Matt Robinson profile picture Matt Robinson 5 years ago 154
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8 European Cars That Were Enhanced With 'Murican Muscle

When muscular American engines are slotted into European cars, the results can be incredible, as these cars prove!

Remind me later

1. De Tomaso Pantera

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The wedge-shaped De Tomaso Pantera may have been built in Italy by an Italian company, but its power plant was always a ‘Murican affair. For much of its life, the Pantera had Ford’s ‘Cleveland’ small block V8 in ‘351’ 5.8-litre form. Nicknamed after the Ohio location of its manufacturing plant, the Cleveland V8 was used in numerous cars including the Ford Mustang.

In the mid-1970s, US production of the Cleveland V8 ceased, leading De Tomaso to source the Australian built version of the same engine. For the last few years of its life, the Pantera switched to Ford’s ‘Windsor’ V8.

2. De Tomaso Longchamp

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Also sporting a Cleveland V8 in the De Tomaso stable was the boxy - and utterly gorgeous - Longchamp. As with the mid-engined Pantera, the front-engined Longchamp switched to Aussie-built versions of the Cleveland when US supplies dried up.

3. Jensen Interceptor

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Jensen Interceptor. The name sounds almost painfully British, don’t you think? And yet, this Brit bruiser of a grand tourer used Chrysler ‘B’ V8 firepower in its generously-proportioned engine bay, kicking off with the 383 (6.3-litre) version, and later the whopping 440 (7.2-litre). The FF version - which used the 383 - was famous for being one of the first non-all-terrain vehicles to feature four-wheel drive.

4. Ultima Evolution Coupe

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For years, British company Ultima has been the place to go for people who find the mainstream crop of supercars just a little too tame. Particularly for those who fancied self-building their supercar.

The firm’s latest effort - the Evolution Coupe - is available with a range of General Motors LS V8s, including a 6.8-litre supercharged version. Go for the latter, and you’ll have 1020bhp to play with. Oh, and it’s rear-wheel drive, has a manual gearbox and no electronic aids to save you if you get it wrong. It’s a weapons-grade car, this.

5. GTA Spano

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Obscure Spanish firm GTA produces only one car: the Spano. It’s been around since 2010 and is powered by an 8.3-litre V10 - the same one you’ll find in a Dodge Viper. Only in the GTA, it’s supercharged, giving earlier versions of the car 840bhp, should you be fuelling the mid-engined supercar with bio-ethanol fuel. The latest version (pictured) uses a slimmed down 8.0-litre V10 packing two turbochargers in place of the supercharger.

6. AC Cobra

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Perhaps the most famous car collaboration between America and Europe in the history of motoring, the AC Cobra is something very special indeed. Starting out life as the sharp handling but not-particularly-powerful AC Ace, the two-seater sports car caught the eye of a certain Carroll Shelby. He wrote to the British company, politely asking if a modified Ace capable of swallowing a V8 could be made. One 260 Ford Windsor eight-pot later, and the AC Cobra was born.

Often referred to as the ‘Shelby Cobra’ Stateside, the maddest versions came with a burly 427 (7.0-litre) V8. Thousands of replica versions of the AC Cobra have since been produced.

7. Iso Grifo

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Another Italian stunner with an American heart is the Iso Grifo. Produced by the company until it went bust in 1974, examples of this big grand tourer’s long bonnet hide a number of different Chrysler V8s, or the same 351 Ford V8 favoured by De Tomaso, depending on the version.

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Proceedings kicked off with the 327 (5.4-litre) Chevy V8 borrowed from the Corvette, and eventually 427 and 454 (7.0 and 7.4-litre) eight-pots from the company ended up being stuffed info the Grifo’s engine bay, necessitating a suitably bombastic bonnet bulge (above).

8. MG ZT 260

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After looking at a long line of exotic cars and stunning classics, you might think we’re mad to even mention what’s essentially a jumped-up Rover 75, but stick with us. What makes the ZT 260 so brilliant is that it’s the sort of bizarre anomaly you rarely get in the car industry. At a time when MG Rover was nearing financial oblivion, the company decided to take its front-wheel drive ZT saloon with its transverse engine layout, and re-engineer it to take a V8 engine in a longitudinal fashion, sending the power to the rear wheels. An odd thing to do under any circumstances, let alone when you’re nearly broke.

The V8 in question was the 4.6-litre Modular unit from Ford; the same one used in the fourth-generation Mustang. In the ZT it makes a modest 260bhp (hence the ‘260’ bit of the name), but more powerful units were considered, only for the plans to die off along with MG Rover in 2005. The company also slotted the 4.6-litre V8 into the SV sports car, another of the crackpot ideas MG Rover put into action at the end of its life.