Sometimes it comes to a point where you don’t want to change your car, but tuning your car’s engine is not the best option for more performance. Here are our top five engine swaps that are not only relatively easy, but make financial sense when going for big power.
1. 2ltr Turbo into FWD Vauxhalls
Fitting a C20LET Calibra Turbo lump to Astras, Corsas, and Novas has always been the easy way to big power in the Vauxhall scene, and with the newer generation of cars and engines very little has changed. The turbocharged versions of the Z20 engine produce from 170 to 237bhp from the factory and can be tuned to huge levels. And barring a bit of the expected electronic trickery this is pretty much a bolt-in big power solution for the majority of small engine Vauxhall cars.
2. Zetec Turbo into FWD Fords
From the early ’80s until early 2000s the vast majority of FWD Fords came with either the CVH or Zetec engines. Although they can be tuned, a turbocharged Zetec engine similar to the Mk1 Focus RS lump is the best option for big power. If your car already came with a 4-cylinder Zetec of any size the swap is a piece of cake, and involves dropping a turbocharged version of the same engine in place of your old one. But even on CVH powered vehicles it is fairly easy. Just like with VAG 1.8T swaps, a lot of the bolt holes are in the correct place, meaning only minor engine and gearbox mount fabrication is needed to replace your wheezing CVH with a big power Zetec.
LS V8 into RX-7
Despite these engine being complete opposites; a tiny, revvy turbo rotary being replaced by a big, torquey V8, the swap is surprisingly easy. Unlike all the other conversions mentioned this is far from a straight swap, in fact absolutely nothing bolts straight in. Luckily there are kits available from the USA to make it a relatively painless bolt-in swap with no cutting or custom fabrication required.
1.8T into most VAG cars
The 1.8ltr 20V turbo engine is the mainstay of the VAG tuning scene and complete engines can be had for under £500 if you’re lucky. Strong, and with big performance potential, they are the clear favourite if you are looking for a VAG engine to tune, especially as fitting them to most ’80s on VAG vehicles is pretty easy. Thanks to a bit of German efficiency these engines mount up in a similar way to the other engines, so physically bolting them up is usually pretty easy. Things get more complicated when it comes to the pedals, gear change, and electronics, but these are fairly easy fixes considering the huge tunability a 1.8T engine will give you.
RB into 200SX
The standard 4-cylinder turbo engines in Nissan 200SXs are decent enough, but for mega power and an awesome sound, a big six cylinder Skyline RB engine is hard to ignore. The engine is almost a drop-in swap and fits so easily it’s been suggested that Nissan had planned to fit RBs to them in the first place. A few things need tinkering to get it right, but considering you are adding two extra cylinders, up to half a litre more capacity, and even a second turbo, the amount of work is minimal for the gains you can get.