Talkin’ swaps: Coolest engine transplants over the years

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RM Sotheby's/Darin Schnabel

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.

The desired outcome of pulling one engine and shoving in another is often improved reliability or increased power. Sheer novelty is its own worthy pursuit, of course, and that’s how things can get weird in a hurry.

With all the factory and aftermarket support for the small-block Chevrolet V-8, it is often a go-to package to shove under the hood of a cantankerous project car that an owner just wants sorted. Or, sometimes, the tried-and-true LS swap can be a cheaper solution than repairing the original mill. The folks that bolt small-block Chevys between Jaguar frame rails know this well.

OEMs sometimes get the engine swap bug, and the 1964 Pontiac Le Mans GTO is one product of that phenomenon. The Pontiac V-8s of the mid 1960s all had the basic same exterior dimensions, but the internals ranged in grunt, suitable for everyone from school teacher to weekend racer. The Le Mans was a fun coupe, but when John DeLorean bolted in Pontiac’s 389-cubic-inch V-8, the car became the weapon that gave birth to the muscle market. All thanks to a a high-power beating heart.

On the other end of the spectrum we have absurd items like the Blastolene Special, which is powered by an air-cooled tank engine. Seriously. If you’re wondering who would drive such a thing, ahem, we believe you may be acquainted with a certain denim-clad late-night host. The massive motor somehow makes the 190-inch wheelbase of the Tank Car look positively natural, despite being double that of most compact cars.

Whether done inside factory walls or executed in off-the-wall fashion, the engine swap urge is known well to car enthusiasts of all stripes. Watch the video above for inspiration, and then tell us your favorite engine swap, or one you’d love to see come together.

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