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maschinenbau PowerDork
6/19/24 3:53 p.m.

This is no ordinary Camry. This is the rare, 3 year only, Camry Coupe. Nope, it's not a Solara, which always had a different bodystyle. It is literally a Camry with only 2 doors. It came out in 1994 and was dropped in 1996 until the Solara replaced it in 1999. They did not sell well.

I've been searching for the right one for quite some time. Why? I just love them. Slightly unique, very 90's, top-notch Toyota build quality, understated (read: boring) styling, but muscular in a subtle way. Ever since I first drove the donor car for the 2GR-powered Lotus Europa, I thought a Camry Coupe would be a great home for one of those engines.

Yes that's a right, I want to build a Camry Coupe 2GR-FE V6 restomod. I think it would be a great daily-driver, and maybe even a Challenge car in the near-term. I'm also looking forward to a simpler build, after doing some crazy fabrication-intensive custom cars. And there is no simpler car with greater parts availability than a 90's Camry. 

It is surprisingly hard to find a 30 year old Camry Coupe that isn't completely beat up or rusted into the ground, even here in the South. They hardly made any, and they just don't die, although this one was trying to. It had vacuum leaks and was way down on power, but it drove home with cold A/C and a clean title. We both used our phones to translate what to say for the deal, and it went well. La grieta en la ventana was worth $100 off the asking price. 

Though the paint is rough, the body is very straight and rust-free. 

This car has 351,000 miles and counting.

The interior was important to me, and it's in great shape with no cracks on the dashboard or major plastics, no sags in the headliner, and no tears in the seats.

I had also narrowed my search down a manual-transmission model only, so I could re-use the shifter and pedals from the interior. In those days, you could only get a manual Camry with the 4 cylinder, which is the venerable 5S-FE 2.2L. 

Picking a manual was also important because it's a S51 5-speed transmission. A close relative of the S54 from the MR2, it also shares most of the bellhousing pattern with the E153. Which means any Toyota V6 could bolt up to this transmission, including the 2GR-FE. And it has been done before. Some folks even prefer the ratios of this trans, though it's not quite as durable as the hefty E153. This also means I can keep the axles and hubs, making the engine swap simpler and cheaper. 

So I found a decent donor car, but my garage and life are both full at the moment. I figured I will daily-drive this one while selling some other cars and building my shop, maybe fix up the chassis and suspension as I go. 

03Panther PowerDork
6/19/24 4:02 p.m.

That's a great score! Did not know they existed but much better looking than it's 4 dr appliance sibling, or the soleara. 

Mndsm MegaDork
6/19/24 4:04 p.m.

Two things come to mind. 


1- I'd never thought I'd hear of a restomod camry. 


2- They were still using S-motors back then? Theoretically a 3sgte......

maschinenbau PowerDork
6/19/24 4:06 p.m.

Well, it's not quite a daily driver yet. Though it made the drive home, it was definitely struggling. There's a massive exhuast leak under the engine. 

A bunch of vacuum lines were broken or disconnected. I fixed a lot of that, but it was still running rough, especially at idle. A compression check revealed that cylinder #4 had left the chat.

Even though I plan to engine swap eventually, I would still like to drive this car in the near term. I figured the lack of compression was not from something catastrophic like piston or rod damage, because it had good oil pressure and otherwise sounded fine. So next I checked valve lash. And sure enough, cylinder #4 had zero lash on both exhausts. In fact, all the exhausts were way too tight on lash. Hopefully this meant the exhaust valve were so beat into the head that they were no longer closing, and therefore leaking enough compression to stop combustion. A good theory given the incredible amount of miles on this engine. My fear was one or both valve were burnt.

Now, what you are about to see here may disturb you, so if you like building engines in a very clean and particular way, you may want to skip past.

The 5S-FE uses shim-over-bucket solid lifters. To get back to spec lash, I needed a shim at least 11 to 15 thou shorter. I did not want to wait on ordering and guessing shim heights. So first I tried rubbing the backsides (not the cam side) on some sandpaper stuck to a flat surface. 

Turns out this metal is incredibly hard. So I busted out the angle grinder...

And smoothed them down on the sandpaper after each pass, until I had shaved about 12 thou off both shims.

Then I slapped the exhaust cam back in and checked lash. Not much, but some! About 2 thou on one valve and 5 on the other. Checked compression and we're up past 80 psi now! So I tossed the valve cover back on, hooked up the spark plug wires, and...it worked! Cylinder 4 is revived!

So maybe it will be my daily after all. 

hobiercr UberDork
6/19/24 4:17 p.m.

Cool car and cool build. I'm interested to see how 350k mile seats clean up after a good pressure washing. I know you're not keeping the 5SFE, but I've got a bunch of leftover 5SFE stuff from our Lemons Celica if you need it.

GoLucky Reader
6/19/24 4:52 p.m.

In reply to maschinenbau :

That is not disturbing to me. The use of a flap wheel for engine machining is awesome! 

03Panther PowerDork
6/19/24 4:57 p.m.

In reply to Mndsm :

1. Agreed!

2. You guys know all these engine numbers WAY better than my. I'm good with some of the oddball stuff Ford did back in my formative years, but the different in a 390, and a 391, is tons easier than semi-random strings of numbers and letters!

03Panther PowerDork
6/19/24 5:01 p.m.

Back in 1980, seen a machinist friend sit with a file and a micrometer reshape a  cam for a hit and miss engine. Took him all day, but we fired it off that evening.  "The machine does not make the machinist, the machinist makes the machine!"


Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
6/19/24 5:04 p.m.

Im subscribing to your newsletter. 


Ive only ever seen one other camry coupe. One. You have found a unicorn.


Let me know if i can do anything to enable you!

Mndsm MegaDork
6/19/24 5:58 p.m.
03Panther said:

In reply to Mndsm :

1. Agreed!

2. You guys know all these engine numbers WAY better than my. I'm good with some of the oddball stuff Ford did back in my formative years, but the different in a 390, and a 391, is tons easier than semi-random strings of numbers and letters!

90s toyotas..... you can do weird stuff if you know how to play japanese legos. 

APEowner UltraDork
6/19/24 6:10 p.m.

I want to haughtily deride everything about this but I can't.  I love everything about it.  The car, the long-term plan, the short-term plan and the flap disc valve adjustment.  It's all awesome.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/19/24 6:46 p.m.

This rules. All of it. 

nlzmo400r New Reader
6/19/24 6:51 p.m.

You know you're going to die owning this thing right? They just refuse to go into the night those damn things. It's so funny that this car is so cheap and unloved but a RWD version (Soarer is basically RWD camry right?) would be like $20k.

rallyxPOS13 Reader
6/19/24 7:01 p.m.

In reply to nlzmo400r :

LOL, the early S14 and Camry Coupe were separated at birth;

Mndsm MegaDork
6/19/24 9:04 p.m.
nlzmo400r said:

You know you're going to die owning this thing right? They just refuse to go into the night those damn things. It's so funny that this car is so cheap and unloved but a RWD version (Soarer is basically RWD camry right?) would be like $20k.

The running joke is that Toyota recently issued a recall for all 1993 Camrys and Corollas- because the owners should really buy something new. 


We generally refuse. (I don't currently own a corolla of that era. but I've had 4. ) 

Lof8 - Andy
Lof8 - Andy UltraDork
6/19/24 9:27 p.m.

This is awesome!

Old_Town Reader
6/19/24 10:29 p.m.

No Camry Dent on the bumper? Just kidding, awesome find!

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon UberDork
6/19/24 10:39 p.m.

Fantastic. Love the flap disc action.

2-door Camry is definitely a unicorn, pretty cool!

barefootcyborg5000 UltimaDork
6/19/24 10:46 p.m.










wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L)
wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) PowerDork
6/20/24 4:15 p.m.

You Madman! This is excellent.

I also like the Camry wagons of the era. All-Trac manual with Celica turbo drivetrain, anyone?

or better yet,

JFW75 New Reader
6/20/24 4:36 p.m.

I still shudder about the Celica All-trac turbo's that entered our shop. Never seen so many techs quit rather than work on a car. Just heat rotted rubber and plastic under the hoods mostly. You'd touch one thing and 5 others would crumble.

camopaint0707 HalfDork
6/20/24 4:53 p.m.

good god this is a beautiful unicorn of a car.  I would love to see a modern toyota v6 dropped into it.

maschinenbau PowerDork
6/20/24 5:29 p.m.

Thanks for the encouragement everyone. I knew this place would appreciate this idea. The wagons are equally rare and cool in my book, but I just really wanted the coupe. Theoretically a 2GR would bolt up to a All-Trac transmission...

I forgot some other cool stuff. This car came with the owner's manual, window sticker, and some strange carrying case in the glovebox.

When's the last time you had to carry your head unit faceplate with you? The carrying case even has Kenwood branding on it. I'm too young to remember these, but it's rad as hell.

barefootcyborg5000 UltimaDork
6/20/24 6:29 p.m.

I don't think I've ever seen a tape deck with a removable faceplate. Very cool. 

RandolphCarter Reader
6/20/24 8:11 p.m.

Today I learned 2 door Camrys existed.


I also didn't realize a mid 90s Camry came in a color other than white or grandpa beige.


Carry on!



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