Engine swaps are nothing new. In fact, power transplants have been part of automotive experimentation since the very beginning. Hagerty’s Brad Phillips teamed up with our own rebuild expert, Davin Reckow, to hash through a few history’s greatest swaps. Along the way, the duo touched on lessons learned from doing a few greasy surgeries of their own ... Read the full article on Hagerty.com:
I always wanted a Mercedes-Benz diesel-powered convertible and finally found one! 1978 300-CD which had the roof chopped off and an electric-over-hydraulic top was installed. Granted, not an "engine-swap", but a unique car nonetheless. Conversion done by a company which was in Georgia and eventually moved to Connecticut. Wished I still had that car! Believe it or not, it was a pleasant car to drive until one was stopped at a traffic light and the prevailing wind was coming from behind....
The tank car is spectacular! My best swap was a LT1 into a 1977 Mercedes Gwagen. Made it convertible and gave it air suspension (among other things) while I was at it.
Ford FE (390, 410, 428) into a C3 Corvette as payback for all the small block Chevy's transplanted into Fords over the years. Personalized plates that say "PAYBACK". Always wanted to take it to a "Fords Only" car show and see the look on everyone's faces when the hood goes up.
My first swap was a Chrysler 383 with torqueflite in a 1956 Chev 2 dr post. Why did I do that? Well, in 1968 there were only 283 Chev V8s in salvage yards. No 327s, in fact it was rare to see a Chev with a 327. I wanted more power and for $150 at government salvage I got the 383 and I can't remember what I paid for the torqueflite. I drove that car for years through winters on bias ply summer tires. -40F. I finally sold it in 1975.
Then I put a 289 in a first gen Ford Bronco. I bought it as a 1964 but now I find 1966 were the first. I drove that all over as well. Finally someone drove me off the road and I wrecked it. Years after I bought a C class motorhome with 350. Pulled that and installed a Chev 400. Took it to Disneyland twice. My last is also current. 1997 BMW 318i with a 600 hp LS custom engine and T56 trans. I have had that for 4 or 5 years now. Still enjoy it. Although I do have an annoying whine. "No AC, it is too loud, it rides rough, you drive jerky"
The only engine swap I've personally done was years ago when I bought a 1972 Camaro with a crushed rear end and another Camaro that was totalled in front. Pulled the front clip off of the rear totalled car and joined it to the front totalled car. Took all of like six hours in total and three people to move the chunks around. The end result was a nearly perfect car with a good title. Painted it a nice metallic light blue with a white stripe down the center. Great car. It took about a year and maybe 25 calls to the cops and code enforcement from my neighbors before all the broken bits were sold off and the last piece was trucked to the recyclers.
The Renault F1 Espace. The best mini van engine swap ever...194mph!
At 15 years old I helped my dad swap a 445 Wildcat running gear into a 1952 International Harvester 1/2 ton long bed pickup. Did the swap in the yard at home, and I got to drive it now and then at 16! It was a real sleeper, as it wasn't painted and had two glasspacks per exhaust that kept it quiet unless you really put your foot into it.
SW gauges, speedo was corrected, and I still saw 145 on I280 in San Jose. My dad had someone in a Firebird formula 400 cut him off on the freeway, and he was able to keep up, and then pass him!
The truck died while I was in the army, we had too long a driveline on it and the front U-joint let go under acceleration at 70mph. Tore the trans off the engine and rolled the rear end off the spring mounts.
My first swap was taking out the dead 389 out of a 65 GTO and putting in a 375hp 327 into it. The perfect sleeper car at the time.
The second was swapping out a 1981 Buick Regal that had the 231 / v6 in it for a 1972 Buick 350. This one really made the tires spin.
Both were very easy to do with just minor revamping.
I did a few engine transplants when I worked for a local garage, but nothing to tell here. The swap I always wanted to do was to take the drivetrain from a SRT - 10 pickup and go old school putting it into a 1953 Dodge 3 window pickup. Of course we would have to tub it to get the look that is in my mind.
Great topic and article, Kyle!
I began my first engine swap when I bought a 1987 Landcrusier. It had 220,000 miles on it when the gal driving it decided to blow a connecting rod out the side of the 600 pound Stock I-6 engine. I decided to put something else into the 4,400 pound machine. I began with a small block Throttle Body 350 out of a wrecked 1987 Scottsdale pickup. I tore into the engine and decided to upgrade a little. I found a guy up the street who sold me a whole top end of a TPI engine out of a C5 Corvette for an ounce of herb! It was missing a couple things to get it going, like parts for the serpentine belt system, including a "wishbone" style alternator bracket, and computer and wiring. I learned a lot during this process, but that is a whole other story. I found an engine adapter from Marks Adapters in Australia, so that the 350 fit right up against the Toyota four speed manual, a sweet, but expensive bellhousing at $2,500 back in 2008. I did get the fuel injected engine to fire up in this Landcruiser, and it drove like a champ with a small 3 inch lift and 35" Meats. It lacked a few items to make it CA smog legal, so I registered it in Oregon state w/o any troubles at all. Anything in Oregon that is 25 years or older, is exempt from smog. This beast was amazing on and off the road with plenty of power, even though at that time, 250 HP was about all I could get out of it. It ripped around, guzzling gallons upon gallons of high octane fuel. It was truely amazing until it got totally burned up in the Camp Fire in 2018. The entire town of Paradise was leveled, including all my projects for over 30 years. I am beginning a fresh life on 27 acres of vacant land, and have dreams of getting a shop together, so I can begin my next engine swap. It will take some time to gather up enough hand and fabrication tools I had already gathered in my life before the wildfire.
My next engine swap project will hopefully happen when my 1993 F350 wears out the 460 in it with 185,000 miles. I am considering either a 7.3L diesel, or a Cummins 4BT turbo'ed 4 cylinder. I have already put a 4BT into a 1963 Gladiator Willys pickup and so I have some experience with this engine. Another swap that is in my future is replacing the 6 cylinder, with three on the tree in my 1965 two door Biscayne. It was my highschool car that I rebuilt the engine to stock condition in 1992. Now, with just over 1/2 million miles on it, it does not smoke, but it is pretty much ready to have a swap to maybe a 4 or 6 cylinder Vortec engine and a 6 speed tranny.
Thanks again, Kyle, for bringing back some memory lanes in my engine swap history, it will continue to inspire me to do something not many people can, or would even want to do!
My best friend and I did the common swap in 1976: A 327 into a Vega. Put a dual quad tunnel ram on it, and a ford 9 inch rear end. Forgot about decent suspension and brake upgrades until they revealed themselves in near disastrous fashion. I'm a big fan of LS swaps into just about anything. But the best swap I did in 1980 was putting a junkyard ($200) '71 240Z engine in my very straight Triumph GT6+. I always loved that car, and while the process to change out the entire driveline and wiring harness left me without a few key functions, it was a great driver.
I did more than a few Buick or Olds 350 into a Regal that came with a V6, once people know you can do that they tend to come around to ask for your help so I did that swap several times over a couple of years. The funny part is that it all started with a desperate Regal owner that had a blown engine and a line on an older Regal that was rear end totaled.
I also did this to a defenseless S-10, that is a 1.0 Geo Metro engine coupled to a 9" electric motor via an electric clutch, It was mated to a 5 speed manual.
My dad and I have had an idea to take a W123 Mercedes 240D diesel, tear out the back seats, and cram in a 100+ HP 2 stroke snowmobile engine! Mid engined, too! Perhaps even keeping the diesel inline 4 and driveline for dual engines, the diesel for low speed, and the 2 stroke for fun and the freeway!
While not "wild", a rotary engine transplant into a Lotus Europa is a natural. Super light car, so the high rev, lightweight motor would be more useful and fun than the torque of a heavy, more conventional mill.
A running joke I have with my youngest son is to put a Coyote in a car not designed for it. He usually rolls his eyes and shakes his head. So, to answer your question, how about putting a Coyote with 5 speed Tremec transmission in a Mini Cooper or VW bug? That would require some serious mods and lots of bearing grease...
Other than off the wall projects I prefer to keep things original. Putting a GM motor in a Ford, or whatever vehicle is in the garage with a different drivetrain than originally intended is Communist and a mortal sin, never to be forgiven.
A friend of mine dropped a late model HEMI into a Jaguar XK8 convertible. The installation is so sanitary that he said nobody pays any attention to it at car shows until he fires it up.
I monitor a group that deals with swapping vintage Volvo engines, mostly B18 and B20, into T series MGs. Here is the web address: https://groups.io/g/VolvoPoweredMGs We deal with any issues that someone who is trying to do the swap is having and some post pictures as their build moves forward. The original engines have 54 - 63 hp as original with something north of 100 hp after the swap. My TD has probably around 120 hp. What this does is make cars that are much more than furniture to sit in your garage to look at into very driveable and fun cars. Brake upgrades are also dealt with along with changing the rear axle ratio from the stock stump puller 5.125:1 to a later MG's 4.3, 4.1, or 3.9:1 with the resulting highway capability. I've had my TD for 50 years with most of that time putting up with the stock engine. Now with the B20, keeping up with traffic and having the ability to avoid accidents has greatly increased enjoyment of the car. New members are welcome to the group. Go to the address above and ask to join.
In high school, I was cruising a main drag street in my ’67 Camaro when a VW pulled up next to me. It was virtually throbbing up and down.
I asked the driver what the heck he had in there. He shouted, “Mopar 383! No back seat!”
My favorite ride of all time was my moms 1989 Volvo 740 GL wagon, originally a 4 banger. I took it to Maine and Ross Converse built a 5 liter Ford engine and T5 trans. MIT was the ultimate Sleeper. The only visible change was the exhaust system. headers had pipes that were side by side on the left. Also that how Ingot the moniker: Volvosleeper
The 1956 rambler custom with three tone paint (gray, pink and white) only came with a six cylinder. So putting in a ‘57 Buick V8 with a ‘37 LaSalle transmission just seemed like the right thing to do in 1961.
1979 I swapped a 302 ford into a 1972 Datsun PL521 pickup. Had to run the draglink for steering through the oil pan right behind the oilpump. I never heard of anyone ever doing it. total weight was 2350 pounds, the stock engine with a two barrel got better gas milage then the 1600cc 4 banger. New corvettes from a roll when I pulled it out of overdrive could not believe what they were seeing. Too funny, I still have it and going to put a 9 inch ford rear in it.
When I owned a (then new) 1985 Merkur XR4Ti - I always wanted to put a new 5.0 litre Mustang GT V8 in it - like what it should have been in the first place - to make a real car out of it...was otherwise solidly built - stylish for the times - and great interior with Recaro seats.
If you havent seen the Berlin Buick you are missing out on one of the coolest transplants out there. I was able to see it in person and its incredible. Here's a link to the Mecum 2019 auction which has great pix:
The best swaps are the most reliable with the best power to weight ratio. 2JZ in a Honda S2000 is cool until you realize that the motor is a boat anchor (RB26 not much better) and that as they age out the metal becomes more brittle (have a buddy who has now cracked his R32 RB26 three (!!) times). Cheap, easy and reliable- so for me an LS is the best- easy on the wallet, reliable and easy and cheap to hop up. Bonus- regardless of displacement they are all the same exterior dimensions- 4.8, 5.3, 6.0, 6.2 or 7.0 all the same. Throw a good cam and a good set of Trickflow heads on a 6.0 and get 550 hp all day long with a pump gas motor. Right now have a FD RX-7 with a 5.7 LS motor- making about 525 on 93 pump gas- about as close to a modern day Shelby Cobra as you could want with a roof over your head (full cage and fuel cell as well). Run a FC RX-7 in Champcar series- when Jay Mauney decides that we can pass tech- yes there are some haters out there but its their loss and not mine. Swaps are the greatest- avoid the compromises for manufacturers and DOT- and do it the way you want to- the true spirit of hot rodding!
My first major swap was in 1972 when I was 18 . I had blown the engine in my 65 Chevelle down in Daytona Beach durning spring break . I had to leave the car there and fly home until I could head back down with a trailer and bring it back . Which my dad and I did about 3 weeks later . In the mean time I bought a 62 Nova convertible for $50 dollars . I went to the local junkyards and found a 64 that had a V 8 and got all the stuff I though I needed plus clutch and brake peddles to put a 4 speed in . M y first attemp I I pulled the 6 and auto out switch the engine frame mounts brake and clutch peddels. Only to find out I needed a different oil pan with a front sump . So the 8 came out and 6 went back in so I could drive it to school and work . The second attemp went better . Got everything hooked up clutch ,shifter ,gas peddle and then when I went to install the driveshaft did'nt fit . I was lucky a friend took me to the junk yard and we found on to fit .We took it out for a madden run I grabbed 2 nd gear and the rearend scattered all over the road . We were able to drag it back home and my brother had a center unit that fitted in but had a 4:10 gear . It worked but with the 4: 10 gear and 13 " tires I could barley do 50 miles an hour . Once I got my Chevelle back from Florida and running I sold the Nova for $500 . Should of kept after all the work but better cars did come after that.
A new 400 HP Porsche Flat 6 behind the seats of a 914 or my 944. Light weight, mid-engine, and the sound of normal aspiration. Maybe not the fastest in a straight line, but on a twisty mountain road or the track, Fuggetaboutit.
All super cool, I on the other hand I have seen enough LS swaps to choke a mule. Hence I rebuilt my 1960 Caddy 390 with custom made ( Race Tech ) 9.5 -1 compression pistons,
Iski performance camshaft, Electronic HEI distributor and a Holley Sniper fuel injection system. Numbers matching, very cool and go like hell! listen, you cannot run a 10.5 compression engine today, lets start retrofitting the old stuff!
150 hp in a stock 1970 240z just wasn't enough horsepower. Fast enough to beat MGB's , Porsche 914's ( some 911's) and Alpha GTV's of the day to be sure, but by 1990 I really needed to double that amount of horsepower to 300+. People had been putting small block Chevy V8's in Z cars for years. I choose to go a much easier and cheaper
route by purchasing a wrecked 1983 280 ZX Turbo engine for $850 (1990 prices)
including the T-5 5 speed tranny. It bolted directly in the car with only a few minor holes to cut for air flow meter/ air cleaner . The engine produced 310 hp ( with 9.6 lbs turbo boost). I had to purchase a Datsun 2+2 ZX rear end to handle the extra torque and power. The stock 240Z rear end just wasn't up to the task.
I now have 100,000 trouble free miles of driving fun on this engine arrangement. The car now has 240,000 miles on it and is 50 years old. A good , fun engine swap.
I think you would struggle to go past Rod Hadfield's Attack. a 27 litre Merlin V12 supercharged into (well more of the car around the motor) a 1955 Chev.
When I was a young man in Cali, the man across the street was a car collector. In his garage I've seen a couple Allards, Betty Grable's car, a Corvair powered Vintage BMW motorcycle with Earles forks. The one I was most fascinated by most was an early VW with a 331 Cadillac V8 with 8 Strombergs on 2 log manifolds sitting midship attached to an electrically-controlled transaxle. Forgive the vagueness but it was a long time ago. That VW was the first engine swapped vehicle I paid attention to and set my mind on fire with the possibilities.
Swapped a Chevy 396 BB into '77 Toyota FJ40 Landcruiser with 4.11 rear end. Besides being fantastic off-road it was crazy fast off the line. I have another '78 FJ40 in the garage awaiting an LM7 for old times sake 🙂
i had a 99 Buick Regal that was a pretty plain jane car but i liked it except for the sideways motor and lacking in a few HP. I always wanted to do a RWD conversion, retain the 3800, but have it properly front to back with an intercooled turbocharger
My first swap was a 348 in a 62 Chevy pickup. Three on the tree w/overdrive hooked up with a toggle switch so 6 speeds. Put a 400 SB in a 83 Trans Am, 400 SB in a 57 Chevy & during the gas crunch (remember that) in the mid 70's, put a 290 in my 70 AMX & got 20MPG (later put in a 401). Then there was the Ford with 292 to 352 swap. LS swaps are the ticket right now though.
I bought a '49 Chrysler Town and Country convertible (to restore) it has a 331 Hemi coupled to a torqueflite in it. An overhaul of the engine as part of the overall job shows that it doesn't have much wear.
It was first sold in California, the original owner wanted more power so he got a 1954 Hemi.