How and Where To Score a Cheap Junkyard Engine

Budget builds can be just as fun when you hunt down the right parts on the cheap...


Mopar Junkyard Engine Choices

For all of you “Mopar or No Car” guys out there, Mopar certainly has quite a variety of engines to choose from besides the popular Hemis and 440s. There are several different V-8s that can be bought for cheap and get great performance for a garage gearhead on a budget.

Slant Six 225 Engine

A built Slant Six 225
A built Slant Six 225

The Chrysler Slant Six may not be a V-8 engine, but it is definitely possible to build a cool and powerful hot rod around a Slant 225. The 225 will never be the performance engine that the 426 Hemi and the 440 are, but it still has the capability of making great street power and it looks cool to boot.

Unfortunately though, performance parts aren’t very common. However, a few specialized manufacturers offer some upgrades – including an intake manifold for both 2-barrel and 4-barrel carburetors from Aussie Speed and Forged Pistons from Campbell. Hooker headers also has a set of headers available that help open up the Slant quite a bit. With enough effort it’s possible to make a 10-11 second rod that is powered by a 225.

318 LA Engine

Surprisingly enough, Chrysler’s 318 has been a highly underrated engine in the hot rod world. Its displacement is larger than both the Ford 302 and the Chevy 305 but outside of diehard Mopar circles, the engine seems to get very little respect.

You can build yourself a 318 that would make an excellent performance street engine on a small budget, so we’re left to wonder why these bad boys aren’t seen more in the hot rod world? It would make a great sleeper motor since, as we mentioned, the 318s are underrated. They are very easy to find and can be pulled from Dodge D100/D150 trucks, old Dodge/Chrysler Vans, Dodge Darts, Plymouth Dusters, Belvederes, Plymouth Valiants, old Mopar Station Wagons, Dodge Aspens and more cars.

The 340 Engine

The 340 was Mopars answer to the Chevy 350 and the Ford 351w motors. The 340 is a lightweight high performance small-block that was developed by Chrysler during the horsepower wars of the 1960s. The 340 has the capability to be quite a powerful motor due to its large port cylinder heads and strong crankshaft. Aftermarket performance parts are affordable and easy to find so the 340 would make for a great street motor or even a good drag racing engine if built right. The best places to find a 340 are in the early 70s Dodge Darts, Demons, Plymouth Dusters, late model Dodge Charger, late model Coronet and Plymouth Roadrunners.

383 RB and 440 RB Engines

Dodge 440 in a Monaco
Dodge 440 in a Monaco

The 383 RB is another highly underrated Mopar engine. The 383 is underrated mostly because it was quickly overshadowed by the HEMI and its larger, younger sister the 440 RB. Sadly, the fact that the 383 is underrated leads to one major drawback; only a small performance aftermarket exists for these diamonds in the rough. However, aftermarket parts for the 383 are fairly easy to find since Crane Cams, Edelbrock and Holley make some top end kits and other available upgrades. To find a 383 look in midsize or fullsize 60s to Mid 70s Mopars.

The 440 is the popular Mopar engine and can still be found if you know where to look. Of course the first place to check would be the 70s Dodge Monaco or a 70s Plymouth Fury. Other places to look are the fullsize Mopar sedans such as the Chrysler 300, the New Yorker, the Newport, the Town and Country van, the Dodge B-Series vans, and of course look for one in any Mopar musclecar, but those have all been plucked and leave for slim pickings today.

The Early Hemi Engines

Junkyard HEMI Engines
Junkyard HEMI Engines

Early 1950s Hemis aren’t going to be any easy find by any means, and performance parts are also just as rare. If you want to go with an early Hemi your best bet is the 57-58 Chrysler 392. Parts are still hard to find for this engine, however Speedway Motors sells an intake manifold, cam bearings and forged pistons while both Crane Cams and Comp Cams make some cam options for the 392s. Crane has the capability of regrinding OEM cams to factory specs or for improved performance. This includes engines dating back into the 1930s. So finding the right bump stick for an early Hemi is not an issue.

These are just a small fraction of the engines that could be used for a budget hot rod project. There are plenty of engines out there just waiting for some gearhead to come along and claim them and give them a second shot at life. Don’t let the budget deter you from doing what you love, get out there, find a cheap starter engine and get to building!

Search Mopar Donor Vehicles For Sale ~ Find a Junk Yard in Your Area

About the Author: Josh Courter is a Power Automedia freelancer with a serious passion for anything custom. Rods, classics, sleds, and even motorcycles provide inspiration for Josh along with his passion for automotive history. This article first appeared on Rod Authority on February 5th, 2013

Roadkill Conversations on Facebook