How To Tell If A Car Has The Original Engine


If you’ve ever gone shopping for a car, especially a classic car, you may look at certain ads that report the car has the original engine. That may spark your interest because that means the car is more genuine. Unfortunately, you can never be too sure about what people tell you, especially if they’re trying to sell something to you for a large prophet. Once you become interested in a particular car, you’ll probably have several questions about it.

How can you tell if a car has the original engine? Most cars manufactured in the mid 1960’s started stamping a serial number on the engine block and on the transmission. Usually a VIN decoder, owner’s manual, or even the original title to the car will be able to tell you what the original engine and transmission serial numbers are.

Checking these numbers can help assure you that a certain vehicle either does or does not have the original engine in it. If the car does not have the original engine in it, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s more of what preference you have and how original your want your car to be.

How To Tell If The Engine You Have Is The Original

Checking to see if a car has the original engine isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It takes a little bit of time and probably some uncomfortable bending over and getting under the car, depending on the make and model of the engine and car.

Each engine is a little different with where their serial numbers are located. Most of them are either on the front of the block or on the side of it. That makes it a little bit of a headache when you’re trying to get past some wires and big bulky parts. Having a flashlight handy is always helpful, even if you’re in plain daylight.

It can get even more tricky with older cars because the serial number may be worn down and unrecognizable. Some of them were even printed on stickers which you can guarantee that by now it’s pretty nonexistent. If you know the serial number was stamped or engraved into the engine but you are still having a hard time reading it, there’s a few ways to help you out.

Try scratching some chalk over the surface of the numbers. This may help you better identify the letters and the numbers that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. If that doesn’t work, try placing a white piece of paper over the numbers and sketch over the numbers with a pencil. This will again hopefully help you identify some numbers that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

If you are completely unable to identify the serial number on an engine, your next best thing to do it use a VIN decoder or look in the owner’s manual to see what the original engine was. Once you’re able to get a serial number for the engine, google that number and see what pictures pop up. If the pictures look like what’s under your hood then that’s a good indication you have the original engine, though it’s not guaranteed.

Why Someone Would Replace The Engine In A Classic Car

There’s always a debate between repairing an engine or replacing it. There’s a lot that factors into a decision like that. Such factors include how much the engine repair cost is compared to a new engine, how much the car itself is worth, and where you are at financially.

Every engine comes to a point where it just makes sense to simply replace it. This also applies to classic cars. In fact, most classic cars have newer engines in them.

I recently purchased a 1966 Ford Bronco. It was in really rough shape including rust in all the wrong places, but it was a screaming good deal that I just couldn’t pass up. And I was ready for a project anyway, so I became it’s proud new owner.

One of the things that drew me to that particular Bronco was that the owner claimed he was sure it had the original engine in it. I was pretty excited about that because those engines were something to fret about. Once I brought it home and started taking it apart, I did a little research and found that the engine was not original. I was frustrated and felt betrayed.

Then I got to thinking, it’s actually not so bad because I wouldn’t have used that engine anyway. It was pretty much gutless and wouldn’t have let me drive faster than 40 miles per hour.

Older engines are also unreliable and can leave you stranded without warning. I’ve been there many times and it is incredibly frustrating. This includes the time I purchased a 1968 Chevy Pickup and the engine blew literally ten minutes after I bought it.

People want to enjoy their classic cars but they also want to feel safe and know that they’re in a reliable source of transportation. Replacing the original engine in a classic car isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless for some reason that engine is rare and worth a lot. Even then, some people just hold on to the engine while using a different engine in their classic car.

Other Parts That May Have Been Replaced With The Engine

If the engine was replaced in your car, there’s a possibility that some other parts were also replaced while the mechanic was in there. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing as new parts are good if you plan on driving your car a lot and want modern comfort.

If the engine was replaced, there’s a big possibility that the transmission was also replaced. You can’t simply put in a new engine and expect the transmission to hook up to it perfectly, especially if you use a newer engine. In a classic car, older transmissions aren’t very compatible with newer engines. Older transmissions had a tendency to wear down faster than modern ones.

The spark plugs and spark plug wires will have probably changed too, which is a plus. Those break down pretty quickly especially in older cars because the covers were made out of plastic and/or rubber and they would crack and brittle often.

If you have a classic car, the alternator and water pump were probably also replaced because the older ones would not be compatible with a newer engine. Those two items alone can give you great comfort knowing they’re newer and won’t cause you much grief down the road.

Does The Original Engine Make A Classic Car Worth More?

A lot of people worry that if they replace the original engine in a classic car, it’s makes the worth of the car go down. While to some extent that makes sense, it’s actually not true. The worth of a classic car depends a lot on how much you’ve made personal customizations to it; unless you put some crazy weird engine in it, the engine doesn’t necessarily count as part of those customizations.

Sure, having the original engine in a car is really worth something, especially for those purists out there. But a new engine is also worth a lot to other people because that means it’s less work form them in the long run. In my experience, having the original engine or a new engine in a classic car doesn’t really affect the overall worth of the car. One half of society likes one way while the other half of society likes the other. You’re covered if you ever have to sell your vintage vehicle.

In any case, if you own a classic car, make it how you want it and do what makes you feel cool. You bought it for a reason which is to enjoy having and driving a beautiful piece of history.

Related Questions

Does painting a classic car decrease it’s value? In most cases, painting a classic car increases it’s value. As long as the owner doesn’t do crazy colors or designs, society accepts new paint jobs on classic cars as increasing it’s value. Because classic cars are older, they require new paint jobs anyway.

Does a car ever appreciate? A car’s appreciation depends on the it’s rarity and and popularity. Unfortunately, it usually takes time for a car to appreciate, at least 20 years, when people become nostalgic and are willing to pay more for a car which is usually considered a classic by that time. Click here for more information.

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