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Project- building a mid-engine car from a front wheel drive

Hey, all
I’ve been looking for a project over the past bit, and finally decided I wanted to go completely insane.
I’m interested in building a mid engine car in the garage.
The first choice in this is making an engine-powertrain choice. Everything else will be based off that first decision.
So, what would be a good choice for a front wheel drive powertrain (engine/transmission/transaxle) that I could use.
I’m looking for a manual transmission, by the way. An automatic just seems pointless if I’m going to be putting in that much effort.

Before you spend one dime check the registration requirements , emission regulations , vehicle insurance rules and what safety rules might apply for wherever you are. And for what you might think you can do this for multiply by Five.

Already looked into it. Emissions requirements will be based off whatever the powertrain is. Registration will require a hobbyist license and a vehicle inspection.
I already understand this is not a quick or cheap project.

Is kitcar magazine still around? My dad and I built a mid engine corvair. 327 Chevy. Had a olds tornado 455 in a greenbriar van. Interesting. Once the fwd GM cars appeared in the 80’s it was so easy to drop the motor/trans in a Fiberglas kit car. All those 2.5 GM motors had no computers. I would say it would be more fun now with so many nice fwd motors. Maybe a 5.3 LS from a monte SS or Grand Prix gtp?

If you were prepared to accept an automatic you might consider a mid 70s FWD Cadillac El Dorado engine/transaxle.

With 500 cubic inches of earth crushing brute torque why worry about shifting and you would be the biggest dog on the block.

Other options might be a Mitsubishi 3000 GT powertrain setup.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to buy the best Fiero GT you could find . . . ?

That’s exactly what Lotus did in their Eliise. They used a 4-banger Toyota powertrain. Of course they tweaked all the internals.

Would help to tell us what the host car is; then we could better suggest an engine size.
I wouldn’t think a large block V8 a good choice for a Honda Civic.

Big block V8s are generally used longitudinally in RWD or 4WD vehicles. I’m unaware of any used transversely in a FWD powertrain.

But not NEARLY as much fun!
Fun, by the way, means frustration, anger, busted knuckles, scrapes, burns, swearing, thrown tools, tinkering, messiness, dirt, grease, loud noises, complaining neighbors, and learning a whole lot about a lot of different things.

Seems to me you’d find many more Subarus with a manual.

Front wheel drive so I can mount it mid-engine.
Besides, I’ve had a few Subarus, and I’m just not that impressed with them.

Your Subarus weren’t FWD (and RWD, i.e., AWD)?

You could make the BRZ Subaru should have made…


If you want a modestly powered ride, I’d go with a Corolla 4 banger powertrain, of a vintage that would mate w/ their 5 speed M5 manual transmission. You’d end up with a very robust design. Plus it would be easier to fit than if you choose a larger engine. And if you made the other parts of the car light weight, and use a race-type suspension, it would perform and corner pretty good too, with that mid-engine weight distribution. Plus the Corolla power train would be easy to obtain for lunch money. If you wanted a higher HP powertrain, and have money burning in your pocket, consider the Chevy LS or the Ford Coyote crate engines.

“Fun, by the way, means frustration, anger, busted knuckles, scrapes, burns, swearing, thrown tools, tinkering, messiness, dirt, grease, loud noises, complaining neighbors, and learning a whole lot about a lot of different things.”

Not necessarily . . .

many people define fun as actually driving the car, whatever that car may be

Please don’t try to “educate” us as to the definition of the word fun

What you described is YOUR opinion, not necessarily everybody else’s :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Some more suggestions . . .

Get that aforementioned Fiero, but drop in a more powerful V6. A more modern GM V6 might bolt up with “relative” ease. Might even have the right bellhousing bolt pattern

Toyota MR2 . . . but with a more modern and/or powerful Toyota engine. Some guys have dropped in a modern Toyota V6. Toyota V6 engines have been all aluminum and/or other alloys for over 20 years now, so the weight distribution should still be pretty good

Already been done with a Subaru:

Driving the car is fun, but to me the real fun is in the problem solving. I’ve never built a mid engine car, although I’ve thought of it on occasion, but have created a great many things over the years that at first thought seemed like they’d be extremely challenging of not impossible. For me, coming up against and solving the problems is the fun. The frustration, anger, busted knuckles, and the rest of it are just part and parcel of going through the project. To me there’s nothing more gratifying than spending weeks and even months analyzing a problem over and over and finally coming up with a solution… then proving it. The final result, often an accumulation of countless problems solved, can even be anticlimactic. There’s an old saying: “genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” That has been my experience.

I like the definition of the trials and tribulations being the fun. That’s my opinion too. :grin:
I wish I had the resources to create my own car from the ground up. But, alas, I don’t. Hopefully the OP will keep us posted as he goes along so I can live vicariously.

@thesameountainbike, my suggestion about the Cadillac El Dorado and the 500 Inch V-8 is because the cars do have the engines mounted longitudinally and they are Front Wheel Drive. The same setup as the Toronados.

I’m always an overkill kind of guy so that’s why the huge V-8 suggestion.

Given enough time and money ANYthing is possible. Example - Ford Taurus SHO driveline in the back of a Festiva. Required fender flares but they got it in.

An automatic will remove the hideous pain you will endure developing shift linkage for a manual trans. Also narrowing the track of the donor drivetrain will also be a nightmare. Both will destroy your love for the project during and after. Just sayin’

Measure the car you want to swap. Width, length, track width, ect. Head to your local pick-your-part auto recycler with a tape measure and find something that will more or less fit. Ignore the Toronado drivetrain into a Chevette for example. Think more in line with your basic V6 mid-size car into a Golf or similar compact car. Look for cars with a sub-frame with most of the engine mountings to the sub-frame. It will make the swap easier even if you bolt the subframe solid to the project car (which I would recommend).

Good luck!