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The Most Interesting DIY Cars and Engines We Saw At The 2022 eBay Auto Parts Show

Everything on exhibit was purchased on or modified using components from eBay Motors.

hot vapor engine
Matthew Crisara

The automotive world is (like most other industries) dealing with seemingly never-ending shortages and dealer markups. Amid this climate, eBay Motors threw its very own New York Auto Parts Show last week, celebrating hare-brained DIY projects featuring cars and components bought, naturally, through its own platform. The goal was to demonstrate that the best “new” car on the road can start with one that already exists. Here are the weird and wonderful exhibits that caught our eye.

A Hot Vapor Engine

If you’re at all interested in NASCAR folklore, you’ve no doubt heard of Smokey Yunick. He was an engineering genius that turned stock car racing on its head thanks to his bold—and sometimes blatantly illegal—interpretations of the 1960s rules and regulations. However, when he wasn’t giving NASCAR personnel a headache at tech inspection, he was equally committed to fettling with road cars.

One such project involved the hot vapor engine. Inherent in its name, it would vaporize the fuel before it was shot into the cylinder head to optimize efficiency and power. In its hay day, the powerplant produced a promised 250 horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of torque. Great power, but it also could do just under 50 mpg. It also didn’t need a catalytic converter because it burned nearly all of the gas that entered the cylinder head.

By now you’re probably wondering why the hot vapor engine never caught on—especially with those crazy efficiency and power numbers. It’s said that the astronomical temperatures required for the concept to work necessitated advanced metallurgies that would’ve been too expensive for a production car. Hot vapor engines also worked super close to their breaking point, meaning any minor issue like improper air/fuel ratio or temperature would lead to instant engine failure.

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Rich Rebuild’s V8-Swapped Tesla

If you’re a regular print reader, you saw this beast on the cover of our March/April issue. It was great to catch up with the man behind the project, Rich Benoit (a.k.a. Rich Rebuilds) and have him walk me through this amazing piece of machinery in person.

For those who are unaware, the impetus for such a crazy automobile began as just another one of Benoit’s crazy Tesla parts-bin specials. The man and his team have made a name for themselves by custom building Elon’s vehicles from the parts of Teslas that had either been crashed, flooded, or any other number of things that lead to their demise. After purchasing a flood-damaged Tesla Model S P85D, its existing powertrain needed much more than a rice bath to save it. That’s where they got the hare-brained idea to swap in the LS3 V8 engine from a crashed Chevrolet Camaro.

One of my favorite bits—among many—is the fact that the cooling at the front of the car remains relatively similar to a stock Tesla. A closer look at the front fascia shows that the cooling ducts for the brakes have been redirected to feed cool air to the LS3 V8 engine that resides where the frunk would have been.

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A Six-Wheel-Drive Ford Ranger: The Mod-Monster

This vintage Ford Ranger looks like any other lifted Pre-Runner build from the front. These types of vehicles are used by desert racing drivers to scope out the course before the race happens. However, once you look at the truck from any other angle, you’re able to see four wheels behind the cab, making it a true six-wheeled “monster.” Aside from its 6 x 6 stature, the truck has been updated with myriad components purchased from eBay Motors.

The original vehicle, which Grind Hard Plumbing Co (a team of four mad geniuses that build crazy vehicles and contraptions) purchased, already came with six-wheel drive—the first owner had built it to go duck hunting. That duck hunter chopped the Ranger in half and then mated it to the rear end of an old 6x6 military vehicle. However, the real focal point of this build was the rear-wheel steering system powered using the underpinnings from a garage door opener. Once it’s finished, the Grind Hard team wants to enter the truck into a proper desert race just to see how it would fare—and hopefully not break in half.

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A K24-Swapped Toyota Prius: The rEVamp

Dubbed “The rEVamp,” this 2007 Toyota Prius was Emilia Hartford’s first car. After running her then daily driver into the ground, the actress and race car builder decided it was time to swap in a new engine. However, instead of a like-for-like replacement, she installed a heavily modified Honda K24 engine as well as the six-speed manual transmission from a Honda Civic Si.

To offer some perspective, the K24 is one of the most common Honda engine swaps, as it’s relatively affordable and makes power pretty easily. Compared to the Prius’s standard powerplant that pumped out roughly 120 horsepower, the “new” turbocharged K24 produces around 300. While many tuners make other modifications like bigger tires and brakes to cope with the added power, Hartford didn’t.

If you were none the wiser, the rEVamp looks indistinguishable from any other Prius that’s driving down the road. This is what’s referred to as a sleeper: a car that looks slow but is hiding big power under the skin.

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