This is done either because of failure, or to install a different engine, usually one that is more modern and so more efficient, this may make it more powerful and or economical. Older engines may have a shortage of spare parts and so a modern replacement may be more easily and cheaply maintained. Swapping to a diesel engine for improved fuel economy is a long established practice, with modern high efficiency and torque diesel engines this does not necessarily mean a reduction in performance associated with older diesel engine swaps. For the particular application of off-road vehicles the high torque at low speed of turbo diesels combined with good fuel economy makes these conversions particularly effective. Older non-electronic fuel injection diesels were well known for their reliability especially in wet conditions.
An engine swap can either be to another engine intended to work in the car by the manufacturer, or one totally different. The former is much simpler than the latter. Fitting an engine into a car that was never intended to accept it may require much work – modifying the car to fit the engine, modifying the engine to fit the car, and building custom engine mounts and transmission bellhousing adaptors to interface them along with a custom built driveshaft. Some small businesses build conversion kits for engine swaps, such as the Fiat Twin cam into a Morris Minor or similar.
Swapping the engine may have implications on the cars safety, performance, handling and reliability. The new engine may be lighter or heavier than the existing one which affects the amount of weight over the nearest axle and the overall weight of the car - this can adversely affect the car's ride, handling and braking ability. Existing brakes, transmission and suspension components may be inadequate to handle the increased weight and/or power of the new engine with either upgrades being required or premature wear and failure being likely.
Insurance companies may charge more or even refuse to insure a vehicle that has been fitted with a different engine to its initial configuration.
A common anecdote among tuners in the United States is that the easiest way to make a car faster is to drop in a General Motors small block engine as used in the Corvette. The Chevrolet Vega (and its Astre, Monza, and Skyhawk sisters) is a candidate for a small block swap; some have also seen big blocks, also. Chevrolet engines have been used in such cars as Toyota Supras, BMWs, RX-7s, Mazda Miatas, Jaguar sedans, Datsun 240s, 260s, and 280Zs, Corvairs, and others.
In the Honda world, engine swaps include the Civic Si (B16A), The Civic Type R (B16B), Integra GSR(B18C), and the Integra Type R (B18C5) engines. Swapping them into a lightweight 88-00 Honda Civic chassis can achieve greater performance.
Chrysler made many turbocharged vehicles in the 1980s, and these engines share much in common with the naturally aspirated ones. It is quite common to obtain an engine from a vehicle such as a Dodge Daytona and swap it into a Dodge Aries. The Mopar Performance arm even offered a kit to upgrade the Dodge Daytona to rear wheel drive with a Mopar V8.
Engine swaps are also somewhat common within the Volkswagen tuning scene, often placing Type 2 (Bus), Type 3, and Type 4 (Squareback) engines in the Type 1 (Beetle). Water-cooled engines, such as the GTI 16-valve four, VR6, or 1.8 T are commonly swapped into the Mark II GTI, Jetta, and Corrado. Less common is the swap into a Mark 1 Golf or Cabriolet, giving an amazing power-to-weight ratio, even with minimally modified powerplants. Porsche engines are also very popular one of the most popular is to take the engine from a Porsche 911 super 1600.
In jurisdictions such as California, with strict, arbitrary smog rules, it may not be possible to register a late-model vehicle with an engine swap, even if it can be proven to produce less pollution than the original engine (owing to "visual inspection" rules).
In the Super GT racing series, engine swaps can be considered a way of life for the upper tier GT500 cars, most of which are provided with specially modified racing engines from the manufacturers. GT500 class rules themselves allow for any engine to be swapped into a car as long as it is from the same manufacturer. Notable examples include Toyota swapping in highly tuned 4-cylinder engines originally from the Toyota Celica into their Toyota Supra GT500 race cars.
British sports cars (such as MGs and Triumphs) from the late 1960s and early 1970s were attractive light-weight cars that had excellent suspensions, but were known for troublesome electrical systems, barely adequate power levels and unreliability. It is popular to take one of these classic sports cars and add a more powerful engine. The all-aluminum 215 cu in (3,520 cc) Buick and Oldsmobile V8 engines are a traditional choice for these cars. Swapping an MGB all-iron 1.8L 4-cylinder engine and 4-speed transmission for a Buick 215 V8 and a modern 5-speed transmission actually improves both cornering and acceleration because it reduces the overall weight of the car by about 40 lb (18 kg). Power is approximately doubled; torque increases even more. Derivatives of that classic General Motors engine, the 3.5L, 3.9L, and 4.2L Rover V8s are also frequently used. (The original Buick and Oldsmobile, the Rover, and the related Morgan-licensed V8, are bolt-ins.) Although more recent narrow sixty-degree Ford and GM V6 engines are more compact, they usually don't equal the Rover engine's power-to-weight ratio. They can, however, be very cost effective and an easier fit, notably the Chevrolet 3.4L. The cast iron block Ford 302 (5.0L) V8 in particular results in spectacular power-to-weight ratios for straight-line acceleration. With aluminum heads, intake, and water pump fitted, the Ford 302 only adds about 40 lb (18 kg) to the front of an MGB, and is substantially more powerful and lighter weight than an MGC or TR6 iron-block six-cylinder. An aluminum 302 performance block is available that weighs 60 lb (27 kg) less than the common iron version, as is displacements of 331 and 347 ci, but they are significantly more expensive. The Nissan SR20DET is an all-aluminum fuel-injected DOHC turbocharged 4-cylinder. This compact engine, along with the very compact, light, and powerful Mazda 13B rotary engine, have both been transplanted into too many different cars to list.
Common engine swaps
Note: These are the most common examples and are not an exhaustive list, just a representative cross section.
|Chevrolet small-block engine||Hot Rods, Chevrolet Vega, Nissan S30 Pontiac Fiero, S-10, Large sports cars such as the Austin-Healey, kit cars, light aircraft (later engines from the LS1 onward), Jaguar XJS and Jaguar XJ6, Suzuki Sidekick/Vitara||The most commonly swapped engine ever. Can fit in almost any vehicle with minor modifications.|
|Ford Windsor engine||Commonly swapped into Hot Rods, Ford Mustangs, Ford Ranger and other pony cars, kit cars||Can also use the Cleveland as well|
|Ford Modular engine||Commonly swapped into Hot Rods, Ford Mustangs and other pony cars, kit cars||Quite a wide engine, being about the same width as the Ford FE engine|
|Mitsubishi 4G63 engine||This 2.0L DOHC is commonly swapped into Mitsubishi Lancer early 5G, Eagle Summit 4G, Dodge Colt 3G and 4G, kit cars.
Fitted to many Mitsubishi variants, including the Eagle Talon 1G and 2G with the DOHC turbo model. A very strong engine developing ~200 hp in factory turbo form, and 300+ hp with relatively minor modifications (bigger turbo, intercooler, exhaust and improved engine management computer). Some drag racing builds have been claimed to develop 700-1000 hp. Installation into 4G and early 5G Lancer variants is relatively straightforward and can use mostly standard Mitsubishi parts, as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution models used the essentially same engine. Later 5G Lancer models have the 2.0L 4G93 engine and simplified transmission that result in the intake and exhaust manifolds being on opposite sides compared to the 4G63.
The early '90s six bolt engines are the most desirable because the connecting rods are much stronger and they do not suffer from crank walk and bearing failure seen in many of the later (mid '90s) seven bolt engines.
|Subaru EJ engine||VW Type 1, VW Type 2, VW Type 3 Light aircraft, kit cars, dune buggies, Trikes.||Adaptors available off the shelf. Note this is not applicable to automatic models which, at the time of writing, cannot be converted using an off the shelf adaptor.|
|Fiat twin cam engine||Morris Minor (until the 1990s), Hot Rods, kit cars.||Now supplanted by the lighter Rover K series in Morris Minors|
|Rover V8||Hot Rods, kit cars, British Sports cars, light aircraft||Weighs less than most four-cylinder engines. Typically mated to a T5 gearbox as used in Ford Cosworth RWD cars – this requires the correct bellhousing similar to TVR's. These are usually available off the shelf. BL's LT77 (as used in the Sherpa van and Rover SD1) may also be used but wear can be a problem in units covering anything well over 70,000 miles. Later LDV Pilot vans used a two-wheel-drive version of the stronger Land-Rover R380 gearbox that was developed from the LT77.|
|Land Rover 200TDI||Land Rover Series||Used in turbocharged form with or without inter-cooler. On older Land Rovers sometimes without the turbocharger. Mechanical Bosch VE pump, direct injection.|
|Rover MDI / Perkins Prima||Land Rover Series||Used in turbocharged form on older Land Rovers. Donor vehicles had no inter-coolers. Mechanical Bosch VE pump, direct injection.|
|Rover K-series engine||Hot Rods based on the Morris Minor, Sprite, MG Midget, Caterham 7's and other kit cars, Austin Mini (1959–2001)||Needs Ford Type 9 transmission for rear wheel drive conversions. It weighs less than Austin A-series engine|
|Honda B engine||Honda Civic, Austin Mini (1959–2001), mid engined kit cars||Not suitable for inline RWD layouts, because engine turns counter clockwise (Chevy Corvair flat six turns the same way), though it could be placed in a mid engined sports car.|
|Honda H engine||Honda Accord, (1990–2001), import tuner car, Austin Mini, mid engined kit cars||With original equipment F series motors capable of 130–150 HP, SOHC, some models with VTEC and lower rod ratios, the swap to a more potent H-Series motor (H22, or H23) with DOHC, VTEC, high revving friendly rod ratios, and 200+ HP is desirable. 1990–97 Accord engine swaps are straightforward drop-ins with minor modifications required for the wire harness, whereas the 1998–2002 Accords require swapping the driver side mounts to fit.|
|Honda F20C engine||Hot rods, kit cars||Becoming popular because it is designed for RWD applications.|
|Ford Zetec||Hot Rods including most older Fords, such as the Ford Cortina, Ford Escort, Ford Anglia and also Kit cars||Needs Ford type 9 transmission in RWD layout, which bolts straight up.|
|Porsche flat 6 engine||VW type 1, VW Type 2, VW Type 3, light aircraft, trikes||Needs sheet metal in engine bay removed and can be tail heavy.|
|Ford Cologne engine||Hot Rods, Saab 96, kit cars, other RWD Fords.||Makes Saab nose heavy and requires to move the radiator either to the side or to the rear. There is also a Cosworth designed 24-Valve version, but the Colonge is available in displacements of up to 4 litres.|
|GM Duramax Diesel||Pick ups, Rolls Royce Saloons (Often done for torque and economy)||Can use TH-400 automatic transmission|
|Suzuki G engine||MG Midget, Sprite, Austin Mini, Morris Minor, light aircraft||Needs Suzuki Swift transaxle in the Austin Mini, but bolts up to Suzuki truck/jeep five-speed for RWD cars (Transfer box is separate).|
|Mazda Wankel engine||VW Type 1, VW Type 3, MG Midget, Sprite, light aircraft, Lotus 7 style kit cars, hot rods, Morris Minor||Very light and compact, suiting a wide number of small RWD cars.|
|Chevrolet Corvair engine||VW Type 1, VW Type 2, Karmann Ghia, light aircraft, dune buggies||Not suitable for front engined RWD layouts, because engine turns counter clockwise, like Honda.|
|Saab H engine||Saab 99, BMW||16v turbo engines are easily tunable and highly available. May also fit in Triumph Herald and Triumph Dolomite, which as it is derived from the Triumph Slant-4 engine and it could bolt up to the Triumph 5-speed.|
|Opel C20XE||Austin Mini, hot rods, Lotus 7 style kit cars.||May be too powerful. Can also be fitted in RWD layouts with an Opel Manta/Vauxhall Omega or Ford Type 9 5 speed transmission.|
|Toyota JZ engine||Celica Supra||The xA61 version of the Supra have off the shelf adaptors for this car to swap out the 5M engine, and fit 1/2JZ engine. (With the off shelf adapters the swap bolts in)|
|Cadillac Northstar||hot rods, kit cars, sand rails, dune buggies, light aircraft, Pontiac Fiero and other GM late models.||Bellhousing is slightly different than for other GM metric engines.|
|Cummins B series||Jeeps, rock crawlers, Dodge pickups, Ford pickups, Chevy pickups, Toyota pickups, off-road vehicles, and a wide variety of truck pulling vehicles||4Bts are popular due to the size and weight of the 4cyl vs the larger 6cyl. Using a stock GM transmission adapter plate for a 4Bt will yield a tilt to the engine while Ford and Dodge adapter plates will not. There are a wide variety of various adapter plates for the B series due to its wide use in agriculture and on road vehicles. Normally used for its reliability, low-end torque, and fuel economy.|
|General Motors GM 3800 engine series||Jeeps, Chevrolet S10s, Pontiac Grand Am, hot rods, kit cars.||The 3800 engine was offered in different configurations ranging from 165 hp (123 kW) in the Pre-Series I to 260 hp (190 kW) in supercharged Series III engines. Compression ratio was typically 9.4:1 in naturally aspirated versions and 8.5:1 in the L67 supercharged version. Conversions are popular due to a large supply—in GM midsize cars and minivans from the late 1980s through mid-2000s. Even though it is a 90° V6, the engine shares the GM 60° V6 bell housing bolt pattern and swaps between FWD and RWD transaxles and transmissions are straightforward. Can be adapted to more traditional Front engine, RWD set ups and is a cousin of the Rover V8.|
|Ford Pinto engine & Cosworth||Hot rods, kit cars, VW type 1||A common swap for many small Fords, with the Cosworth version being capable being tuned of 500BHP. This is being replaced by the Zetec, Duratec and Ecoboost engines.|
|Toyota 4A series||MR2s, Corollas, kit cars, Morris Minor.||4A engine was offered in different configurations ranging from 90 hp (67 kW) to 170 hp (130 kW). The high performance variations included either a 5 valves per cylinder configuration or an intake coupled with a roots-type supercharger. Conversions are popular due to a vast aftermarket and many compatible parts between engine versions. Some conversions are very easy, for instance the supercharged 4A-GZE engine and electronic fuel injection (EFI) system are a direct plug-and-play conversion into a non-SC AW11 MR2. Even the SC-type wiring harness plugs directly into the non-SC-type chassis harness of the non-SC AW11 MR2. The non-SC flywheel, clutch, a C56-type transaxle, and axles can be directly fitted to the SC engine with no modifications making the conversion popular. Also FWD variants are able to be converted to RWD congiguration and is a swap for Morris Minor coupled to a Toyota 5 speed T50 gearbox.|
|Toyota 3RZ-FE||Hiluxs, 4Runners, and other Toyota rock crawlers.||The 4-cylinder 2.7-liter 3RZ-FE engine came as standard equipment in 1994 - 2004 Toyota trucks. This engine develops 150 hp (110 kW) and 177 ft-lbs torque. Older Toyota Hilux pickups were equipped with 4-cylinder engines ranging from 90 hp (67 kW) and 122 ft-lbs torque (1979-80 Carbureted versions) to 135 hp (101 kW) and 173 ft-lbs torque (rare 1986-87 Turbocharged versions). These older engines, like other engines of their time, had relatively low compression ratios ranging from 7.5:1 to 9:1, and when used in a daily driven rock crawler, an average of 12–16 miles per gallon fuel economy is expected. The much improved 3RZ-FE engine features a 9.5:1 compression ratio and uses newer technology such as a hot wire mass airflow sensor, knock sensor, and a narrow angle dual camshaft cylinder head. The result is a more powerful engine with much improved efficiency, achieving 17–21 miles per gallon when used in a daily driven rock crawler. Additionally, the 3RZ-FE uses the same family of Toyota W-series transmissions as the fuel injected Hilux, so older Hilux W56 transmissions may be used with the new 3RZ-FE by using the W59 bellhousing. The 3RZ-FE flywheel and clutch components are fully compatible making this a great replacement engine for old Toyota Hilux engines.|
|Volkswagen Turbocharged Direct Injection||Suzuki Samurai 4x4s, Chevrolet Tracker, Suzuki Sidekick/Vitara||After-market kits make this a straightforward conversion, but it may also be possible to use the petrol engine with them too. Kit could be adapted to a small hot rod or kit car with the petrol engine.|
|Toyota UZ engine V8||Hot rods, kit cars, Toyota Hilux, Older RWD Toyota cars and trucks, Toyota Supra, light aircraft.||Commonly sourced from the Lexus.|
|General Motors 60° V6 engine||Hot rods, kit cars, MGBs, MG Midgets, other British sports cars, Chevy S-10||Can be fitted in both front & rear wheel drive applications, sharing the bellhousing pattern as the Cadillac Northstar and Buick V6. That said, transverse & inline engines use different blocks.|
|Dodge Viper V10||hot rods, pick ups, kit cars||Originally a truck engine, the aluminium one in the Viper is lighter. Displacement is the same as the Big block Cadillac, at 500 cubic inches.|
|Chrysler Hemi engine||hot rods, older Mopar vehicles, Kit cars, dragsters|
|Chrysler LA engine||hot rods, kit cars, muscle cars||Comes in V6, V8 and V10 configurations.|
|Big Block Cadillac engine||Hot rods, kit cars, pick ups, American GM Muscle cars from the 50's-70's.||The largest displacement car engine ever mass-produced, with the biggest ones being 500 cubic inches (8.2 litres). Very easy to get hold of in scrapyards and are very torquey.|
- Moreover, in the mid-1980s, hot rodders discovered the 215 could be stretched to as much as 5 l (305 cu in), using the Buick 300 crankshaft, new cylinder sleeves, and an assortment of non-Buick parts. It could also be fitted with high-compression cylinder heads from the Morgan +8. Using the 5 liter Rover block and crankshaft, a maximum displacement of 5,208 cc (317.8 cu in) is possible. Davis, Marlan. "Affordable Aluminum V8's [sic]", in Hot Rod Magazine, March 1985, pp.84-9 & 121.
- "BigMike, Company Profile". Marlin Crawler. 2008-07-29. Retrieved 2010-11-20.
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