It’s the engine note that does it. Even the most mild-mannered modern engine has its own distinctive sound.
It’s this sound we expect to hear when we clock a (V8 petrol or 4-cylinder TDi diesel?) Land Rover Discovery, or 80-Series (again V8 petrol or 6-cylinder diesel?) Toyota Land Cruiser.
One of those little things that makes life so much more interesting, however, is when your brain does a double-take.
“Hang on a minute mate,” one cell says to another, “that’s not what a dirty old Surf should sound like….what’s going on here?”
Welcome to the world of the engine swap.
Last time we had a look at the repowering and performance scene, then Editor Chris Lorigan found himself writing about re-chipping modern turbocharged, common-rail diesel engines.
That is very much the future. Before we head there though, there are still plenty of otherwise perfectly good road-legal (and even more off-road only) 4x4s around that could gain another lease on life with an engine upgrade.
To narrow the choice you only have to keep an eye – and ear – out.
Or talk to someone like Michael Tall of Brougham St Christchurch-based 4x4 service and repair specialist 4WD Upgrades.
Michael’s been at the forefront of the engine upgrade scene in this country for the past 15 years and can remember when one of the most popular conversions was swapping the standard 2.4 or 2.8 litre diesel engines out of Hiluxes for the 3.8 litre (Ecotec) or later model 3.6 litre (Alloytec) GM V6 out of a Holden Commodore.
“The engines themselves were reasonably cheap and they were a good fit,” he explains.
Before we move on to the current favourite - engines in the Chevrolet LS1 family - there’ a bit more to a conversion than simply undoing the engine mounts and unclipping the water and oil hoses and electrical connectors.
Michael Tall, for instance, uses and recommends conversion products and kits manufactured by Australian company Marks 4WD Adaptors.
The engine Michael Tall reckons is the pick of the current crop as far as 4x4 conversions are concerned, however, is the Chevrolet LS1.
Introduced in all-alloy 5665cc form (in the Corvette) in 1997 the LS1 V8 produced 257kWs of peak power at 5,600rpm and 470Nm of torque at 4,400rpm.
This is the engine GM across the Tasman used in the Commodore, where, with some on-going fettling saw peak power ride to 285kWs and eventually 300kWs on the HSV GTS.
By Ross MacKay Photo by Lorna Tall