There is a lot of interest, and rightfully so, on putting modern high performance V8 engines into classic muscle cars. The Chevy LS, Chrysler modern Hemi, and even the Ford Modular V8s, offer a lot to the muscle car enthusiast.
They have good power available right from the factory, all of them are available with at least 300 horsepower. They are also lighter weight than the classic engines, between the use of aluminum and more modern designs. Those same designs, combined with the electronics, allow for better fuel economy and livability, with the same or better performance. All in all, it sounds like a win win to me. The only down side is the cost of such a swap, but even that is getting lower.
But let us take a look at the weight savings. What if we could have the same performance as one of the smaller performance V8’s but with an even greater weight savings than with a modern V8. What I am talking about is swapping in a modern V6 into a classic car.
All of the big three have V6 engines that are at or around 300 HP. Since I like the old Mopar’s, I am going to look at the Chrysler Pentastar 3.6L V6 for this example. If you get it in a Jeep Wrangler, it is available with a manual transmission. So lets look at that as a base since I like manual transmissions more than automatics.
First, lets look at the performance of the Wrangler. According to the Truck Trend website the Wrangler with a 5 speed and the 3.6L V6 goes through the quarter mile at 15.2 at 89.1 MPH. And it weighs 3900 pounds.
The logical place to swap one of these into would be an A body. I prefer the look of the Duster personally. Looking at the shipping weight of a 1970 Duster, it is around 3100 pounds. Lets say 3200 as a starting weight just to make sure we are looking at a V8 model.
I am not sure what the weight of the 3.6L V6 is, I have looked and not been able to find out. I did see that it was listed as weighing 40 pounds less than the 3.5L. The 3.6L is all aluminum, versus a 340 that is cast iron. Looking at the info for an aluminum 427 Chevy weighing about 100 pounds less than a cast iron one. So going from aluminum from cast iron, and going from 8 cylinders to 6, I am going to estimate that the engine would weigh 200 pounds less.
That brings our 3.6L powered Duster down to 3000 pounds. The common rule of thumb is that for every 100 pounds, you gain .1 second in the quarter mile. Since the Duster would be about 900 pounds less than the Wrangler, we are looking at a quarter mile time of about 14.3 seconds. That seems plenty fast to me, at least for what I am looking at.
I am not looking for a car to dominate the quarter mile. To me, the big plus of a swap like this would be a much lighter front end. Since the engine is lighter, and the center of mass of that engine is farther back since it is a V6, we would end up with a much better weight distribution front to rear than a V8 powered car.
Combine that with an updated suspension system, maybe something like the Hotchkis parts. What you would end up with is a reasonable fast car, great fuel economy, and great handling.
I think it would be a fun car to try running autocross with. Or just having fun on your favorite twisting road.
Yes, you loose the cool V8 sound, but you do gain performance when you turn the wheel. And that is what the muscle cars lacked the most. And that is why I think it would be a cool way to put together a new engine, old car combo.
And you could do it with the new V6 from Ford, or the one from Chevy. They are all comparable in power and I would assume weight. That way you could go for your brand of choice and still get the benefits.
The wiring for the electronics would be interesting to say the least, but I am sure that it could be done. I for one would like to see it. New ideas and trends help keep this hobby exciting. It gets boring looking at a bunch of cars all built the same way.