There comes a moment in every car guy's life when a state of complete dementia sets in. Maybe you were at a junkyard, cruising eBay, shooting ideas with your equally optimistic friends, or wondering what path to take that would make your project car 'different'. But the end result is always the same: exciting and disastrous. Disastrous because of the effect on your romantic and financial life. Exciting because it brings a pure thrill over what lies ahead. Sure, it's probably going to be nothing but headaches and frustration, but who wants to think about that sort of thing?
It seems every day one of us comes up with a recipe for the greatest street car ever. A magic vehicle that borrows from all brands to create a perfect balance of power, handling, braking, feedback, looks, cost, and anything else that may matter at the time. Daydreams and custom fab work be damned; we know you've leaned back and whipped up a secret concoction of your own. This should fit there, that should bolt in directly, this should clear, that will hold; it seems simple enough and the end result is oh-so sweet. You gotta love a vivid imagination.
Flat-six non-turbo GC Subaru Impreza
The 1993 to 2001 GC-chassis Subaru Impreza coupe is the lightest of all the Imprezas to have come Stateside. It's the only two-door Impreza ever sold here, and is by far the cheapest on the used car market. Keep the same principles of opposing cylinders and low center of gravity alive by dropping in a 3.6-liter flat-six engine from a Porsche GT3, pushing it behind the front shock towers. 415hp and naturally aspirated throttle response can be yours.
4G63-powered Chevy Cavalier
By swapping their stock motor out for Mitsubishi's venerable 4G63 iron-block engine, any Cavalier owner can solve their car's greatest weakness: power potential. Lots of people own these cars. Our inbox is full of their letters and they always cry out for more output. High-comp builds and turbo kits be damned-20psi-plus on stock internals with pump gas is just an insane swap away. An Eclipse GST front-drive swap would be the easiest, but for those doubly insane, an Eclipse GSX or Evo IX all-wheel drive system swap would solve torque-steer issues. For those triply insane, try to source a complete MB11 engine and drivetrain combo out of an Evo X once that car is launched and after some misguided soul hits a wall.
Rear-Engine Rear-Drive V6 Ek Honda Civic
More suspension, braking, and wheel/tire mods exist for the Civic than almost any other car ever produced. Combine that aftermarket support with a real powerslide-inducing drivetrain and you've got a winner. An EK Civic hatchback has more than enough room behind the front seats to swallow a Nissan six-cylinder VQ35 engine mated to a transverse Maxima or Altima SE-R six-speed transmission. Some custom mounts and a shifter linkage, necessary chassis bracing, maybe even some Nismo heads, and you're good to go. Hell, Nissan even commissioned one of these creations using a Micra.
Four-Rotor Mazda RX-8
Remember when Mazda retracted its original horsepower number for the RX-8 after numerous owners and dyno operators found a few horses missing? If Mazda had lost its mind, then it could have made it up to RX-8 owners with a couple extra spinning triangles. Take two Renesis rotary engines, split 'em open and combine them into a single 787B-inspired four-rotor design. A custom e-shaft and machining on the rotor housings may be required, but this Renesis will live at 10,000rpm. Throw on a custom exhaust manifold and turbo kit and you're looking at some serious 800hp Le Mans-inspired power.
F20C-powered AE86 Toyota Corolla
The AE86 Toyota Corolla GT-S is renowned for its quick and nimble nature. Fully race-prepped 4A-GE engines have done well with the chassis in Japan and in the US. But there's something about the addition of a 120hp/liter, 9000rpm screamer with Honda reliability. Not to mention the six-speed transmission that is blessed with possibly the world's best shifting feel. It just seems to work with the lightweight, rear-drive AE86. Plus, with this swap already completed and fully documented, it's the least insane of all the swaps on our list.
Straight-Six Honda S2000
The first thing that stands out when you open the hood of a Honda S2000 is the huge gaping space in front of the engine. With some careful fitting and cutting, there's enough room to fit at least two more cylinders up front, which can sometimes come in handy with only 162lb-ft of torque, stock. But what path do you take? Naturally aspirated power by dropping in an E46 BMW M3 motor (complete with factory ITBs) and sequential six-speed transmission? Or go turbo and stuff in a Toyota Supra's 1000 wheel-hp 2JZ-GTE monster? Doesn't matter, really. In case you forgot, your S2000 has no engine in it after the previous swap.