More power, less hassle.
A crate engine is simply a new engine that can be bought from a manufacturer, builder, or tuning company, ready to be dropped into a vehicle. When a car or truck engine starts to get tired, it can be cheaper and easier to pick out a suitable crate engine and swap them out. It can give a car or truck with a well kept and maintained chassis a whole new lease of life. For the more adventurous, it can also add a new level of performance. For the truly adventurous, tuners can rework a car to accept a better or bigger engine. It's a labor-intensive and costly job but can ultimately save on frustration by providing more power, more reliably compared to tuning an existing engine within a horsepower of its life. Whatever reason you might have for looking into a crate engine, these are the best ones around at the moment.
In order to revitalize a classic car or truck, GM's 5.7-liter V8 is tough to beat. The 350 Small-Block is timeless and well-proven, and can be picked up as a base engine or as a deluxe package with an intake manifold, distributor, damper and flexplate, included. GM also offers a turnkey version ready to bolt in, hook up, run in, then drive. There's 357 horsepower on tap, and torque comes in at low RPM. In any configuration, it's a lot of bang for the buck.
Swapping faster Honda engines into older Civics has been going on for decades. The Honda Civic Type R engine delivers 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque from just four cylinders and 2.0 liters of displacement. That means it can fit in smaller engine bays if you can also find the plumbing space. The only issue is that it's only available from the Honda Performance Development department, and you have to sign up and qualify for the Honda Racing Line Program.
Putting a V8 into something with a smaller engine bay can be problematic. One of the most overlooked crate engines available is Ford's Ecoboost V6. It packs a punch with its 310 hp and 350 lb-ft that becomes fully available at just 3,000 rpm. It's also wide open to tuning. The Ecoboost V6 is currently popular for swaps in vintage Mustangs, where 310 hp is more than enough to play with. However, people are starting to realize that it is a viable and relatively inexpensive way to up the power reliably in classic Fox Body and SN-95 Mustangs.
A Chevy LS engine swap is a staple of tuning and drift scenes in the US. They're not cheap, but you're getting a big lump of significant and reliable power for the money. It arrives in its big, heavy box with 525 hp and 486 lb-ft of torque. Chevrolet's Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain System offers plenty of transmission options to hook up easily. The Detroit automaker knows the value of its crate engines to enthusiasts, so there's a lot of support available, starting with installation guides. You can even get retrofit wire harnesses to go with the engine.
SP383 EFI is not a name that rolls off the tongue, but it's here to help celebrate 65 years of Chevy "small-block" V8 engine development. It takes the classic "stroker" engine technique of giving it an extra-long 3.8-inch cylinder stroke to generate extra torque but uses a modern fuel injection system attached directly to the manifold. There are two models, depending on whether you want to use your own bolt-on pieces, but both the standard and deluxe versions come with a plug-and-play engine controller and harness. It even has a vintage look to encourage you to let others take a look under the hood of your project.
Ford has a substantial range of crate engines from straight replacements to full race engines. The Boss 302 crate engine represents excellent value for money. At its base level, the 302 has a long list of ingredients that include forged steel internals and delivers up to 340 hp. It's excellent for retrofitting old Mustangs and dropping in newer ones, and with the rear sump oil pan option, it'll fit into most Fox Body Mustangs. In top-end race spec, the 302 will make 507 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque on pump gas.
When Mopar announced it would make the 6.2-liter Supercharged Hemi V8 from the Challenger Hellcat available as a crate engine, every enthusiast in the US looked at the car in their driveway and, for at least a moment, wondered. With 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, it will transform anything into a stoplight race winner. Since it came out, the Challenger has had an even more powerful engine, but at $16,000, the original Hellcat engine is a huge amount of power for the money. It also benefits from being relatively straightforward to hook up to popular transmissions that can handle the power.
Edelbrock has been around since the dawn of time and is best known for its carburetors. However, the company has a long line of crate engines, and the highlight is a supercharged 5.0-Liter Ford Coyote lump, making an impressive 785 hp and 660 ft-lb of torque at the flywheel. The supercharger is an Edelbrock E-Force unit. The engine also comes with upgraded forged steel internals and a compression ratio of 9.5:1. It's the perfect antidote to the neighbor's Hellcat at the lights each morning.
When it comes to outright lunacy, you can trust Mopar to deliver. The Hellcat engine is big and fast, but this is the next level. Its full title is the Mopar "Hellephant" 426 Supercharged Crate HEMI Engine, and the headline is 1,000 hp. Backing that up is 950 lb-ft of torque, and for those that can't be bothered to do the math, that equates to $29.99 per horsepower. The bad news is that the first run of allocations sold out in just two days, and we're still waiting for news on a second run.
Chevrolet's supercharged 6.2-liter LT5 crate engine from the last-gen Corvette ZR1 makes a delicious 755 hp out of the crate. Katech, known for its Corvette race car engines, is getting ready to launch its own modified version making 1,159 hp and 1,063 lb-ft of torque. Among other things, displacement has been bumped from 6.2 to 6.36 liters, and there's a choice between the Magnuson TBVS 2650 supercharger and Katech's in-house unit. It won't be cheap when it goes on Katech's store, as its current LT5, named The Beast, is listed at $32,817.