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Discussion Starter #1
I like the way they look. Both Solstice and Sky. I like the way they handle. So when I started looking for a car for a project, a kappa was one of the first which came to mind.

But after over 10 years on the road, does it still up to the task? Or is it getting a bit long on the tooth?

And how well does it take to things like custom powertrains, engine swaps and the like? I'm guessing it is post CAN bus? So electronics will complicate swaps?

Are there any kits available for engine swaps or anything would have to be a custom one of? What about kits for suspension, chassis and the like?

Or am I better of with something like a Miata or old S2000 for such a project?

Thanks in advance for the help.
 

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They are still great cars whether you modify them or leave them stock. Lots of folks have done engine swaps. It's all up to your skill, wallet and patience.
 

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You leave this very open ended in terms of what you expect to accomplish, but the primary difference between the kappas and other similar cars is that the kappas actually have frame rails. Generally speaking, that makes it much easier to extensively modify, if you can fabricate parts on your own.

I would recommend you buy and live with one for a few months before you dive in. The things you wouldn't change, like the interior, storage, top, and ergonomics, are an absolute disaster compared to the Japanese. But if you want quirky and different, that may be a good thing.

In terms of bolt-ons, there are really only two big players. I won't promote either of them because that might break forums rules, but you should be able to find them. If they don't have it - you're making it on your own.
 

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If you plan on doing an engine swap, look for an NA car, not a GXP. Preferably a salvage title car is the cheapest way to go. And there are tons out there with very little damage!! They're usually a lot less and I'm hoping you don't think because you put a special engine in it, it's going to be worth more then what you spent on it.... There was a guy here that did an LS3 swap and had about $25k into the car and it was for sale, within 500 miles of doing the swap for $15k. Don't know if he ever sold it or for how much.

Even something outrageous like a BMW or Supra engine doesn't bring any more money. Good Luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
You leave this very open ended in terms of what you expect to accomplish, but the primary difference between the kappas and other similar cars is that the kappas actually have frame rails. Generally speaking, that makes it much easier to extensively modify, if you can fabricate parts on your own.

I would recommend you buy and live with one for a few months before you dive in. The things you wouldn't change, like the interior, storage, top, and ergonomics, are an absolute disaster compared to the Japanese. But if you want quirky and different, that may be a good thing.

In terms of bolt-ons, there are really only two big players. I won't promote either of them because that might break forums rules, but you should be able to find them. If they don't have it - you're making it on your own.
Thanks everybody for the replies.

Frame rails, yes. Another advantage is that it is basically a rolling space frame. So seems quite simpler to mod than some or most other cars.

Good to know there are at least some bolt ons. Are we talking engine swap kits here? If so, I'm guessing LS?

Has anything other than LS engines been put in these cars? I saw one with a supra engine. But anything else out there for inspiration?
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
If you plan on doing an engine swap, look for an NA car, not a GXP. Preferably a salvage title car is the cheapest way to go. And there are tons out there with very little damage!! They're usually a lot less and I'm hoping you don't think because you put a special engine in it, it's going to be worth more then what you spent on it.... There was a guy here that did an LS3 swap and had about $25k into the car and it was for sale, within 500 miles of doing the swap for $15k. Don't know if he ever sold it or for how much.

Even something outrageous like a BMW or Supra engine doesn't bring any more money. Good Luck.
Thanks.

I have seen a supra. But so BMW has also happened?

About getting a NA car, is that only because it will be cheaper or it also makes the swap easier technically?

Oh yes, I'm not expecting to make money on it. You never do. These types of projects are money losers. :)

What is the biggest obstacle in an engine swap with the kappa? Does it already use CAN-BUS ? CAN-BUS was introduced in 2004 but only made mandatory from 2008, when the kappa was already on its way out. Since kappa was introduced in 2005, maybe it doesn't use CAN-BUS yet and still use one of the older GM protocols?

I'm guessing there is no published manual or book on the subject like there is for several other cars?
 

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An NA car will certainly be cheaper, but the turbo will has all the options standard that the base model may not, including a limited slip, traction control, and ABS. (Note these are all available on the base model, but were additional cost extras when new.) And the additional vents in the front bumper may come in use for cooling.

One of the suppliers makes a fair amount of what's needed for an LS conversion, but it's still not a direct bolt in, plug and play situation. From what I can tell, the throttle by wire has been the biggest hiccup for some reason. I'm not aware of anyone else offering any other engine kits.

The kappas do use can-bus, but it's not quite as integrated as a brand new car. There have been quite a few people able to divorce sub-systems from it to maintain or delete a certain function. I have no idea how they do so.
 

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To expand on Phil's response, the biggest hurdle is going to be packaging. The Kappa architecture was designed around the Ecotec I-4, and there isn't a lot of room for anything else. The entire car is rather short on space, so even installing additional electronics modules can be a bit of a challenge.

I think you are misunderstanding the CAN requirement. It only requires CAN at the diagnostic port, and there is no specification for universal communication within the vehicle.

There aren't all that many aftermarket parts for the platform for a couple of reasons, I think. One is that the stock components make the cars pretty good out of the box, and there is no universal desire to replace a lot of things. There are deficiencies, and certainly some things that could or should have been done differently, but the improvements that can be made are mostly incremental so there isn't a huge incentive to replaces parts en masse. The second is that there is a relatively small population, with only 100k of the cars made, so there isn't a significant profit to be made.

For engine swaps I think that the LNF discourages many, since it is so easy to get so much power out of it. There really isn't much of a need to replace the engine for power, and the LSx satisfies those who just "need a V8". There have been many discussions here about the value of various engine swaps and the reality is that there are no solid gains to be made with any of them. That leaves those who want to do it just because they can, and that is a pretty small population.

What is your goal for the project?
 

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You may want to check out the FB Kappaswap group. The focus is on swapping engines (and supporting each other through the process), though most questions/discussions center around the LS.

I don't know how many V8 engine Kappas have been built, but I'm thinking it should be a couple hundred by now? Check out YT, for LS videos, supercharged LS, TT LS Sky, and a couple of Toyota 2JZ swapped one's too. You might want to check out the newest player; Kappahaus as they have installed or helped with several recent swaps.


Generally speaking, the main reason I see people choosing something different is because back in the day car magazines began to recognize that some people were bored of building another Ford, Chevy or Mopar. Then Car Craft and other car magazines started to encourage enthusiast to think outside the box. That's an OK reason, but I think the better reason is that a person should have genuine affection for a specific brand or model that they would like to modify, and not just pick something different to be different.
 

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Performance Autowerks does direct swaps in the LS flavor you prefer. They have done them for several years and include everything from LS1 to LS7 with supercharger. They also offer "kits" if you want to do your own swap.

Get a doner car with traction control and stability control. Without that, the car has so much power to weight that it becomes dangerous to drive on the road.

In order to retain the factory TC and stability control, you will want to integrate the engine control module for the LS with the Body Control Module BCM which manages the car including the TC and SC.

You will want a car that has a limited slip differential as the alternative is ugly. Basically that suggests either finding a correctly configured NA or any turbo car.

In order to integrate the ECM and the BCM, the only known / proven solution I am aware of is using LS1 edit. LS1 edit is very old code and most "with it" "modern" tuners hate it. It was developed by a very smart Bell Labs research technician for his own use in his personal car when the LS first became available. Its not very user friendly and a little clunky. But it is the only tool that I am aware of that ensures the LS ECM will integrate fully with the car electronics.

Ken Kelly the author retired and no longer sells or really supports LS1 edit, however, Dave at Performance Autowerks and Dave at DDM Works along with Wade's Garage all have manufacturer's version of the tool and can continue to install and support it for you. Basically, even if you do the work yourself you will likely end up paying Dave at PAW to build your ECM for you. LS1 edit requires a HARDWARE key to function and if you don't already have a key, then you are basically dependent on Dave or Dave or Wade to do the install for you. I have a licensed copy and a key, but the first time you connect to the code, the VIN is loaded into the key and will only work on that VIN unless you have a manufacturers license like the Daves and Wade.

My recommendation is you talk with PAW and see if you can work with Dave. I have used him many times over the years with great success. He is a race car builder and approaches his builds from that perspective but he is probably the most experienced LS conversion shop currently in the business.

The same basic code was used by Mallet for the ~100? LS swaps he did.

My recommendation is you go find a car that already has an LS in it and test drive it. To pay Dave to do the swap turnkey for you is about $25k plus the car. You can buy running, low mileage LS cars for that or less and save yourself a lot no a LOT of headaches.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
An NA car will certainly be cheaper, but the turbo will has all the options standard that the base model may not, including a limited slip, traction control, and ABS. (Note these are all available on the base model, but were additional cost extras when new.) And the additional vents in the front bumper may come in use for cooling.

One of the suppliers makes a fair amount of what's needed for an LS conversion, but it's still not a direct bolt in, plug and play situation. From what I can tell, the throttle by wire has been the biggest hiccup for some reason. I'm not aware of anyone else offering any other engine kits.

The kappas do use can-bus, but it's not quite as integrated as a brand new car. There have been quite a few people able to divorce sub-systems from it to maintain or delete a certain function. I have no idea how they do so.
An NA car will certainly be cheaper, but the turbo will has all the options standard that the base model may not, including a limited slip, traction control, and ABS. (Note these are all available on the base model, but were additional cost extras when new.) And the additional vents in the front bumper may come in use for cooling.

One of the suppliers makes a fair amount of what's needed for an LS conversion, but it's still not a direct bolt in, plug and play situation. From what I can tell, the throttle by wire has been the biggest hiccup for some reason. I'm not aware of anyone else offering any other engine kits.

The kappas do use can-bus, but it's not quite as integrated as a brand new car. There have been quite a few people able to divorce sub-systems from it to maintain or delete a certain function. I have no idea how they do so.
So it might be easier to get a turbo car. Price might not be that different anyways if going for a salvage one. We will see. Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I think you are misunderstanding the CAN requirement. It only requires CAN at the diagnostic port, and there is no specification for universal communication within the vehicle.

I think I'm still misunderstanding the CAN requirement. I can't understand what you meant there.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
You may want to check out the FB Kappaswap group. The focus is on swapping engines (and supporting each other through the process), though most questions/discussions center around the LS.

I don't know how many V8 engine Kappas have been built, but I'm thinking it should be a couple hundred by now? Check out YT, for LS videos, supercharged LS, TT LS Sky, and a couple of Toyota 2JZ swapped one's too. You might want to check out the newest player; Kappahaus as they have installed or helped with several recent swaps.


Generally speaking, the main reason I see people choosing something different is because back in the day car magazines began to recognize that some people were bored of building another Ford, Chevy or Mopar. Then Car Craft and other car magazines started to encourage enthusiast to think outside the box. That's an OK reason, but I think the better reason is that a person should have genuine affection for a specific brand or model that they would like to modify, and not just pick something different to be different.
Thanks for the tip on the FB page.

I'm also trying to find more detailed info on the 2JZ swap.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Performance Autowerks does direct swaps in the LS flavor you prefer. They have done them for several years and include everything from LS1 to LS7 with supercharger. They also offer "kits" if you want to do your own swap.

Get a doner car with traction control and stability control. Without that, the car has so much power to weight that it becomes dangerous to drive on the road.

In order to retain the factory TC and stability control, you will want to integrate the engine control module for the LS with the Body Control Module BCM which manages the car including the TC and SC.

You will want a car that has a limited slip differential as the alternative is ugly. Basically that suggests either finding a correctly configured NA or any turbo car.

In order to integrate the ECM and the BCM, the only known / proven solution I am aware of is using LS1 edit. LS1 edit is very old code and most "with it" "modern" tuners hate it. It was developed by a very smart Bell Labs research technician for his own use in his personal car when the LS first became available. Its not very user friendly and a little clunky. But it is the only tool that I am aware of that ensures the LS ECM will integrate fully with the car electronics.

Ken Kelly the author retired and no longer sells or really supports LS1 edit, however, Dave at Performance Autowerks and Dave at DDM Works along with Wade's Garage all have manufacturer's version of the tool and can continue to install and support it for you. Basically, even if you do the work yourself you will likely end up paying Dave at PAW to build your ECM for you. LS1 edit requires a HARDWARE key to function and if you don't already have a key, then you are basically dependent on Dave or Dave or Wade to do the install for you. I have a licensed copy and a key, but the first time you connect to the code, the VIN is loaded into the key and will only work on that VIN unless you have a manufacturers license like the Daves and Wade.

My recommendation is you talk with PAW and see if you can work with Dave. I have used him many times over the years with great success. He is a race car builder and approaches his builds from that perspective but he is probably the most experienced LS conversion shop currently in the business.

The same basic code was used by Mallet for the ~100? LS swaps he did.

My recommendation is you go find a car that already has an LS in it and test drive it. To pay Dave to do the swap turnkey for you is about $25k plus the car. You can buy running, low mileage LS cars for that or less and save yourself a lot no a LOT of headaches.

Thanks a lot. Lots of info.

So with the 2JZ swap, was it fully integrated too? Maybe somebody developed a similar tool to LS1 Edit for the 2JZ? Or perhaps found another way around it?

Could another way around be stripping the kappa from all systems and using the engine donor systems instead? Meaning bringing the systems from the engine donor with the engine into the Kappa? This could possibly mean fully stripping the Kappa and bring the engine donor loom in and all systems.

Because it seems like a race build is no problem, as they don't have to keep any of the systems. Just a working engine and gearbox. So if the systems are such a pain and one can live without some of them, doing what I suggest above could be a viable thing and make it easier?
 

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I think I'm still misunderstanding the CAN requirement. I can't understand what you meant there.
Vehicles manufactured after 2008 are required to have CAN communication at the diagnostic port for communication with scan tools, specifically for emissions compliance purposes. That requirement does not extend into the vehicle, so it doesn't have any real impact on engine swapping. Manufacturers are free to use any communication method that they want between ECM, TCM, BCM, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Vehicles manufactured after 2008 are required to have CAN communication at the diagnostic port for communication with scan tools, specifically for emissions compliance purposes. That requirement does not extend into the vehicle, so it doesn't have any real impact on engine swapping. Manufacturers are free to use any communication method that they want between ECM, TCM, BCM, etc.
Or ok. I thought vehicles with can-bus were harder to swap than older vehicles which didn't use can-bus.

Besides the kappa is 2005 right? So before the 2008 mandate.
 

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........Could another way around be stripping the kappa from all systems and using the engine donor systems instead? Meaning bringing the systems from the engine donor with the engine into the Kappa? This could possibly mean fully stripping the Kappa and bring the engine donor loom in and all systems.

Because it seems like a race build is no problem, as they don't have to keep any of the systems. Just a working engine and gearbox. So if the systems are such a pain and one can live without some of them, doing what I suggest above could be a viable thing and make it easier?
I don't know if "easier" applies, but you certainly could do what you propose. Keeping in mind that virtually everything is integrated, it comes back to my earlier question: What is your goal with this project? Waht do you want to keep, and what can you live without? Is this a rat rod, a race car, or is it supposed to be a fully functional car?

"Everything" would include the instrument cluster, anti-theft system, lighting, access control, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and airbags. For some of it you could leave the BCM in place and overlay the donor system, but some of it has to play together if you want it to function, and the donor hardware may be difficult to adapt to the Kappa chassis.
 

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Or ok. I thought vehicles with can-bus were harder to swap than older vehicles which didn't use can-bus.

Besides the kappa is 2005 right? So before the 2008 mandate.
CAN doesn't make it harder, the presence of integrated systems makes it harder, because stand-alone systems can be used alongside each other without any problems. Theoretically, if all of the systems were CAN it would be easier, because the protocols would match and "all" you would have to do is decode, interpret, and translate the messaging.

In the days before integrated systems nothing had to work with anything else, so if you could get the mechanical parts to mate you could use anything with anything else. Once integrated systems came along that interoperability went away, but the benefit is a better-performing vehicle since everything now cooperates.

Yes, Kappa pre-dates the mandate, but it still uses CAN.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I don't know if "easier" applies, but you certainly could do what you propose. Keeping in mind that virtually everything is integrated, it comes back to my earlier question: What is your goal with this project? Waht do you want to keep, and what can you live without? Is this a rat rod, a race car, or is it supposed to be a fully functional car?

"Everything" would include the instrument cluster, anti-theft system, lighting, access control, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and airbags. For some of it you could leave the BCM in place and overlay the donor system, but some of it has to play together if you want it to function, and the donor hardware may be difficult to adapt to the Kappa chassis.
The goal is to make a fully functional car as you put it. But I can do without some amenities. Keeping airbgas, ABS and maybe TC would be nice. The rest could go, unless it's easily integrated. Naturally I need the instruments, lights etc. I guess AC is separated anyway. Anti-theft? I wouldn't sweat it. What do you mean with access control? Key/transponder/immobilizer?

I said easier in the face of it being impossible to do an integration without specialized software or programmer skills. At least this way it is just "work" which could be done if put the time into.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
CAN doesn't make it harder, the presence of integrated systems makes it harder, because stand-alone systems can be used alongside each other without any problems. Theoretically, if all of the systems were CAN it would be easier, because the protocols would match and "all" you would have to do is decode, interpret, and translate the messaging.

In the days before integrated systems nothing had to work with anything else, so if you could get the mechanical parts to mate you could use anything with anything else. Once integrated systems came along that interoperability went away, but the benefit is a better-performing vehicle since everything now cooperates.

Yes, Kappa pre-dates the mandate, but it still uses CAN.
Oh OK. My thought was that fully integrated systems only came about with CAN and before that it was all mainly stand-alone. That's why I thought CAN made it harder.
 
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