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Barra Swap Phenomenon

There are some companies that have something special in their catalogue. Most of the time, and understandably, it’s to do with their fire-breathing engine.

Ford Australia is one of those companies. Their long lived 4.1L became the basis for new engines before a genius at their engine design company waved a hand and said


 ”Why don’t we bolt on a turbo?”


We’ll backtrack a bit here and give history a little more of a look. Barra is a name that covers a range of engines that are uniquely Aussie. If you’re thinking “barra” comes from barramundi, correct. The name applied to the sixes and eights built by Ford Australia between 2002 and 2016.

Perhaps the most important member, to some (maybe, no, make that definitely) members of the Ford faithful, was the turbocharged six that Ford Australia developed. Ford’s major competitors, Holden, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Nissan, at the time, did not have anything similar and Holden’s venture into turbocharged sixes was courtesy of Nissan in Japan.



Being a local developed engine makes the Barra a source of pride and it’s become a favourite for replacing engines in other cars. What’s polarised some (and you can’t fault brand loyalty) is that it’s been used to power cars that don’t sport the Blue Oval badge.


For example, one canny builder slotted a turbo Barra six into his classic HG Holden. Why? Because the “donk” cost just $3,000, and produces a very handy 275kilowatts...


Then there’s the “original” turbo Commodore, the VL. Swap out a 150kW Nissan six, drop in a turbo Barra six, head to the dragstrip, and nail down ten second quarters.

How about a real sleeper? Head into the time machine and find yourself a cool looking Chrysler Valiant of VE spec. Chrysler was known for building potent sixes and it makes sense to slot in a potent six that happens to be from Ford.


Our friends over at Street Machine know a few people that have love for the big Barra. One fantastic conversion they found was a 1966 Lincoln Continental. The engine came from an FG spec XR6. There’s a handy 270kW and a VERY handy 533Nm of torque. Ford’s figures said that was on tap between 2000 to 4750 rpm. Driveable? Oh yes.


Finally, the ultimate compliment or the ultimate insult? Another one from the Street Machine garage is a ripper. Jason Waye took it upon himself to bolt a fire breathing barra six into a Holden VS ute. All up was a cost of around $10,000 and involved an engine rebuild, a bigger turbo, a modified intercooler, and some chassis work. Estimate output is over 350 kilowatts.


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