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Are Ecotecs A Good Choice For An Engine Swap?

When most people think about engine swaps, they want to go bigger and better. Gen III and Gen IV GM LS engines are all the rage, and for good reason, but bigger isn't always better when you're trying to minimize weight of a smaller rig and maximize performance. Most older Jeeps and 4x4s came with four-cyl engines that were efficient and adequate but not necessarily peppy or powerful. Still, these engines do the job well enough to still be popular to some folks in the off-road world.

Still other folks want to swap to V-6 engines, inline six-cyl engines and of course V-8s from all the big three. But with modern engines becoming more and more efficient and powerful, why wouldn't you at least consider a more modern V-6 or four-cyl engine? After all, these powerplants—with modern fuel injection, variable valve timing, turbos, direct injection, and superchargers—can easily make more horsepower and at least match the torque of larger-displacement, less efficient engines, all in a smaller, lighter package. So, early in our start of Alpha and looking into options, we tripped over the GM Ecotec four-cyls. Which is what helped us build and grow so fast. (We do other swaps and builds, but Ecotecs are our bread and butter).

Enter the GM Ecotec, a family of four-cyl engines that really pump out the horsepower and torque numbers. Plus since it's a GM product, you can bet that someone has swapped one into something anything and gotten the computer to play nice. In this case there were a few off-road race classes that use this engine, and it is also popularly installed in a few different sand car chassis. This means getting it to run in a different chassis is doable. Did we mention that GM had a factory turbo on an Ecotec? How 'bout the factory and aftermarket superchargers for these engines?


How Much Horsepower And Torque Does The Ecotec Make?

In stock form—that is, in GM-produced cars—the Ecotec naturally aspirated engines can make between 140 hp at 5,600 rpm and 150 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm for the 2.2L, up to 202 hp at 6,300 rpm and 191 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm for the 2.5L version with direct injection in a late model Cadillac. Add a turbo or a supercharger, both of which are available from the factory in a few different GM cars, and these numbers only go up. For comparison, an AMC 2.5L four-cyl is rated at 120 hp at 5,250 rpm and 139 lb-ft at 3,250 rpm. Now you will notice that the rpms are higher in the Ecotec, but trust us when we say the dyno sheets show a pretty flat torque curve for an NA Ecotec above about 2,500-2,700 rpm. Now compare this to a GM TBI injected Buick V-6 (231ci even fire V-6 from an '80s Oldsmo-buick) that made 115 hp at 3,800 rpm and 194 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm. The Ecotec weighs 331 pounds dry compared to the AMC 2.5, which is about 340 pounds, and a Buick V-6 weighs 350 pounds. The Ecotec computers can also be tuned to make more hp and torque easily. Or take forced induction for big gains. We have packages we build and sell that make over 500 horsepower with forced induction.


What Did The Ecotec Come In?

The Ecotec came in a bunch of cars from GM in the United States between the early 2000s up to the present. There is a wide range of differences and displacements ranging from 1.4L to 2.5L. The most desirable would be the turbocharged 2.0L, the 2.2, 2.4, and 2.5L. Google and Wikipedia are your friends with figuring out applications.


How Do I Buy An Ecotec?

Firstly, us. We have crate and used engines ready to go for whatever your needs are. You can find listings for used Ecotec engines on Facebook Marketplace, eBay,, Craigslist, and more. Prices should range from a couple thousand to a few hundred depending on condition, mileage, and parts included. You can pick up an entire Ecotec-powered car with 150,000 miles or more for a few thousand to a few hundred. If you get just the engine, you want to be sure you know the year, make, and model the engine came out of and grab as much of the engine wiring, accessories, and computer as possible. We'd avoid buying any engine with much over 130,000 miles unless you plan on rebuilding it. These engines have quite the following in the domestic tuner market, racing, and sand car markets.


Adapting The Ecotec

Sadly the Ecotec has a strange engine bolt pattern, but since it is fairly widely used in the aftermarket there is a bit known about adapting it to different transmissions. Rumor has it the rear-wheel-drive applications (Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice) came with an Asain based transmission that easily adapts to the AX-15 transmission using the factory bell. You can also use a factory flywheel and combine that with a QuickTime bellhousing (PN RM-7041) to physically bolt the engine to several transmissions. You will need to figure out a pilot bearing and clutch disc that will work with your transmission of choice.

Ecotecs can also be adapted to most of the GM automatics with the 60- or 90-degree bolt pattern. That combined with a torque converter adapter or a custom torque converter for an Ecotec can make an auto transmission a reality behind an Ecotec.

As with most swaps and adapters, just about anything is possible—the key is figuring out how to do it affordably. Electronically speaking, there are several companies that will pare down or sell you a new Ecotec engine wiring harness with a computer programed for your engine and application. Our company can help you get your Ecotec running in just about anything as well as supply parts ranging from wiring and sensors to complete engines.


Give us a call to get started.