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Top 25 Cars To Put A V8 Engine In

Vukasin HerbezJune 6, 2019

America is still the land of big V8 engines with their huge power and torque. Since those mighty motors are affordable and plentiful, most people like to put them in anything that can physically hold a V8. In fact, the culture of engine swapping dates way back to the original hot rod crowd. People love to turn those slow, outdated cars into firebreathing monsters by adding big V8 motors to them.

Yet, all these years later, the recipe for performance hasn’t changed. You just have to put a powerful V8 in place of a bland four or six-cylinder engine. And then you can smile as you watch that Ferrari in the review mirror trying to catch you. So, if you have such plans, here are the best cars for a V8 swap.

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25. DeLorean DMC 12

Started by John Z. DeLorean in the late ’70s, the DeLorean company was briefly marketed as the next big thing in the sports car world. For a short time, it looked like America had a sports car brand to rival Europe’s finest companies. So when DeLorean presented the interesting concept of a sports car with Gullwing doors, a modern design, and a stainless steel body, car fans went crazy.

Photo Credit: Architectural Digest

However, the production was too late. So when they finally debuted the car, it was slow, underpowered, and riddled with quality problems. But the solution to that problem is obvious. Just install a V8 instead of the anemic V6 to give this great ‘80s icon the power it deserves.

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24. Jaguar XJS

When they introduced it in the mid-1970s, the XJS was a big step for the company. Under the long hood, there was the famous 3.6-liter six-cylinder or a 5.3-liter V12 engine, which was a better choice if you wanted the full GT experience. The XJS was an extremely popular choice, especially in America where Jaguar sold the majority of the 115,000 cars they made.

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Due to its elegance, power, and speed, the XJS remained in production for an incredible 21 years. In fact, it is still a respectable car in every way. However, the V12 was somewhat unreliable, while the straight-six was underpowered. So, what to do? Just install a big V8 to enjoy this elegant Brit with a U.S. accent.

Photo Credit: Automobile Mag

23. Pontiac Fiero

By the standards of the day, the Pontiac Fiero was the most advanced American production model. Most Pontiac customers were hyped by the appearance of the Fiero. With its cool, modern design and advanced technology, the initial response was more than good. Everybody expected another GTO from Pontiac. But in fact, they got a small sports car that was something Italian carmakers would build.

Photo Credit: Automobile Mag

It was a bold move for Pontiac to introduce a compact, rear-wheel-drive car with the engine positioned behind the driver. And better still, they paired it up with a five-speed manual transaxle gearbox. But one of the Fiero’s main problem was that it was underpowered. Putting a V8 in it is certainly a tight squeeze, but it would be well worth the effort.

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22. Volvo 240 Wagon

The big and boxy Volvo Wagon is the perfect candidate for a V8 swap. Obviously, it has a lot of space to put any engine inside. It comes with rear-wheel drive and Volvo built it like a tank. And that means it can endure all the additional power and torque.

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But best of all, the 240 Wagon makes the perfect sleeper. After all, nobody would expect an old, clunky Volvo wagon to accelerate like a new Corvette.

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21. Nissan 240Z

The 240Z was the first highly successful Japanese sports car on the American market. An automotive legend, it is still highly desirable, even today. But some critics say it is a copy of several European designs. Nevertheless, the 240Z has managed to win consumers over and even create its own segment.

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The early models got 150 HP from a 2.4-liter six-cylinder, which was more than enough for a lively performance. But those 150 HP engines are obsolete nowadays. However, many 240Z owners have installed a V8 in their cars to give them just enough grunt to keep up with modern sports cars.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

20. Ford Ranger

The mid-size Ford Ranger truck was a popular model for people who needed practicality and economy. But they equipped it with those smaller four and six-cylinder engines without a V8 option. So if you wanted V8 power, you had to buy the F-150 full-size truck.

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So what to do if you like the compact dimensions and usability of the Ranger but have a strong urge for a V8? Just install that V8 into a classic Ranger and enjoy all that power in a lightweight package.

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19. Chevrolet S10

Everything you know about the practicality and usability of the Ford Ranger goes for its rival, the Chevrolet S10. This model also came without a V8 so it desperately needs one.

Metal Man's 1989 Chevy S10 - Holley My Garage
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Also, knowing how GM has numerous regular production and crate V8s at their disposal, it is easy to imagine somebody putting a proper engine into this durable, dependable truck.

Photo Credit: Jake Sweeney Mazda

18. Mazda Miata

This one is obvious, but still. Small roadsters are among the favorite types of cars. So what’s better than a classic Miata? The best features of the Miata are simplicity, less weight, and balance. Even if you install a big V8, you would still get a decent handling car. But with the bigger engine, you get much more power and fun.

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The most affordable model is the first-generation Miata. It can provide many memorable moments for just a few thousand dollars, which is also the cost of a homegrown engine swap.

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17. BMW 3-Series E30

People lust after those first-generation E30 M3 models. As a result, those boxy homologation specials are out of reach of the average collector. So what to do if you are desperately in love with the E30 shape, but you can’t afford a performance version?

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All you need to do is buy any three-door E30 for a few bucks. Just put a big V8 up front to beat any M3 by a mile. Also, you get bonus points for installing a BMW V8. Better still, there are lots of choices, including high-end swaps like the 4.9-liter V8 from the E39 M5.

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16. Mazda RX7

If you know a thing or two about Japanese sports cars, you know the RX-7 has a special place in the nomenclature of performance cars from the “Land of the Rising Sun.” The reason is the engine. In contrast to other cars with conventional piston engines, the RX-7 has always had a rotary Wankel engine since the beginning.

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However, that Wankel engine is not exactly the most dependable unit in the world. So, what is a logical solution to engine quality problems? You got it, a V8 swap.

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15. Mazda RX8

The RX8 was an interesting car when Mazda presented it. And not only for its Wankel engine, but for its unusual four-door/four-seat configuration. However, despite delivering up to 280 HP from its rotary engine, it wasn’t as fast as Mazda hoped it would be.

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The reasons were that the engine didn’t provide enough torque for convincing acceleration times. Also, the car wasn’t light as it could be. Along with the typical Wankel rotary motor problems, this car is the perfect candidate for a V8 swap.

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14. Porsche 944

The Porsche 944 was fast by the ‘80s standards when it came out. But now, almost 30 years later, getting 163 HP from its base engine doesn’t produce convincing performance numbers anymore. The solution to that is a V8 swap. In fact, over the years, many owners have installed V8s in their 944’s engine bay.

Photo Credit: Hagerty

Sure, it is a tight fit, but any small block Chevy V8 will do with the necessary modifications. The result is overwhelming since the 944 has neutral handling and precise steering. So the good news is, that big V8 up front won’t upset that balance.

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13. Jeep Wrangler

For decades, the Jeep Wrangler has been the perfect off-road vehicle for any use. A direct descendant of the famous original Jeep Willys, the Wrangler is the evolution of a small, compact, capable and everyday usable all-terrain vehicle. Also, the Wrangler is one of the models that has endured many market changes.

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Yet it has never compromised the special characteristics that made it legendary. The only problem with the Wrangler is that it only came with four and six-cylinder engines. However, there are plenty of independent companies that offer V8 swap kits. You can install even the Hellcat Hemi in it.

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12. Porsche 911

One of the most important characteristics of any Porsche 911 is that flat-six engine they mounted way back over the rear wheels. However, over the years, numerous owners have managed to install a big old American V8 for even better performance and top speed.

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You may wonder how that is possible when the weight balance of a classic 911 is not that great with so much weight on the rear. However, the V8 conversion job puts the engine a bit towards the passenger compartment, so it doesn’t upset the balance of the chassis. Many companies sell kits, so if you own an old 911 with a blown engine, give it a try.

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11. Nissan 240 SX

The quintessential drift car in the form of the Nissan 240 SX is a common base for engine swaps. And the reason is simple. The 240 SX had lots of room in the engine bay. Also, its lightweight chassis makes it perfect for track settings.

Photo Credit: Super Street Online

The stock engine is nowhere near as powerful as it should be. But one solution is to install a turbo kit for a big, old American V8. You’ll soon discover that the latter is much more fun.

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10. Datsun Fairlady Roadster

Everybody knows that Japanese automobiles started out as downsized copies of European and American cars. However, one of the most interesting Japanese copy of a European car was the cute and compact Datsun Fairlady Roadster. Datsun built it from 1959 to 1970 and it was also known as the Datsun Sports.

They borrowed the design, technology and feel directly from those British roadsters, especially the Triumph and MG. However, Datsun did more than just copy the British. It gave the little roadster significant power with the 2.0-liter engine. Also, it had better handling and driving dynamics.

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But most importantly, they guaranteed the quality of their cars, which is something the British companies had difficulties with. Datsun made over 40,000 of those cool little cars over an 11-year production period, selling most of them in the USA. And of course, they came with a left-hand drive.

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9. Toyota MR2

Back in the mid-80s, Toyota shocked the automotive world by introducing the MR2. It was a small mid-engined sports car with great performance and superb road holding at an affordable price. However, in those days, as well as today, people think of Toyota as a dull manufacturer of economy models without any interesting cars. But the MR2 changed all that since it was different from other Toyotas, appealing to fans of spirited driving and dynamic handling. They debuted the first generation MR2s in 1984. They featured a 1.5-liter or 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine they mounted centrally behind the driver, between the cabin and the rear axle.

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That’s what gave this little car fantastic handling. The second generation lasted into the ‘90s and was more modern-looking and with better technology and sharper handling. But the version you should look for is the 1.6-liter supercharged model they named the SC for supercharger delivering 145 HP and 140 lb-ft of torque. Although those power output figures don’t sound earth-shattering today, the MR2 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just seven seconds, which is quite respectable.

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8. Datsun 510

The Datsun 510 is an interesting car. Today, it is popular among JDM enthusiasts in America. However, this wasn’t a proper sports car since standard 510s were just regular, affordable, compact sedans or wagons. Also, they were popular choices for cash-strapped buyers in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. But the small, lightweight body paired with a lively engine, independent rear suspension, and rear-wheel drive soon transformed this economy compact into a performance car similar to the BMW 2002 or Alfa Giulia Ti. The base engine was a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 96 HP.

Photo Credit: Hagerty

However, with the 1.8-liter unit with twin-barrel carburetors, this little car had some power and convincing performance. It was also available as a two-door coupe, which became a popular base for modifications. The 510 was one of the first successful racing cars in America as well as an SCCA champion in the capable hands of John Morton from the Brock Racing Enterprises team.

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7. Opel GT

In the late `60s, German brand Opel was one of the most popular economy car manufacturers in Europe. Since it was owned by General Motors, the design of all Opel`s models was approved or even styled by GM`s design department which meant that Opel models looked like scaled-down versions of Chevrolets or Buicks. This was exactly the case with Opel GT a sporty affordable coupe, presented in 1968.

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Opel needed a sports car, based on its entry-level model – the Kadett, and in the mid-60s, it got approval from GM to introduce such a vehicle. The design was heavily influenced by Corvette and GM`s concepts from the mid-60s. Of course, with 1.3 and 1.9-liter four-cylinder engines, Opel GT didn’t have any of the Corvette`s power or performance but it had the looks. It was sold in America through the Buick dealership network and, interestingly, it sold well. More Opel GTs were sold in the US than in Europe during its five-year production run.

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6. Alfa Romeo GTV6

The Tipo 105 successor was the coupe version of Alfetta, which was introduced in the late ’70s. This car (chassis code 116) had very advanced construction and suspension and featured several interesting details. First, it had a transaxle gearbox which vastly improved weight distribution, thus handling. Second, it had a De Dion type rear axle which helped to corner and driving dynamics. With a 2.5-liter V6 engine in the front, the GTV6 delivered some 160-170 HP and pretty vivid performance by the standards of the day.

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Even today, GTV6 is known for its perfect driving dynamics, solid acceleration times, and a fantastic soundtrack from the high revving V6. Interestingly, this car was sold in the USA and even sold with an optional turbo kit by Callaway performance which was good for a whopping 233 HP. The prices are pretty affordable and this could be a perfect started classic if you are into Italian sports cars.

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5. Tesla Model S

The Model S is not the first car that Tesla produced, but it is by far the most popular and influential. It’s the first fully-electric sedan that is produced in significant numbers and singlehandedly created the electric car market. Introduced in 2012, Model S production has passed the 200,000 examples mark, which makes it the most advanced and most successful electric vehicle in the world

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The Model S is not only known for its pioneering construction but also for its unusual features, many industry firsts, and unbelievable performance. A controversial vehicle when it was released, the Model S is the symbol of progress and forward-thinking. One of its most important features is its AWD system, which is totally different from gasoline-powered competitors. Tesla’s AWD consists of four electric motors that independently power each wheel and are controlled by a highly-advanced system for perfect traction and road holding.

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4. BMW M1

The M1 was not a commercial success because BMW only sold in only 453 copies. However, this limited production sports car was tremendously important for the brand and for BMW’s future. This was the first model BMW’s famed M Motorsport division designed and produced, which was previously only responsible for racing cars. Enjoying a long period of commercial success, BMW planned to do enter the exclusive sports car market with a specially-designed model that would show the potential of BMW’s technology and signature style. Basically, BMW needed a halo car and they planned to use the M1 to do just that. However, since BMW didn’t have the experience and know-how to create a limited-production advanced sports car, they turned to Lamborghini. At first, it looked like the deal was successful, but Lamborghini didn’t deliver on time. BMW had to disband its partnership and finish the project themselves.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Finally, they introduced the M1 in 1978, and it was one of the biggest premieres of the year. The heart of this sports car was BMW’s famous M88 six-cylinder engine with 3.5-liters of displacement. It also included advanced fuel injection technology, producing 273 HP. This was a high number for the standards of the day. The M1 was a mid-engined car and the handling was sublime, performing better than most of the competitors. But BMW wanted to go racing, so soon they introduced the M1 racing car. But despite all the qualities and the fantastic design, the M1 wasn’t successful. It was expensive and unavailable in some markets. BMW’s lack of reputation in the sports car class proved to be fatal. So in 1981, they discontinued this model.

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3. BMW M3 E46

In October of 2000, the E46 M3 was introduced. It featured an all-new engine, drivetrain, and components. The car has since been regarded as one of the finest BMW M cars and a perfect driving machine. The E46 M3 was a big improvement over the E36 M3 from the ’90s.

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It had a 343 HP straight six-cylinder engine, almost ideal weight distribution, a great chassis, six-speed manual transmission, and respectable performance. The E46 M3 soon won the hearts of car enthusiasts all over the world. It was a sales success and is one of the best secondhand performance cars you can buy today.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

2. GMC Syclone

Not quite a sports car since it was a pickup truck and not quite a muscle car since it had a turbocharged V6. but nonetheless an immensely cool and desirable model. We don’t know who came up with the idea to take a Chevrolet S10 compact truck and turn it into Ferrari-killer. GM took an ordinary S10 body, installed a 4.3-liter V6 with a turbocharger, a special 4-speed automatic sourced from a Corvette, and a performance all-wheel drive.

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The power figures don’t sound much these days. But the Syclone was able to sprint to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, which made it faster than contemporary Ferraris. The keys were lightweight, small dimensions, and lots of torque from its turbocharged engine

Photo Credit: Mecum

1. Plymouth Prowler

Hot Rod culture is one of the key ingredients of the American automotive landscape. However, no company ever dared to present a factory-built Hot Rod until 1997 when Plymouth presented the Prowler. It was a retro-futuristic roadster with a V6 engine and fantastic looks.

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Imagined as the follow-up to the Viper, the Prowler was a hit on the show circuit and Chrysler wanted to capitalize on that. But despite having initial success, the car proved to be a failure. It just wasn’t all that powerful and only had looks going for it.

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