MM: What Engine Would You Swap Into A ’51 Starlight Coupe?

MM? Mental Masturbation. Yes, I’ve been the master of it all my life: see a car and start fantasizing about what I would do to it if I owned it. A lot easier than the real thing, and cheaper too. I know, I know; nothing like the genuine article…

Anyway, I was staring at this riveting picture of the ’51 Starlight coupe (once again), and inevitably, I slipped into temptation. This time, it was the question of what engine I would swap into this obviously customized Champion Starlight coupe. All manner of seductive thoughts crossed my mind. No, not a Chevy small block. If that’s all you can come up with, you need help with your fantasy life.

Here’s the deal: let your mind wander and make up your own mind before you hit the jump and see what I came up with. BTW, the Champion came stock with a 2.8 liter 85 hp flathead six.

My mental ramblings took this course: it has to be a straight six, to honor the original, as well as look and sound right. If there was the equivalent of an Ardun hemi-head OHV conversion head for the stock six, that would have been choice no.1. A modified sixties Lark OHV six with maybe a couple of carbs might be nice, but good luck finding hot-rod parts for that engine. I literally have never heard of anyone taking that on.

My mind wandered a bit, and I won’t bother you with all the brief stops on the way to the climax. Let’s just say a Pontiac OHC six came in as number two. And the winner? A BMW 528e/325e  M20B27 engine. Almost the exact same displacement. A blend of modern design with its curious low-rpm high-torque tuning. Its 122 hp come in at 4250 rpm, only slightly above the Champ’s power peak of 4ooo rpm.

It would give the very light (2600 lb) Champ a better power-to-weight ratio than the heavier 528e, and probably still get close to 30 mpg in easy driving. And be as unique as the car’s front end. Oh, and honor its air-plane inspired bullet nose: put a BMW spinner on that “propeller”. Enough; and time for bed.

And the fruit of your MMing?