Car mods | These are some of SA's most popular engine swaps

<i>Image: Wesley Booysen</i>
<i>Image: Wesley Booysen</i>
Wesley Booysen

There's only so much performance tuning you can do to a car's stock engine before the need for more power rears its head.

Cape Town's tuning scene is rife with cars sporting another brand's engine, and it is seen as a simple way to gain more power without having to spend extra money on modifications.

Not brand specific

Of course, swapping out your existing engine for an entirely new one is not as easy as it sounds because mounting points, brackets and engine bay space is different in each car.

Have you completed a unique engine conversion and if so, which car and engine? Email us your story and images, and we'll publish them on Wheels24.

The majority of Japanese engines from the 90s, primarily from the Nissan and Toyota stables, are used as the base due to the on-tap power readily available.

READ | Smokey Nagata: The man who created the legendary twin-turbo V12 Toyota Supra build

From a complete VW Golf GTI engine mated to DSG fitted to a MK1 Golf, and not forgetting Quentin Boylan's insane AMG-powered Lotus Exige, the realms of possibilities are endless when it comes to petrolheads and their pursuit of power.


The SR20 is one of Nissan's most popular engines, capable of making strong power in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged form. One, in particular, is the SR20VE that has become a firm favourite among Sentra 200STI and Sabre 200GXI owners.

nissan sentra 200sti

                                                                 Image: Nissan Sentra Club

Because the stock SR20DE in the STI and GXI only comes with 105kW, the VE, on the other hand, pushes 147kW and also features Variable Valve Lift or VVL. It is a straight swap in the chassis, and the only thing that needs changing is the flywheel. Those sold at engine outlets operate with automatic gearboxes and a simple flywheel swap from the existing DE is all that is required.

Due to the engine's popularity, its price has seemingly gone up. A clean, low-mileage example can cost as much as R17 000.


If there is one brand that makes some of the fastest, small-displacement engines, the hat has to be tipped in favour of Honda. Just like Nissan's SR20, Honda's B-series range is equally impressive and pushed out as much as 150kW in 2.0-litre displacement.

The B-series was discontinued in the early 2000s and replaced by the K-series and drivers of sixth-gen EK Civic and Ballade's opted to swap the smaller 1.6-litre VTEC engine in place of the bigger 2.0-litre, with a bit more power. This swap and the extra displacement increased performance, and widened the platform with which to tune.

Yet another favourite is the aforementioned K20 engine found in the FN2 Type R model. It made reliable power, 147kW to be exact, and solved the problem of low-down torque that B-series engines suffered from. It is made distinct by a red cam cover. Prices vary per engine outlet but expect to pay in excess of R20 000.


From the 4AGE to the 2ZZ, and the mighty 2JZ, Toyota boasts a healthy range of performance engines. Out of that list, the 4AGE 1.6-litre, 20-valve engine is the most common swap and literally fits into any bay without much fuss. It comes in silver and blacktop, making 114 and 121kW respectively. Toyota fans like Wheels24's Janine Van der Post, a 20V owner herself, will argue the blacktop is the better version

Chippy beams conversion

                                                                    Image: Wesley Booysen

One engine that has seen an increased number of swaps in recent years is the fourth-generation 3SGE BEAMS. The 147kW rated 2.0-litre engine features Variable Valve Lift and comes out as stock in the MR2 and Celica.

The engine is positioned in a hunched angle and requires a bit of fabrication work in order to house it. Components like mountings, brackets, and CV joints might have to be custom made. You can pick up a decent one and the gearbox for around R18 000.

Disclaimer: Please note prices are close estimates, and not exact prices. Wheels24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of contributors/columnists published on Wheels24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24 or Wheels24. 

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