Many AE86 owners end up looking for ways to add more power to their car. After I had destroyed a few stock 4AGEs drifting, I started looking at ways that I could make more power reliably. When I first started looking, the BEAMS 3SGE was an expensive swap. Back in 2011, BEAMS engine and transmissions pulled from a running SXE10 were selling for ~$3000-5000 on eBay. I started looking at other options, and by the time I had started piecing together a turbocharged 4AGE build, the cost of the BEAMS had come down in price substantially, to under $2000. So, I changed direction mid-build and purchased a BEAMS.
If you’re more of a video kind of person – I’ve put a lot of the information below into videos on my Youtube channel. Below is my BEAMS 3SGE Swap Playlist.
Information about the BEAMS
The BEAMS 3SGE from the Altezza was the 5th generation, often referred to as “blacktop” due to the valve cover shroud color, and is the OEM rear wheel drive configuration of the 3SGE. It is equipped with Toyota’s Dual VVT-i technology. VVT-i stands for “Variable Valve Timing – Intelligent”. Older VVT technology functioned off of a switch and was either on or off, providing only two positions for the valve timing to vary between. The “intelligent” can be controlled to be anywhere between the two extremes of the camshaft phaser’s adjustment range instead of just being at either end of it. This means that as you accelerate from lower RPMs, the valve timing can be tuned to stay in a better position for power, giving a substantial torque bump in low RPM, as well as more power in higher RPM, similar to Honda’s VTEC. There are 5 different “generations” of the blacktop BEAMS itself, delineated by a marking of “G1-5” on the timing cover, that also have some differences. G1, G3, G5 are manual transmission engines, and G2 and G4 are automatic transmission engines.
Manual Transmission Engines
The different “generations” have some different parts such as coil packs and ECUs, but other than that they are mainly the same (the important part about the difference in parts is that you are aware there are differences, and make sure you source the correct parts for your engine). The manual transmission engines came with titanium valvetrain, 11.5:1 compression, and revved slightly higher than the automatic engines.
Automatic Transmission Engines
The automatic transmission engines are something that I don’t personally have a whole lot of experience with. Some of the major differences when compared to the manual transmission engines are steel valvetrain that have different sizes (valvetrain can’t be directly swapped between MT and AT engines), slightly lower RPM limiter, and 11.1:1 compression.
The manual transmission that comes in the SXE10 Altezza is a J160. It is a version of the AZ6 transmission that can be found in other vehicles, such as the S15 Silvia. It’s power handling ratings seem to vary, some people still run it behind a turbocharged BEAMS 3SGE, and I’ve seen them last well into the 400hp range. It really depends on the driving habits and abilities of the person behind the wheel.
What do you need to do to swap in a BEAMS to an AE86
Alright, so now that you have the information about what a BEAMS 3SGE is, let’s talk about what you need to do to get the engine bolted into the vehicle. Later on I’ll go over what you need to do to get it running. You’re going to need a mount kit, shifter relocation, driveshaft and rear axle, exhaust, and either a custom radiator, custom upper radiator hose, or both.
First and foremost, you need a mount kit. There are several different options on the market now, or you can make your own. You will need engine mounts and a transmission mounts. Additionally, since the BEAMS engine is much taller than the 4AGE, it is difficult to get it to fit in the engine bay as well as clear the steering rack with the upper oil sump. Most people run a manual steering rack in their AE86, and this helps, as it is smaller in diameter and doesn’t have hydraulic lines to clear. However, depending on your mounting solution and steering rack, you may need to trim some of the webbing off of the oil sump. This makes sure that you can clear the steering rack, as well as makes it much easier for removing and installing the engine.
For information on manual steering racks, check this out:
To help with steering rack and hood clearances with the engine, most people are running some form of subframe spacers. It also helps with transmission bellhousing clearance to the firewall. Now, most companies sell 1″ subframe spacers which will make sure you have more than enough space for the transmission and engine. I personally run 1/4″ subframe spacers to give me the most ground clearance, but it is worth mentioning that I had to relocate brake lines and fuel lines, and the plastic valve cover shroud is barely touching the hood.
I have heard of a few people that have gotten away without using subframe spacers, but I feel that to do it properly it involves raising the transmission tunnel and cutting the firewall a bit, so that is not a pathway I have ventured down yet.
The problem with spacing your subframe is that it does change your suspension geometry. Most of this can be easily overcome with Roll Center Adjusters (RCAs) coupled with performance outer tie rod ends that have RCA capabilities. There are still people out there who will argue that this isn’t enough, however, I have been driving and drifting my car competitively since 2017, and have yet to experience bump steer with subframe spacers, RCAs, and performance outer tie rod ends.
Once the engine is bolted in, you’ll find that the shifter doesn’t line up with the T50 hole. You’ll need to either purchase a shifter relocation kit to put the shifter in the factory AE86 hole, or cut some out of your transmission tunnel to make room for the shifter.
The stock shifter has two mounting locations on the transmission. I opted to cut a hole in the floor for better driver to shifter location, and moved the shifter to the forward mounting position on the transmission. However, my car is not a street car anymore and is track-only at this point. If your car is a street car, I would recommend getting a shifter relocation kit. Most of the companies that offer mount kits also offer shifter relocation kits.
JSP Fab also recently came out with an AMAZING reverse lockout shifter – which addresses an issue that I have, when I downshift from 3rd to 2nd, sometimes I’ll blow past second and go into the reverse detent (but not actually put it in reverse). I installed one in my car, here’s a video overview of it with some testing.
There are some variables for the driveshaft. if you are using a GTS rear end and want to keep the 2 piece driveshaft design, you can use the rear section of a GTS driveshaft and the front section from any “RA” Celica and it will bolt up. However, the GTS rear end with stock axles has proven to only take so much abuse from the power of the BEAMS, depending on how much grip you have. I have seen the axle shaft splines twist, and I have seen the axle shafts shatter. Upgrading to stronger axle shafts seems to resolve these issues.
If you are wanting to do a custom or 1 piece driveshaft, you’ll need the slip yoke from any W5X series transmission, it’ll fit for the J160. When I had my 1 piece driveshaft made, I had them order a slip yoke for a MK3 Supra. The rear flange will depend on what rear axle you are running.
To get the ECU to read the Mass Air Flow (MAF) correctly, you’ll need to get a MAF housing with airflow straightener. When doing an engine swap, the intake tubing often times ends up getting modified. This is a problem for MAF based engine management, because the tune is calibrated for the airflow velocity through the factory tubing. Changing the diameter, placing the MAF closer to the filter or to a bend in tubing, and many other factors affect the airflow through the MAF which can negatively affect the factory ECU’s ability to meter and properly adjust fueling accordingly. The airflow straightener aids in minimizing the negative affects mentioned, so that the factory ECU can adjust fueling properly.
The exhaust for LHD AE86s is tricky. The factory Altezza manifold places the manifold flange pointing straight at the steering intermediate shaft, so the exhaust has to be fabricated to immediately turn outwards towards the frame rail and hug the frame rail to make sure it isn’t going to contact the intermediate shaft. You also have to incorporate in enough wiggle room for when the engine mounts flex under load. There haven’t been any aftermarket “swap” headers made, because depending on the thickness of subframe spacers and the mount kit you have, it will position the exhaust differently.
The factory Altezza lower radiator hose has enough length that it can be bent/twisted to fit in the AE86, however, the upper hose is what will give you trouble. You will need to get a bit creative with the upper hose. Some people have taken the dimensions that they needed and gone into the backroom at an auto parts store and been able to find what they needed. Koyo Radiator was making AE86 BEAMS swap radiators, that only required a straight hose for the upper hose. These radiators are sometimes hard to come by though. Once they sell out of stock, they take awhile to come back in stock. When I was trying to acquire one, they were on backorder, so I ended up swapping in an inexpensive 3″ core Honda civic (“half-size”) radiator, and have been running it for 4 years without incident. It gets hot when hot lapping for 10 minutes, but other than that it seems to do alright. The important part about doing this is that you make sure you have a high flow fan.
The stock Altezza fuel system is a returnless system that allegedly runs at 62psi. The Altezza fuel pump has a Fuel Pressure Regulator (FPR) built into the pump essentially, and it bleeds off any excess pressure. Since the AE86 uses a return style, you will need an adjustable FPR of some sort to hook up to the system, and then hook up the fuel lines. Depending on which FPR you get, the return line will come off of the FPR, or the system will go fuel line from tank to fuel rail, return line from fuel rail to FPR, then FPR back to the tank.
To actually get this engine running, you’ll need to do wiring. This can be a daunting task for some. To help with that, I have created a general wiring guide. Disclaimer, this is meant only a guide NOT a perfect solution, so please do your due diligence when using this guide. One thing not mentioned in the guide is that you will need to provide a vehicle speed signal to the ECU, otherwise you will not be at full power. If you get the AE86 speedometer to work with the swap (details below), you can provide the VSS out from the AE86 cluster to the ECU and it should work.
Getting the AE86 cluster to work with the BEAMS
The AE86 instrument cluster gets the tachometer signal essentially from the ignition coil, which is entirely different than a more modern vehicle such as an Altezza. The ECU outputs a tachometer signal at a much lower voltage/amperage than the signal from the 4AGE. To have the tachometer work properly, you have to solder in a new resistor in parallel or replace the resistor in the factory tachometer. Once you pull the instrument cluster out and disassemble it to remove the tachometer, it is fairly straightforward to solder the resistor in parallel, and this is what I did. A 10 ohm 1/4 watt resistor does the trick (thanks to Panic Wire for the picture).
The go-to solution for using the factory speedometer is to use the SQ-Engineering (no affiliation) speedometer cable adapter. This replaces the Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) that bolts into the transmission, and allows you to attach the AE86 speedometer cable to it.
Oil Pressure Gauge
This is pretty simple, just plug the AE86 wiring for the oil pressure gauge into the BEAMS oil pressure sensor and it should function.
Coolant Temperature Sensor
There are two different solutions to this. I took the AE86 coolant temperature sensor and had a bung welded into the top of my radiator for it to read from originally. More recently however, I installed a kit from Panic Wire that includes 3-wire sensor conversion that will send a signal to the ECU as well as the instrument cluster, but it is different depending on kouki vs zenki cluster -you may have to solder in an additional resistor to the circuit that goes to the cluster.