One of the best value modifications has to be an engine swap. Tuning a small engine will only ever give small returns for your investment.
There is a plentiful supply of engines from your local breakers or salvage yards and with most makes and models can be a simple modification.
When doing an engine swap you need to do a bit of research first. The easiest swaps are for a larger engine from the same model of car. The engine mounts and gearbox mounts will typically be the same as the engine bays are unchanged. You may also find that engines from larger models will fit into a smaller models engine bay. This usually requires a bit of ingenuity and will nearly always require custom engine mounts.
Here are some questions to ask:-
(Family car is a small model - say an Fiesta or Corsa, Executive car is a larger model say a Mondeo or Vectra and sports model refers to a sports car model like the VX220 or a Puma. )
My family car has 1.3 engine what is the biggest engine in the family car range? - This should fit easily.
My family car has a 1.3 engine, does the executive car use the same 1.3 engine? - This would imply that the larger executive car engines will also fit your car. (Check physical dimensions and if you are lucky you may find your engine mounts fit directly to the larger engine.
My family car has a 1.3 engine - I want the sports model 2.0 engine to fit? - There is not a benchmark here and this could be a real pain to fit, requiring cutting and fabricating mounts. Most things are possible but rarely worth it.
Do a search around popular car forums like www.torquecars.com/forums and see if anyone has done your chosen doner/car engine swap before.
If you can get a complete donor car, which you can cannibilize as and when you need to. You will usually need to take the wiring loom and engine sensors. In some cars you will need the ecu and immobiliser/door locks to get things working together. Look for a write off with heavy rear end damage.
The engine will usually be in good condition. When you are finished sell of the rest of the parts/interior and you will often cover your costs of buying the donor in the first place. Take photos of the donor engine and label the wiring carefully. This can save a lot of time later. It is also worth getting some internal engine mods done whilst the engine is out.
Do not skimp and replace the fuel pump, oil pump and core plugs etc. This ensures you will have a good working engine. When engines sit around drained in breakers yards there is a shocking amount of deterioration and seizing that goes on.
Run the engine in slowly at first and give everything a chance to bed in properly. Check frequently for leaks and split hoses, which are common issues following an engine swap.
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