Everyone has a dream engine they’d like in their 4x4. Some want power, some want economy, some want light weight, some want big torque, and most want everything—and they want it for free. We decided to look at three engines we’re hoping to see swapped into a trail rig soon. Not all of these are possible, responsible, affordable, or even reasonable, but we’re pretty sure they would all be cool.
Let us know when you’ve got them swapped into your own project, though we assume it may be a couple of years. We’re sure the logistics and electronics of each swap will be a big task, but nothing is insurmountable, and we’re pretty sure these three will have enough interest to make it happen.
The Motus Four-Banger
If you are looking for a four-cylinder engine to swap into your next 4x4 then you’re probably concerned about weight. We’ve been hearing about this Motus V4 engine for a few years now and think it would be a really cool powerplant for a lightweight Samurai, Jeep, or buggy. The engine is rated at around 120 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm and around 185 hp at 7,000 rpm, so it’s not a low-end torque monster like a big-block, but it also only weighs 130 pounds and is only 19 inches wide. Loosely based on a GM V-8, the Motus is designed and built in the U.S. for motorcycles but has already been tested as a standalone crate engine option, even being tested in dune buggy.
The 90-degree pushrod Motus engine displaces just around 100 ci (1.6L) so displacement is not something you’ll be bragging about around the campfire, but that isn’t the reason for this little lump. We can imagine it revving like a banshee in a light two-seater dune machine, but properly geared it could tiptoe down a rock trail without the girth of bigger, heavier V-6 or V-8 engines.
Motus is developing a 9-inch bellhousing off the back of the engine so that it can be adapted to various transmissions. Plus, it is fuel-injected and a drive-by-wire unit, so it should run smoothly over obstacles and be relatively easy to adapt.
We have no definite price on these peppy little powerplants, but we guess they would be around $10,000 if you consider that they were developed from scratch and custom-built without the high production volumes of most OEM engines.
The Ford Six-Shooter With Boost
Ford began offering the EcoBoost twin turbocharged V-6 engine in F-150s back in 2011, and it has been welcomed with rave reviews. We built an F-150 for our Ultimate Adventure trip back in 2011 and had a great experience with it, so why hasn’t it found a market yet as a crate engine or swap candidate? There have been rumors over the past two years that a crate version may be available, but so far those are still just rumors. The engine was touted as offering V-6 economy with V-8 power. We’re not so convinced on the economy side, but we can say we think it has great power. Out Ultimate Adventure truck was able to break loose the 40-inch Nittos with ease.
The 3.5L Ford EcoBoost V-6 uses twin turbos and direct injection, making it very similar to a diesel engine. However, it still has spark plugs for igniting the fuel/air charge. The combination of turbo and direct injection, plus the addition of variable camshaft timing and a high compression ratio, makes for a very dynamic engine.
Swapping this engine into your old Bronco or F-150 means a fair number of hurdles must be cleared. One such item is the need for a power steering pump mount on the engine, as most of these engines came in vehicles with electric power-assisted steering. Another hurdle the electronics required to run such an engine. You may find that keeping it coupled to the factory six-speed automatic transmission is the best option for fewer swap headaches. Plus, for optimal performance you’ll want to keep an intercooler on the charge air side, adding packaging complexity.
This 214ci engine packs a healthy 365 hp at 5,000 rpm, and a grunty 420 lb-ft of torque down low at 2,500 rpm. It is robust and powerful but brings new technological headaches compared to the good old days of swapping in a V-6 with a carburetor on top. We expect the aftermarket will eventually come up with a standalone engine controller for this engine, but it may be a while because these new EcoBoost engines still demand a premium on the used market.