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72 Toyota Hilux 5.3 swap

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Hello Ratsun 

Last december I picked up a 72 toyota hilux. The truck was running and driving very well. Supposedly the guy I bought it from was just flipping it and he had bought it from the original owner! 

Pretty rare to be just the 2nd owner of an almost 50 year old truck. I was pretty jazzed about that. 

Overall a very clean and decently taking care of truck. Just like any old car or truck there are some rust issues but I consider them to be pretty minor. 

After falling in love with it and driving it for about 5 miles once I got it home I knew the motor was coming out. Way to slow for my taste. 

Of course the question then is "what motor should I use?"

After much research and a bit of courage I sprung for the 5.3 ls swap that is all the rage these days. Pretty cheap price for junkyard motor and transmissions. Huge aftermarket. Plenty of power with room to upgrade. 

I have been working on it a bit since I bought and look forward to posting the pics and info of my work. Hope some of you take interest in this crazy project of mine. 


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22 minutes ago, datzenmike said:

Maybe make the truck fit the engine first? Newer larger disc brakes, springs suspension and steering, stronger differential and axle. Rather than a missile that can't turn or stop.

haha def the right suggestion considering the age and lack of performance of the truck. 

My plan is to do a 4 wheel disc brake conversion and a better steering system. I have a rear diff thats spooled up already and will be bolting that in.

The tires are so thin Ill blow them off before braking the rearend. If it does pop then Ill just cut down a ford 9 or 8.8 to fit. 

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15 minutes ago, ]2eDeYe said:

Have fun 😄


Image result for vague industries

This truck is the only other hilux I could find with the 5.3

I already know the motor can fit much better than what was done on this...thing. not going this direction at all. 

Im hoping to keep it a sleeper. fun cruiser and something to eat rear tires!

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First things first on the truck was to pop off the camper that the original owner had installed when the truck was new. 

Looks way better without it. 

Vintage Japanese cars and trucks have some of the best bodylines. Even these square bodied trucks haha fullsizeoutput-1c5.jpg

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I did some calling around to wrecking yards and found a motor and trans that was still currently in a truck and running! Went to take a look at it and it seemed to be just fine.

about 180k on the clock and the shifting of the transmission felt good as well. 3 days later I picked it up. It looked daunting at first but my tape measure told a different story. IMG-0434.jpg

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I got the motor on its stand and started to go to work disassembling it. 

My plan is to keep it mostly stock with some minor upgrades. Nothing to crazy. Its already probably over the top power wise so no need to spend extra money for more.

Motor plans and upgrades...

- A less bulky serpentine system will be bought or fabbed. 

- A ls6 intake for hood clearance 

- Upgraded valve springs

- Bigger cam (cheapest power upgraded for almost any LS engine)

- The oil pan will have to be replaced with an aftermarket for clearance reasons.

- Reworked or new wiring loom

- Headers???



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Once I got the motor torn down to pretty much the long block I proceeded to clean like crazy. 20ish plus years of road grime dirty and oil came off relatively easy. 

First thing I did was order a cam, valve springs, and oil pan. 

I did most of my test fitting with a tape measure so I had a ball park idea of what oil pan I needed. 

I made a homemade valve spring compressor and got busy installing everything. 


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Finally some updates. The summer time is always ate up with work so hoping to get more done once fall and winter show up. 

The fitment of both the transmission and engine went very well the first time I placed it. The tunnel was slightly snug around the trans but a little heat and a mallet took care of that.

Once it was in there it was all about motor and trans mounts. 


I played around with a few motor mount ideas and I even had the thought of using the mounts off the old motor because of the simplicity of the mount. 

In the end it simply wasn't a good route. So I ordered some ls mounts off eBay 


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I wanted the motor as low as it can possibly go. The aftermarket oil pan helped with that but after pulling some measurements I realized that it needed just a bit more. 

So with the trusty death wheel I went to town recessing the center section of the cross member.






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After measuring for center, driveline angle, motor angle etc

Got it all welded in place. Next was the trans mount. 



Recessing the nuts into the frame was a challenge for sure but it came out pretty decent.


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I've found i have a much easier time welding in trap nuts by using a flanged nut and drilling the hole with a uni-bit.  It's really easy with the uni-bit to drill the hole the right size then drill a recess for the flange to set in.


Cool project.  I'm enjoying the work.

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