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5 Uses for a Car Engine that Have Nothing to do with Cars

Bill Wilson

America is a land of tinkerers, inventors, and dreamers. That’s one of the things that makes us great. The internal combustion is one of our great tools, and since there are so many automobiles on the road, the opportunity arises for car engines to end up in non-automotive applications. With that in mind, here’s a look at some brave souls who have found new uses for old car engines. Enjoy!

Electrical generators

Honda Generator

This is one use that I explored myself in the late 1990s, back when the phrase “Y2K” was on everyone’s lips. You can find people in isolated regions of the country who actually power their homes this way. To generate a steady stream of power, they use the engine to charge a bank of deep-cycle marine batteries. Those are in turn hooked up to an inverter, which converts the current to AC to run household appliances. I’m told that VW diesel engines work best.

Boat motors

Gibbs Aquada

This is a popular hobby among boating enthusiasts. I don’t recommend attempting it yourself unless you’re skilled at both marine and automotive mechanics. The internal workings of each type of engine make the crossover challenging. Still, for those with the know-how and the tools, adapting car engines for watercraft can be a fun hobby.


VW Plane

Somewhere in the Tennessee hills north of Asheville I once saw a homemade aircraft powered by a VW Beetle engine. It looked like a giant tricycle with a hang glider attached to the top. Still, it got the pilot off the ground. I watched him until he disappeared over a ridge; I have no idea what happened to him after that. Nonetheless, auto-to-air engine conversion can be done. The biggest challenges are compensating for altitude changes and radio frequency effects.


Why would anyone mount a V8 car engine to a riding lawnmower? If you have to ask, then you just don’t get it. Modified mower racing is a huge pastime in the rural south, Canada, and Australia. Just Google “V8 lawnmower” and you’ll find enough info to break into the sport yourself. If you don’t believe me, watch this video.

Farm equipment

To really appreciate what can be gained from ignoring good judgment and common sense, you have to watch this YouTube video. It shows a guy who rigged a Volvo 240 turbo engine onto his tractor. It’s both sheer insanity and unbridled fun.

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Image Credit: Oldholden.com