Psssst! Junkyard scrounging or rebuilding stuff can be overrated. Yes, we're admitting that dirty fact. Especially when it comes to the engine. There's probably no other part of your truck that can be less friendly to the novice or more frustrating to the experienced gearhead to diagnose, swap, or rebuild, and that's why man created the bolt-in crate engine. Actually, man originally created the factory replacement engine as a solution to damaged mills, with buyers replacing the block only out of necessity. But naturally that demand turned into an aftermarket monster, and nowadays you can have delivered to your door a dyno'd, direct-drop-in crate motor with brand-name performance parts for any reason you please, whether as simply a replacement or to make more or insane horsepower for towing, racing, or off-pavement play.
Just as there are a zillion tire, wheel, suspension, and body-bolt-on choices, engine upgrades abound, although buying a complete motor can sometimes be cheaper than trying to piece one together yourself. Just remember that big power might require heavier-duty components elsewhere on your truck (transmission and brakes, for example), and that smog laws in your state might poo-poo your swap if it's going to be used on the street.
Here's a guide to some of the hottest crate engines and blocks out there.
What it is: Next-Generation Complete Twin-Turbo 366ci small-block engines
Some details: They have CNC-machined aluminum front assemblies and low-profile aluminum air plenums with Banks' exclusive shuttle valve technology.
Oh, and...: As delivered, the engines are capable of 1,100 hp.
What it'll cost you: Retail price is $37,995.
Also: They are fully assembled, balanced, and blueprinted to the ideal performance tolerances.
How to get it: Gale Banks Engineering, 800/277-1991, www.bankspower.com
What it is: Jeep 4.6L stroker long-block
Some details: It makes 260 hp at 5,000 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, with an operating range of 1,400 to 5,700 rpm. The engine has a 9:1 compression ratio, Comp Cams hydraulic lifters and rocker arms, Speed Pro pistons, and a Melling high-volume oil pump.
Oh, and...: It runs on 91 octane.
What it'll cost you: Base price is $3,299.
Also: Optional parts they can install include a Recon timing cover, a DUI 4.0 Firepower ignition kit, Hooker headers, and a 66mm high-flow throttle body.
How to get it: Golen Engine Service, 800/591-9171, www.golensengineservice.com
What it is: Rebuilt 4.2L Jeep CJ/YJ long-blocks
Some details: The six-cylinder 258ci engines are completely rebuilt using quality parts.
Oh, and...: They come with gasket sets, a Melling high-volume oil pump, and a 12-month warranty.
What it'll cost you: Start at $1,095.
Also: The engines are not painted.
How to get it: Collins Brothers, 972/442-6189, www.collinsbrosjeep.com
What it is: Little M block
Some details: It's brand-new, fully machined, and virtually ready to assemble with off-the-shelf small-block parts. It has extra-thick cylinder walls and a competition oiling system.
Oh, and...: You can choose nodular iron or steel four-bolt main bearing caps and 4.00- or 4.125-inch cylinder bores.
What it'll cost you: $2,184; the Little M Sportsman is $2,027.
Also: The precision machining eliminates the time and expense of blueprinting a stock block.
How to get it: Dart Machinery, 248/362-1188, www.dartheads.com
What it is: Vortec Chevy 350ci long-block crate engine
Some details: It's assembled with brand-new components, and has four-bolt main caps, a nodular-iron crankshaft, and a hydraulic roller camshaft. It cranks out 255 ponies at 4,600 rpm and 330 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm. Compression is 9.4:1.
Oh, and...: It does not include the intake and exhaust manifolds, water pump, pulleys, distributor, spark plugs, flywheel, and clutch. You will get the timing cover, oil pan, and valve covers.
What it'll cost you: $1,995 or $2,495.
Also: It fits '96-'00 trucks (VIN code "R") with PFI fuel injection, up to 8,500 GVWR.
How to get it: Chevy 350 Engines.com, 800/820-4228, www.chevy350engines.com