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9 Popular Engine Swaps - Choose Wisely

Upgrade Your Power Potential With the Right Swap

Aaron Bonk
Mar 26, 2014
Photographer: Super Street Archives
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There's no simpler, more reliable way to increase just about any car's power-to-weight ratio than with an engine swap. The idea of engine swaps has been around longer than you think, but cross-pollenating dissimilar powerplants and chassis with one another is a phenomenon still relatively new. The following are some of the most popular engines and most likely chassis they've found their way into. If you're considering an engine swap, any of the following make good places to start.

Honda B-Series VTEC

Popular engine swaps honda b series VTEC 01 Photo 1/9   |   9 Popular Engine Swaps - Choose Wisely

Sources: Popular versions include the B16A, B16A2, B16A3, B16B, B17A1, B18C, B18C1 and B18C5. Engine codes not concluded with a numeral are sourced from Japanese-only (JDM) chassis. The rest can be found in North American-spec vehicles. B16A engines are native to most 1987-2000 Japanese-spec Si, Si-II, SiR and SiR-II-badged Civic and CRX chassis. Similar 1.6L engines can be found in Japanese-only 1989-1993 Integra RSi and XSi models. Only the Japanese market 1997-2001 Civic features the unique B16B engine. Japanese-only B18C engines can be found in 1993-2001 Integra Si VTEC, SiR-G and Type R chassis, however, the Type R's powerplant is a markedly different, more powerful version. In North America, B16A2 and B16A3 engines were offered in the 1999-2000 Civic Si and 1994-1997 del Sol VTEC, respectively. Only the 1992-1993 Integra GS-R featured the B17A1. Finally, the B18C1 can be found in any 1994-2001 Integra GS-R and its more powerful relative, the B18C5, was available in all 1997-2001 (exclude 1999) Integra Type R.

Engine Swap Candidates: Any 1988-2000 Civic, CRX or del Sol as well as any 1990-2001 Integra. May also be transplanted into any 1984-1987 Civic or 1986-1989 Integra, however, such swaps are not nearly as prevalent.

Specs: There are four different architectures among the B-series VTEC family, the 1.6L B16A, B16A2 and B16A3; the 1.6L B16B that features a taller deck and longer stroke; the B17A1 that's nearly identical to the B16A except for its longer stroke; and the B18C, B18C1 and B18C5 that feature the same deck height as the B16B but with the most stroke of any of these. Horsepower varies significantly, with early B16A models measuring in at only 160hp and some of the final JDM-spec, 1.8L Type R versions reaching almost 200 hp. Use your brain when considering cross-pollenating engine swaps, though; dropping a 160hp B16A into an Integra Type R will never make sense.

How Much: A complete swap, including the engine, transmission, ECU and any applicable aftermarket engine mounts and axles can set you back as little as $1,500 for an early model B16A or as much as $7,000 for something more powerful and rare, like the Civic Type R's B16B.

The Good: Few engines feature the sort of aftermarket support and potential that Honda's B-series does. Even today-nearly 15 years after Honda's discontinuing the B-series platform-it remains the engine of choice for some of the most powerful Hondas in history, capable of producing in excess of 1,200hp.

The Bad: Yours won't be making 1,200hp, though. Eclipsing the 400hp mark isn't hard, but it'll cost you. A lot. The cylinders, fuel system, engine management and drivetrain must all be addressed if you care about any of it holding together.

The Aftermarket: Hasport and Innovative Mounts both offer bolt-in B-series solutions for any of these chassis.

Honda K-Series

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Sources: The K20A2 was first offered in the North American-spec 2002-2004 RSX Type-S and then later rebadged as the K20Z1 for 2005-2006 models. The similar K20Z3 can be sourced from any 2006-2011 Civic Si. In Japan, the K20A is offered in dozens of JDM vehicles, however, look for more powerful versions exclusive to 2001-2011 Civic Type R, Type R Euro, Integra Type R and Accord Euro R models. Back in the U.S., the 2004-2008 TSX is fitted with the larger-displacement K24A2 with Japanese variants available in 2004-2008 Accord 24S, 24T, 24TL and Type S chassis.

Engine Swap Candidates: Any 1988-2005 Civic, CRX or del Sol as well as any 1990-2001 Integra. May also be transplanted into any 1990-1997 Accord, 1992-1996 Prelude, 2011-2013 CR-Z or 2007-2013 Fit.

Specs: Available in 2.0L and 2.4L configurations (2.3L RDX engines are entirely different), Honda's K-series is its most sophisticated four-cylinder to date. Performance-oriented versions like those listed above feature variable valve lift at all 16 valves and electronically controlled, dynamic camshaft phasing on the intake side. Power starts at 197hp on entry-level 2.0L engines and is rated as high as 222hp on select Type R versions.

How Much: K-series engines like any of these that feature VTEC on both camshafts aren't the least expensive. They are, however, the most powerful. Pricing starts around $6,000 for a complete K20A2 swap and can eclipse the $10,000 mark once anything Type R is added to the list.

The Good: Only the B-series rivals the K-series in terms of aftermarket support. There's also no other four-cylinder Honda engine swap that's comparable power-wise in factory form.

The Bad: The price. Because of the engines' orientation and shifter layout, a host of aftermarket components are required to complete any K-series swap. The engines and transmissions themselves aren't exactly inexpensive either.

The Aftermarket: Hasport, Innovative Mounts, Hybrid Racing and K-Tuned all offer engine mount and swap solutions for any of these chassis.

Honda F-Series (DOHC)

Popular engine swaps honda f series 03 Photo 3/9   |   9 Popular Engine Swaps - Choose Wisely

Sources: Look to the 1999-2005 Japanese-spec S2000 for the smaller-displacement F20C and late-2005-2009 models for the bigger F22C. In North America, the F20C1 was available from 2000-2003 until it was replaced with the F22C1 for model years 2004-2009. Special JDM only Type V and U.S.-only CR models were sold with the same 2.0L and 2.2L engines, depending on the year.

Engine Swap Candidates: Although not a direct, bolt-in transplant, the F-series regularly makes its way into Miata chassis as well as classic RWD Toyota platforms like older Corollas, Starlets and Celicas. The F-series also serves as the basis for at least a few RWD-converted Hondas like the 1992-2000 Civic or 1994-2001 Integra.

Specs: Honda's twin-cam F-series is the unofficial precursor to the K-series. Here, Honda implemented its timing chain-driven valvetrain, roller rocker cam followers, a clockwise-rotating assembly and one of the best-performing and flowing cylinder heads of any mass-produced, four-cylinder production engine. Both 2.0L and 2.4L engines yield 240hp-the larger of the two laying down an unprecedented 162lb-ft of torque.

How Much: S2000 production numbers pale in comparison to B-series or K-series chassis. As such, an F-series powertrain will cost you dearly. Depending on the chassis and the number of aftermarket components needed to complete the conversion, plan on spending upward of $6,000.

The Good: It remains Honda's most powerful four-cylinder engine to date and boasts a specific output rivaled only by the Ferrari 458 Italia and Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0.

The Bad: It's a pricey swap, and converting a non-Honda chassis to the likes of it requires custom engine mounts, a revised engine management system and all sorts of tricky wiring.

The Aftermarket: Not a whole lot. Plan on custom mounts, brackets, and all sorts of fabrication.

Honda J-Series

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Sources: Honda introduced its 60-degree V6 J-series platform for the 1997 model year. Since then, it's been offered in a number of configurations and displacements, available in select trims and years of chassis including the Odyssey, Ridgeline, Pilot and Accord as well as the CL, TL, RL, TSX, TLX, RLX, RDX, MDX and ZDX. J-series engines were so widely produced and so prevalent in the U.S. that sourcing Japanese-versions is hardly necessary. If possible, look to the more powerful coil-on-plug engines and avoid those with drive-by-wire throttle bodies for the sake of swap simplicity.

Engine Swap Candidates: Any 1988-2000 Civic, CRX or del Sol as well as any 1994-2001 Integra. May also be transplanted into any 1990-1997 Accord.

Specs: Honda's single-cam, 60-degree J-series is the successor to its larger 90-degree V6 platform of decades past. Power varies significantly between platforms-as low as 240hp and as much as 310hp-with a combination of either VTEC or i-VTEC available for all models.

How Much: About $4,000 for an entry-level Odyssey engine, the appropriate gearbox, and whatever engine mounts and supporting electrical mods are needed. Later-model and more powerful engines naturally mean more money.

The Good: There is no better bang for the buck than Honda's 60-degree V6 engine family. No place else can 240hp be had for so little money.

The Bad: Aftermarket support is scarce when compared to other Honda engine platforms and at 550lbs, it's the heaviest of engine swaps into any of these chassis.

The Aftermarket: Hasport and Innovative Mounts both offer J-series solutions for most of these chassis.

Toyota 1JZ/2JZ

Popular engine swaps toyota JZ 05 Photo 5/9   |   9 Popular Engine Swaps - Choose Wisely

Sources: Toyotas JZ line of engines was offered in several configurations, but you only care about the factory turbocharged ones. Most obvious, the twin-turbocharged 2JZ-GTE can be found in the duly-equipped, North-American-spec 1993-1998 Supra Turbo or its 1993-2002 JDM counterpart. Also native to Japan, select models of Toyota's first- and second-generation Aristo came equipped with the same twin-turbocharged, inline-six. Third-generation 1JZ-GTE engines share a similar architecture and are most commonly sourced from Japanese-only Toyota sedans, the most common of which is the 1996-2000 Chaser.

Engine Swap Candidates: Drop either into any of the following Lexus chassis: 1992-2000 SC 300, 1993-2006 GS 300 or 2001-2005 IS 300. Also fits into any Mark II or Mark III Supra as well as any 1985-1992 Cressida. More complex swaps include those into non-native chassis, like the third-generation RX-7, S2000 or 240SX, to name a few.

Specs: Toyota's 2JZ-GTE is likely the automaker's most ubiquitous engine ever. The 3.0L engine's cast-iron block is virtually indestructible, allowing its twin-turbocharged power figures to be increased significantly with little strengthening needed. North American versions lay down 320hp and 315lb-ft of torque-conservative figures if there ever were ones considering the engine's capabilities. Later versions, including the destroked and single-turbocharged, 2.5L IJZ-GTE also benefit from Toyota's patented variable valve timing: VVT-i.

How Much: Budget at least $7,500 for a good-running 3.0L engine, both turbos and the factory-issued GETRAG gearbox. If you've got another transmission in mind, lop about $4,000 off that figure. 1JZ-GTE engines are marginally cheaper, regularly selling for around $1,500. Don't forget to account for another $2,000 worth of electronics and mounts when swapping into any non-Toyota chassis.

The Good: Aside from Nissan's RB engines, Japan's likely never produced a stronger, more capable powerplant.

The Bad: The process. Retrofitting either engine into any non-native Toyota chassis can be a demanding job, even for the most seasoned of fabricators and wiring pros.

The Aftermarket: Look to Tech 2 Motorsports, Supra Sport or Zerolift Autolab for swap installation kits and turnkey solutions.

Nissan SR20DET

Popular engine swaps nissan SR20DET 06 Photo 6/9   |   9 Popular Engine Swaps - Choose Wisely

Sources: The factory-turbocharged SR engine you care about-the SR20DET-is available in various versions, all of which can be distinguished by turbocharger type and valve cover color and are native to both FWD and RWD configurations. Red valve cover: 1991-1993 Silvia K's, 180SX and Bluebird SSS ATTESA LTD; 1990-1994 Pulsar GTi-R and Sunny GTi-R (Euro). Black valve cover: 1994-1999 Silvia K's, 1999-2002 Silvia Spec-R, 1994-1997 180SX Type R and Type X, 1994-1995 Bluebird SSS ATTESA LTD and 1993-1999 200SX (Euro). Silver valve cover: 1995-2001 Avenir Salut GT Turbo and GT4 and 1997-2001 R'nessa GT Turbo.

Engine Swap Candidates: For something relatively straightforward, consider any 1989-1998 240SX. Can also be retrofitted into just about any Miata, RX-7 or classic Toyota or Datsun.

Specs: Used in both FWD and RWD applications, Nissan's 2.0L SR20DET features an 86mm, square architecture and either a T25 or T28 turbocharger, depending on the year. Variable cam timing, six-speed transmissions, and individual throttle bodies are all features that can be found on various versions, with power nearing the 245hp mark on final iterations.

How Much: Set aside roughly $2,000 for a complete swap. For non-native chassis, set aside even more for engine mounts and electronics.

The Good: That the SR20DET is compatible in both transverse and longitudinal form increases the number of chassis it'll work on. A proven platform, eclipsing the 300hp mark requires little effort.

The Bad: Nissan's SR20DET has been out of production for more than a decade, which means low-mileage, healthy specimens can be difficult to come by. Swapping one into any non-native chassis can also be a daunting process.

The Aftermarket: Get in touch with McKinney Motorsports, who likely has whatever SR20DET swap you're considering already figured out.

Nissan RB26DETT

Popular engine swaps nissan RB26DETT 07 Photo 7/9   |   9 Popular Engine Swaps - Choose Wisely

Sources: Nissan's RB series of engines dates back to the mid-1980s, but it's the later-model engines that suit most swaps. Look to the R32, R33 and R34 Skyline GT-R for the almighty RB26DETT.

Engine Swap Candidates: Because of the GT-R's Japanese exclusivity, it makes for a drop-in swap into almost no chassis. Still, popular candidates include the full lineup of Datsun's Z cars as well as Nissan's 300ZX and 240SX. Don't expect to use the GT-R's AWD gearbox, though.

Specs: Six, inline cylinders, individual throttle bodies, two turbos, dual-overhead cams and a severely detuned maximum output of about 280 hp. The 2.6L engine's turbos are arranged uniquely, dedicating each to their own triad of cylinders. Like Toyota's 2JZ-GTE, the RB26DETT's cast-iron block lends itself well to increased power, allowing upwards of 600hp to be made with only minimal modifications.

How Much: The longblock will set you back about $3,000, but that isn't the end of it. You'll also need the RWD transmission normally paired to RB25DETT-equipped Skylines. Set aside another $1,000 for this and another grand for any supporting swap components.

The Good: It's the epitome of Japanese supercar engines.

The Bad: Maintenance and replacement parts don't come cheap. The RB26DETT remains one of the most costly engines to modify.

The Aftermarket: McKinney Motorsports has also got a handle on RB engine swaps, as does Syko Performance.

General Motors LS

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Sources: GM's LS series of engines begins in 1997 in what is curiously known as its third generation. Third-generation powerplants were produced until 2007 and can be found in dozens of chassis, the most obvious of which are the Camaro, Corvette, and Firebird. Second-generation engines produced from 2005 to present day can be sourced from the CTS-V, Impala, Monte Carlo, Camaro and Corvette, just to name a handful.

Engine Swap Candidates: The number of cars GM's LS engine can be and have been retrofitted into are seemingly limitless and every bit as complex as you'd imagine. Swap one into just about anything that's currently or will end up being driven by its rear wheels.

Specs: The number and variations of GM's LS engine can leave anybody confused. There's the 5.7L LS1 of which multiple variations exist, ranging from just over 300hp to as high as 350 hp. And then there's the LS6 of similar displacement; fewer variations exist here, the most powerful of which measures in at 400 hp. Of course, there's the LS2, LS4 and all sorts of other iterations of the LS name, but it's the 7.0L LS7 and LSX that you really care about, which start at 505hp and 470lb-ft of torque.

How Much: Shell out as little as $1,000 for a bare-bones, early model LS1 or as much as $15,000 for a ready-to-go LS7. Don't forget about some sort of engine management system, ancillaries and a drivetrain.

The Good: Only a big-cubic-inch V8 can deliver this sort of torque. In stock form it'll make more power than heavily modifying whatever you've currently got.

The Bad: GM's LS is exponentially heavier than whatever engine you've currently got with cast-iron-block versions even more so. Drivetrain, electronics and wiring are all entirely custom.

The Aftermarket: Before doing anything, get in touch with Boss Frog, Hinson Supercars, Monster Miata, Samberg Performance or V8 Roadsters for LS engine swap goods.

Mazda 13B

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Sources: Mazda's historic 13B rotary engine's reinvented itself over the years, transforming itself from a modest naturally aspirated powerplant to the now-infamous twin-turbocharged 13B-REW. Look to 1975-and-newer JDM-only chassis like the Cosmo, RX-4 and RX-5, for example, for early 13B renditions. Turbocharged 13B-DEI models can be sourced from the second-generation RX-7. The more powerful and acclaimed 13B-REW, though, can only be found under the hood of the third-generation RX-7, both in North America and Japan. The similar 13B-RE engine remains exclusive to the Japanese only, 1990-1995 Eunos Cosmo.

Engine Swap Candidates: Straightforward swaps are few here. Finagle one into most any Miata or RX-8 with a bit of legwork.

Specs: Motivated by a team of sequentially paired, Hitachi turbochargers, the 13B-REW is the first production engine to feature such technology. North American versions are limited to 255hp, however, later-model, JDM engines make as much as 280hp.

How Much: Pick up a complete twin-turbo swap for about $2,000 or less. Add another $500 or so for Eunos Cosmo powertrains.

The Good: The 13B-REW, in particular, is capable of gobs of horsepower and has the ability to run efficiently and without issue for years when assembled and tuned properly.

The Bad: The rotary platform can be an unfamiliar one for those only accustomed to four-stroke piston engines.

The Aftermarket: For the most part, you're on your own here. Good luck with all of that.

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By Aaron Bonk
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