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3SGE Beams conversion guide

An increasingly common conversion is to fit a 3SGE Beams engine into a Corolla or Sprinter. While they do take more effort than putting in something such as a 4age 20V, there are some significant advantages in doing so. Covered here is a collection of information for those considering and undertaking the conversion.

Note: This page is for the Gen 5 / Blacktop variant of the Beams engine, the Redtop Beams engines were not released in a rear wheel drive format.

Corrections and contributions of information / pictures are welcome, please e-mail if you see something wrong or have anything that could be of use.


Beams Vs Honda F20C

The Beams and the F20C are respectively Toyota’s and Honda’s offering of a high power, non turbo 2L engine, both have been used many times in conversions. However due to how their VVT systems differ, the way they produce their power is quite different. While the F20C engines produce a much higher peak power figure in their original form the real world performance difference between these two isn’t so clear cut. Below is guide on the rough differences between these engines, however what’s shown here is overly simplified and there are many things that are not covered such as the greater difficulty in the Honda conversion, gearbox options, price differences, possible race category restrictions, ease of raising the overall power in the Beams engine and so on.

Honda F20C: Using “VTEC” these engines switch between two different cam lobes pending on the revs being used at the time. This allows for a high peak power figure but until the engine is revved high enough to engage the second set of cam lobes it will be lacking. This means it will be slower from a standstill and would need to be kept in the high end of the rev range. Suggested for those looking for a power rush in the high end (VTEC yo!) and / or those who can keep the engines in the high revs such as on a race track.

3SGE Beams: Unlike the Honda the Beams engines only have one set of cam lobes per cam. However to compensate they have constantly variable VVT pulleys for both the intake and exhaust cams. These vary the angle of the cams to suit for whichever revs they are being run at. The resulting effect is linear and strong production of power right across the rev range. This makes for something that is very easy to drive and very predictable. Therefore they are really well suited for daily use and other environments where a wide spread of power is advantageous, such as drifting and high climbs.


Engine / gearbox mounting

Mounts: KE conversions offer engine and gearbox mounts to suit models such as the AE86, however these do hold the engines on their original tilt – see “engine angle” below.

Engine angle: When originally fitted in an Altezza the Beams engines have a tilt towards the exhaust side of the engine of between 3.5 and 5 degrees. Logic would normally suggest to mount this the exact same way in a conversion however this isn’t necessarily the right choice. If the engine is being fitted into something such an AE86 and will see a quad throttle conversion then it’s quite likely that the bonnet / hood will limit the length of velocity stacks being run and as a result limit the power. Therefore as a rough guide if there are quad throttles then mount the engine upright. Also an upright engine will likely also be able to mounted higher up before the top plastic engine cover fouls on the inside of the bonnet.

Forward / aft position: In an AE86 the engine can’t be moved forward much before the front most part of the sump / oil pressure system fouls against the anti-roll bar. A custom bar can be made to suit that is held further forward, otherwise the engine needs to be mounted behind it. Moving the engine rearward can cause other clearance issues off the firewall / bulkhead. We offer a replacement rear housing that is significantly thinner than the original to assist with space in this critical area and to better optimise water connection for the heater lines.


Gearbox options

NOTE: We have a dedicated article related to conversion and upgrade information on the J160, it can be found here.


Factory options: Originally behind a Beams engine is either an Automatic or a 6-speed manual gearbox. The latter is known by Toyota as a “J160”. Leaving this in use is the most common choice during a conversions. More information on fitting one of these is further down this page.

W5x / “Supra” type gearboxes: The gearbox models from W55 up to W59 (not W50) can all potentially be used with a 3sge engine. These are reported to be a little stronger than a J160, are much easier to physically fit, come with an AE86 compatible speedo drive and are available with a wide range of shifter positions. But their downsides are that they have an older design, need custom work to use, are only 5-speed and many of them are showing their age such as being worn out or damaged.

Although an S-series to W5x bellhousing (SA63 Celica) will let the gearbox bolt up, it puts the starter motor right into the path of the oil drain from the head, therefore it’s not at all suggested. The other option is a Y-series bellhousing (3Y/4Y engines) as Y and S series engines have a very similar bolt pattern. These do require some extra work to use but do hold the starter motor on the exhaust side. Note: An individual will need to research the steps involved in doing this option as it does have different requirements.


Fuel system

Beams engines normally run a “Returnless” fuel system, to find out what this is see the article here. This has only a single fuel line from the pump / tank and the engine, the fuel pump has internal regulation of the fuel pressure. Conveniently the OEM Beams fuel rail has 3 ports that can have fittings added or removed which gives options without any requirement of welding. We have seen three different ways to make the fuel system work in a conversion which are covered below.


Return type: A conventional system using a fuel supply from the rear of the car to the front and a return line back. To use this method fuel is bled off an end of the fuel rail which goes to a fuel pressure regulator from which the excess fuel is returned back. A regulator is either directly fitted to the rail or in the engine bay.

Returnless option #1: To use the same Returnless method as original the matching Altezza fuel pump needs to be used. The car that is having the conversion done would need to have the fuel tank pickup modified to hold the Altezza pump inside. This has been reported to be problematic. Also it doesn’t allow for a surge tank, so if the cars fuel tank wasn’t originally intended for fuel injection initially then it’s likely to cause fuel surge issues.

Returnless option #2: This one is somewhat of a hybrid between the above systems, it uses the cheap and common fixed rate pump(s) and is compatible with a surge tank. The key difference is that a fuel pressure regulator is used at the rear of the vehicle next to the fuel tank. Using a T-piece fitting between the fuel pump output and the start of the hard line under the car some of the fuel is bled off and run through the regulator to return it back to the tank. This means that universal parts can be used but it still only requires a single feed line going to the engine. Also what originally was the cars return line can instead be conveyed to act as a second fuel supply line, this increases the total amount of fuel that can potentially be supplied and could avoid the need for a new larger line to be run.

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