By on August 19, 2013

Don writes:

I have acquired two VM Motori RA 428 engines that were pulled from new Chrysler minivans in 2009. The van were converted to electric drivetrain in LA. I want to install them in a pickup but because they were never installed in a truck from the factory, it will have to be a custom job.

The wiring harness and ECU, motor mounts, and transmission are the TBD parts. My question is would you do it?

The total cost to install it has to be less than $5K to make it worth it. I paid $1500 for the engine and could resell them in Europe for $3K each and just go buy a diesel truck.

Sajeev answers:

Well! That’s a question ya don’t hear on a regular basis!

Your 5k budget is doable, provided you make items like the engine mounts/chassis wiring integration/fuel system/etc. yourself, handling all such fabrication roadblocks…by yourself.  With your own (free) labor.  Perhaps you can make it happen.  If so, I look forward to seeing your progress. If you cannot, give up now and sell the “Motoris” for that aforementioned profit.

Which leads to the big problem: questions arising from your need to assign a dollar value to this insane project.

Love is necessary when Frankensteining such a machine, any machine, in this manner.  Love for the donor truck.  Or the engine. Or the need to waste your life (sorry) by fabricating stuff when you could probably do something more worthwhile with that effort. Like volunteering your talents to a charitable organization, or just yelling with everyone else during a football game. Either way.

Why is the Piston Slap guy so douchey-harsh?  Because if you are doing this for the money, odds are every would-be buyer’s offer shall be quite the insult. Even worse, they might be right.

Your move, Best and Brightest.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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15 Comments on “Piston Slap: To Love an Italian…Turbo Diesel?...”


  • avatar

    It’s gonna cost you a hell of a lot more that $5000.
    My supercharged 440 Stroker project cost me over
    $8000 and I haven’t even moved it to the project car yet…
    Sell the engines for the profit in Europe.

  • avatar
    ash78

    EDIT: I guess I misread the OP…I thought he was looking to take Euro diesel engines from a van and put them into an American van (same drivetrain layout).

    Now that I see he wants to put them in a whole different platform, this is a no-brainer: Absolutely not worth the time, money, and effort. IMHO.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    If you have to ask, your probably not ready for it. To start, your looking at a FWD to RWD conversion for the motor, and will need to find a trans that will work. You also need to wire up a modern fuel injection system with no support from the aftermarket and integrate it with whatever truck you use. Of course you would have to fabricate up motor mounts and such. In short? Go buy a diesel pickup after you sell these engines.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnny Bouncewell

      I just scrolled down to see if anyone said “if have to ask…” Glad to see someone got to it first.

      Engine swaps are usually best after someone else went through the hassle of making some oddball engine work in some oddball car.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    If the engines had come with the ECU, harness and trans, I’d say go for it. Without them, forget it, start crating those babies up.

  • avatar
    dtremit

    With the $6k from hocking the motors, you might be able to find a wrecked Jeep Liberty with the same engine and grab the entire powertrain.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This is exactly what I was going to say. Crate those babies up and start scouring salvage auctions for a complete diesel powertrain with the vehicle. Do this because right now you only have the engine. You still need the ECU, wiring, transmission, a fuel system and then interface all that to whatever you’re swapping into.

      Take it from someone with experience doing ridiculous engine swaps, buy the whole donor car! You will need countless things you can’t even think of yet. Buying them all separately will triple whatever you think you’re going to spend.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Yeah this one seems bizarre as far as swaps go. If you had the engine (FWD) transmission and wiring harness you might make it work in a FWD vehicle like an Avenger but the FWD to RWD thing is going to be a bigger headache than you anticipate.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’m more intrigued by the diesel Chrysler mini. A T&C or Dodge diesel minivan? That combo might push over 30 mpg highway and probably a solid 20-22 around town, as opposed to the 17/25 the Pentastar gets. I mean, if you can’t have fun, why not be efficient? Forget the brown diesel manual wagon, I’ll take a diesel minivan for family hauling.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    There was a PT Cruiser diesel only offered in Europe. It used a Damler-Benz 2.2 CRD. I don’t think the ECU etc are compatible with the Caravan even though they were both designed during the ill-faded Daimler-Chrysler era.

  • avatar
    wmba

    These Chrysler minivans were assembled by Magna-Steyr in Ganz, Austria when the bubble style van was quite popular in Europe 10 years ago. UK Prime Minister Blair had one.

    Sell the engines back to Europe and save yourself hundreds of hours getting nowhere.

  • avatar
    Battles

    Get them crated up and eBay’d, you’d have to be very skilled and very resourceful with lots of free (spare and zero cost) time to see this project finished..

    Are they even certified in the US?
    I mean, can you put them in a US vehicle and get them registered or is that not an issue?
    I can’t find any mention of a US market application for them.
    By European standards, it’s not a brilliant diesel engine.

  • avatar
    optixtruf

    Another thing to consider would be the validation time. Can you get up an running for 5k? Maybe, if your time is worth that. But it will still have to be tested and validated, and there may be parts that will need to be replaced/changed, etc. that will also be headaches in terms of ti me and money after the initial build. It’s the small stuff that gets you; for example, motivation drops quickly after a motor mount needs a redesign/rebuild after the initial drive cracks/breaks them from the engine load and nvh. Just a thought.


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