There's something incredibly satisfying about shoehorning performance engines in cars they were never designed for. We pay tribute to nine truly mad creations.
1. Ford Festiva V6
Judging by its bodywork, it’s no coincidence the Ford Festiva Shogun was built the same decade Group B rallying thrived. Car-builder Chuck Beck used a Yamaha-built SHO V6 from a Ford Taurus, placed just in front of the rear axle, transversely, with NOS, to power the Shogun’s rear-wheels. Six were built, this one belonging to comedian Jay Leno.
2. Nissan Juke R
The Nissan Juke R project wasn’t so much an engine transplant, rather an entire powertrain swap that resulted in an unassuming compact SUV capable of demolishing supercars thanks to its Nissan GT-R heart and all-wheel drive system. Nissan sold the 404kW and 629Nm Juke R to 21 customers, who presumably drove it straight to the madhouse.
3. Renault Espace F1
The only thing the Renault Espace F1 had in common with the road-going family hauler was its rectangular silhouette. Underneath, to match its mid-mounted 596kW Renault V10, was the complete workings of the 1994 Williams F1 car. Two of these carbon-bodied boxes were built by Matra, Renault’s subsidiary, and survive on display in French museums.
4. Smart GSXR1000
‘Smart’ probably isn’t inserting a 134kW engine into a rear-driver with the wheelbase of a ruler, but the ‘Smartuki’ was exactly that: a Smart car which used a modified 1.0-litre Suzuki sportsbike engine for thrust. A toppling failure? The opposite, actually: it could swallow a quarter mile in 12.5sec and ignited quite a tuning trend.
5. Alfa 164 Procar
This is not so much an engine swap as much as a body swap; in 1988 Alfa Romeo released an F1 V10-powered Brabham chassis draped in the shape of its 164 road car, which it hoped to enter the stillborn Procar series with. The engine allowed the two that were built, which looked like your pop’s ride with a spoiler and slicks, to cut the quarter mile in 9.7sec.
6. Oemmedi Meccanica Fiat 500 V12
Conceptually this ‘engine’ swap possibly fares as the most bizarre of them all. Take one piccolo-sized Italian hatch, the Fiat 500, then plonk its general shape on to a monster 426kW Lamborghini Murcielago V12 and its accompanying all-wheel drive system. Not even Karl Abarth could’ve dreamt this.
7. BMW X5 LE MANS
To think such an engine (the 522kW 6.0-litre V12 from BMW’s 1998 Le Mans-winning LMR) was wasted on an SUV makes us weep. Thankfully, it was only a one-off made by BMW which sleeps in M GmbH storage. Was it fast? You bet – it lapped the Nordschleife in 7min 49sec, or 25sec faster than next year’s Range Rover SVR. So yes, yes it was.
8. Radial engine-powered Goggomobil
How do you spice up the performance of a post-wartime shopping cart? You ditch its teeny sub-300cc two-banger for a 10-litre radial nine-cylinder engine from a warplane, like German madman Uwe Wulf did. Taking power from 10-ish kW to 268kW and 904Nm in the process. Who’s brave enough to drive it?
9. Audi TT Bimoto
You can forget hairdresser jokes because this TT has not one four-cylinder turbocharged engine but two, which make 745kW in total and propels the TT to 100km/h in 3.0sec. Its builders, MTM, say it took 50 hours to make; while Mercedes – a well-funded and technologically advanced marque – needed four months to complete a similar project.