Following part 3 where the original rotary engine proved to be a lost cause I decided to research possible engines that could be swapped in but there were a few criteria and limitations I had:
Size – The RX8 has a reasonable size engine bay overall but due to the size and position of the standard engine there are some limiting factors to consider. I’m aware others have swapped V8’s (among others) into RX8 shells but this generally involves extensive modification of the engine bay, steering rack and even front cross member due to the length of the engine.
Weight – The RX8 is famous for being very balanced largely due to the compact size and resulting low mounting position of the standard engine. No standard piston engine will quite match up but I wanted to get as close as reasonably possible.
Power – The standard RX8 was available with either 192 or 231 bhp and so I wanted to get to ideally the upper figure (even though mine actually started as the lower 192 model) or even exceed it if possible.
Cost & availibility – I wanted and engine that was cheap to buy and for which spares were cheap and readily available. This was always intended to be a budget project to swap the engine more cheaply than replacing it.
After considering a huge number of options from things people have done before (VW 1.8t engine) to completely off the wall ideas that would probably upset all the RX8 purists (1.9 turbo diesel?) I eventually came across a couple really promising candidates – the Mazda KLDE and Ford AJ series engines. These are both very compact aluminium construction V6’s which should be short enough that no modification to the front cross member should be needed. It became apparent pretty quickly that the KLDE was hard to find and attracted a comparatively high price so I ruled this out.
The AJ V6 is related to the older KLDE and is available in a few flavours. It was produced as the AJ25 and AJ30 (2.5 and 3.0 litre respectively) and were used in a a range of cars in slightly different configurations including the Ford Mondeo ST220 (along with US Contour and Taurus), Jaguar S-type and X-Type along with several others. Some (including the S-type version) have VVT.
So after an eBay search and a hard earned £165 (including delivery) later I had this prime example of an AJ25 from an S type Jag sat on my driveway. At this stage I went for the 2.5L because the 3.0L version attracts a more premium price and since I had no real idea if it I would ever get it all together I bought the cheap version. Since the block is identical for both the logic was if I made one fit and decided I just didn’t have enough power I could swap all the custom parts over to a 3.0. Clearly there’s a lot of extraneous parts on here I won’t be using and once much of this is stripped the true compact size of the engine is a bit clearer.
There are a few reasons I picked this version of this engine. One was that the Mondeo version, which is more common, has the water pump driven from and extended camshaft on the rear of the engine because in the Mondeo the engine is in a transverse orientation. To fit the engine to the RX8 the engine will need to be installed longitudinally and the rear will have to be very close to the firewall so this is a non-starter. The Jag version has the water pump front mounted so avoids this problem. The Jag version also includes direct acting mechanical bucket cam followers and VVT. Sadly the 2.5L generally only offers 200bhp in this configuration so it’s a little down on where I really wanted to be but the torque is 240 Nm compared to the 211 Nm peak of the 231 bhp RX8 and a considerably wider torque band so it should still go well.
Around this time I found out that the Noble M12 uses this same 2.5L engine running as a twin turbo at 325 bhp. The later M400 uses the 3.0L version of the engine but they again two turbos to it and get something in the order of 425 bhp out of it with minimal additional modifications. Reports from Noble suggest it is capable of even more but was limited because they were planning on upping the power later selling this as another model but due due to the change of direction and ford taking the engine out of production this never happened. More info can be found here : Noble M12 History
I also made the decision to keep the RX8 gearbox so I could retain the standard carbon prop shaft in the RX8 so next up is the challenge of making an engine made by Ford, which was salvaged from a Jag, fit the gearbox from a Mazda!
More in part 5…