankenstein Motorworks’ catalog, and the result is 228 horsepower at the wheels. Sure a Honda K20 would likely have made more power, but keeping things in the Toyota family is pretty cool; plus buying a replacement engine if things go south should be a lot cheaper.