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Ditch the Stock Engine and Turn These Ho-Hum Cars into Badass Rides

There are thousands of decisions that must be made from the initial design and concept of a car to the final production model, and nothing kills an enthusiast following faster than a terrible engine and drivetrain combination. Here are a few cars that could have been truly great if the motor under the hood wasn’t such a terrible failure. Swap the engine and transmission in these cars and create the ultimate badass ride:

DeLorean DMC-12

DeLorean DMC-12

Everything about the DeLorean is cool except for the anemic V6 under the hood. Gullwing doors. Headlights and taillights drawn by ruler. Distinctive wedge shape. The only thing that would make the DMC-12 more ’80s would be flip-up headlights. Its spotlight in Back to the Future made the DeLorean a cultural icon years after the company folded, and prices for the coupe have remained remarkably high. The only bad thing about the car is the legitimately terrible 130hp V6 that makes a mockery of the supercar-like stance of the vehicle. The 5-speed manual is vastly preferred to the 3-speed automatic, but neither combination can deliver a sub-10 second 0-60mph time. For car people, the funniest thing about BttF is the assumption that the DMC-12 shown in the film, with all the extra flux capacitors and assorted time travel additions, could even make it to 88 miles per hour. Dig a pit to Hell and send the 2.9L to its rightful place; Ford has a line of 240-300hp V6 engines and 6-speed manual transmissions to take its place. Throw in one of those bad boys and travel in time the proper way.

Chrysler Prowler

Yellow Plymouth Prowler

There were few cars as absolutely disappointing as the Plymouth/Chrysler Prowler. It was a retro revival in the best sense, with a seductive body that hearkened back to the hot-rod days of the 1930s . Chrysler made one fatal miscalculation, however: stuffing a lame 214hp V6 under the triangular hood and mating it to a 4-speed automatic (unbelievably the only tranny available). The car sold in very limited numbers, mostly due to its hilarious price tag of $38,000-$45,000 depending on the year and not helped by the sluggish performance. The engine bay is pretty cramped already, so another V6 will have to do. Chrysler’s Pentastar makes 305hp and is also unfortunately attached only to an automatic, although in the modern engine there is an extra gear (an 8-speed will replace the 5-speed automatic in future V6 models).

Corvette C3

1977 Chevrolet Corvette

The C3 is undoubtedly the curviest Corvette ever produced, and its styling is far superior to the next three generations that succeed it. Based on the Mako Shark II concept of 1965, the C3 was powered by a variety of high performance V8s that peaked with the monstrous 450hp 454 motor. Then the emissions regulations came down like a hammer, and the C3 was neutered to 165hp in 1975. While the earlier models equipped with the L88, L89, or ZL1 motors are worth a pretty penny today, the later models saddled to the crap engines can be found for under $8,000. Considering the size of the 427 and 454, there is more than enough room to fit one of Chevy’s modern small-block V8s. The late model C3s will finally be able to match the go-fast styling with a proper engine.

Photos courtesy of DeLorean, Chrysler, and General Motors

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About Cameron Rogers

Cameron Rogers is the founder and lead writer at Downshift Autos, the only automotive blog on the Internet*. Born in the back of an AMC Gremlin, Cameron vowed to never let this extraordinarily embarrassing detail define him, so help him God. He drives a GTI but absolutely will not shut up about it if somebody asks. He will not hesitate to let people know that no, they shouldn't get a Porsche 911 when a Morgan 3 Wheeler is so obviously the superior choice. He is obsessed with the seats of a Carrera GT and the steering wheel of a Fisker Karma. He once sat in the driver's seat of a Tesla Model S, his greatest accomplishment to date. He is just now realizing that writing an autobiography, however miniscule, in the third person is odd and unnerving. *As of this writing, Cameron has been informed that there are, in fact, many websites and blogs centered around cars and car culture. He regrets his grievous error.

One response to “Ditch the Stock Engine and Turn These Ho-Hum Cars into Badass Rides”

  1. Binaca Wray says :

    The National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) dictates almost every allowable dimension and technology allowed on competing engines, and those are subject to change by the year. Late-2010 NASCAR rules mandate that competitors in its top Nextel Cup class use an iron-block, overhead-valve (non-overhead cam) V8 displacing no more than 5.86-liters (358 cubic inches). NASCAR engines are restricted to 12-to-1 compression, which is fairly high considering that they must run on 98-octane Sunoco gas.

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