Super Street - - CONTENTS - WORDS Richard Fong

An age-old de­bate ex­ists be­tween the camps of Nis­san and Toy­ota fans, dis­cussing the virtues and short­com­ings of Nis­san’s RB26DETT and Toy­ota’s 2JZ-GTE. Th­ese pow­er­ful mills pro­pelled leg­endary cars on the streets, around cir­cuits, and down dragstrips for sev­eral decades with com­pa­ra­ble suc­cesses and ac­co­lades, as well as fu­eled count­less de­bates on var­i­ous au­to­mo­tive fo­rums of the past and con­tinue to light a fire dur­ing dis­cus­sions on so­cial me­dia. Th­ese equally matched glad­i­a­tors leave fa­nat­ics con­stantly won­der­ing, “Which is the sex­ier six?”


Com­par­isons and com­pe­ti­tion fuel the flames of ri­val­ries. In the au­to­mo­tive realm, au­tomak­ers sub­scribe to the adage: “Race on Sun­day, sell on Mon­day.” By us­ing rac­ing events to show­case the tech­no­log­i­cal and per­for­mance prow­ess of each com­pany, the man­u­fac­tur­ers hope to in­cite sales in ad­di­tion to gain­ing fans and loy­alty.

One of the most classic of Ja­panese ri­val­ries ex­ists be­tween Nis­san and Toy­ota. Nis­san com­peted in the Ja­panese Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onships of the late ’60s against Mazda and then waged war on the track with Toy­ota from the late ’80s through to­day in var­i­ous classes of tour­ing car cham­pi­onships, in­clud­ing Ja­pan’s Su­per GT se­ries (for­merly known as the JGTC). Th­ese au­tomak­ers spared lit­tle ex­pense in the quest for tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion and cut­ting-edge per­for­mance, which led to prod­ucts con­sumers couldn’t get enough of. The rac­ing ef­forts served th­ese au­tomak­ers well, as fa­nat­ics of both mar­ques helped to drive the pop­u­lar­ity and sales of each brand. So much so, in fact, that more than two decades later, the brands’ most noted en­gine of­fer­ings still carry a pre­mium, along with a le­gion of fans on both ends.


Nis­san’s first Sky­line GT-R, the GC10 of the late ’60s and early ’70s, proved a dom­i­nant player on the track, col­lect­ing hun­dreds of vic­to­ries in its four years of pro­duc­tion. It was equipped with a nat­u­rally as­pi­rated, 160hp S20 en­gine. This straight six­cylin­der en­gine pro­pelled the GC10 Sky­line GT-R to the top step of count­less podi­ums while paving the way for its de­scen­dant, the twin-tur­bocharged RB26DETT en­gine. This high-revving, 276hp en­gine was de­vel­oped by Nis­san Mo­tor­sports (NISMO) and in­tro­duced in the third-gen­er­a­tion Sky­line GT-R (BNR32) to sat­isfy race ho­molo­ga­tion re­quire­ments. The RB26 was a de­riv­a­tive of the RB25 that equipped the Sky­line GT-S. It gave NISMO a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in the Ja­panese Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onships and other rac­ing se­ries around the globe. Cou­pled with Nis­san’s mo­tor­sports-ori­ented, ATTESA E-TS all-wheeldrive sys­tem, the Sky­line GT-R en­joyed a steeped ad­van­tage over its next clos­est com­peti­tors for sev­eral years. This largely un­changed en­gine also pro­pelled the fourth-gen­er­a­tion (BCNR33) and fifth-gen­er­a­tion (BNR34) Sky­line GT-RS.


The RB26DETT en­gine (2.6 liters, dual over­head cams, elec­tronic fuel in­jec­tion, twin tur­bocharg­ers) re­sid­ing un­der the hood of ev­ery R32, R33, and R34 Sky­line GT-R came prac­ti­cally de­tuned from the fac­tory to meet the of­fi­cially pub­lished peak out­put of 276 hp that many of the Ja­panese au­tomak­ers un­of­fi­cially agreed on at the time. How­ever, Nis­san en­gi­neered this en­gine with Group A tour­ing car races in mind, leav­ing plenty of head­room for greater out­put lev­els. What few imag­ined was that over the next

few decades, en­thu­si­asts and rac­ers would take the stock RB26 en­gine to out­put lev­els over 800 hp, well be­yond Nis­san’s orig­i­nal ex­pec­ta­tions. Heav­ily mod­i­fied RB26 engines have far sur­passed even th­ese lev­els. A shin­ing ex­am­ple of the en­gine’s po­ten­tial took place in June 2018 in Aus­tralia, when Maa­touks Rac­ing’s “King32” Sky­line GT-R ran three per­sonal bests in the quar­ter­mile. All were in the 7-sec­ond range; the quick­est pass recorded was 7.007 sec­onds at 199.2 mph. That’s a full-weight street­car (fac­tory glass and in­te­rior in­cluded) with 1,650 hp trans­ferred to the pave­ment through four ra­dial tires! While the King32 fea­tures a 3.2-liter RB en­gine, it’s a prime ex­am­ple of the po­ten­tial of the plat­form and the af­ter­mar­ket in­ter­est and sup­port that still ex­ists for it more than 20 years after its ini­tial re­lease.


The strong, cast-iron RB26 block fea­tures a closed deck (which en­sures the cylin­ders do not dis­tort like open-deck de­signs) with 86mm bores and a short, 73.7mm stroke that dis­places a to­tal of 2,568 cc. This over-square ro­tat­ing assem­bly (where the bore is larger than the stroke) thrives at higher en­gine speeds (rpm). As a re­sult, low-end torque suf­fers in ex­change for top-end torque, horse­power, and a higher red­line. In­di­vid­ual oil squirters help to keep the pis­tons cool and lu­bri­cated, and a crank gir­dle pre­vents crank walk.

Up top, the RB26’S alu­minum cylin­der head fea­tures a non-in­ter­fer­ence de­sign. One of the first things to no­tice is the in­take man­i­fold has not one, but six in­di­vid­ual throt­tle bod­ies, which help to sharpen the throt­tle re­sponse. The four-valveper-cylin­der de­sign lends to im­proved vol­u­met­ric ef­fi­ciency and fuel mix­ture for bet­ter per­for­mance. The belt-driven camshafts lift the valves by way of a di­rect ac­tu­a­tion, shim un­der bucket val­ve­train that per­forms re­li­ably at high en­gine speeds. This di­rect val­ve­train ac­tu­a­tion de­sign re­moves lifters or link­age from the equa­tion, re­duc­ing weight and min­i­miz­ing the amount of mov­ing parts that could go awry. Fur­ther­more, the shims are lo­cated un­der the buck­ets for im­proved re­li­a­bil­ity at high rpm. The RB26 also ben­e­fits from a coil-on-plug di­rect ig­ni­tion sys­tem, which does away with the tra­di­tional, me­chan­i­cal/ dis­trib­u­tor ig­ni­tion that was still widely used at the time (don’t for­get, we are talk­ing about the late ’80s, when coil-on-plug ig­ni­tions were a newer tech­nol­ogy).


Awe­some as it is, the RB26 isn’t a per­fect en­gine, and it does have its share of ar­eas in need of im­prove­ment. First off, for those of us out­side of Ja­pan or Aus­tralia, this en­gine and the Sky­line GT-R it pow­ers are not read­ily avail­able, al­though it is now get­ting a lit­tle eas­ier. The RB26’S smaller dis­place­ment in­her­ently lacks the low-end torque that larger dis­place­ment engines (like the 2JZ-GTE) can read­ily de­liver. In­creas­ing the dis­place­ment, while not impossible, is a costly af­ter­mar­ket ven­ture. The same goes for vari­able valve tim­ing. Nis­san did not en­gi­neer a vari­able valve or camshaft tim­ing mech­a­nism for the RB26; how­ever, the af­ter­mar­ket did, but it is ex­pen­sive. Fi­nally, the stan­dard oil pump is prone to fail­ure. For­tu­nately, this is­sue is re­solved with an OEM Nis­san N1 oil pump or your choice of af­ter­mar­ket so­lu­tions. The bot­tom line is that the RB26’S weak­nesses have been reme­died by the af­ter­mar­ket—it’s just a ques­tion of your avail­able bud­get.


Toy­ota is cer­tainly no new­comer to the sports car scene, es­pe­cially since the highly col­lectible (’67-’70) 2000GT is of­ten re­garded as Ja­pan’s first su­per­car. Its 150hp, 3M in­line six-cylin­der en­gine and the other mem­bers of the M-se­ries en­gine fam­ily pow­ered var­i­ous Toy­ota plat­forms from the 1960s through the 1990s. This same fam­ily of engines pow­ered the first three gen­er­a­tions of the Supra model line. The iconic plat­form got its be­gin­nings es­sen­tially as an en­larged Cel­ica (then dubbed the Cel­ica Supra), which fea­tured a longer hood line than a stan­dard Cel­ica, to ac­com­mo­date an in­line six-cylin­der en­gine. Th­ese longer and wider Cel­i­cas were the pro­gen­i­tors of the Supra model line, which stood alone as a Supra start­ing with the JZA70 Mk III of the mid-1980s. The JZA80 Mk IV Supra Turbo grew to be­come Toy­ota’s sports car flag­ship by the early 1990s. It was the only Supra to come equipped with Toy­ota’s leg­endary 2JZ-GTE en­gine and, not sur­pris­ing, still car­ries a very high value to­day.


Toy­ota de­vel­oped the JZ en­gine se­ries dur­ing the mid-to-late 1980s as the suc­ces­sor to the out­go­ing M-se­ries engines as the next gen­er­a­tion in­line six-cylin­der en­gine fam­ily. It was dur­ing this time that Nis­san’s new Rb26dett-pow­ered R32 Sky­line GT-R proved dom­i­nant in var­i­ous tour­ing car cham­pi­onships in the late 1980s, prompt­ing Toy­ota to chan­nel its ef­forts into an en­gine that could go head-to-head with the RB26 on the track. Within a cou­ple of years, the 2JZ-GTE made its de­but in the ’91 Toy­ota Aristo (aka Lexus GS) to sat­isfy ho­molo­ga­tion re­quire­ments. It gained broad recog­ni­tion as the JZA80 Mk IV Supra Turbo’s pow­er­plant. Ear­lier 2JZ-GTES ad­hered to the same pub­lished out­put of 276 hp as the other au­tomak­ers. The gen­tle­man’s agree­ment was no longer be­ing ob­served by the time the JZA80 Supra Turbo reached Amer­i­can shores in mid’93, equipped with a rel­a­tively high spe­cific out­put of 320 hp. Toy­ota’s con­tender had ar­rived.


The flag­ship 2JZ-GTE (2: sec­ond gen­er­a­tion JZ block, G: Dual Over Head Camshafts, T: Tur­bocharged, E: Elec­tronic Fuel In­jec­tion) fea­tures a hearty, closed deck, iron en­gine block topped with a 24-valve alu­minum cylin­der head. Toy­ota re­tained the 86mm bore di­am­e­ter shared with pre­vi­ous JZ engines, but de­signed the 2JZ with a taller deck and a longer, 86mm stroke. This square bore and stroke dis­place di­men­sion of 2,998 cc of­fered a com­pro­mise of im­proved torque and a slightly lower peak en­gine speed. This en­gine also came with plenty of head­room for growth, ov­erengi­neered to with­stand more than 800 hp with stock in­ter­nals. If that’s not enough, there is room to progress fur­ther, with af­ter­mar­ket 3.4-liter stro­ker kits avail­able from a va­ri­ety of sources.

The high-flow­ing, non-in­ter­fer­ence cylin­der head com­ple­ments the 2JZ block, of­fer­ing good vol­u­met­ric ef­fi­ciency for op­ti­mum out­put. This head fea­tures dual over­head camshafts that di­rectly ac­tu­ate a shi­mover-bucket val­ve­train de­sign that elim­i­nates ex­tra mov­ing parts like link­ages and lifters. An alu­minum plenum with a sin­gle throt­tle body pro­vides pres­sur­ized in­duc­tion to the in­take ports. A coil-on-plug ig­ni­tion sys­tem en­sures re­li­able spark de­liv­ery and more pre­cise con­trol of ig­ni­tion tim­ing. Toy­ota con­tin­ued to make mi­nor im­prove­ments dur­ing the 2JZ’S pro­duc­tion life, in­cor­po­rat­ing its pro­pri­etary vari­able valve tim­ing sys­tem, VVTI, onto the cylin­der heads start­ing in late 1997. Un­for­tu­nately, the USDM Supra Tur­bos did not gain this fea­ture be­fore Toy­ota dis­con­tin­ued sales of the Supra in the USA in ’98.


Toy­ota’s 2JZ con­tender comes to the ta­ble with a num­ber of ben­e­fits and one-ups com­pared to the RB26. How­ever, it’s not with­out its flaws, even though they num­ber very few. While the 2JZ-GTE is one of the hearti­est of engines, ca­pa­ble of han­dling more than 800 hp in stock form, it is also an ex­cep­tion­ally heavy one. In ad­di­tion, while it fea­tures a di­rect val­ve­train ac­tu­a­tion sys­tem sim­i­lar to the RB26, it is a shim over bucket de­sign. This sys­tem per­mits the same level of valve lash ad­just­ment as a shim un­der bucket sys­tem. How­ever, since the camshaft lobe lifts the valve by way of the shim lo­cated atop the bucket, the en­gine could suf­fer a fail­ure if the valve(s) float at high en­gine speeds. In this in­stance, one or more shims could be­come un­seated from the bucket and launched into the val­ve­train. (For­tu­nately, the af­ter­mar­ket of­fers Shim Un­der Bucket con­ver­sion kits for the 2JZ val­ve­train.) Lastly, the trac­tion con­trol throt­tle body is not as friendly to high per­for­mance tun­ing as the stan­dard throt­tle body.


Like any proper matchup, th­ese in­line six-cylin­der con­tenders are by no means at a steep ad­van­tage on pa­per, on the road or at the track. Depend­ing on the in­tended pur­pose of a build, ei­ther en­gine could out shine the other, al­beit marginally. Af­ter­mar­ket sup­port for both engines ad­dresses many of the short­com­ings and lev­els the play­ing field fur­ther. In the end, it boils down to bud­get and pref­er­ence. Each has its strengths and weak­nesses, each has its die-hard fa­nat­ics, but both prom­ise to de­liver plenty of horse­power and ex­cite­ment to make a week­end drive, a trip to the track or a blast down the dragstrip a thrill that never gets old.

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