Ferrari F136 V8s Are Shockingly Cheap, But Buying One Is the Easy Part

The real challenge is doing something with them, but we talked to builders who made it happen—one in an FR-S and another in a Boxster.
A Ferrari F136 V8 with a price tag overlaid on it
Matt Sixberry of Sideways Fab, eBay

Right now, you can head to eBay or and find yourself a Ferrari-made V8 for a fraction of the cost of a Ford Coyote crate engine. Seeing Italian exoticism for a price that sometimes dips under $2,000 might give you wild ideas for where you can cram it—a Mustang, maybe, or perhaps a Miata. But hold your prancing horses, because unique challenges like a Ferrari engine swap require unique solutions. Those solutions might cost you more than the engine itself, and arguably more than the end product is worth.

The engine in question is the Ferrari F136, a family of twin-cam V8s that entered production in 2001. Versions of it powered the California and legendary 458 Italia, whose Speciale variant topped out at 597 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. Of course, you’ll never get a bargain on one of those; California motors typically sell for north of $20,000, and 458 engines for more. What you need to do is take “Ferrari” out of your search bar and type in “Maserati.”

eBay listings for Ferrari-made V8s under $2,000
eBay listings for Ferrari-made V8s under $2,000. eBay

That’s because the vast majority of F136s inhabit not Ferraris, but Maseratis. The intake manifold may show a trident, but Ferrari famously manufactured V8s for Maserati for more than 20 years. (It even reskinned the Enzo as the MC12, Maserati’s last supercar before the MC20.) The deal continued even after Ferrari split with the company we now call Stellantis, so there are now literally decades worth of engines from totaled cars on the market.

Maserati F136s (which often go by GM139 or M145) differ significantly from the Ferrari versions, using cross-plane crankshafts instead of the Ferraris’ revvier flat-planes. They also came in only 4.2 and 4.7 liters, with some versions of the smaller engine getting dry-sump oiling. The 4.2s made up to 395 hp and 333 lb-ft, while the 4.7s topped out at 454 hp and 384 lb-ft.

Because Maseratis are expensive to maintain and not very valuable, there’s not a whole lot of demand for used engines. That means you can score one of these Ferrari-built V8s for dirt cheap; most examples on eBay are listed for less than $5,000, and a handful limbo under $2,000. Pulling one from the junkyard yourself might get you a cheaper one still.

But getting your hands on an F136 is the easy part. The real challenge is doing something with it.

F136 swaps are slowly gaining traction in the enthusiast community, with the most prominent example being Sam Albert’s F136-powered 2004 Subaru WRX STI rally car. His car uses the blue-chip flat-plane-crank engine from a California, but the cross-plane Maserati units are more common choices. Squonkwerkz Garage fit one in a Porsche Boxster, and Matt Sixberry of Sideways Fab sent one off in a Scion FR-S.

Still, unique engine swaps such as this are far more complicated than for any commonly chosen engine, like GM’s small-block V8s or Honda’s K-series. You can often buy chassis-specific kits for those swaps, reducing them to simple jobs. But when you try to be the first to mate a Ferrari V8 to a Toyota or Porsche, you find kinks to work out as Sixberry and Squonkwerkz’s Lucas and Sam explained.

Ferrari F136 in a Scion FR-S engine bay
Ferrari F136 in a Scion FR-S engine bay. Matt Sixberry of Sideways Fab

According to Sixberry, the electronics are surprisingly the easy part of transplanting an F136. It uses Bosch ME7-family engine management, which was shipped in everything from the Ferrari 430 to VW Group products like Skodas and Audis. (Audi’s 4.2-liter V8 used it.) That means there’s a good deal of aftermarket support for its electronics—and that even with a GM LS tune loaded, Sixberry’s swap coughed to life on its first crank.

“When I got done wiring the FR-S, I was like, ‘yeah, I’m gonna see if it turns over on the key real quick but there’s no chance it starts.’ Turned the key and it fired up right away,” Sixberry told me.

Sixberry’s only problem was working out Maserati’s cylinder numbering scheme to nail the firing order, while Squonkwerkz cautioned not all ECUs can work the F136’s variable valve timing. But both emphasized that the real obstacle is getting the engine installed properly in the first place.

Like all overhead-cam V8s, the F136 is physically large for its displacement—Sixberry likened it to Ford’s 5.0-liter Coyote. But it’s no Hellephant, and Sixberry says his dry sump-equipped engine didn’t even interfere with the hood in the Toyobaru’s engine bay. (He cut holes anyway because he got a deal on a California intake.)

But in many of the Gran Turismos and Quattroportes where the F136 was used, Maserati balanced its weight distribution by shoving the transmission to the rear axle. That means it’s much harder to fix a gearbox directly to these engines, never mind a clutch. Squonkwerkz says the stock flywheel measures a puny seven inches across, limiting the surface area for a clutch to grab.

Adapting to a three-pedal box is still possible, but the solutions get extreme pretty fast. Squonkwerkz used a hyper-aggressive twin-disc clutch that they likened to “a glorified on-off switch,” while Sixberry chose an enormous three-inch flywheel spacer to upsize the flywheel. There are adapters on the market for use with Porsche PDKs and BMW DCTs, but they’re big money—both the adapters and the transmissions.

In fact, the F136 is often one of the cheapest major pieces of any build it’s involved in. Sixberry said he spent about $16,000 getting one in his FR-S, while Squonkwerkz has spent $25,000 (though they think they could’ve gotten away with $10,000). All that money for an engine with the maintenance costs associated with an exotic Italian V8, and basically zero tuning potential.

Squonkwerkz says the performance upgrade options are eye-watering 458 Speciale parts or nothing, and that boost tolerance is a total unknown. Novitec made a supercharger for the Gran Turismo more than a decade ago, but at $36,000 new according to Motorator, it’s an expensive rarity. That means aside from being able to say you have a Ferrari engine in your car, and enjoying the F136’s admittedly stellar sound, Sixberry says there’s no reason “at all” to use the engine. Squonkwerkz agreed, advising those seeking pure power to “stay away from these.”

“LSs are simply the smartest engine swap option. I’ll never deny that,” Squonkwerkz said. “But let’s be real, they’re fucking boring. Everything from airplanes to blenders have been LS-swapped. As great as the performance is, it’s always ‘just another LS swap.'”

“But if you’re wanting something a little more special, something that sparks endless conversations while still holding its own in the right build, then these F136s are an absolute gem,” they continued. “The sound has a soul to it that’s unmistakable. Ours revs from idle to the 8,000-rpm rev limiter in 0.33 seconds, half the time of a Lexus LFA. The engine is above 90 percent peak power from 4,300 rpm all the way to redline and over 90 percent torque from 3,400 to 7,300 rpm. It makes it an absolute joy to use on track.”

Squonkwerkz reported the engine had been surprisingly reliable in five years of hard service, and that the only issue has been a leaky gasket. They also encouraged people to give the swap a shot, even if they don’t have much expertise.

“They’re not as easy to swap as LSs, but my friend and I did this swap on a Porsche, in a single-car garage, after having done little more than standard maintenance on cars,” they said. “Neither of us knew how to weld. My electrical experience didn’t go beyond installing stereos. But we made it work. So if we could figure it out on our own, and there are now more and more resources becoming available, I see no reason why anyone else should feel it’s beyond their ability.”

So there you have it. You can get a cheap Ferrari V8 that’s exactly as expensive as it sounds in the long run, for no reason other than to have a Ferrari V8 in your car. It probably won’t outrace or outlast an LS, but the fact that you’ve read this far shows you get the appeal.

Cars aren’t all about numbers, performance, or winning races. Sometimes they’re a way we show who we are, be that orthodox followers of the tried-and-true, or pioneers looking for something new. It’s the latter we have to thank for LS- and K-swaps because someone had to be crazy enough to do them for the first time. And those someones are always exploring new horizons.

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