Rover V8, Chevy V8, Ford V8?
It isn't a big secret, but choose the right V8 engine and you can save weight compared to many original 4 pots etc. You may gain weight, but in the process gain far more torque, power and appeal.
OK, there are a million other factors to think about but the reason the Rover V8 engine is so popular here in the UK is that it is all aluminium and therefore lighter than many common 4 cylinder engines. For instance, if you convert an Opel Manta or MGB to Rover V8 you do actually save weight...
There are literally thousands of Rover V8 engines available in the UK from Range Rovers, Land Rovers, Rover SD1's and many sports cars but it is by no means the last word! Even since this site was started new player have appeared, not least the temptingly low cost 260bhp Lexus 4.0 V8.
Further down the page is info on the Chevy V8 and Ford V8 engines, also fairly easy to get hold of here. Early examples are typically cast iron, some have ally heads but only the very latest (sadly still more expensive) engines are all aluminium.
Rover V8 summary
This has been the staple here in the UK but the times they are a changing. Capacities start at 3.5 litres and rise through 3.9 litres in later Land/Range Rovers, 4.2 litres in LSE Range Rovers, 4.3, 4.4 and 4.5 litres in TVR's etc, 4.6 in late Range Rovers and 5.0 / 5.2 in TVR's.
This list is by no means exhaustive, there are many other variants available from many other donors and specialist tuning companies offer stroker kits for odd capacities such as 4.8 litres and even the Wildcat 6.0 litre Rover based engines!
My engine is a tuned Range Rover 4.6 v8 with 9.35:1 compression ration. A Holley carb, head porting, big valves and Typhoon cam etc. help to boost power to about 280bhp. Heres a page all about my Rover V8 engine... To get much more than 300bhp from a Rover V8 you have to go to great lengths to build a very lightweight and well balanced bottom end, the cost is very high and you should start thinking about the Chevy / Ford options, its much easier to get 350 - 450 bhp + from the american v8's.
When choosing your Rover V8 bear this in mind, 3.5 litre V8 Range Rovers (and MGB's) were normally fitted with low compression (about 8.0:1 I think) engines and hence are not great for getting power out of.
These days I have to say that had I not been lucky finding everything I needed to build my 4.6 Rover V8 brand new and at less than half of the normal retail price I would have looked elsewhere. Sorry, did I say Lexus anywhere there?
Chevy V8 summary
Small Block Chevy, if you lived in America this would be your Rover V8 - there's just loads of them! Since shortly after the resurrection the Chevy V8 has powered almost anything on the road in the States and as such is hugely popular with the Street Rodders and Hot Rodders there.
You're looking at more weight than a Rover but aluminium cylinder heads can help and the really late ones are all ally. find a late crashed Corvette or Monaro and you have some serious power at your fingertips.
Capacities range from 265ci (4.5 litres) through 350ci (5.7 litres - the most common one!) to 400ci (6.6 litres) - even more if you go big block but thats SERIOUS weight! Like I said, they kinda take over from the Rover v8 as horsepower in excess of 500 is easily achieved. We like that.
Ford V8 summary
You'll likely know it as the Ford 302. Its good but get this, if you're short of space its the small one! Smaller even than a Rover!.
The standard weight is 519 lbs and this can be reduced to 424 lbs with the use of aluminium tuning components. OK, so you don't get the capacity of the 350 Chevy, but its an easy 350 plus bhp. Ford of course do 350 and larger big block V8s too.