Modern Power: Crate or Complete Dropout?

Posted by kingmaker

Low mileage or brand new? Which is best for your restomod project?

Putting together a classic car with a modern power plant often results in a pivotal fork in the road choice. Do you pay to have a brand new crate engine and transmission or do you find a low mileage dropout of a modern vehicle as a starting point. This choice can be one of the most expensive ventures in building a restomod.

Obviously the most expensive option is the crate route and here are the pros and cons.


(Image credits: www.chevrolet.com)

Pros:

  • Brand New! Clean!
  • Good Warranty through dealership or vendors

Cons:

  • Expensive, roughly double the price of a dropout
  • Parts not included with crate can be add a lot of cost:
    • ECM and tuning
    • Wiring harness
    • DBW Pedal assembly
    • All accessories; power steering, compressor, alternator, starter, brackets, belts…

As you can see the price for a crate can easily add up with all of the additional required parts. Even the GM connect and cruise setups do not include everything to truly “connect and cruise”.

If money is the ultimate decision point for you than you may want to look into some low mileage dropouts via ebay or local sources. A lot of times you can get an engine and transmission combination with all electronics and accessories and save thousands. However you may want to review the following pros and cons for this choice.


(Photo Credit: LS2 dropout example from ebay.com, 67k miles)

Pros:

  • Much cheaper for initial investment
  • The setup was already working in a previous vehicle
  • All accessories and electronics included
  • Choice of engines that are no longer in production (ie: LS1, LS6, LT1 (mid 90s))
  • Installation requires less labor (on average)

Cons:

  • You are buying used, ensure you check everything over
  • Limited warranties (depending on vendor)
  • Depending on the mileage you may still have to replace some accessories like the water pump (encouraged)
  • Watch out for “too good to be true” deals, look at the reviews for the vendors/sellers

In any case you will still need to budget in all of the conversion parts such as motor mounts, transmission mounts and a new oil pan in most cases. Keep in mind the type of exhaust you want, ensure that you get the correct headers for your application and ensure that they will fit.

The other factor in making engine choices  are understanding the purpose of the vehicle. Are planning on re-selling the vehicle? Are you going to an auto auction looking to sell for a profit? If yes, then you might consider spending the extra coin and put in the freshest setup you can. If you are simply building the car for fun then you might do very well with the added savings of a drop-out. The other huge factor is how much labor you can do yourself. If you are on a budget and are mechanically inclined you may be able to save yourself a lot of money buying a dropout setup. A lot of restoration shops hate working with used setups because they add a level of uncertainty to the build and they prefer to start with a completely fresh power plant. Many are not automotive repair facilities so that will not know how to properly diagnose any issues that might arise from a used setup. However, new setups are not without fault as well. Just because it is new does not mean that new components like the water pump will not create a headache during the build, be prepared for issues with any choice.

In closing:

My advice would be to start up a worksheet and list all of the prices for each option line by line. Ensure that your budget is clearly understood as well as the time/labor that can stretch budgets. Do your research online looking at ebay and other reputable vendors paying close attention to reviews. Stay away from Craigslist engines dropouts unless it comes from a trusted vendor. Have fun!