What’s Your Favorite Non-V8 Engine?

Back in December, Roadkill contributor Benjamin Hunting listed off eight great engines with fewer than eight cylinders and then followed that up in March with eight great turbocharged engines. Both were solid lists full of fantastic power-making mills from the earlier Nissan GT-R’s RB26DETT to the Hudson Hornet’s flathead inline-six. Today, we want to hear about your favorite non-V8 engines and why.

I’ll start.

This is the 2.0-liter Zetec engine in my 2004 Ford Focus ZX3. It’s old and dirty and ugly. At wide-open throttle, it sounds like a hefty chap who’s just climbed 15 flights of stairs. But it’s durable and efficient with just enough power to have a little fun when you need to merge on a tight onramp or to enjoy the winding roads on closed courses in Mexico.


I swapped a slightly different version of this engine into the Nixon-mobile Ford Escort that I ran in the 24 Hours of Lemons with fellow automotive journalist Alan Cesar (before we were both auto journalists). While the engine packed up 60 minutes into its first race, that was our fault and not the engine’s.  Naturally, we swapped in a 215,000-mile replacement from Alan’s street car (a stupid story in three parts) and that engine ran several more races even after we sold it to a new owner in 2013. Turning this over to Elana now:

Hey, hey! So OBVIOUSLY, my favorite non-V8 is the Viper V10, because it is well-known that I would abandon my friends and family and run away with that car if only the tires didn’t cost so much. However, if we’re talking about engines you might possibly could own, or do own, I’m gonna go with the Opel 1.9 (or in my case, 2.0). People keep telling me to swap something into the Opel GT in place of its little iron four-banger, but I kinda like the way it chugs along. Look how cool its little ribbed valve cover is. Finnegan said he is partial to the 2JZ, which makes sense. That’s a solid performance piece. While we are on the topic, I’m going to be presumptuous and say that Freiburger’s favorite non-V8 is the rotary in his RX-7 from episode 59 although it could be some sort of Jeep flathead too. Maybe we should ask him in the next Q&A.

Opel GT 2.0

So how about you? Got a favorite non-V8? Could be a straight-eight, could be a V12, could be a three-cylinder. Let’s hear what you like and why.

Something to Say?

7 thoughts on “What’s Your Favorite Non-V8 Engine?

  1. 225CI slant six. I had a couple and both were indestructible. My dad owned an automotive repair shop when I was a kid and he drove whatever $300 junker found its way onto his lot. He never did any maintenance on them and when they blew up he parted them out or sent them to the junk yard. Until one day he wound up with a Brown 72 Plymouth Duster. It had a smashed in quarter panel and looked like a turd. But it ran and ran. He couldn’t kill it. He ran it out of oil twice, I took pity on the car and started keeping fluids in it.The car ended up being passed down to me and I drove it for four more years until the upper control arm broke and I had no money to fix it. The engine was still running strong but my mom wanted it out of the driveway so I had to take the $25 bucks the junkyard wrecker offered… I’ve yet to see an engine that could take that kind of abuse.

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  2. I also have an Opel 1.9 (maybe I’ll make it a 2.0 someday). My early wrenching years involved a variety of GM 60ºV6s. I still have a nearly new LX9 3.5L Gen-III 60ºV6 engine on a stand in my garage with a T-5 trans, but nothing to put it in. That engine series came in a ton of cars: Camaros, Impalas, Cavaliers, Uplanders – and what I had, a 1990 Isuzu Trooper (originally a 2.8L, swapped to a 3.4L).

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  3. Subaru Boxer 2.0L, 2.2L, and 2.5L. Low, flat, light, sound cool, and not that hard to work on. Also a big fan of the M20 BMW 2.7L straight six engine. Someday I want to get a car with a Wankel in it, they look interesting as well.

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  4. AMC 258! I’ve driven a 258 powered Wrangler YJ since summer 2014. It doesn’t make a lot of power but it’s put up with everything I could throw at it, including a lot of rookie mistakes.

    When I got it, I had never even opened the hood of a car. Since, I’ve swapped a 4.0 head, Weber carb and MSD ignition onto it. I’ve blown a head gasket, had a fancy aftermarket oil pump lock up and kill the distributor, and a bunch of other minor issues more or less due to me tinkering with something that wasn’t broken.

    Still, she runs on, serving as a reluctant but reliable daily driver through three Canadian winters. Now that I have the tools and a bit of knowledge, I’m treating her to a fresh camshaft, carburetor, and a proper tuning this summer.

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  5. Toyota, Toyota, Toyota.

    5E 1.5L 16 valve DOHC 4 pot. Tercel, Paseo, Starlet. 110HP @ screaming 7200RPM in 5E-FHE form, makes the little Toyotas run like a scared cat. Go turbo & see 180HP.

    3Y 2.0L OHV, found in early 1980s Toyota Hiace vans & Hilux pickups, 88HP @ 4800RPM. Indestructible.

    4Y 2.2L OHV, late 1980s Hilux and Toyota forklifts, Daihatsu Delta middleweight dump & flatbed trucks. 94HP @ 4400RPM, stupidly durable, 400,000km without rebuild not unusual. I have a 1987 Hilux with a 4Y running on LPG (propane/butane mix) with 220,000km, never rebuilt, oil consumption 1L/7500km. Can not kill it.

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