The pursuit of speed and sound in cars doesn’t have to end with just one engine. Swapping engines between cars is much more common than most think. The 240SX community is especially fond of this idea, due to a large engine bay and transmission tunnel. You can see anything from an AM29 V12 all the way down to a twin-rotor 13B, and almost everything in between. Whether you’re looking for a semi-reliable weekend car, a pure-bred track monster, or even something to run the 1320, you’ll find your motor here!
Here, we’ll be discussing 15 different engines. We have three v8s, five inline-6s, two v6s, two rotaries, and three inline-4s. There are more engine swaps possible (including the aforementioned AM29 V12, the Viper V10, and the custom-made quad-rotor 26B), but we’re focusing on cheaper and more common swaps. These swaps will have more aftermarket support and forums helping you through them.
With each engine, I’ll give a simple breakdown of the power output and weight, along with how complicated the swap is. I’ll try to find full swap kits for each engine as well.
Big Boy’s Torque-Filled V8s
For those of you who believe that there’s “no replacement for displacement”, we have four GM-made V8s for you here. These engines are generally much easier to swap than others, since their length is near identical to the stock engine. They tend to be much wider engines due to their V-shaped design, but there is enough room around the engine for other fundamental items.
This late 90’s engine was found in the C5 Corvette, along with the Trans-Am and the Firebird of the era too. Many Australian Holden models also came with this engine. Featuring a displacement of 5.7L (346ci), the power levels from factory varied a large amount. In its first appearance (the C5 Corvette), the engine was rated at 345bhp. Throughout its lifespan, the power was ramped up all the way to 380bhp in some Holden models from factory.
On the tuning potential side of things, a Camaro with a stock bottom end LS1 ran an 8.94 quarter mile, at 151. According to online calculators, with the reported car’s weight being 3000 lbs, gives a BHP of 830. With a built bottom end, this engine has been reported with outputs of well over 1,000bhp. Being an aluminum block means the engine is very light as well.
Charles Ng of Formula Drift uses one of these engines with a Vortech supercharger on the front in his Infiniti G37 drift car, putting down a respectable (but still reliable) 800whp.
The Full Swap Kit from Enjuku Racing can be found here.
This 6.2L (376ci) motor was made as a replacement for the LS2, being put in the C6 Corvette originally. This engine first produced 430bhp, making it the most powerful base-trim Corvette engine of the time. It’s also found in the Pontiac G8 GXP, Chevrolet Camaro, and the majority of the Holden Commodore family between 2008 and 2017. Not many changes to power were made through this engine’s lifespan from factory.
Power numbers in the aftermarket scene, however, have continually kept growing. Steve Morris Engines built an LS3 with a single turbo that puts out just over 1,200hp. Now there’s an engine I wouldn’t mind in a Formula D car!
Sikky Manufacturing makes a swap kit for the LS3 with plenty of extra options for a fully custom experience.
Based on the LS7 block, the LSX is a high-performance crate engine provided by Chevrolet. With a max power of 450 from factory, that alone could be impressive. However, it only gets better from there! When you purchase this engine, you decide between the 8psi and the 15psi engines. While these engines are shipped naturally aspirated, they are forced-induction friendly. The psi rating of the engine you bought is how much boost the engine can safely handle.
While stock blocks can handle well over 1100HP, with forged internals, they have handled over 3,000whp. Dave Adkins’ LSX is pushing 3,000 to the ground, running a 3.9 in the 1/8th mile. These come in two main displacements, a 376 and a 454. The 376 is generally considered a “street” engine, while the 454 is more drag/race oriented. Regardless, both are incredibly strong and reliable engines, that can be purchased as new crate engines.
Finding a swap kit for these engines can be difficult, due to the confusion between the LSX engine and the notation for all the LS engines, LSx (note capitalization). However, since the LSX is a race variant of the LS7 engine, with some skill, the LS7 swap kits can be modified to work with an LSX engine.
Perfectly Balanced Inline 6s
The design for an inline-6 engine is basically an inline-3, mirrored over itself. Thus, cylinders 3 and 4 are the same, cylinders 2 and 5 are the same, and cylinder 1 and 6 match as well. Each set of cylinders operates 120 degrees away from the other two. This cancels not only the primary forces, but the secondary ones as well, creating an incredibly balanced engine that can rev very high without significant vibration. Here are some of the very famous examples of such a design, as well as those that will fit in your 240SX. Of course, finding the room to stick these long engines will prove difficult!
Starting out swinging, we have arguably the most legendary engine of all, the 2JZ. The pinnacle of tuner culture, the 2J was only found in the US by means of the A80 (Mk. IV) Toyota Supra. One other car featured the GTE, the japan-exclusive Aristo. The US version of the Aristo, named the Lexus SC300, came with a non-turbo version of the 2J. The Lexus IS300 also featured this N/A 2J, but with the internals practically nothing alike their forced induction brother, they weren’t nearly as tunable.
If you can get your hands on a turbocharged 2J, however, you have a powerplant that can handle in excess of 1,000hp. The stock block has been seen running 8s in the 1/4 mile, which is absolutely incredible. Due to the over-engineering that went into this engine, if you can get your hands on one, you’ll never find yourself short of power potential! Finding a kit to support your swap won’t be difficult, there’s one here.
While this is the original version of our previous entry, the 2JZ, that doesn’t make it the exact same motor. With 0.58″ less stroke in each cylinder compared to the 2J, this engine carries a 2.5L displacement, and much more potential for higher revs. Power being made from a stock block can still reach the 900-1000hp mark, but it’s much easier to do so with this engine. Remember, horsepower is torque*(RPM/5252). As long as you have more RPM, you’ll generally make more power.
This engine was also co-designed by Yamaha, who also had input on the Lexus LFA’s legendary v10. They know a thing or two about high RPM engines, between the 1LR-GUE from the LFA, the R1, and the 4A-GE, found in the famous AE-86. These Yamaha-developed engines had redlines of 9,000, 13,750, and 7,600 respectively. While the 7,600 figure may not sound impressive, this was in the early to mid 80’s!
With the same budget as the 2JZ, you can see slightly lower power figures than its larger brother. However, this is offset by this block generally being more widely available, as well as significantly cheaper. Most swap kits for the 2JZ will work with the 1JZ (since the blocks are nearly identical).
Out of the E46 M3, the next 3.2L engine we have is a raspy, high-torque powerplant. The S54 engine is a cast-iron block, capable of over 500hp on stock internals. With a larger stroke than bore, this engine won’t rev nearly as high as a JZ engine, but will generally produce more torque. It also features a distinctive, strong and raspy exhaust note, unique to this engine series. Forced induction is always an option, to help achieve that 500hp number. Amplifying the natural torque with a supercharger would help, while complimenting it with a turbocharger would provide extra high-end power.
While this was the last inline-6 put in an M3 (which was replaced by the S65 V8), it certainly wasn’t the least. With a stock power output of 360hp, it overshadowed the previous M3 engines by a significant margin. The S52 and S50 inline-6s had 321 and 200 horsepower respectively, and the S14 inline-four had about 200hp. Finding an S54 shouldn’t be a hassle either, considering the high production volume and widespread availability.
As featured in the R33 and R34 Skyline GTS-T, the RB25DET is home to 250 horsepower from factory. This 2.5L engine is very similar to its bretheren, the RB20, the RB24, RB26 (we’ll talk about this next), and the RB30. The engine’s main difference, aside from displacement, is that it’s the only one to feature side-mount injectors. The rest of the RB line uses top-mount injectors, and while there are no notable performance gains from either system, switching between the two is difficult. On stock internals, 500hp isn’t unheard of.
The primary (any only notable) downside to this engine is the cap on power. Once you hit that 500hp figure, then you’re building the engine. Even if you go through and put all forged internals in, the block itself may begin to crack. If you’re looking for a build that’s under 500, then the RB25 will work for you. Otherwise, you should set your eyes on the next bigger brother, the RB26DETT
The motor that powered the R32, R33, and R34 Skyline GT-Rs, the RB26DETT is truly one of the most coveted engines for tuners, alongside the 2JZ-GTE. While it only was reported with 280hp from factory, that figure has been proven false, with the real output nearing 320hp. This motor, in almost every way, is superior to the RB25. It replaced the hydraulic lifters with solid ones, reinforced pistons, rods, crank, and block, and even has individual throttle bodies for every cylinder.
The only place where the RB26 notably falls short is in lubrication. The pump used in this engine is insufficient for higher engine speeds, requiring the RB26DETT N1’s pump to be swapped on for safety. Aside from this issue, the RB26 will live for well beyond 200,000 miles, if maintained properly, and can be built to withstand well over 1,000hp.
A Jack of All Trades, Master of None, The V6s
These engines aren’t nearly as well balanced as the Inline-6s, they don’t have the high-revving capacity of the Inline-4s, and they don’t put out the torque numbers the V8s can. They aren’t as good as these engines in their niches, but outside of them? The V6 is better balanced than the Inline-4, makes more torque than the Inline-6, and revs higher than the V8s. It’s truly a jack of all trades, master of none!
Fitting one in a 240SX is easier than fitting a V8 or an I6, as it isn’t as long as either of these engines. They tend to be about the same width, if not a little skinnier, than the V8s. You’ll have plenty of room in front to play with forced induction! You’ll likely have to modify your headers around your steering column, however.
I know I didn’t mention which VQ35 I’d be talking about, because I’ll mention all of them (DE, Rev Up, HR) in this section. With only minor differences between the years and models, we’ll start with the oldest, the DE.
From factory, it was most notably found in the 350z, though it made appearances in over seven other cars. It made 210hp, had a rev limiter of 6,600, and was a generally reliable engine. Sure, it drank oil, and sure, it could develop a rough idle. If this engine was maintained, however, it would see you past 250,000 miles.
The VQ35 Rev up edition was made as a celebration for Nissan’s 25th anniversary. It featured a redline of 7,000RPM, with peak power of 298hp. It was certainly more powerful than the DE, however, was less reliable. If you thought the DE drank oil, you had another thing coming with this motor! Many owners reported it drinking an entire quart of oil every few hundred miles. However, they pay this price for the highly increased horsepower, stronger block, and higher redline!
The most popular choice for tuning, namely for forced induction builds, is the HR. With 312hp on tap and a 7,500 redline, this engine is quite the screamer! Though, there’s always the other group that say these sound like “butt trumpets”. Everybody’s entitled to an opinion, though. With a nearly 80% redesigned engine, the block is over 30% stronger, able to withstand 450hp. This, coincidentally, is about your cap for an N/A build. If you decide to go the forced induction route, many choose to put a centrifugal supercharger on the front, to shove roughly 7 pounds of boost in. That’s about your limit (from a stock engine) before you need to build the block.
Between the years, while the internals may have changed, the mounting kits haven’t nearly as much! Their site is down at the time of posting this, but McKinney Motorsports has a full kit for cramming a VQ into your 240.
The engine that stole the GT-R name from the Skyline, that powered Nissan’s newest flagship supercar. With anywhere between 470hp and 600hp, this has powered the R35 GT-R its whole life, since 2007. It also has a place in the Nissan Juke R, a high-performance trim of the Juke. These engines can make 700hp on stock internals, with stock turbos to boot! They do so by means of an aggressive tune, downpipe, cold air intake, larger injectors, and fuel pump.
I’ve only been able to find two people who successfully completed the swap on the internet, though I’m sure there’s more. Nevertheless, there doesn’t seem to be a kit for this motor swap either. If you’re heavy into fabrication and have immense skill, you could make your own parts and mounts. It’s safe to say you’d be the only VR38-swapped 240 anywhere you went though!
Brappin’ “Totally Reliable” Rotaries
These are definitely the most unique of the engine configurations on our list, but by no means are they the best. They have two distinct advantages over any other engine configuration on this list, but aside from those, they’re generally worse, or the un-preferred option. They have the ability to rev much higher than normal reciprocating piston engines, due to their incredible simplicity and low-inertia design. Only three parts are really moving on a rotary, and there are no valves to crash into, no timing chain to snap, nothing if you over-rev the engine.
The other advantage is their tiny packaging. Rotary engines are incredibly small, thus able to fit in just about any engine bay. Putting one in your 240 would be one of the easiest swaps ever, space-wise. Once the engine is in there and running, though, you have a 240 with an engine that gets rebuilt every few drift events. There are people who love the rotary enough to put up with this, and if you’re one of them, then by all means, good luck!
This engine was found in the legendary FD RX-7, sporting twin turbochargers and putting out between 250 and 280 horsepower. The turbos were set up sequentially, with one providing boost at 1,500RPM, and cutting out as the second spooled up around 4,000RPM. This helped eliminate turbo lag, as well as provide more torque at the low end. Like the 2JZ, it’s common to see the twin turbo setup thrown out in lieu of one, much larger turbo. These turbos provide stock boost of 10psi, but can be raised to 13psi with an ecu tuning module. With an aftermarket intercooler and fuel pump, you can max the stock turbos out at 15psi. This will net you a cool 300whp, your limit on stock turbos.
To go up to 400hp, you’ll need to swap your turbos out for more efficient ones, preferably able to push 20psi. With these, and some breathing and cooling mods, you should be able to tune for 400hp. To get to 550hp, you’ll need to ditch the twin turbo setup (since not many large twin-turbo setups were made for these cars). This also helps with space in the engine bay (though you shouldn’t have any issues with it). Cooling of parts is also a huge factor, as having more air space in between heated parts will allow for the dissipation of heat.
Here’s a rare animal for you! Only found in the Eunos Cosmo (JDM Mazda) from 1990 to 1996, and in one trim level, this engine is hard to come by here in the States. With 280hp, this twin turbo 3-rotor engine buzzed to 60 in 6.5 seconds, which wasn’t bad for its time. This is a fairly nice swap into a 240 chassis, very similar to the 13B. Instead of having rotors 180 degrees apart like the 13B, this engine has one every 120 degrees, delivering much smoother power. Due to the gear ratio from the rotor to the eccentric shaft (3:2), and the erratic movement of the rotor itself, the engine has 3 power strokes for every engine RPM. This is also increased from the 13B’s 2 power strokes.
The increased number of rotors increases overall power, as well as how smoothly that power is delivered. A 13B’s power cap without major rebuild (besides the many apex seal rebuilds) is roughly 550hp. The cap on the 20B, however, far exceeds that, nearing 750hp. In part, this is due to the third rotor being able to share the power load. The eccentric shaft in the 20B is also significantly sturdier, meant to handle the extra power of a third rotor. They sound amazing, too! Good luck finding one though..
Rev-Happy Inline-4 Engines
These peppy little 4-pot engines are more than happy to scream past 9,000RPM with the right mods. They make all their power from a mixture of high RPM and turbocharging, leading to many thousands of horsepower. Their primary forces cancel out, providing a balanced driving experience. They still need strong engine mounts, however, as the secondary forces do not cancel themselves out.
The Swiss Army Knife of turbo inline-4s, the SR engine came with a whopping 14 power outputs, over 5 generations. It’s been seen in FWD applications (Sentra SE-R), RWD applications (various 240s), and AWD applications (Pulsar GTI-R). This engine has also been swapped into a huge number of different cars, including USDM 240s, Eagle Talon/Eclipses, and some Lotus Elises as well. These engines have a 1:1 bore x stroke ratio, being roughly 86mm. Having this even ratio helps them provide both low-end torque, and high-end horsepower. With a stock block, you can see figures between 350 and 400, via a turbo, fuel system, and aftermarket ECU.
Adding larger turbos while tuning can drastically increase top-end horsepower, at the cost of more turbo lag. To counteract this, people use stroker kits to increase displacement and torque. These utilize a different crankshaft to allow the piston to travel further up and down, increasing the duration of the power stroke. The downside to stroking an engine is the lower RPM limit, since the piston speed has to drastically increase to achieve the same engine RPM. For builds with a lower budget, adding a stroker kit is considerably easier and cheaper.
Boring the engine out, however, will provide you with more power in the end, achieving the same displacement without increasing stroke. This allows the piston speed to stay lower at higher RPMs, and by revving higher, can produce exponentially more horsepower. While it’s not common, a bored out SR20DET can achieve close to 800HP, but you’ll need to replace everything (except the kitchen sink).
What is essentially an older, weaker, smaller SR20, the CA18 really doesn’t have much merit. I know it sounds brutal, but it’s the truth, the only advantage that the CA18 has is in the sound department. The block is weaker (common to eat up crank bearings), lower displacement, much less reliable, and much lower tuning potential. While seeing between 300hp and 350hp is fairly simple (like the SR20), getting anything above that means full rebuilt. You’d be lucky to see 600hp out of this block for any reasonable build. There’s rumors of Japanese drag racers hitting 1,000HP, but no proof of it. While it’s most likely just banter, there may have been a 1k whp CA18 somewhere, sometime.
These engines were retired from production all the way back in 1994, only used for a few years in Euro-spec 200SXs. It was also found in the Silvia S12, Bluebird, Auster, and had a one-year run in the S13. This engine was never better than the SR20, but if this engine is your only option, it’s still better than the stock lump in US 240s, the KA24.
Finally, here we are, with easily the most legendary 4-pot engine. This beast powered every single generation of the Lancer Evolution (save for the Evo X, but we don’t talk about the Evo X). With power levels averaging around the respectable 250hp figure from factory, they weren’t slow by any means. These iron-block engines were heavy however, which limited their stock performance. Those same iron blocks, however, gave them the ability to handle power figures in the thousands with no block modification.
Getting to that 1,000hp figure is no easy feat, though. The first barrier is 350hp, which can be gotten with a boost controller, intake, exhaust, and a tune. This is roughly a $2,000 stage, but $2,000 for 100hp isn’t bad by any means. The next stage is 500hp, and this is where we’re replacing the turbo, injectors, and fuel pump. Your transmission and clutch won’t be able to handle this much power for long. You can get heavy duty, multi-plate clutches, but with the transmission, you have a choice. You could try to reinforce your existing trans, maybe with a 5th-gear lockout of some kind. Having your trans rebuilt with straight-cut gears is a good option too, that way you get that sweet, sweet sound. Lastly, you could opt for a whole new transmission, something like a reinforced sequential gearbox.
From there, you’ll have to replace the internals of the engine, larger turbo, larger fuel system, better intake, and (most importantly) tune. It’s a matter of how much money you’re willing to dump into the car, you’re going to see a square root curve with money in-horsepower out ratio. Earlier horsepower is cheaper, but going from 1,000 to 1,100 is more expensive.