Driven features interesing or unusual cars which are actually driven around instead of sitting in a garage or museum.


1977 Toyota Celica 2JZ Engine Swap

Cars and the engines that power them come in a wide variety of styles and configurations. The more I read and learn about cars, the more I believe that there is something magic about inline-6 engines.

Many of the automotive greats have used the straight six engine, from the Jaguar E-Type to the Hudson Hornet to numerous BMW, Mercedes, and Jeep models. In general, inline sixes are known for being well-balanced with a smooth, even delivery of power. Though not high revving, they are reliable “workhorse” engines that can have a surprisingly long service life.

Toyota had been producing inline 6 engines as early as 1955, but they really hit a home run with the introduction of the 2JZ family of engines, which were produced from 1991 to 1998 in the US (and through 2002 in Japan).

This was the engine that powered the Lexus SC300, the first and second-gen GS 300, and an even more powerful variant went into the A80 Toyota Supra. Today, the 2JZ engine has a cult-like following. It is renowned among import car fans for its heavy-duty internals and its huge potential for tuning. This is probably what motivated Arizona resident John Garza to swap a 2JZ-GE engine into his 1977 Toyota Celica coupe.

I had seen this car in early 2017 at the Future Classics car show in Scottsdale, and crossed paths with it again at Cars and Coffee. The car has been featured in the October 2016 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car magazine, and gets a LOT of attention at local car meets and events.

This 1977 is a close match to Mr. Garza’s first car, another ’77 Celica that he drove in high school. The Toyota Celica was recognized as Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year in 1976.

Under the hood, John has swapped in a 2JZ-GE mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox from a 2004 Lexus IS300. It’s an incredibly clean swap, and truly looks as if the engine came that way from the factory. However, getting it all to work was anything but easy.

A page of build photos shows how John had to make some serious modifications to the crossmember and to the oil pan in order for everything to fit. The car borrows parts from the Toyota family, including the rear axle from a 1981 Supra and the steering box from a Corolla. Heavy modifications were also done to the car’s suspension in order to accommodate larger wheels and brakes.

Rounding out the build is a wood and brown leather custom interior with all of the ambiance and warmth of a 1970s smoking lounge. It looks wonderfully comfortable, and is a welcome change from the typical Sparco seats and MOMO steering wheels that adorn most import builds.

The combination of a classic car with modern performance and reliability is truly a win-win situation. We wish John many happy miles with his awesome car and hope to see it at more shows and events in the future!

The Last Ford Galaxie

last-galaxie-sideIn October of 2015, I was on a road trip to New Mexico that took me though the old Route 66 town of Holbrook, Arizona. Holbrook is famous as the home of the Wigwam Motel, which has been featured in numerous movies for its teepee-shaped rooms.

The Wigwam plays up to tourists with a bunch of old cars parked on the property, ranging from 1940s to 1970s vehicles. Skipping past the Studebaker and the Oldsmobile, I went right for the malaise-era 1970s Ford Galaxie.

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Lexus ES250 – The Forgotten Lexus

In the 1980s, Toyota undertook a massive project to develop a luxury car that would compete with the best of the European brands. The company spent years and over $1 billion dollars developing the LS400: the vehicle that became the flagship for the new brand called Lexus.

As the LS400 was being prepped for its 1990 release, Toyota felt that launching an all-new company with just one model was a bit silly. They needed a second car – a smaller model to balance out the product offering – and they needed it quickly.

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1982 Mercury Cougar GS Wagon

Somehow I’ve stumbled across another one year only wagon, this is the 1982 Mercury Cougar wagon.  It’s the sister car to the 1982 Granada wagon that I found a while back.  I spotted this guy down near the Mexican border and the Granada out in California, I’ve never seen one around Phoenix.  There’s always something special about seeing an older boring car out on the road for normal use.

1974 Buick LeSabre 4-Door Sedan

No, it’s not broken down or trying to summon help. The hood is raised on this 1974 Buick LeSabre sedan because it’s actually participating in a car show. Yes, really.

I spotted this land yacht at a local cruise-in in Glendale, Arizona. The car’s enormous size piqued my curiosity and drew me in for a closer look.

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1937 Citroen Traction Avant: J’arrive!

France is famous for a lot of things: fine wine, exquisite art, and cities of great culture and history like Paris, Marseille, and Bordeaux. But when it comes to cars, Italy is definitely the European country in the spotlight.

Still, that doesn’t mean French cars aren’t worth a look. This 1937 Citroen Traction Avant was a highly advanced car for its day, and has more in common with a modern car than you might think. Continue reading

1966 Mercury Monterey Sedan: Ford’s Middle Child

Back in the 1900s, an Austrian psychotherapist by the name of Alfred Adler came up with an interesting idea. Adler believe that one’s birth order was a major influence on the personality of a person.

For example, Adler believed that in a family with three children, the oldest and youngest children received the most attention from the parents with the middle child often being “forgotten.” Although Adler didn’t have any scientific research to support his theory, the idea of birth order is still well-known today.

So what does all this have to do with cars? Well for a long time, the Ford Motor Company was a family of 3 brands: Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury. Ford was the original and the oldest brand with the largest offering of cars, including entry-level vehicles. Lincoln was positioned as the luxury brand, maker of the finest vehicles that Ford had to offer. Then there was Mercury, the brand caught in the middle. Continue reading