The response to the twin turbo swap video on the MWS TV link has been phenomenal… so much so that I get a few serious requests for information about it per week from excited folks.
However excited they are, they almost always are not prepared for the ballpark figure I give them when guesstimating the "average swap price". It's about $9000 or so. After they are done freaking out, I always wonder to myself, "how much do they really think it 'should' cost"?
The answer is pretty straightforward when you consider there are a lot of things that are essential to any swap. I don't mention that price to scare away serious swappers, but I do think it scares away folks who aren't prepared financially to make the commitment.
1] A front clip or wrecked car: about $3000. JDM clips are missing essential air conditioning and power steering tubing that your NA cannot provide, shop at a junk yard for these and add them to the cost of a JDM clip. A U.S. wreck that was not hit in the front end, will have basically everything you need.
2] MWS basic labor costs to do the swap: $2500. This price is to cover the entire "conversion" process only. The "conversion" is: take NA parts off your car, Take TT parts off donor, put TT parts on your car, make car run. Additional requests, like: "swap my polished plenum onto the donor motor", or: "change out the turbos for something better", or "spend hours removing the plenum, swapping injectors, and putting a different plenum on", are always extra charges.
3] A boost controller: $250 and up (see Upgrades section for pricing and installation costs).
4] Alcohol injection: this is an option, but I consider it a must. $499 (see Upgrades section for pricing and installation costs)
5] A clutch: you will not be using the stock NA clutch your momma gave you, and the stock one on the JDM clip or worn-out wreck will not do, for power upgrades. Jim Wolf is the only choice that will hold 500 hp and also, not feel like a leg-press in the gym. I feel RPS is just way too heavy (though cheap). $450.
6] A fancy flywheel: Used Chromoly go for $100 and up. RPS aluminum is $450. Not essential, but if you use the stock TT flywheel, add $55 for a re-surface.
And: at least 4 weeks in the shop to do the swap. Plan ahead.
Already we are at $6799 or more, and we have no exhaust, no fancy injectors, no socketed ECU, and have forgotten things that will require replacing while the motor is out:
7] Silicone hose: set aside at least $30 for silicone hose of one type or another.
8] The timing belt, all 5 front seals, and the rear main seal, the rear retainer gasket and the rear pan seals. More than $90 in parts. Labor? Negotiate with your swapper. These are the primary sources for oil leaks on ALL Z's and are VERY expensive to fix, if you decide not to do them now.
9] The oil pan and the oil pickup tube: ALL JDM motors have dented oil pans. Pretty much all of them have been sitting around for years. The old rubber gasket at the oil pickup tube fails and the pump sucks air. Less than $40 in parts; about an hour's labor with the engine out. But… about 8 hours or more with it in the car and it really can fail and cause you serious grief. Fix it NOW. And the oil pan is likely dented, blocking the pickup strainer from sucking oil-which can literally completely trash your engine. Again, many, many hours to fix after, cheap to do now. Dent out the pan, or buy a new one for about $198, while the engine is out.
10] Some or all the fuel hose will get cut, stretched, cracked or be rock-hard: $12 a foot, about $24 in hose.
11] JDM clips do not come with a TT fuel pump. $200 new from Nissan.
12] JDM clips do not come with a TT fuel pump controller. Whatever market price is for that part used. Say… $50 and up?
13] Your driveshaft is dead. Trust me, after 100K miles, it is not fit for the road. Gravely-feeling bearings, or loose and floppy? Replace it. $200 and up.
14] You do not have a boost gage. You will not be using the TT speedo cluster. Its $50 and up, plus a mounting pod, and installation costs. Say $150 for a boost gage, once installed.
15] Your engine mounts are torn and leaking… so are your donor clip or car's mounts. $200 a pair.
We have not even mentioned PCV valves, leaking valve covers, radiator hoses, TB and turbo water hoses, etc.
You lucked out with a JDM clip: your NA exhaust fits the non-U.S. legal downpipes perfectly and will work… but barely. Now we have a car that will run (give or take a few other unforeseen expenses).
We are at $7891, and we have not added really, anything fun yet:
16] Sport 500 turbos, considered the LEAST expensive and smallest upgrade anyone should consider: $2000. Most any "turbo upgrade" that will fit the Z32 without hours and hours of modification, will cost much more than that. (no I will not mate old, cheap, used Skylines to your car)
17] Injectors: The turbo upgrade you just paid a mint for will not help you unless you upgrade to 555s or better: about $850-1000 a set for the "older style" which most Zs have.
18] The car will not even idle without an ECU upgrade of a minimum of $500 or more.
We're at $11,331, and as far as I'm concerned, we're still doing this on the cheap. NO exhaust, NO cosmetics at all, NO bling, NO BOVs, no FMICs, none of that Fast and Furious stuff that attracted you to this swap in the first place.
The alternative, seems like a good choice at this point: buy a TT that is already running. A coupla years ago, I repeated this often and wisely. Now days, almost every TT in the country that still runs has at least 100K miles or more and is cheap… or it has low miles, and costs way too much. The older ones have power steering leaks, turbos are dying, compression is bad, and they've seen several owners. The labor to install new turbos is way higher than the labor to install them on a motor that is already out (MWS labor charges to install turbos that are in the car is $1500 and up on a car that comes into the shop). Dead motors are not cheap to replace either.
If your NA car is in good shape, and you think this is the swap for you, go in with your eyes open and know how much things will cost. Have you noticed that out of that roughly $8000, just to get the car to drive, only $2500 of it was labor? The cost of labor is not the barrier, the overall barrier is the cost of doing business, when the "business" is to convert your car to a TT.
Dream, but dream smart… plan ahead, and it can be done.