A Supra-powered Plymouth Scamp

By Staff Writer
Nov 12, 2022 | Plymouth, 2JZ, Engine swap, Scamp | Posted in Features | From the Feb. 2014 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Richard Truesdell

Story by Richard Truesdell

Sure, there are a few examples of hotrods built in the 1930s, but it’s generally accepted that hotrodding–as we have come to define the term–dates back to the time immediately following World War II. Many returning GIs had received technical training while serving in the armed forces, and they were eager to put those skills to good use in their civilian lives. This was the catalyst for the birth of hotrodding, especially in Southern California.

More often than not, early hotrods were Fords–Model Ts, Model As and Model Bs–because they were plentiful. They were also stripped down, their convertible tops, hoods, fenders and bumpers removed to save weight and a few bucks.

Since then, this idea of building something powerful and stylish on the cheap has taken many forms–most of them influenced by what materials were available in the era, but always shaped by the creativity of the builder. And cheap, when you account for inflation, takes on a whole new meaning today, more than 60 years after the first hotrods hit the dry lakes of SoCal.  

Detroit, another haven for hotrods, is crawling with cool cars. Even so, Dave Buckshaw’s Scrapyard Scamp still turns heads. One notable element sets it apart from the traditionalist ’rods: turbo power. 

But Dave, a technical film producer and former senior technical trainer for the UCI-Fram Group, didn’t install the expected Cummins turbodiesel engine. He went with twin-turbo Toyota Supra power. Despite bucking the trend, this is a noteworthy build, one that’s true to the original hotrod build ethic: Go fast and spend less.

Brighten the Corners

This was not Dave’s first encounter with resuscitating an unloved Plymouth Scamp. “A couple of years ago, I was looking for a clean little Nova or Falcon for a father-daughter project,” says Dave. “I found a little Sassy Grass Green 1971 Scamp in a trailer park under a car cover. I picked it up for $1600 because the little Slant Six ran great and it already had an $800 Wilwood disc-brake kit installed on the front. With just $2500 more invested, we covered the pretty solid little Tennessee car with fresh Sassy Grass paint, new carpet, and rebuilt the front end.

For paint and graphics, Dave asked Murray Pfaff to pen a color scheme appropriate for Fram

“I thought, why not build a smooth-running, inline-six-cylinder car that peeks, maybe even glares, over the generational and cultural boundaries that exist? Build a car that attempts to bridge a few gaps and tries to speak to more than one person, genre or brand of car? Be relevant, be attainable? Be something somebody could do at home with a chop saw, drill press and MIG welder–no five-axis lathes, no Bridgeport mill? Sure, building such a car will require compromises, risks and nonstop explanation, but why not educate? Why not integrate? Aren’t integration, compromise and risk components of the true spirit of hotrodding?

“The OGs,” Dave continues, referring to the older guys in the hobby, “taught me that it only makes sense to use what you have on hand and that you can build a better car when you mix and match pieces. My buddy Dave Nedock makes everything from scratch on his cars, and they are great without all the billet and exotica that we are now so used to seeing.”  

Slanted and Enchanted

Dave ran into his second Scamp, another 1971 model, while on business in Phoenix. The story was that the original owner had passed away, and the car was heading to be crushed because it no longer ran. Dave notes that other than forklift damage, it was in exceptional shape with almost zero rust. 

Originally, the plan was to rebuild the engine, turbocharge it, and cobble up a homebrewed EFI system. But when Dave ran the numbers, it didn’t add up: He figured he could swap a used, later-model “something” EFI engine into the car, and it would be cheaper than a turbo Slant built from scratch.

“I looked at everything ‘techie,’ from a Turbo Ecotec to a Magnum V8 and late-model Hemi engines,” recalls Dave. “But this was before I discovered reasonably priced JDM engines: 40,000- to 60,000-mile, twin-turbo, inline-six engines with transmissions, harnesses, sensors and ECUs, all for around $2100 shipped to my door! Was this real or a joke? A legendary twin-turbo Supra engine, known to support 1000 horsepower on stock internals, in my little Scamp? It soon dawned on me: This must be fate!”

Dave’s plan was now simple: Take an unloved domestic compact and infuse it with the heart of a much-loved Japanese supercar engine. Working with good friend Tim Skardoutous, he surveyed the situation after removing the Mopar Slant Six and its transmission. 

“After the 2JZ-GTE engine showed up, I was worried that it wouldn’t fit because it looked 426 Hemi big,” recalls Dave. “I initially thought we’d have to ditch the factory crossmember and torsion bars and run an aftermarket K-member and with a steering rack, but then the dollars started to seem crazy. I’d have $5000 into a K-member and rack and not have suspension, brakes, wheels or anything.”

Pat and Jeff Russell at PJ’s Trim Shop stitched up a set of 1994 Camaro Z28 buckets with Jeep seat heaters. They’re comfortable but have a Mopar look. PJ’s also trimmed the door panels, package tray and back seat to match. 

Then he found his savior on eBay: a used 1990s Lexus SC300 oil pan. “Its mid/rear sump fit really well within the confines of our Slant Six factory K-member,” Dave explains. “To mate the big Toyota 2JZ to the factory K-member, we grabbed a pair of beefy E46-chassis BMW 3 Series motor mounts from a parts house for $80, and Timmy and I fabricated brackets out of 3/8-inch plate and square tubing.

“Like our subframe connectors, our mounts are overkill but stiff,” Dave continues. “We notched the K-member a little to clear the a/c compressor, but we never had the K-member out of the car.”

The Aisin A340LE overdrive trans just cleared the Plymouth’s torsion bar structure, and they retained the Toyota’s rubber mount by modifying the Slant Six’s transmission bracket. They contacted The Driveshaft Shop for a trick carbon fiber shaft with a billet guibo eliminator and a Porsche 930-style CV joint at the trans end. 

Elevate Me Later

Dave knew that he needed an extremely well-handling car, so he started poking around the pro touring forums. That’s where he met Peter Bergman from Bergman Auto Craft. “I told Pete I needed a suspension recipe that was streetable and would not scrape the door handles at an autocross event,” Dave recalls. “For close to what I would have spent on a tubular K-member, we got 13-inch SN95 Cobra Mustang brakes, modified FR500 wheels, 1.06-inch torsion bars, Reilly MotorSports tubular upper control arms, Reilly MotorSports adjustable strut rods, custom Bergman-valved Bilstein dampers, and a hollow-tube sway bar.”

The Toyota power steering pump feeds a Firm Feel Mopar gearbox swinging a fast-ratio pitman and idler. Mopar C-Body tie rods turn taller E-Body disc-brake spindles mounted on opposite sides to accommodate the disc-brake swap. A Dr. Diff 15/16-inch manual master cylinder easily provided 1600 psi, so they ran that for the time being.

Once all the big systems were roughed in, the tedious work of fleshing out the cooling systems, intercoolers, air filters, fuel lines, transmission lines, wiring, shifters and gauges could take place. “You have to plan and build every single bracket, mount, fitting and circuit,” admits Dave. “Eight glass fuses and two fusible links are no match for a fuel-injected, twin-turbo engine with drive-by-wire, variable valve timing, electric fans, fuel pumps, intercooler fans and pumps.”

Mating the Toyota automatic transmission to a period-correct shifter added another challenge. “A transmission originally designed for a right-hand-drive Toyota required a custom shifter. Every shifter out there pulls its cable for Park, and the Toyota’s overdrive needed a push-to-Park shifter.” A Shiftworks universal shifter worked once Tim flipped the cable around and built a bracket to support it. 

Brakes from a Mustang Cobra slow this Japan-powered hunk of American iron. The suspension’s been completely reworked with adjustable everything.

For muscle car engine swaps, headers and exhaust systems can get expensive in a hurry, and Dave notes that it was nice that all he had to build was a system off the turbos’ three-bolt exhaust flange. Dave grabbed a $120 box of 2.75-inch and 3-inch “blem” bends locally and found a few straight sticks of 2.75-inch 409 pipe for $5 each off a guy on eBay. Ernie Miyamoto fabricated the mandrel-bent tailpipe. All told, Dave has $575 or so in this quiet, stainless steel exhaust system. 

Dave’s expertise is in electronics, but a huge time crunch forced him to subcontract wiring harness conversion duties to Tweaked
Performance. In just two weeks, Tweaked shipped back a simple plug-and-play version of the original harness. Because the JDM version never came stateside, the ECU schematics were in Japanese, and Dave was told they could not scan a Japanese-based data stream. 

“I found out from the guys in an Australian Supra forum who said if we had a JOBD-compatible scan tool, we could scan the Nippondenso ECU,” recalls Dave. “I found a used GReddy Informeter touch scan tool, amazingly, in a Detroit college town.” Dave wired everything to an OBD2-style connector. “Works perfect!” he says.

Infinite Spark

Dave built the Scamp with his personal time and money to punctuate the need for a winning culture in his co-workers. As with most of his projects, though, this one isn’t a long-term keeper. It’s always time to start work on the next one. So what uncommon marriage will he arrange now?

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Mr_Asa GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
1/11/22 8:46 a.m.

This isn't the same car that was at the 2021 Challenge, right?  I remember that was a Dodge, but I can't remember the model.  Bumpers were different as well.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
1/11/22 9:01 a.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

Yes, there was one there, but I agree that this is a different car. 

Found my pictures. This one from the 2021 Challenge is a Dodge Dart.

paddygarcia GRM+ Memberand Reader
1/11/22 9:21 a.m.

Mr_Asa GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
1/11/22 9:26 a.m.

In reply to Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) :

Yeah, interesting that Dodges are getting the 2JZ so much, but that might be confirmation bias.  Finnegan did it to his Charger last season on Roadkill I think.


Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
1/11/22 10:19 a.m.

It's a cool swap, keeping the in line six in these.

In keeping with that, there is some evidence that a Vortec 4200 has some capability for big power on a budget...  wink

ProDarwin MegaDork
1/11/22 10:37 a.m.
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) said:

Found my pictures. This one from the 2021 Challenge is a Dodge Dart.

Dang.  I really like that.  I would daily the hell out of it.

APEowner GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
1/11/22 10:43 a.m.

This car makes me feel like a cranky old guy. 

I recognize that it's pure hot rodding at it's best and it has all the things that I think are important in a build.  It's well thought out, appears well built, has a cohesive design and I have no doubt that it works well.  However, I just can't get past the fact that it has a Japanese six instead of a good old American V8.  Apparently, I don't care that it's probably a better car with the six.

Oddly, I think a Supra with a 340 MOPAR engine would be awesome.



bentwrench SuperDork
1/11/22 10:45 a.m.

What about the Atlas motor?

Duke MegaDork
1/11/22 11:00 a.m.

In reply to APEowner :

What I don't get is why you would go 2JZ when you can boost a built Slant Six to the moon, and keep it in the family?


ProDarwin MegaDork
1/11/22 11:03 a.m.
Duke said:

In reply to APEowner :

What I don't get is why you would go 2JZ when you can boost a built Slant Six to the moon, and keep it in the family?


Because when you boost a slant six to the moon it will make like 300hp and rev to 4000rpm

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