Car customization is a big deal, here in the United States. We love to tune, tinker with and upgrade our cars and then take them to shows and show off. One of the more popular ways to modify a car is to swap the engine out for a different, more powerful one. This makes sense for some cars, but for BMWs, I’m not so sure.
Sometimes people will swap an M3 engine into a standard 3 Series. This I can understand, as the engines are similar enough and come from the same family of cars. So it isn’t as sacrilegious as what some other people do, which is swap in a different engine altogether. By different engine, I mean an entirely different car company’s engine, like a Chevy LS1 engine in an E30 3 Series. These kinds of swaps are increasingly popular amongst the tuning crowd and it’s something that is a bit of a thorn in my side.
A car’s engine is its heart and soul. The engine is what makes a specific car its own entity. Without the engine, it’s just a pile of metal and rubber. BMW engines are some of the most charismatic and soulful engines out there. No other engine I’ve ever driven can give me a sense of a soul than a BMW straight-six. So when someone takes an E30 and swaps a Corvette engine into it, it’s like throwing away that car’s soul. Despicable.
It’s no longer a BMW, in my eyes, when such a thing happens. It’s just a boxy Corvette with BMW badges on it. To me, the engine makes the car, much like a person’s brain makes the person. Stephen Hawking has a terrible disease, leaving his body in ruin. But his brain is still very much alive and he used it to become the icon that he is. If it were possible to swap his brain into my body, he’d still be the ever so brilliant Stephen Hawking, not a version of the two of us. He’d just have a faster 40 yard dash time.
The point is, that an engine is the personality of the car, and throwing that away is like killing the car from the inside. BMW’s have some of the best personalities of any car and ridding them of that is a travesty. An E30 with a 2.5 liter straight-six will be infinitely more enjoyable than one with a ‘Vette engine in it. Why? Because it has more character. And character is far more important that being able to roast your rear tires to bits. Any powerful car can do that, but only the special ones have character.