Miata popular engine swaps

mazda miata engine swap variants

For some people Mazda Miata seems to be too slow, especially if they are car enthusiasts, looking forward to drag racing, drifting, or other racing disciplines. Miatas are very popular among racers, so there are plenty variants of making your Mazda more powerful, and one of the simplest (but not cheapest) option is engine swap.

Mazda Miata engine swap

There are several variants for engine swap – you might use larger engine from standard engine line-up or different engine from another car. There is nothing impossible – you might use Nissan or Honda engines. You may use in Miata V6 engine, but installing massive V8 is very popular in US. Some maniacs even manage to fit V12 under the hood!

Boost the size

The cheapest and relatively easy variant for increasing the power of your car is using original engines from carmaker, referred to better trims for your Mazda Miata engine swap project. For example, if your car has 1.6L like 1st generation Miata, you could install 1.8L which was also available for this vehicle and it would be Miata 1.8 swap. For the last generations of Mazda MX-5 you could use even 2.5L Mazda engine like one used in CX-7. It is much easier to install because you often doesn’t need to change gearbox and make considerable changes to ECU and electrics. The main drawback is the fact that you have to make Mazda Miata engine rebuild in order to reach high figures.

Pros: cheap, easy to install, compatibility, reliability
Cons: engine needs further tuning to reach significant power increase

mazda miata engine swap

More cylinders means more power

If you need a real power, and awesome engine noise along with increased torque and other figures, the most appropriate option is to put a classic American V8 into small import sport roadster. It might sound insane, but it is the cheapest way to gain >300 HP for naturally aspirated engine. It gain some extra weight to the car, ±440 lbs (200 kg) or so and you need to modify transmission and especially suspension to cope with extra power. V8 might make heavier the car’s front so it is affect the handling badly. Some enthusiasts are using Ford V8 engines – just google 5.0 Miata swap.
The second variant is to use V6 – it is more compact, lighter, but might be difficult to install and tune up. Some Honda V6 engines fits well and doesn’t need much modification for other units. V6 Miata – that’s sound pretty cool.

Pros: cheap (for classic V8), powerful
Cons: heavy, affects handling

mazda miata engine swap

Here comes the Wankel power

Mazda is well-known for using rotary engines in their vehicles began in 70s. It reached the wide popularity with the introduction of RX-7 sports car. This type of engine is very compact though powerful, so it is obvious option for compact racecar like Miata. There are certain problems though – it is difficult to fit the engine into standard Miata engine bay because of specific intake system placing, and you have to modify a lot to make it work. The issue is a bit easier to solve for the last generation MX-5 because it shares the platform with RX-8. But if you have lots of money you could make wonders like installing last gen rotary engine into small Miata NA series. One of the popular methods is using Miata 13b swap. 13B engine was used in a variaty of Mazda cars, from late 70s Mazda Cosmo to the latest RX-7.
The Wankel engine itself has certain drawbacks, including low reliability and working life.

Pros: lightweight, powerful
Cons: expensive, labor-intensive to swap

mazda miata engine swap

Mazda Miata engine rebuild

Rebuilding the engine doesn’t refer to engine swap theme but a bit close to it. Instead of putting standard 1.8 for changing 1.6 you might bore-out standard 1.6, equip it with new pistons, cam shafts, etc. Re-tune ECU and transmission and the output of modified 1.6 will be more than standard 1.8 liter engine.


Engine swap remains radical and sometimes extreme way of tuning, but sometimes you just couldn’t juice a lot from standard 4 cylinder Miata engines. So, if you need more power for less money, and for the power I mean more than 300 HP, it is easier to make an engine swap. But if you want to use Miata for cup racing or just to made it a bit more powerful, it would be better to use turbo kits, or to install a supercharger. Maybe it is better to wait for brand new Mazda roadster coming soon.

mazda miata engine swap

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  • Kevin Sharkston

    I think putting a V6 from Honda Odyssey is a nice idea for engine swap


    i will buy miata in decent condition for around 2k eur in poland and thinking about engine swap, i want around 300-400 hp with decent fuel comsumption at low load and rpm