Piston Slap: I Like the Sprite in You?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap i like the sprite in you

Nicholas writes:

A friend recently acquired the carcass (very deliberate choice of words) of a Bugeye Sprite. We were discussing what engine might go into it, and I was thinking that the turbo three-cylinder Ecotec would be a light but sufficiently powerful choice. However, I know very little about what is involved in turning an engine 90 degrees to run the rear wheels.

Sajeev answers:

Pretty simple: get a bellhousing adapter, this one is a fine example of the breed. And Quicktime has a Bellhousing Selector that supposedly has a good 2.0-liter Ecotec to T-5 gearbox option for you. Too bad there’s no guarantee the 1.0 has the same bellhousing footprint. Googling isn’t helping. I suggest a call to Quicktime to see if their staff has done it yet. You might be the first!

From there, everything falls into place: Fabricate motor mounts and find new hoses (intake, coolant, etc) to connect the factory ports to the “new” home of the radiator and air cleaner assembly. The Bugeye has a pretty tiny engine bay, so hopefully the factory wiring harness won’t need splicing/lengthening — hopefully!

Honestly, I’d get a donor car instead, preferably one that is already rear-wheel drive. That’s because I’m cheap and hate reinventing the wheel.

For me? The 2.3-liter 16V Duratec (not the old Pinto motor) and 5-speed stick of a last-gen Ford Ranger would be a total hoot in a classic British roadster, just like it must be in a Locost.

The Ranger swap means plenty of trucky torque (especially after a tune) with no turbo over-engineering and a smooth powerband all the way to 6,000 rpm.

Fords have always been a natural swap candidate because of their availability and insane tune-ability, but Ranger-schmanger. The same damn thing applies to a Toyota, Chevy or any other small pickup with a four banger and a stick. Hell, if you found a wrecked Honda S2000…

Buy the whole car/truck for a few grand, have all the parts to make it happen. Part out the rest on Craigslist, eBay or the forums. Keep parts like the transmission, accessories, and even the ignition key needed to interface with the computer to get the damn thing running! Buying an Ecotec crate motor (if it exists in 1.0T form) may sound like a great idea on paper, but that’s only if you have a metric ton of spare time and a very, uh, flexible budget.

It’s better to buy a wrecked or depreciated vehicle and have everything in one place. Ecotec cars are cheap, trucks tend to roll over once their third owner takes over, etc. Go make it happen!

[Image: Shutterstock user Jackfoto]

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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2 of 24 comments
  • Slow_Joe_Crow Slow_Joe_Crow on Oct 06, 2015

    How about a Hayabusa engine, using Westfield Megabusa drivetrain parts? More realistically a Ford Zetec 4 from a Focus or Fiesta would be a good solution. Used Zetecs are much more available than the Ecoboost 3 cylinders and are well established in Caterham and Westfield cars so installation parts are available and proven and the normally aspirated Zetec will be more responsive and have plenty of power to move a small car. Or forget the sane option and stick a Mazda rotary in it. There are several YouTube videos of a well known rotary Sprite race car for reference.

  • Rocketrodeo Rocketrodeo on Oct 07, 2015

    I had a 59 Bugeye Sprite for a few years in college. It has sat for the last 25 years in my friend's basement garage, and one of these days I'm going to go and get it back. My dream lightweight engine for this car was always a twin-rotor Wankel. Could go crazy and put a triple rotor Eunos engine in it like one autocrosser has done. But I think the Mazda rotary has the best potential for ultimate power/weight ratio.

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