Did you know some of your favorite go-fast cars don’t have their own special engine but rather use engines from completely normal cars? Today we’re going to look at some of the craziest cars you didn’t know share the same engine.
Quick preface: many of the cars were about to list don’t use the EXACT same engine, but rather the same engine with changes for that application. Where you want to draw the line on how many modifications are acceptable before it’s considered a completely different engine is up to you.
#1 Ford / Koenigsegg
Supercar companies come and go, but there is one company that has miraculously survived and thrived despite its ridiculously hard-to-spell and pronounce name, and that’s Koenigsegg. But do you know the American response to Konigsegg’s absurdly fast cars? A police car. And more specifically, the most popular police vehicle ever used in the US and Canada, the Ford Crown Victoria.
So, what do Koenigsegg and cop cars have to do with each other? They’re complete opposites. One of them makes 250hp and the other one makes 650hp. There’s nothing these cars could share except the engine. That’s right, it’s hard to believe, but the 4.6L Ford Modular engine is shared across these two cars.
You might be wondering why, and the answer is that the Ford Modular is readily available with lots of parts available, and more importantly, the Ford Mob family of engines responds amazingly well when forced induction is added and, more importantly, doesn’t explode when modified to handle the power.
And to be fair, the Crown Vic’s 4.6L engine is a single overhead cam, two valves per cylinder V8, while the Konigsegg’s 4.6L engine is a dual overhead cam, four-valve per cylinder V8, but both of those configurations can be found in other Ford applications as well.
#2 Ultima GTR / Chevy Tahoe
Moving from one insane supercar to another, let’s take a look at the Ultima GTR. Now, this is a little-known car company you may not have heard of, but they build some absolutely insane performance cars out of England. Some of the models of the Ultima GTR run a high 9-second quarter mile while also pulling insane cornering and braking Gs.
Now this car is a bit of a cheat on this list because when you order it from Ultima Sports, they give some options with your engine, but one of the more popular options is an LS-based engine, which it’s not a stretch to say a Chevy Tahoe and an Ultima GTR are somehow related because they both LS based engines.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a stretch to say a Vortec engine is the same as the highly modified LS7 of the Ultima GTR, but it’s fair to say they’re based on the same architecture as the Gen III and Gen IV small block Chevy LS engines.
As a side note, Ultima has since moved on to Gen V LT engines. If you visit their website and look at the Ultima RS, for example, it is available with either a GM LT1, LT4, or LT5. The choice is yours.
#3 Mercedes S-Class / Pagani Zonda
You and I know the Mercedes S-Class as the boring luxury sedan that rich old guys buy when they after they realize they don’t want to daily a Corvette because their spine is going explode on speed bumps. And for the really rich folks, the 6.0L V12 was the biggest and baddest option.
But that engine was developed to deliver exceptionally smooth power in a massive sedan, but not necessarily big power. That is until Pagani came to the scene and realized this massive V12 used in a luxury sedan would be perfect for their Zonda supercar.
But, to be fair, the Mercedes M120 V12 engine was never a low-performance engine, but the applications Mercedes used simply weren’t performance oriented in that kind of way, but along comes Pagani, and with the help of Mercedes AMG, they used 6.0L, 7.0L, and 7.3L versions of this engine in various Pagani Zonda models, with the most powerful variants producing nearly 800hp naturally aspirated.
As a side note, hearing the straight-piped M120-powered Mercedes is the strangest thing ever. There’s no way that sound is actually coming from that thing.
#4 Renault Espace / Nissan 350Z
Do you know that god-awful sound of a straight piped 350z? What if I told you that you could get that horrid sound while also hauling along your entire family in a van? It sounds crazy, but the Renault Espace and Nissan 350Z actually share the same engine. Well, sort of.
And for those who don’t know, Renault and Nissan have been in business together for quite some time, helping to design, develop, and build cars together. In the case of these two cars, the Nissan VQ35 and Renault V4Y are very much the same engines. Obviously, there are small changes between the two. However, they’re almost identical internally and share the same architecture.
As a side note, Renault also uses VQ engines across an array of different cars, so the Espace isn’t the only one, but I’d argue it’s the funniest. In terms of power, the Espace’s engine is detuned compared to the 350z’s engine at roughly 240hp vs. 287hp for the 350z.
Luckily we don’t have this little van here in the States because I can already imagine how annoying they could be with a straight pipe exhaust.
#5 Toyota / Lotus
That takes us to Lotus cars. You know, the British automaker that’s best known for their ultra-lightweight sports cars and poster child for the idea of reducing weight instead of increasing power. And while they are amazing at building lightweight cars, they’re not great at building engines.
So, who did they turn to? Mercedes? BMW? TWR? Nope. They went in the complete opposite direction that you’d think and went to Toyota for their engines. And it wasn’t just a one-time thing either. Both the Elise and the Evora come equipped with Toyota engines.
For the Elise, it’s either the 1ZZ or 2ZZ, both of which are 1.8L engines that you can find in the Corolla, as well as various other Toyota applications. The most surprising application? The Pontiac vibe. That’s right. This little turd of a Pontiac has the same engine as a Lotus Elise and a Toyota Corolla. What a weird world we live in.
For the Evora, they jumped up to the 2GR-FE and even supercharged it for the Evora S. On the Toyota side, this V6 engine is found in the Camry, Rav4, and various other large sedans, minivans, and small SUVs from Toyota.
#6 Rover / Buick
Now, this next engine is particularly fascinating because of the ridiculous number of years it was in production for. And that’s the Buick 215 V8. This engine was born all the way back in 1961, and it wasn’t just another small block engine from an American automaker because this engine had something special, an aluminum block.
The applications for this engine include cars like the 1961 Buck Special as well as a number of Oldsmobile and Pontiac applications. But it wasn’t particularly powerful, and it had so many block casting issues that made the engine financial suicide to continue producing, so they killed it off in 1963.
So, what company would be crazy enough to use this horrifically unreliable V8 engine and continue using it all the way until 2006? Rover. This came after Rover bought the rights to produce the engine on their own. This engine has been used in Rovers, Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Morgans, TVRs, Triumphs, and more.
Land Rover, in particular, used this engine all the way until 2004, with the Discovery II using a stroked-out 4.6L version of this engine, which ironically still suffers from some of the block casting issues from the 1960s.
#7 Nissan R390 / McLaren 12C
This last engine, I’m going to say right here is kind of a stretch to be on this list, and that’s every single McLaren motor. And if you didn’t know, all modern McLarens use the same engine, from the 570s to the 720s, to the P1. It’s all the same engine.
So, where does the engine come from, and what is shared with? Well, the answer is kind of surprising, and that’s Nissan. More specifically, it’s the Nissan VRH35L engine found in the R390 race car.
Keep in mind, the R390 is technically a road car because Nissan did build a singular road-legal model, but the rest of them fall under the scope of the R390 GT1 race car. Nissan didn’t develop this entirely on their own and enlisted the help of TWR to help them develop this race car.
After the R390 was long gone, Mclaren later bought rights to the engine from TWR to use in their road-going supercars. Obviously, McLaren made changes as needed, but considering they had to buy the rights to the engine, it’s pretty obvious that all modern McLarens are using an engine heavily based on the VRH35L.
From powering the horrid-sounding VQ35DE all the way to powering all modern McLarens, Nissan does a little bit of everything.
So, that’s all I’ve got for you guys today. I want to give an honorary mention to the 2.3L four-cylinder turbo engine that you could find in the Mazdaspeed 3 and how Ford rebadged it to make the 2.3L EcoBoost engine found in the Focus RS.
As a side note, I hate that stupid Land Rover engine from personal experience, having one slip a cylinder liner and die on me. Stay away from British cars if you want to keep your sanity. It’s not worth it.