Because not everything in the world is terrible, some carmakers are willing to sell you an engine all by its mighty self. Jalopnik readers know the best you can buy.
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Now, there are a few reasons why you might want a crate engine. Perhaps you're looking to make an engine coffee table. Go you! In that case, we would recommend you find yourself a junkyard engine instead. In fact, here's a list of ten engines just for that purpose.
We also very much like the donor motor approach if you have an old beater that needs a new engine. If your Mazda 323 blows its engine, just find another 323 with a working engine and make the swap. Oh look, we have a guide for how to properly pull an engine.
Now, if you're building yourself a dragster, hot rod, or offroader you'll want a crate engine. The same is true if you're starting your dream project car like a V8 Miata, V8olvo 240, V8 Datsun, V8 E30, or really any V8 whatever. You put in an order with the factory and then a big box full of internal combusting excellence arrives in the mail.
The question is, which one best balances performance, price, weight, and usability?
Photo Credit: Garret Voight
The classic. You can build it any way you like, but the basic model is $2,393 and gets you 290 horsepower, $5,682 gets you 330, and $6,656 gets you 350. The aftermarket is unparalleled.
Suggested By: ClayW, Photo Credit: GM
Do you want to put way too much power into a little old economy car? Of course you do. Going for a $7K 2.2 liter with 200+ horsepower is more than a little extreme for a street car, but these engines are awesome.
If you don't think you want a perilously expensive ($17K - $30K) straight-six that can be worked into four-digit horsepower numbers, slap yourself. Then check out Tomei Powered's page of total engine porn.
God help you finding one of these things now that Hartley appears to be selling of the rights to this horribly difficult-to-engineer engine. The work will be worth it. Hartley managed to find a way to meld two Hayabusa engines together, giving the power of a V8 with the weight of a small four-cylinder. Oh yes, Ariel uses them in the batshit Atom V8.
Diesel hot rods rule. A huge 5.9/6.7 liter, 450 horsepower Cummins is the way to go.
Suggested By: Vracktal, Photo Credit: Cummins
Ford's 302 ci DOHC V8 isn't perfect. It's a big engine and particularly tall compared to what comes out of GM, making it difficult to swap into low-hood sports cars like Porsche 944s. On the other hand, the 5.0 Ford motor is strong, powerful (414 hp), and pretty affordable ($6,999). If you want more performance, just pony up the $5K for the Boss version.
Suggested By: DerrickD, Photo Credit: Ford
There are lighter, smaller ways to make insane horsepower numbers. None of those ways are 9.4 liter volcanoes of destruction. Big blocks are the shit.
Suggested By: Stig-a-saw-us-wrecks, Photo Credit: GM
Anyone who knows crate engines knows that GM's LS series is the king right now. You could find yourself an LS7 or an LS9, but we kind of have a hankering for this LSX454R, GM's most powerful crate engine ever. It's $24K, but you get 750 horsepower in a naturally-aspirated motor. The 454R is also still cheaper than a LS9, too.
Suggested By: TheSmokingTire, Photo Credit: GM
These Windsor-block Ford engines have been the backbone for drag racing for years. They're one of the cheapest "plug and play" options for a car, with 340 horsepower available from $4,000. Its aftermarket is second only to the Chevy 350 and they're bulletproof. Buy one.
Suggested By: Jstas, Photo Credit: Ford
It's a 430 horsepower, $9,375 CARB-compliant 6.2 liter V8. That means you can legally swap it into any street car in all 50 states. If you're the kind of person who sees an old car and dreams of what it'd be like with a V8 under the hood, this is your engine.
Suggested By: OMG, TTA!, Photo Credit: GM