The Ultimate Guide To Engine Conversion

Thinking of repowering your 4X4? Strap on your engineer hat as we dive deep into the world of engine conversions…

The CRD ZD30 engine fitted to GU Patrols makes a claimed 118kW from the factory. An LS1 fitted to Holden Commodores (in Australia) makes a claimed 260kW and will use only slightly more fuel in the process. With that bold statement in mind, it isn’t hard to understand why engine conversions are so popular with four-wheel drivers. They are one of the most challenging modifications you will make to a 4X4, though. There are so many components that need to work in harmony with each other; not to mention tuning said new engine to perform efficiently. Then you have to make it legal to drive on the road while being reliable enough to take off-road. Phew.

So while it can be a headache, the good news these days is there is information everywhere for most popular conversions. Here are some of the conversions we would look into, and a few we wouldn’t touch these days.


GM LS engine swaps are pretty-much THE go-to power up option for nearly every automotive application. Alloy blocks (mostly), excellent power and economy and limitless adaptability; we’ve even seen them in the pint-sized Mazda MX5s thanks to their vast availability, low purchase price and relatively small dimensions overall. Nissan Patrol owners see them as a cheap alternative to powering up the TD42 motor, when you consider a turbo kit can cost in excess of $5,000. There are several LS motors available globally – ranging in power and torque delivery (not to mention price).

Despite everyone going overhead cams these days, GM opted to stick with pushrods. Rumour has it that they wanted to show they could get great power and economy out of older technology. They sure showed… whomever it was they were trying to show.

Power figures: 257-476kW, 470-829Nm (in stock form)

Expect to pay: (LS1 Gen 3) – $500 for long motor only; $2,500 for whole vehicle (wrecked); $20K+ for worked LS-X Warren Johnson custom block.

Common applications: Commodores, Adventras, Statesmans, HSVs, Corvettes (anything American-based that’s not a Ford or Chrysler, basically)

At a glance

LS1 (GEN III Vortech): 5.7L V8, 257-261kW, 470-508Nm

LS2: 6.0L V8, 290-298kW,

LS3: 6.2L V8, 321kW, 575Nm

LS7: 7.0L V8, 350kW, 685Nm

LS9: 6.2L Supercharged V8, 476kW, 819Nm

LSA: 6.2L Supercharged V8 (de-tuned LS9), 414kW, 747Nm

LQ9 (GEN III): 6.0L iron block V8, 257kW, 515Nm


More commonly known as the XR6 Turbo motor, the Barra is one of Ford’s greatest successes engine-wise. Take one stupidly solid and reliable platform used to power taxis for a million kilometres, bolt on a turbo and enjoy. While the LS conversion is one of the most common and straightforward to perform, for Blue Oval fans the Barra gives the LS a run for its money.

Power figures: 240-370kW, 450-650Nm (but capable of oh so much more)

Expect to pay: From $1,000 for a basic engine to $25,000 for an 800+ HP monster

Common applications: Ford Falcons – BA XR6, BF XR6, FPV F6, FG XR6; Ford Territory – SY turbo models


  1. Get a flash tuner: The factory CPU is not all that performance-friendly
  2. Get bigger injectors: OE ones top out at around 250kW
  3. Upgrade your valve springs: Not really a performance mod, but a known weak point
  4. More fuel: Get a proper fuel pump, not the wussy stock unit
  5. High-flow catalytic converter: Replace the bottleneck in the Ford’s factory exhaust


If the LS series of motors is one of the most common V8 swaps these days worldwide, the 5.0L alloy block OHC Ford Coyote would have to be one of the least common swaps. Why is that? See above… Barra power, baby!

They’re hardly a bad engine though, capable of reliable trips past 7,000rpm and can be bumped up into the four-figure HP range with a few tweaks – so if similar power from a smaller displacement is your thing, then they’re worth a look. They’re actually gaining popularity among builders, if for no other reason than to stick it to those #LStheworld fanboys.

Power figures: 268-404kW, 515-570Nm

Expect to pay: Around $11,500 (crate motor) to $29,999 (435 HP crate motor + 6-speed manual)

Common applications: 11-present Ford Mustangs, 11-present F150s, Falcon GT, XR8 and FPV GT-F


6.6L of GM block’d, Isuzu head’d, common rail, turbocharged and intercooled, vee-eightery diesel… if you were to write down a list of what would make the perfect 4X4 engine, the Duramax would be pretty much it. Heaps of power, mountains of torque and economy on par with a four-cylinder with less than half the capacity. When a Duramax comes up for sale near you for a good price there are only two questions you need to ask: How much and give it to me!

Power figures: 190-270kW, 624-881Nm (at 1,600rpm!)

Expect to pay: $5,000USD for a second-hand engine (then import costs on top) or around $50K for a drive-in-drive-out conversion (worth it!)

Common applications: Hummer H1 Alphas, Chevy Silverados and GM Sierras mainly


  • LB7: The first of the Duramaxes with no emissions gear and hence favoured by tuners. They did have injector issues – in fact, replacing the injectors is probably the first thing to do.
  • LLY: The biggest turbo of any Duramax is on the LLYs, no injector issues but prone to overheating and head gasket failure. Also introduced EGRs – which some people don’t like.
  • LBZ: Best ‘tuneability’ out of the lot, however the Allison 6-speed auto behind these could ‘only’ handle an extra 120 HP or so before grenading. They also did away with the factory lift pump on this model.
  • LMM: Came with a strengthened Allison transmission and capable of 500 HP with a tune. Also had a DPF and diesel oxidation catalyst, as well as the EGR which adds complication for a conversion.
  • LML: As well as emissions gear on LMM, the LML also comes with a diesel exhaust fluid (Adblue) system that negatively affects fuel economy. Also had a new CP4 injection pump added, again for emissions, which is not as well supported by the aftermarket.
  • LGH: Basically a detuned version of the LML, only it was used in GMC and Chevy vans and box trucks. With all the emissions junk and less power, there are probably better options for a conversion.
  • L5P: The latest (2017) Duramax, with 48 HP more over the outgoing LML. Too early to report on reliability; but let’s be honest, it’s probably still way too expensive to even consider throwing it into your 4X4 yet anyway.
  • LMK: Wait, what? This engine doesn’t even exist yet, but is reportedly going to be a 4.5L 72-degree V8 designed to fit into the same space as an LS engine. Apparently it’s being built by GM without assistance from Isuzu… which is probably why it’s taking so long.


While the Duramax is all about mixing new-school technology-based injection, the 6BT P-Pump 5.9L Cummins straight-six is all about balls out, old-school overkill – and I absolutely love it. And I’m not alone. Legions of fans from all over the world have made this one of the best supported powerplants on the aftermarket, and people are turning up the wick on them, taking them to the drags… and winning. How does a reliable 1,000 HP sound? Yep, return pretty good economy (in stock form) too. Just about any 4X4 will benefit with one of these in between the frame rails.

Power figures: 119-160kW, 542-596Nm (people have got 1,000kW+ out of them though)

Expect to pay: Around the $8,000-$9,000 mark from an importer (plus an extra few grand for  the NV4500 5-speed or auto box if you prefer)

Common applications: Ag equipment and Dodge Rams


  • 4BT: A four-cylinder version of the 6BT. With a 3.9L displacement and available with or without a turbo, these things can make some massive power and torque and may be a great option if your fourby can’t fit a straight-six under the bonnet.
  • Pumps: The 6-BT came out with either a VE rotary pump or a Bosch P-Pump. Neither are bad. The VE gets marginally better economy; the P-Pump can be wound up a lot further and make a lot more power. Horses for courses, really.
  • Industrial engines: 6-BTs were originally used as industrial or agricultural motors. In general you’re better off not buying these, as they’re set up to run at a constant rpm and don’t make a whole lot of power.
  • Old School Meets New School: Automotive Etcellence in Western Sydney is now making adapter plates to suit the new-tech Cummins 4.5L 4-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesels (available for about $8,000) being butted up to a Nissan 5-speed manual. 200 HP and 750Nm – this will take the engine swap game in a brave new direction.


The venerable 6.2L, 6.5L and 6.5L turbo Chev diesel engines were extremely popular conversions for Patrols and LandCruisers from their asthmatic 6-cylinder engines not so long ago, and many folks still love these big iron lumps.

The issue with them, however, is that there are simply better options available these days. They’re torquey, sure, especially the turbo version; but for the displacement they should be putting out a heap more, and they’re fairly thirsty to boot. Unless you have one sitting on a stand in your garage ready to drop into your fourby, there are engines that make more power and better economy for similar dollars out there. Sorry not sorry Chev die-hards, you know I’m right.

Power figures: 6.2L – 119kW, 386Nm; 6.5L – 116kW, 461Nm; 6.5T – 160kW, 597Nm

Expect to pay: Around $12K-$15K for engine from an importer

Common applications: Older Silverados, GMC Sierras, Hummer H1s


The 3.8L Holden Commodore V6 motor was swapped into any engine bay that would fit them back in the ’90s. These days they are outclassed massively by smaller capacity motors such as the 2.7L 3RZ that was used in HiLux and Prado platforms in Australia. The one advantage of the old 3.8L mang-mangs, is they are cheap. Like really cheap… if you spend more than a few hundred bucks on the thing you have been ripped off. But that’s where it ends. The 3RZ is simply a better engine, and add a turbo or factory TRD supercharger to it and you’ll be getting more smiles per gallon than just about anyone else – plus it makes for an easy conversion into older Luxies; or any older dual-cab, really.

Power figures: 112kW (add ~60kW if you turbo it), 240Nm

Expect to pay: $1,500-$2,000

Common applications: HiLux, Hiace, Prado


All engines benefit from having a turbo strapped onto the exhaust manifold (even one with a turbo already installed). Having a new or upgraded hairdryer installed will see your engine make more power, work more efficiently and (if driven correctly) use less fuel. But some NA engines are more suited to turbocharging than others. Let’s use the Nissan GU Patrol as a case study. The TD42 with a bigger injection pump and decent turbo can make up to 400 HP fairly easily (we’ve heard of them up to 850 HP) on standard internals. Likewise the TB48 petrol 4.8L six loves a turbo and will make 500 HP without too much effort. How can they handle this? It’s all about the engine internals. Nissan over-engineered the TD/TB series to buggery with strong cranks, solid con-rods and hardy blocks. They can simply take the added strain of running big dyno-numbers through them. Not all engines are built like this however… so do a little research before cramming 40psi down your intake, yeah?

Power figures: Expect around a 30% gain, more with more mods

Expect to pay: Between $1,000 for a home-brew setup to $5,000+ for a drive-in-drive-out conversion

Common applications: Any vehicle with or without a turbo


Every State is different in terms of legalities, and while you’re probably sick of us saying this by now, the first two rules of Fight Club is to consult an engineer that’s local to you before doing anything else.

Here’s a rough idea of what they’ll say to you (so it’s not all a total surprise):

  • Want to put an engine in that’s older than your vehicle? No chance.
  • A modern engine will need all emissions gear from the donor vehicle.
  • If the engine is going to upset the vehicle’s weight balance, it’ll likely be declined.
  • The driveline has to be able to handle the engine output – so nothing with more than 30kW in your HiLux, OK guys? (Shots fired!) 3.8L V6s in Suzuki Sierras – Australia says no.
 Article from Unsealed 4X4 

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Comments 33

  1. If I was to do an engine convert, would that mean my GVM would go up ( on a bigger motor) meaning also would the maximum towball weight also go up. I like the idea of an American Ute but they are very expensive, this could be a cheaper option.

  2. I have a 05 gl ford courier dual cab 4×4 which has a 4l v6 in it i have a complete 08 pj ranger 3l turbo diesel just wondering would u guys know if that engine would be a possible swap thanks.

  3. I’m thinking about putting a V8 diesel in a 2014 Dmax. Just got to crunch the numbers on performance (and if it can be done) to see if its worth it for the money.

  4. A Td42 from an 06 patrol Ute into an 08 ford ranger pj that has the 3.0l Td in it, could it be down and would it be legal?

    1. Hi guys I’m looking to put a 6bt in my 75 series landcruiser. Is that doable? Also would I have to change my gearbox?

  5. Hi, i have a 1994 hilux 4×4 2.8lt diesel and i was thinking of replacing the motor with an ls1 or holden 304. I know an engineer in my area but before i ask him if it can be done i thought i could email you to find out if it can be done legally. I live in nsw. Cheers Alex.

    1. Hi Alex,

      We can’t pretend to be experts one everything, although if it has been engineered then our understanding is that it is legal. We’d recommend speaking to an Engineer in the first instance as they will have an understanding of the process and what is required.

  6. Hi famous 4×4 shop told me can’t put a ford straight 6 in a 91 4 runner I’ve seen 3jz’s forgive me if that’s the wrong nomenclature, anyway any adaptors out there to do it ? Can I even ditch the transfer case on this car 3vze v6 it doesn’t go off road my 70 yr old mum only likes it cause it’s good for her knees can we put a ford in it just bought an au ute they have there little issues but there hell cheap any help appreciated we also spent a lot on this 4 runner paint new rad new power steering box it’s milkshake now so can’t drive it I could rebuild the horrid 3.0 but blah blah everyone knows that story any help appreciated bye

  7. You have forgotten the best engine conversion of all toyota 1htfte straight 6 24 valve turbo ,reliable and bullet proof 30psi boost all day long

  8. Hi Mate iam lookind a putting a toyota surf 1kz turbo into my o2 hilux 3 liter non turbo . I know ill have to change fuel pump but will the gear box mate straight up ?

  9. how come no one has thought of the chrysler 300c crd diesel swap for the hilux ?? ,surely sounds like its got the power , is it too wide ? ..or is it got bad reviews.. ??? , anyone know??

  10. Need some info on transplanting a Ford Barra into a 2015 2.2 6-speed Ranger.Can the stock gearbox be used and if yes, do I need an adapter plate or a bell housing. Looking to start up a small project to replace an expensive engine fix

  11. I’m thinking of putting a Ford Barr into a 2007 hilux 6-speed manual, I’m wondering if this is even possible. If so what would i need to do this in my garage?

  12. Hi i would like to put a 3.8lt v6 commodore motor in a 89 4×4 tirton is there any kits for this conversion o be happy to hear from you

  13. Hi, I was wondering if it’s possible to change our a 3ltr turbo Diesel engine in a 4×4 ford ranger pj for a v8 Diesel engine?

  14. Hi I have a Mercedes Benz LO812 bus 7.8 gvm and it has a OM364 turbo engine and I would like to put a Cummins ISB 4.5 lt common rail engine with a 2000 series Alison transmission in it place do you do that sort of thing

  15. Hi im looking at buying an 80 Series that has a 307 chevvy conversion done and is mod plated, has anyone got any thoughts why i shouldnt get it ??? Thanks

  16. Hey, I would like to also convert my 1994 ln106 hilux what motor should I put in it and how much will I have to spend and on what so that it will be suitable for the power.

  17. Hi,

    I have a hilux surf kzn130 3L and I want to know if it is possible to do a v8 engine swap? And what other components need to be changed for this job.


  18. Need to know what would be better for both this cars i have a hummer h3 the engine is burned so want to swap for a 6bt cummins and also have a land cruiser 2000 with a broken engine is same 6bt a good idea for both?

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