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Beginner’s Guide To An Engine Swap For Your Classic Car

September 23, 2022  -  Engines & Components

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Simply put, an engine swap is a process of replacing the existing engine on your car with a new one. Depending on the reason behind the swap, you can replace the old engine with an identical one that’s in better running condition or with one that offers better performance and reliability. 

Either way, engine swaps make a lot of sense for someone rebuilding their classic car. The opportunities are endless if you’re looking to swap the engine on your classic, and it can be an expensive process. This guide takes you through all the fundamentals you should be aware of so you can make an informed decision on whether an engine swap makes sense for your project. 

Do You Need an Engine Swap?

As we mentioned above, there are two main reasons people would consider engine swapping as the solution to a problem they’re facing — to improve reliability or performance. 

When the stock engine on your car has too many technical issues, sometimes the more straightforward fix is simply swapping the whole thing out for one in better condition. This approach is less technical and often less expensive since significant modifications don’t have to be made to the chassis or drivetrain to accommodate the new engine.

On the other hand, an engine swap also makes sense for someone looking to get more out of their car regarding performance or reliability. This is usually done by swapping the stock engine with a more modern unit. As you can imagine, this can be a complex process as the new engine will have different dimensions and technology that will require modifications to other parts of the car, like the engine bay and transmission

How Much Will an Engine Swap Cost?

An engine swap can cost between $1,000 to over $15,000 since so many variables are involved. One of the most significant expenses will be the engine itself, and the cost for this will depend on what car you own and what engine you’re looking for. Finding a stock replacement engine will be difficult if your project car is something rare, like a classic Chevy Corvette L88 or a Pontiac GTO. These classic car engines are incredibly rare and will cost you a massive chunk of change. 

On the flip side, if you’re working on a more common classic car, the engine swap cost will be less. That is, unless you choose to equip it with a high-performance engine from another donor vehicle. In such a case, several other changes will need to be made to accommodate the new engine. These modifications include changes to the chassis, electricals, and even the transmission to handle the added power and torque sent to the wheels. 

The final expense to keep in mind is the cost of labor. A more technical engine swap will require a skilled mechanic who will charge you more. Considering that an engine swap is a comprehensive process, the labor cost can add up to a significant amount. 

Options For Engine Swapping

There are multiple options for engine swapping, and you should decide based on your goal with the build, compatibility, and, most importantly, the budget. We’ve covered the fundamentals of the options at your disposal, but it’s worth noting that the specifics will vary depending on your individual preferences. 

Direct Replacement

A direct replacement of the engine on your car is the most straightforward kind of engine swap. It’s when the existing stock engine is swapped out for an identical one. This is the simplest option as it requires no changes to the chassis or the transmission. As a result, the considerable costs will only be for the new engine and labor. 

Similar Swap

Depending on the make and model of your classic, you might also have the option to swap the engine out with an easily compatible one. This could be in the form of an engine offered in a different market or an updated version of the same engine. In such a case, you must account for different intake and exhaust pipes and other supporting components like the exhaust and cooling systems. 

Kit Swaps

Engine swap kits are an excellent option as they are readily available from manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers. Most kits out in the market will require you to source the new engine, but they come with everything you need to mount it into your car easily. These kits typically include engine headers, mounts, oil pan, gaskets, crossmember, and other components. 

Custom Swaps

Customs swaps give you the most freedom with the build as you have the option to take any new engine and make the required changes to the frame and transmission to support it. Understandably, the costs involved with this process can be massive.

Find the Best Parts for Your Classic Car!

An engine swap is a serious project that requires time and money. Depending on the resources at your disposal, it can take anywhere from a week to several months to complete. This is because engine swaps are never as simple as they seem, and there will be unexpected problems to rectify. What helps is having access to the right parts. At JEGS, we’ve got all the restoration parts you’ll need to build your dream classic car, from steering and chassis components to electricals and wiring. To find what you’re looking for, simply enter your car’s make, model, and year and view the parts designed to fit it well.

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