PCH, Northstar Swap Edition: Toyota MR2 or Pontiac Fiero?

Illustration for article titled PCH, Northstar Swap Edition: Toyota MR2 or Pontiac Fiero?

Since yesterday's Packard Straight Eight Swap Edition (which was won by the '37 Pontiac) was so much fun, we're going to stick with Alternative Powerplant Hell for another day. All engine swaps are fun, of course, but the best ones involve stuffing an engine much, much larger than anything the car's designers ever considered. When you accomplish such a swap, you get respect; when you start with the knuckle-shredding, sanity-destroyingly tight engine compartment of a small mid-engined car (say, a Fiero or MR2)... well, that's when folks start treating you with the deference reserved for the truly mad!


PCH, Northstar Swap Edition: Toyota MR2 or Pontiac Fiero?

We're going to pull our punches here and choose a V8 that's not only fairly small for a DOHC unit but already set up for a front-wheel-drive application. That means the engine and associated transaxles are already lined up in correct orientation in the recipient cars' chassis. So whip out $1,600 and drop a Buy It Now bomb on this 300-horse late-90s Northstar engine, then head to the junkyard for some transaxle shopping fun.

You won't be the first lunatic ambitious project builder to take on the Northstar Fiero project. Far from it- why, it's been done many times! Here's a guy who makes the whole process look pretty straightforward. You can keep repeating to yourself the mantra "GM engine... GM car... easy swap..." as you head on down to pick up this very reasonably priced '84 Fiero (go here if the ad disappears). Only 400 bucks asking price! You can go ahead and make plans to have your new 300-horsepower Fiero terrorizing your town on the very same weekend, that's how easy it's sure to be... well, actually, you might need to spend some time fixing brakes and stuff, since the car has been sitting for "5 or 6" years (probable translation: 10 or 12 years). So let's say two weekends, tops!

Isn't it cheating to swap in an engine made by the same corporation that made the car? The Northstar might even bolt up to a GM transmission that fits perfectly in the Fiero, and where's the fun there? Not only that, the Fiero came with a V6 from the factory, which means there's room for a somewhat wide engine. That's why you need to spring for an extra hundred bucks and buy this '86 Toyota MR2 (go here if the ad disappears). Dad says it's gotta go, and when Orange County dads say it's gotta go, they mean it! All we know about the car is that it "NEEDS WORK," because the owner, Steve, needs to repeat his phone number four times and runs out of motivation for describing the car itself; hey, it works on radio ads, so why shouldn't it be even more effective in print? You might think that shoehorning a Northstar into an MR2 would be damn near impossible, what with the fact that the little Toyota came with only an inline-four engine and all, but it's been done! With 300 horsepower (or more, since you might as well add supercharging to this already-hopeless challenging project), your MR2 should have the kind of power-to-weight ratio seen only on racetracks (and in car-crash stories that make the national news).

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Rob Emslie

I went for the Toyota as I like the idea of creating an MR8, but I am overall ambivalent about both of these particular cars as they each lack T-tops. Bring on the T-tops. Then we'll talk.