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Engine Swaps

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Originally Published: 9/1/2000
Bob Graham


Silver Auctions Engine swaps -- good or bad idea?

Some say to keep it stock, but not me! I want all the horsepower and cubic inches I can get. Are you trying to decide whether to change engines? Don't feel alone, because hot rodders and purists alike spend sleepless nights trying to decide whether to keep the o1' buggy stock or to modify it.

If you're thinking about an engine swap, you first need to know what you're dealing with. Is your current engine the original motor, or was it changed? Personally, I prefer originality over modification 75 percent of the time, especially if the original engine is a factory high-horsepower job.

These are highly sought by car buffs and greatly enhance the value of a car -- a 427 cubic inch Corvette with tri-power, for example, with a horsepower rating of 435! Most high power cars of the '60s and '70s went through modifications long ago, before avid collectors bid up their value. That means many of those cars were used for racing -- street or strip --and had engines broken, and replaced, with hard use. So the first step is to determine whether you have the original engine.

Unless you bought the car new, you'll need to do some research. Simply track down an automotive book for your car such as "Sixty Years of Chevrolet" or "The Complete History of Chrysler" and start reading. (You can find such books from publishing companies specializing in autos -- look in car magazines like Road & Track for their ads, or call us at Silver Auctions and see if we can look up your make and model. We have hundreds of books.)

Some research should be able to tell you what engines were stock, or optional, for your car. As you probably know, many large engines have been swapped into cars that originally came with smaller versions -- a 454 dropped into a 1970 Chevelle that came with a 350, for example. Since the car could have been ordered from the factory either way, the value may or may not have been increased, depending upon how much value the buyer places on horsepower vs. "matching numbers." Normally, however, a "big block" will outsell a "small block."

Many engine swaps are made with the idea of increasing the value. Such a swap is OK as long as the buyer is aware of the circumstances. Problems come up here because many engine swaps have been made to give the impression that the original engine is still in place, right down to re-stamping the numbers on the block. Documentation is the key in this scenario. My recommendation is to get proper paperwork, consult an expert, or both.

Now let's explore some of the positive reasons for engine swapping: To go racing. Enough said!

Replacing engines that are broken, worn out, just too tired. Obtaining more power for a work environment: towing, changing from diesel to gas, etc. Getting rid of a trouble-prone design. Jaguar owners, for example, sometimes swap in a GM engine. Making it better! That's the most popular reason of course, so let's go rodding!

Be it street, strip or cruzill', street rodders have been swapping engines ever since the hobby began, and these vehicles cover the full spectrum of the imagination. Check out your local newsstand for just a few of the wide range of car magazines covering the street rod scene.

When all is said and done, the decision on engine swaps will always be a matter of personal preference. Remember, though, that a has-been car will always be a has-been, and a new engine won't change that.

If you're thinking of replacing a factory original "muscle car" engine, please call me first. I'll try to change your mind. Thinking of swapping engines? Here are some good swaps, and bad ones: GOOD - A V-8 replacing a 6-cylinder. To make a street rod. BAD - Corvettes Original muscle car engines. Another BAD - 1955, '56, '57, '58 Chevys.          --Bob

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