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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:15 am 
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Sorry for the long post - The purpose of this thread is to share my engine/transmission selection research so far for anyone else still in the design phase, and to pose a few questions about transmission adaptation, while hopefully gathering a few more engine selection suggestions. For reference, I'm in the design phase of a mid-engined two-seater similar in spirit to Steve Graber's La Bala - http://www.grabercars.com/. The body style will be close in stature to the GreenGT Concept Le Mans car, though custom designed from the ground up for two passengers, rather like the Ultima GTR:

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The GreenGT Le Mans Concept Racer & The Ultima GTR, respectively.

After debating if I should post this in the Non-Traditional section I've decided it's more of a engine/transmission subject than anything, and that the info shared could be used equally well by those building traditionally or otherwise.

After about 6 months so far of serious engine research I've landed a few select engine choices but need a little help with transmission options. The target weight for the car is 1600 lbs given the high output engine type and full two-seater bodywork and interior, and the target power-to-weight ratio is around 400 hp/ton [about the same as a Porsche GT3 RS] which yields a target power output for the engine of about 300HP.

After much debate, the 205HP supercharged LSJ and the 260HP turbocharged LNF have been my two decided engine choices for they're wide availability, high power output, light weight and reasonably low price. In the four cylinder range they seem to take the cake for stock horsepower and torque levels and reliability. They're also usually found mated to the FWD transmissions from the Cobalt SS which is a requirement for a middy that unfortunately excludes many otherwise very capable engine options without having to adapt any particular FWD bellhousings to fit, saving money.

But after further research I've decided not to go with a 4CL, but rather a 6CL for the benefit of around 250HP stock with natural aspiration. I do not plan to avoid forced induction, rather only to have a base platform that performs well without it & from there boosting it only slightly to offer about a 30% power increase, mostly to avoid turbo lag [though I know the Ecotec handles this issue well], and to offer a little more torque. Also, I just love the exhaust note from a well-tuned, high-output V6. Also, as the all-aluminum Ecotec 4CL weighs 307 lbs [source], several all-aluminum V6 options actually weigh less in N/A form [The 260HP Honda 3.2L J32A2 from the Acura TL for example weighs in @ 250 lbs], while offering more horsepower & torque.

Even more provocative is the price. As the import tuner craze hit the States, prices on these high-output 4-Bangers have gone up drastically, to the effect that it is effectively cheaper in the end to purchase a +350HP LS1 V8 than some of these 200HP 4CL Honda engines - Sh%# just doesn't make sense. More to the point I've managed to find some very capable +250HP, 300LB V6 engines for less than $600, whereas the 205HP Ecotec LSJ goes for around $2200, and the 260HP Ecotec LNF for around $2600.

As for V6 options the best I've found so far are as follows:

Nissan---VQ35DE------3.5L---255-290HP---313LB---$700
Ford-----Duratec 30---3.0L---203-221HP---225LB---$450
Honda---J32-----------3.2L---225-270HP---240LB---$600

There are several other FWD-Compatible import & domestic options available as well, such as the Chrysler SOHC 3.5L V6 which produces 214HP & would be especially good if you're lucky enough to find the lightweight 250HP all-Aluminum EGG version from 1999-2005, otherwise it'd be much heavier than the other options - I haven't found many cheaper than $1200 however, if at all. I'm also not fully aware of any FWD manual transmission options, though I believe there are a few. Another option is the 225HP 3.8L Buick L67 V6, though this engine is supercharged so would generate more heat, weigh more and take up more space for less power, and features a cast iron block which very well may be bulletproof but coupled with the supercharger & accessories would weigh much more than any other option. I'm not sure on the price or availability of one either, but they're used very well in the Lotus-Styled Brunton Automotive Stalker V6, which held the Unlimited Time Trial Homestead-Miami Speedway Lap Record for over a year & was only just very recently broken by a 2006 Radical SR3:

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The L67-Powered Brunton Automotive Stalker V6

First on the list is the 3.5L Nissan VG35DE V6 - produced in many different forms from 2001-2008, this engine is capable of 240-300HP in stock N/A form. This engine can be most readily sourced from a 2002-2008 Nissan Maxima/Altima in 260HP form for around $700 with less than 30K miles. Weighing in at 313 lbs, it is the heaviest of the three I've listed above, and also the most expensive, but only slightly. A compatible manual FWD 6-speed transmission can be sourced for a little less than $1000. Buying the entire car as a donor would also be a great option for this engine + transmission, though finding a manual version may prove quite difficult. A Quaife ATB differential is also an available transmission upgrade for $1000 which is a huge plus for future upgrades.

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A 3.5L Nissan VQ35DE V6 Engine

Second on the list is the 3.0L Ford Duratec 30 V6 - Produced in several forms from 1996-Present, this engine produces 203-221HP in stock N/A form. This engine can be most readily sourced from a 2006-2009 Ford Fusion in 221HP form for around $450 with less than 30K miles. Weighing in at 225 lbs, it is the lightest of the three I've listed above, and also the cheapest. A compatible manual FWD 5-Speed MTX75 transmission can be sourced from a wide variety of vehicles for less than $300 in really good shape. A 6-Speed manual Getrag transmission can also be mated to this engine from a Ford Focus SVT [I believe it's the Focus, better double check], though these have proven less reliable than a good-quality MTX75. Buying the entire car as a donor would be preferable as always, though the MTX75 transmission may be more easily sourced separately. A Quaife ATB differential is also an available transmission upgrade for $500-$1000 which is a huge plus as always. The most notable feature of this engine may be that it is featured in the Noble M12, a very well-designed supercar developed by Lee Noble himself, though in the M12 the engine is far from stock. The Noble M12 uses both the 5-speed MTX75 and the 6-speed Focus SVT transmissions as available options, apparently in stock form as the 6-speeds have been known to disintegrate on the track under stress. I assume the boost in power levels of the engine is assumed by Noble to be canceled out by the extreme weight reduction between the M12 and the cars originally designed to use these transmissions to excuse the lack of upgrades to prevent transmission failure. The MTX75 has very good aftermarket support for upgrading for heavy track use, for example by HMS Inc led by Terry Haines. Haines will performs various levels of upgrades to the MTX75, with a full upgrade suite running at about $1500 to make it pretty much indestructible. Overall, the 3.0L Duratec V6 is very good option indeed, though apparently not the most original - But hey, great minds think alike!

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A 3.0L Ford Duratec 30 V6 Engine

Last on the list is the 3.2L Honda J32 V6 - Produced in several forms from 1999-2008, this engine is capable of 225-260HP in stock N/A form. This engine can be most readily sourced from a 2004-2008 Acura TL in 260HP form for around $600 with less than 30K miles [though if you can find it & you have a little extra cash try for a 3.5L J35 from a 2007-2008 Acura TL Type S, as they produce 290HP in stock N/A form :D ]. Weighing in at 230-250 lbs, it is the second lightest of the three I've listed above, and also the second cheapest. Finding a manual transmission to fit would be the most challenging aspect of this engine choice, as the only manual FWD transmissions that bolt directly to it are the 6-speed transmissions from either the 2003 Acura CL Type S [extremely rare] or the 2002-2003 Acura TL Type S [moderately rare] or the 2004-2007 Acura TL [base model, as no Type S was produced for these years - these are also the only ones to feature an LSD if I remember correctly]. After running a few searches for one of these the cheapest I've found are for ~$1600 from various recyclers. I've also not found any aftermarket differentials for this transmission at all, which is a huge dissuasion from this engine choice. Buying the entire car as a donor would be preferable as always, but very expensive for this engine choice considering the late year model purchase necessary to source the right transmission. The cheapest acceptable 2004 6-Speed Acura TL I've managed to find as a donor is about $3500, wrecked. I hate to say it because to be honest this is my favorite engine on the list for originality, but because of the transmission complications this is the least viable [most expensive] option as a complete package.

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A 3.2L Honda J32 V6 Engine

Also notable with the Honda J32 option is the frequent failure of the compatible 6-speed manual gearbox synchronizers over normal consumer wear causing the shifter to slip into neutral unexpectedly; coupled with frequent track use this would prove quite a problem. I'm not aware of any aftermarket transmission upgrades for this transmission either, which coupled with the expense and rarity of a compatible manual transmission effectively narrows down my choice to either the Nissan VQ35DE or the Ford Duratec V6. This to me is dissatisfying though considering the J32 is my favorite engine of the three; using the Duratec V6 to me would feel like the obvious choice, as it's used in the Noble M12 - Thus I like the apparent originality of using the Honda J32. I also like the little extra stock horsepower and torque over the Duratec V6.

For this reason I'd like to explore transmission adapter options, but this is a topic that isn't as well covered in the forums & thus the purpose of this thread. Who here has adapted a transmission to fit an engine & generally how expensive is the process? I like the idea of transmission adaptation also because it would allow me to choose virtually any transmission I wanted to fit the car. This could potentially significantly reduce the cost of finding any one particular transmission & would allow me to choose a transmission better suited for high power output & torque loads. This would also greatly expand upon my potential engine choices, not only opening up the option to use the Honda J32 but also a vast selection of other unmentioned engines previously ignored for the lack of support for FWD transmission options. This would also allow me the option for a Quaife LSD or ATB differential no matter which engine I choose.

I realize having a transmission adapter plate machined can be quite costly, but I may be able to at least mostly make up for the extra cost by choosing a cheaper transmission to suit my needs, possibly equaling the original cost of mating any one particular engine to it's counterpart transmission. Now that I've decided against the $2600 Ecotec 4CL I've been spoiled by the idea of a $600 V6 and would like to keep the total cost of transmission + engine to <$2000. If machining an adapter plate or buying a custom bellhousing doesn't break this limit I'd sure like to know about it.

Again, sorry for the long post & random questions inserted throughout; hopefully this info is helpful to some.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:30 am 
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While I'll always have a fondness for Ford engines, I'd have to say that the VQ35 would be the best choice of the bunch. There's a lot of aftermarket support for the VQ, including turbo kits, pistons, etc. Then there's that old saying, "there's no replacement for displacement".

In a few years, when Duratec 35s become more plentiful, that would be my number one choice.

If you're really going for lightweight and cheap, there's always the Duratec 25 from the Contour SVT. Logic dictates that it would be lighter than the 3.0, and in SVT trim it makes 200-210 HP. You can pick up a donor car for less than $1000 in some cases.

One last thing - never trust any engine weights besides your own. All of your weights seem very low, and if there's differences in what was attached to the engine when it was weighed, totals may change quite a bit. There's no way that I could lift a complete Duratec on my own, so that 225 pound listed weight must be a pretty stripped down motor.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:35 am 
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I know a question that wold be helpful to some: what's the RWD transmission shown in the photo of the 3.5L Nissan VQ35DE V6 Engine? It looks like that combo would be a nifty Locost driver.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:47 am 
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Firebat: I agree that all three quoted engine weights are noticably low...Well at least two out of three for sure. Check the engine weights sticky for more information, as I believe there are weights and pics to show level of completion on the VQ30/35 and Duratec V6. All Duratec V6's will be of a similar weight since they use the same block...Much the same way that all LS series engine are of similar weight regardless of displacement.

Jack: The VQ35 is probably mated to a 350Z transmission, since they came stock together in said car.



In my semi-professional opinion, custom adapter plates are more of a PITA than anything else. If you can avoid using them in a one-off application, do so.

For me that eliminates the Honda. While a Duratec that is allowed to breath will put down very respectable numbers in stock form, the VQ does win the aftermarket performance upgrade battle by a significant margin. So it sort of depends how much naturally aspirated horsepower is desired. However the transmission availability, cost, and durability fall in favor of the Duratec, which was what originally won me over. It's hard to go wrong with either setup. It's worth noting however that for the Duratec the MTX-75 must be from a V6 Contour, as the Focus Duratec I4 and Focus/Contour Zetec versions of the MTX-75 do not share the same bellhousing pattern. As such, the Getrag 6-speed from the Zetec powered SVT focus will also not bolt directly to the Duratec V6 block.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:52 am 
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That would be the 350Z/G35 transmission. Available in 5 speed auto or 6 speed manual.

Also, The Duratec 25 is not the same block as the Duratec 30, that's why I thought it might weigh less. Maybe the differences are superficial though, I know heads are interchangeable between the two with some modifications.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:07 am 
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The exhaust manifolds are integral to the heads in the hondas, aren't they? Sure, decent initial output. But harder to get more power out of, I'd imagine. Although it would likely lead to easier exhaust pipe routing, looking as compact as it is.

The AWD G-35s are all automatic, aren't they? I know you said you're building a middy, but I just thought I'd ask, since the engine is being discussed.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:17 am 
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The Infiniti G35x was the only AWD one, and they were auto only. Sorry for the off-topic OP, I'll stop now.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:22 am 
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I'm glad the weight issue is brought up. Unless you see a picture of an engine (with whatever bolted to it) on a scale and a picture of the reading, do not believe the numbers. Human nature is notorious for wanting engines to be lighter than they are, and wishful thinking turns into fact on the Interweb. I know what my complete K24A1 engine weighs, and when I see claims that a V6 is less, I think, "another bad number floating around..." People conveniently forget about alternators, starters, clutches, flywheel, front pulley, intake, exhaust, etc, etc.

How about using one of those "300 lb V8" engines we read about on forums... :roll:

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 3:04 am 
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firebat45 wrote:
While I'll always have a fondness for Ford engines, I'd have to say that the VQ35 would be the best choice of the bunch. There's a lot of aftermarket support for the VQ, including turbo kits, pistons, etc. Then there's that old saying, "there's no replacement for displacement".


Hmm.. I didn't know of the uplifted aftermarket support for the VQ - Haha, that's great news.

firebat45 wrote:
In a few years, when Duratec 35s become more plentiful, that would be my number one choice.


Man, those new Duratec "Cyclone" V6s sure are pretty - and with future 300HP stock forms. :D

firebat45 wrote:
If you're really going for lightweight and cheap, there's always the Duratec 25 from the Contour SVT. Logic dictates that it would be lighter than the 3.0, and in SVT trim it makes 200-210 HP. You can pick up a donor car for less than $1000 in some cases.


That would be a really sweet followup option if this HP craze weren't getting the better of me. :twisted: I'm sure with only a little tinkering I could make the better of 300HP out of the Duratec 25 though. It's just that I'd really like to drop & go with about 300 N/A horsepower without tinkering too much with the engine before I'm satisfied with the power. You see, I watch a LOT of Top Gear.. I really want the satisfaction of having designed & built something equally as good as the dream cars I venerate so strongly. Hence my dream to build a car with the same power-to-weight ratio as a Porsche GT3 RS - I want that rush, that feeling of automotive perfection that occurs when a simple machine becomes something much more, when it adopts a personality. I still have that eight year old boy inside that wants to drive at no less than a million miles an hour while tripping hard on an endless sugar rush.

firebat45 wrote:
One last thing - never trust any engine weights besides your own. All of your weights seem very low, and if there's differences in what was attached to the engine when it was weighed, totals may change quite a bit. There's no way that I could lift a complete Duratec on my own, so that 225 pound listed weight must be a pretty stripped down motor.


I got that engine weight [225LB] from the most popular collection of engine weights on the internet found >here<. Apparently that particular reference was from "Racecar Engineering, Vol 3 Number 1" for a "Ford/Mazda Mondeo V6 60 deg, all aluminum, 4v" - Though I now notice it doesn't list a displacement for the block. Within the same list is another reference for the Duratec V6 which quotes 360LB for a "Ford Duratec 2.5/3.0 V6 "fully dressed". After revisiting the engine weights thread in this very forum I think I'll most likely adopt the 270LB weight listed by Driven5 as a more accurate estimate, while still not treating it as scripture. Thanks for the tip.

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Driven5 wrote:
In my semi-professional opinion, custom adapter plates are more of a PITA than anything else. If you can avoid using them in a one-off application, do so.


Ah, so I dreaded to hear. Thanks for the tip.

Driven5 wrote:
For me that eliminates the Honda. While a Duratec that is allowed to breath will put down very respectable numbers in stock form, the VQ does win the aftermarket performance upgrade battle by a significant margin. So it sort of depends how much naturally aspirated horsepower is desired. However the transmission availability, cost, and durability fall in favor of the Duratec, which was what originally won me over. It's hard to go wrong with either setup. It's worth noting however that for the Duratec the MTX-75 must be from a V6 Contour, as the Focus Duratec I4 and Focus/Contour Zetec versions of the MTX-75 do not share the same bellhousing pattern. As such, the Getrag 6-speed from the Zetec powered SVT focus will also not bolt directly to the Duratec V6 block.


Hmm.. So there are multiple versions of the MTX75. Haha, as if things weren't complicated enough. I wonder if the 6-speed Noble M12 uses an adapted transmission or what. I know for sure it uses a 6-speed Getrag & bolts it up to the 3.0 Duratec; I'll check my sources for more info & post back here. Thanks.

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KB58 wrote:
I'm glad the weight issue is brought up. Unless you see a picture of an engine (with whatever bolted to it) on a scale and a picture of the reading, do not believe the numbers. Human nature is notorious for wanting engines to be lighter than they are, and wishful thinking turns into fact on the Interweb. I know what my complete K24A1 engine weighs, and when I see claims that a V6 is less, I think, "another bad number floating around..." People conveniently forget about alternators, starters, clutches, flywheel, front pulley, intake, exhaust, etc, etc.


Right; I know especially in a FR Locost taking the entire powerplant into consideration including differential, driveshaft, pulleys etc should be considered as one entity when selecting an engine. The trouble in carrying a "generally trust only your own numbers" mentality is that I have none; I'm bone dry for personally verified engine weights. I must instead review as many citations for the weight of a single engine & average the results using my best judgment to filter the results for BS. The only problem in trying to stay true to such a routine is that it's time consuming & very well against human nature to error check when I want to believe that the number before me is correct, that the engine before me produces 485HP and does indeed weigh less than a loaf of squishy sandwich bread. The eight year old within me in charge of this entire operation in the first place immediately accepts these numbers & moves on to designing the huge fins to go on the back. :D


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:21 am 
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So after checking out Kennedy Engineering it seems they offer custom transmission adapters for all sorts of engines to fit VW/Porsche transaxles, including all three of the preferred V6 engines listed in my OP. Apparently the "Nissan 3.0L V6" adapter requires an extra $200 sensor; not sure what it's for. The kits they sell come with the "adapter plate, flywheel, pilot bearing (set) & bolts (dust shield if needed)" for around $500 - Would this be all that is required for a transmission adaptation? If so, this may be a viable option though finding a suitable Porsche transmission would be necessary of course; not sure if such a tranny would work in a middy as I believe in a Porsche the transmission is bolted ahead of the engine. Not sure if this means the engine if flipped around 180 degrees on the Z axis or what. Obviously it's getting a little late; my brain needs a rest..


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:37 am 
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Going the Kennedy adapter route can be very expensive if you plan on having decent horsepower. It lets you use the motor with a longitudinal transaxle, which also ends up being much longer than a standard FWD setup. There's a ton of demand for the trannies that bolt up to those adapters, for kit cars and sand rails, so prices are not friendly.

A standard VW bus tranny is $1000+, and isn't rated to deal with a lot of power. The higher end trannies (Mendeola, G50, etc) can quickly get into the $5000+ range.

The VQ35 has the aftermarket because of the 350Z. I'm not sure if the Nissan 3.0 that Kennedy refers to is the VG30 or the VQ30, or if those have the same bellhousing pattern. If I had to wager a guess I'd say that they are referring to the VG30, so you may want to look into that if you go that route.

OffroadSHO will have some good information on Kennedy and VW transmissions, hopefully he sees this thread. I've heard of people flipping VW trannies upside down to put the engine forward.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 7:39 am 
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Like firebat45 says, stay away from Porsche, Mendeola (Spendeola to us off road guys), Albin and Fortin transaxles if you're wanting to keep it low budget. Now if the 8 year old is still reading this, by all means go ahead and dream all you want. You will never find a cheaper route to go than a factory setup from a popular economy car; and in America that means a Korean or Japanese front wheel drive econobox. Steve Graber has the right idea ( along with Kurt and many others on this site), get something cheap yet powerful and put it in something light but strong.

Edit: Firebat45, where the hell do you get that screen name of yours?

Tom

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 9:46 am 
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firebat45 wrote:
If you're really going for lightweight and cheap, there's always the Duratec 25 from the Contour SVT. Logic dictates that it would be lighter than the 3.0, and in SVT trim it makes 200-210 HP. You can pick up a donor car for less than $1000 in some cases.


The SVT engine is a poor choice when the 3.0 is an option. They're NOT cheap - the cheapest I could find locally when doing my swap was $1900 for a 90,000 mile engine, my '01 3.0 was $500 delivered. And the SVTs are famous for the oil drainback/sintered rods issue (depending on which camp you're in) which means the engine is prone to throwing rods.

I'm not 100% sure of any domestic application where the 3.0 was combined with an MTX-75 (maybe Jaguar X-type?) so those would probably have to be sourced separately (as was mentioned before, the MTX-75 in the 4 cylinder Contour has a different bellhousing, but it also has a lower final drive ratio).

The List of Ford Transmissions says the Mazda6 came with an MTX-75 but I remember when the first guy swapped a manual transaxle into his V8 SHO it was from a Mazda6 and it wasn't an MTX-75.

edit: According to this link, the V6 (Mazda6s) Mazda6 uses the A65M-R transaxle. There don't appear to be any aftermarket differentials for this transaxle, although one seems to be on its way.


Last edited by Laminar on Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:34 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:52 am 
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I've also looked into the Honda J-series motor, and you're right, there is no option for a rear wheel drive transmission other than a completely custom setup. However, even if you were to make a few "kits" as much of a PITA as it would be, I think you may have something that could sell. However, there is most likely a reason there isn't a kit out there.


Out of the engines listed, mathematically the GM motor should be out, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for those motors. But if you want to find one that may have the best options for you, well, then I guess it would be a toss-up for the nissan or ford.

Another place to check on prices, and my personal favorite is www.car-part.com, it's all scrapyards, and they usually have fairly reasonable prices.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 11:42 am 
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The supercharged GM 3.8 liter V6 can be adapted to a manual GM F40 transaxle (a GM model number, not a Ferrari part!) The complete engine is 445 lbs and the transaxle another 125 lbs, or 570 lbs total. (engine weight confirmed from my brother's Super Stalker, tranny weight from multiple sources.)

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