Spannerhead Dot

Heart Transplants

August 14, 2011 by Matt

SBC Engine and 1st-Gen Miata

Let’s clear the air. After ages participating in car communities of many different makes and models, online and otherwise, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no more contentious issue than the idea of doing a cross-make engine swap; in other words, of swapping into a particular car an engine from a different make.

Examples abound and usually, but not always, involve dropping some flavor of American V8 into a lightweight or otherwise desirable import body:

  • Small-block Chevy V8 into RX-7
  • Ford V8 into Mazda Miata
  • SBC into Jaguar XJ6 or XJS
  • Toyota 1JZ into Datsun Z-car

For what it’s worth, it’s not a new phenomenon—professional tuning outfits and even OEMs have been splicing disparate powerplants and chassis for donkey’s years. The AC Cobra, De Tomaso Pantera and Ultima GTR have rightly become the stuff of legend; the cars may have had their flaws, but without the easy availability and modularity of the engines (and the ingenuity of the designers), the aforementioned cars wouldn’t have seen the light of day. More than that—the engine and body each supplied something the other lacked and created cars that were more than the sum of their parts.

So what say you? Is a cross-make engine swap acceptable, and if so, under what circumstances? Is the union between factory engine and chassis sacrosanct; that character inviolable? And if you would never, ever, desecrate a car by shoehorning an engine of a different persuasion under the hood, what about another engine of the same make—say, a BMW V8 into an E24 6-series, or a Nissan RB26DETT into a 240Z? Do you take a stand for a car’s purity, or simply choose the best tool for the job?

Filed under: Miscellaneous, Technical, Tinkering

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