need a donor vehicle for a chevrolet tavera 2.5l bs3 diesel engine

Although the engine is from a scrapped car that had done over 300K km, the mechanic said that it can still go for another 100K km without any major service.

BHPian efuture recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Hi all, I have an exciting project in hand and looking for suggestions from all members. Let’s do it together.

I have an 80hp 186 Nm 2.5L Chevrolet Tavera diesel engine with all required accessories – rear axle, radiator, gearbox, ECU, etc. Basically, it’s from a scrapped vehicle which has done more than 300k km on the ODO. The engine is in very good condition and the mechanic suggested it can easily do 100k km without any major service. I am looking for a suitable donor vehicle which can utilize the 80hp power and I have the following options.

  • Suzuki Gypsy – 80hp 103Nm 1.3L Petrol engine; Not sure if the engine bay is big enough to hold the 2.5L engine; same power, but almost double the torque.
  • Force GAMA – 60bhp 158Nm 2.6L Diesel engine; Just remove the force logo for Mercedes G-wagon looks; difficult to find one below 2L rupees in Tamil Nadu.
  • Mahindra Bolero – 64bhp 180Nm 2.5L Turbo Diesel engine; available for ~1.5L and easy to find.
  • TATA Estate – 1.9L 68hp 118Nm (not sure) Diesel engine; very hard to find.
  • Hindustan Contessa – very hard to find any.
  • Tata 207, bolero camper, etc., Any whiteboard pick-up truck with 4 doors and 5 seats for less than 2L rupees.

Ruled out cars

  • Fiat Padmini
  • HM Ambassador
  • Mahindra Armada
  • Mahindra Marshal
  • Mahindra Willy & Jeep

All my searches are limited to OLX and within Tamil Nadu. If anyone has any leads within the location, please reach out to me. I am looking for low-cost cars only, in simple terms the cheapest used car with a rigid rear axle that should not be more than 10% heavier than Tavera and the power of the donor vehicle should be less than 70hp.

I don’t know how much difference an 80hp engine will do in a ~65hp car in terms of performance. Once the engine swap is done and if it runs well, I’ll do an engine remap to take it close to 100hp and reduce the weight by throwing out unwanted bulky parts. It will be a cheap fun project with a decade-old diesel engine.

I would like to understand the difficulties with respect to fabrication, interfaces, documentation and reliability as this is very new for me.

Here’s what BHPian condor had to say about the matter:

First question is – apart from the 2L you have budgeted for the donor vehicle, you would also need to factor in other parts, labor and even further furnishing of the vehicle about paint etc. Your total cost can touch 5L. Are you ok with this?

Having said that, the Gypsy is ruled out. The Gama is old. You could look for a Tata mobile – the single cab version. Or one of the older Mahindra pickups.

Reg your other question, the 86hp/186Nm will be in the range of the Mahindra engines from early 2000’s. Or the Sumo TCIC.

Before you proceed – are you really going to use such a vehicle, or just excited at the prospect of using the spare engine that has come your way. After spending the time, effort and money, the vehicle should be a garage decoration piece.

Here’s what BHPian Kosfactor had to say about the matter:

Whatever vehicle you get for cheap – it’s going to need a lot of parts to make it road worthy apart from the engine and drive train. So with that in mind, Gypsy and Bolero have better parts availability.

  • Gypsy – Diesel will ruin its spirit.
  • Bolero – M&M engines are good enough but on older non-ECU models you could attempt a swap.

I hope you are not adamant about swapping the engine because in this process if you come across a vehicle with a decent engine, just restore it as is and enjoy it.

Here’s what BHPian IshaanIan had to say about the matter:

Any reason for considering the Contessa but leaving out the Ambassador? Considering both were made by HM and used Isuzu diesel motors and that the Tavera is actually an Isuzu Panther that GM sold in India, wouldn’t the Ambassador be a good choice as well? Not to mention easier to find than the Contessa?

I was never a fan of the Ambassador but if you look at today’s landscape, every road is filled with Sonets, Cretas, Altroz-es and Baleno-es – all trying to look bling with their DRLs and touchscreens. An old rounded Ambassador would fit nicely and offer a much-needed break from the sea of similarly designed cars that you find on the roads today, I feel.

Perhaps lower the Ambassador, fit one of those highway horns that give off government vehicle vibes and enjoy the Tavera motor (is it also something that GM borrowed from Isuzu?).

Here’s what BHPian ads295 had to say about the matter:


I used to be part of India’s leading student Formula SAE team (Camber Racing). We were assigned the task of creating a vehicle from the ground up. Hence I feel I can contribute to your question.

What you intend to do is a massive engineering exercise, so I’ll list down what priorities you should have in mind before doing anything further.

Legally – I think routine checks on engine numbers are rare. You should be able to do whatever you want with the donor vehicle after transferring it to your name.

Technically – An engine swap is a BIG DEAL. Make no bones about this. This is a project that will take 2 months or more to complete, and you will need the best fabricator you can find, because it’s not going to be easy at all.

  • Engine mounts – What are the locations of the donor vehicle engine mounts, and where are the mounts located on the Tavera engine?
  • Drivetrain – The entire gearbox and drivetrain assembly will have to be dropped in order to transplant a new gearbox. If the power ratings are the same, I strongly suggest that you use the gearbox available in the donor car. Even then, you will have to do a lot of work as the engine’s output bell housing will have to be adapted to the donor car’s gearbox input (whatever it is). If the Tavera was RWD (I don’t know) even the donor car must be RWD, as FWD engines usually have a transaxle to drive the front wheels.
  • Electronics – The Tavera was a pretty basic vehicle but check if ANYTHING in the Tavera was hooked to the ECU that is not with you. E.g. if the Tavera had ABS then those sensors would need to be used here as well.

All said and done, what is your motive behind this swap? At best you are looking at a marginal increase in power in the old donor vehicle. What is pushing you to do this?

If you’re doing it just to get your hands dirty then by all means you should do it, we at TBHP will do all we can to help you on your journey. But if you’re hoping to recreate a vehicle that is as fuss-free as the donor vehicle and then use it, then I’m afraid that is very unlikely. You will need to go through a ton of headache to make sure the engine even fits inside the donor car (ideally you want to create a CAD model of the donor car’s engine bay and some model of the Tavera’s engine to see if the engine can actually fit inside the donor car).

Do not purchase a donor vehicle without thoroughly understanding if you can fit this engine in that. Read other engine swap threads for other cars and see how other people have done it. There is a ton of information available on the internet.

About the remap – it kinda defeats the purpose if you have to remap a swapped engine to get more performance. Hypothetically you could get the Bolero and remap that and save yourself a big headache. Why only this engine?

Do not be tempted just by having this Tavera engine in your possession.

I myself found a W123 240D engine for sale and thought of doing the exact same thing. But it’s a project for people with time and experience on their hands.

Either way, do let us know if you intend to proceed with this, this should be really interesting if it happens.

Just wanted to add that you can find really interesting things on OLX if you know where to look and are determined. Apart from the OM616 engine I’ve mentioned above, I’ve also come across an inline-6 Volvo bus engine and an MWM-Greaves V8 diesel engine for sale that was once used in some defence vehicles.

Here’s what BHPian Shreyans_Jain had to say about the matter:

Please understand that you can’t just plonk any engine into your car. Your car will not remain road legal. You can change the engine, if necessary, with another one from the same manufacturer, and then have your RC and subsequently, your insurance updated accordingly. But you can’t put, say, a Mahindra engine into a Tata car. At least not legally. In your case, since GM has shut shop in India, your hands are pretty much tied.

Do think hard before you proceed with the engine change. In case you are flagged down and it is found that the engine number mentioned on the engine does not match with the RC, police will treat it as a case of theft.

Keyword: Need a donor vehicle for a Chevrolet Tavera 2.5L BS3 diesel engine


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