Engine swapping is often a love or hate ordeal. Some people love engine swaps as they can result in incredible power increases or because they can create some real odd-ball cars. On the other hand, engine swaps will ruin the car’s originality. After all, there are only so many cars in the world, and every engine swap will result in one less original example of the car. Such modifications can greatly reduce the value of a vehicle.
However, there are many examples of original cars out there, and they’re usually not nearly as interesting as engine swapped cars. After all, every engine swap has a story behind it, and there’s a reason why such strange combinations are created. On top of that, there are many near-identical stock cars that all blend together. If there’s one way to make a car stand out, it’s by dropping a mismatching motor under the hood.
Of course, some engine swaps have lost their bite these days. Chevy LS V8 transplants have practically become a meme for how common they are. Even though there are many good reasons to perform an LS swap, it has simply become old-hat for those who keep an eye on the modification world. However, there are far more interesting and unusual swaps that exist. Here are 20 insane engine swaps, with a few of the most interesting LS swaps.
20 Cummins Miata
The Mazda Miata is a tiny, lightweight convertible that is very easily modified. Engine swaps are almost compulsory for those looking to heavily modify their Miata. There are even companies whose entire business model revolves around dropping big V8 motors into their customer's little roadsters. If there’s a perfect type of motor for the Miata, it would be one that’s light and revs high. In that regard, the absolute antithesis of a good Miata engine would be a Cummins diesel motor.
Even though it is only a four-cylinder, this engine adds substantial weight to the front of the Miata.
However, this car still proves to be quick and has seen use in drift events. The Cummins Miata is probably the only drift car that both smokes its tires and rolls coal at the same time.
19 Ferrari-powered GT86
V8-powered Toyota GT86-based cars are nothing new. Since the Chevy LS will fit into pretty much anything, it didn’t take long for people to start cramming them into these cars. However, that wasn’t enough for one driver. Ryan Tuerck decided to get himself a real Ferrari V8 motor out of a Ferrari F458.
Because this Ferrari motor is so much more complex than the LS, it can’t even fit under the hood.
Not that it’s a problem, as it just gives this car even more character. It took many man hours and a lot of Ferrari red paint to produce this car, but it was all worth it. It is hard to believe that there’s a perfect blend of Italian engineering and JDM styling, but it does exist.
18 Big-Block Integra
The Acura Integra was an excellent front-wheel drive tuner. It was one of the only Hondas that Americans could buy as a Type-R. While there are many ways to get a lot of power out of its VTEC motor, there is only Integra that produces more power via a big block Chevy V8. This car is far from a sleeper, as this Acura’s big block V8 is completely out on display. Even if the motor itself could fit under the Integra’s small hood, its gigantic blower wouldn’t. Of course, when this Integra was given its new motor, it was converted to rear-wheel drive, transforming it into a real drag racer. With so much power, this Integra is a one of a kind car. If there’s a tuner car that can appeal to muscle car guys, this is it.
You can’t get two cars that are more different from one another than the Toyota Prius and the Dodge Hellcat. One is a small hybrid designed to be as economical as possible, while the other is a 700-horsepower muscle car that is designed to destroy as many tires as it can. Clearly, somebody saw this difference between these two cars and decided to bring them together.
The formula was simple: take a Prius and remove everything but the shell, then insert a Hellcat motor and drag racing parts.
As if the factory 700-horsepower Hellcat motor wasn’t enough for a Prius, these guys have decided to upgrade it to produce over 1000 horsepower. It sends all that power to the ground through the huge rear slicks. With its militaristic paint job and crazy exhaust note, you won’t be fooling anyone into thinking that this is a standard Prius.
16 V10 Honda S2000
If there’s one car that probably doesn’t need extra power, it’s the Honda S2000. It has always been praised for its balance and handling. Its VTEC motor made the proper amount of horsepower for a car its size and it makes good use of its 9,000 RPM redline.
A swap with a high-strung V6 or a turbocharged motor would make the most sense in such a car.
What doesn’t make so much sense is dropping in an 8.3-liter V10 from a Dodge Viper. This engine makes nearly double the horsepower of the original four-banger and produces even more torque. With all that muscle and little weight, this car must be a handful to drive. However, this is not unlike the Shelby Cobra and other small British cars that received huge American V8s in the ‘60s.
15 LSX Dodge Challenger
The modern-day Dodge Challenger is not a car that requires an engine swap, as the model already offers a motor for every possible use. Dodge even offers it with the Demon engine, making the Challenger the quickest production car in the world. However, someone decided that they needed to make their junkyard Challenger really fast without a Hemi.
Instead of utilizing Mopar power, this Challenger has a Chevy LSX motor under the hood.
While those words may hit a Mopar guy’s gag reflex, this Challenger is something special. With a gigantic turbo hooked up to that Chevy powerplant, this car runs 8s in the quarter mile. Yes, that means that this Chevy-powered Dodge is quicker than the insane Demon. Apparently, the answer to ‘how do you make a Dodge faster’ is to use Chevy power.
14 V8 Toyota MR2
The Toyota MR2 is a unique beast. It was a cheap sports car that had its engine mounted behind the driver’s seats, hence the name. These cars became well-known for their excellent, but sometimes difficult handling characteristics. As a result, the standard four-cylinder motors were more than enough for this slippery little beast. At least, it was enough for most people. One YouTuber has chronicled his V8 MR2 build. In case you were worried that this was an LS swap, this MR2 actually received the 4.0-liter V8 out of an Audi Allroad. With an exponential increase in power and torque over the stock motor, this V8 swap may be enough to push this sports car into supercar territory. However, that doesn’t appear to be enough, as this MR2 is expected to receive a supercharger at some point in the future. Some people can never have enough.
13 Airplane-powered Bentley
While many people know Bentley for building luxury cars, the brand actually made many performance cars back in the day. Their most well-known race car may be the British racing green Blower Bentley, named after its supercharger. However, the Blower Bentley’s 4.5-liter motor still only made 240 horsepower at most. Even though that was an insane amount of power for the time, it’s simply not enough for modern-day use.
Jay Leno decided to solve this issue by having an enormous 27-liter V12 from a WWII Spitfire airplane fitted under the hood.
That’s six times more displacement than the original car had! Of course, it also produces more power, with an estimated 650 to 700 horsepower. If there ever was a person who would drive a 700-horsepower car from the 1930s, it would be Jay Leno.
12 Lamborghini Fiat 500
The Fiat 500 is a tiny city car that occasionally had a faster Abarth version. The Lamborghini Murcielago is a V12-powered supercar with doors that open vertically. Other than these two cars being Italian and having the engine mounted behind the seats, these cars have nothing in common. That still didn’t stop one man from combining them together. Yes, this Fiat 500 has a transverse-mounted Lamborghini V12 powering it. Obviously, this car has many supporting mods to make this setup work, as you can see from the picture. The most sensible part of this build is that the car retained the Lamborghini all-wheel-drive system so this lightweight could actually put its power down. Not that any safety measure will make this car feel safe to drive.
11 2JZ Volvo 240
The Volvo 240 wagon is possibly the simplest car design in the world. Its shape is made entirely out of right angles and the interior is crafted with plain materials that will last longer. As for the engine, it never produced a ton of power, even in turbocharged form. But, at least that engine would never die. For those who weren’t satisfied with their turbo brick’s performance, there is an option for more power that not many considered.
This particular Volvo wagon hides one of Toyota’s legendary 2JZ motors under the hood.
And if there’s a car that truly hides its power, it’s this car. It really looks like every other old Volvo sitting on the side of the road. While this motor doesn’t push the boundaries of the 2JZ, it’s still plenty of power for a Volvo Wagon.
10 Rotary Chevrolet Nova
Chevy V8s are undeniably the most popular choice for engine swaps. One popular application of these V8s is to replace the unreliable and difficult to maintain rotary motors found in Mazdas. However, someone decided to do the opposite of that. When this bright orange Chevy Nova gets fired up, you won’t hear the usual lumpy idle of a huge V8, but instead the chop of a Rotary 13b. Despite decreasing the number of cylinders from eight to zero, this car puts 576 horsepower to the ground, which is far more than any Nova ever produced from the factory. This is a true reversal of engine qualities for a muscle car. Instead of the motor making tons of low-end torque, it instead is a high-revving motor with comparatively little torque. The end result is a car that goes through the quarter mile in 9 seconds.
9 LS4 Saturn SL1
If there ever was a car that lacked any real appeal to car enthusiasts, it would be the Saturn SL1. These cars had bland styling and poor performance. With only four-cylinder power available, these cars just aren’t particularly fast. Somebody decided to fix that problem.
This Saturn has the 300 horsepower LS4 V8 from an Impala SS, more than tripling the power of this old car.
This powerful motor is hooked up to the Saturn’s factory five-speed transmission with an upgraded clutch; likely a necessary modification given the car’s new-found power. While this car may be considered a sleeper, given its dilapidated looks, the V8 exhaust note would probably give away this car’s secret immediately. Then again, many people would probably expect even a V8 Saturn to be slow.
8 Yamaha R1 Mini Cooper
While the original Mini Cooper had many interesting features and driving characteristics, power isn’t one of its strong suits. Even the most powerful classic Mini had still less than 70 horsepower. There have been many different approaches for improving the car’s power output, with the most popular choice being a Honda VTEC swap. However, that’s far from the only option. Instead of powering the car with another car motor, this Mini has a Yamaha R1 superbike engine fitted under the hood. While a motorcycle engine isn’t the most powerful choice, its main benefit is the rev range. This Mini has a redline of 12,500 RPM, well above anything else you can find in another car. And given how light and small this car is, it probably drives much like the superbike it stole its powerplant from.
7 V8 Reliant Robin
If the Reliant Robin is known for one thing, it’s that it only has three wheels. While the Robin isn’t as tipsy as popular culture would have you believe, it’s still not a car that inspires confidence. Reliant likely knew this and gave it appropriately underpowered engine choices. Some brave (or stupid) person decided that they needed more power in their three-wheeler. A lot more power.
With a 3.5-liter Rover V8 under the hood, this Reliant is probably terrifying to drive.
With a plastic body and simple design, Reliant Robins do not weigh much, meaning that you will want to exercise restraint with the gas pedal. A previous owner even noted that this car can spin its tires at 70 miles per hour. If you thought the Dodge Viper was a deadly car, this Robin will change your mind.
6 Hemi Messerschmitt
Chances are, if you’ve heard of Messerschmitt, you probably know the company from its WWII airplanes. However, after the war ended, there was no need for fighter planes. To stay in business, it decided to make a new micro car that resembled an airplane cockpit. The original motor was a scooter engine that sent very little power through its single rear wheel. To get a little more kick from their tiny German car, a couple of car builders from ‘50s or ‘60s decided to power their car with a 426 Hemi. This car was clearly heavily modified to accommodate the ridiculous motor, with the most obvious change being its two rear wheels. While there’s not much information on this car, it’s guaranteed to have been fast.
5 Corvair BMW Isetta
BMW once made a tiny car called the Isetta. It was practical and had its only door mounted on the front of the car. It was so small, that it didn’t even have a trunk. You’d just have to load all of your luggage onto the rack on the back of the car. Of course, it only had a couple horsepower to move around, so it was no hot rod.
To get more power out of an Isetta, someone decided to replace the single cylinder motor with the flat-six engine from a Chevrolet Corvair.
While that motor only produced 150 horsepower, it was still exponentially more than the standard Isetta powerplant. Apparently, this car has a penchant for doing wheelies due to its design. Pretty incredible for a car that doesn’t have seatbelts.
4 Hayabusa Smart Car
Lightweight vehicles are the perfect base for a quick modified car. Mini Coopers, VW Beetles, and Honda Civics have proven popular for easy, cheap performance. However, one of the smallest and lightest cars available, the Smart Car, has yet to capture the attention of the car enthusiast community. However, that doesn’t mean that it's gone completely unnoticed. A few brave souls have decided to discard the Smart’s three-cylinder motor and replace it with the engine out of a Suzuki Hayabusa superbike. This gives the Smart Car an incredibly high redline and much more power than the standard car. If that wasn’t enough, the pictured Smart Car also received a turbocharger, resulting in a final horsepower rating of 290; more than triple the horsepower of the original car. If you want to build a fast car, you might want to consider picking up a cheap Smart Car
3 Jaguar-powered Ford Transit
The Ford Transit van is Europe’s workhorse. It is designed first and foremost to be a practical van. Despite an assortment of available diesel and gasoline motors, none of them produce a noteworthy amount of horsepower. While there was a Transit Supervan created for racing, there was not a production version. Somebody decided that they would make their own Supervan Transit by swapping the standard engine with something really special.
The van now has a twin-turbocharged V6 out of the Jaguar XJ220, Jaguar’s only supercar.
While some may question the use of such an exotic motor in a van, it does make for an undeniably sneaky sleeper, especially given this van’s livery. If you’re looking for something that will really surprise your opponent on the drag strip, there aren’t many cars that will do it better than this Transit.
2 RWD Monte Carlo
The Chevrolet Monte Carlo used to be a personal luxury car that offered some solid performance in its SS trim. After having its performance strangled during the ‘70s, it returned in the ‘80s, renewed as a muscle car in its streamlined SS package. Unfortunately, that model was replaced with a blobby car that was nothing like Montes of old. It didn’t help that these cars were powered by a V6 that put its power down through the front wheels. While this particular Monte Carlo looks every bit as boring as the next one, it actually has an LS V8 that sends power to the rear wheels. While it must’ve taken some extensive work to get this conversion finished, somebody did what General Motors should have done from the factory.
1 V8 Suzuki Mighty Boy
Kei cars are a class of cars sold in Japan that are designed to be as small and economical as possible, since those traits make the car easy to own in Japan. Sometimes Kei trucks are available outside Japan for those who need something small to work with. With only 28 horsepower, the Suzuki Mighty Boy was a strange, tiny pickup with an even stranger name. An Australian decided to improve their Mighty Boy by inserting an LS motor into the diminutive pickup. It’s unknown how this big V8 was able to fit in an engine bay, but it does. What purpose could a tiny car with so much power be used for? Burnouts. Lots and lots of burnouts. It does excellent donuts too, which makes it perfect for Australian burnout competitions. Yes, burnout competitions are a real thing.
Sources: The Drive, Digital Trends, Wikipedia, Super Street Online
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