Buying a half-cut - the front half of the car containing all the good bits
like the engine and gearbox - is an excellent way of getting together all that
you need for an engine transplant, or simply as spares for the car you already
have. But there are some distinct pitfalls as well.
A half-cut exists because it’s much cheaper to cut off the part of the car
with the engine than to transport the whole car. In fact, as the name suggests,
a half-cut takes up around only half the space of a complete car. However,
compared with buying a bare engine and gearbox, it’s much more bulky.
The advantages of buying a half-cut over an engine/gearbox combination are
Firstly, you get every mechanical component from the front half of the car.
(In mid engine cars, a half-cut is the rear end.) So in addition to the engine
and gearbox (and drive shafts in a FWD), you also get:
front suspension and brakes
steering system, including hydraulic or electric power assistance (and usually
the steering wheel)
engine bay wiring loom and all the relays, igniter modules, etc
ECUs for the whole car (which can include power steering , central locking and
immobiliser, as well and engine and transmission ECUs)
dashboard, including all the switchgear
radiator and other front-mount heat exchangers (intercooler, oil cooler, air con
some external panels and the inner guard, radiator support panel, etc
some exterior lights and other fittings
complete underbonnet assembly, already put together (not something to be
If you’re transplanting a new, more powerful engine into your car, a half cut
will have the bigger front brakes to match. It will also have everything – the brackets, bolts,
cross-member and all the rest that very few wreckers bother salvaging when
supplying you with just an engine and gearbox.
So what are the downsides? Firstly, a half cut normally costs something like
twice the price of a bare engine/gearbox. That ratio depends a lot on what car
you’re buying the bits from, but it’s about right.
Secondly – and this is one not to underestimate – it’s a helluva lot harder
to physically deal with a half-cut.
Despite the one shown here being the third that I have bought over the years,
this half cut – from a Toyota Prius – was a real doozy. Basically, it was
incredibly heavy, which made it near impossible to move around. Bought from
interstate, I’d intended picking it up from the local freight depot with a 6x4
trailer, something I’d done in the past. (It’s a top-heavy load but still
normally possible if taken very carefully and slowly.) But in this case it would
have been dangerous. So that meant delivery by a crane truck – at extra cost, of
Then, when I’d expected to be able to put some heavy-duty castors under the
pallet on which it arrived, it turned out that to move it around, an engine
crane built on a very strong underpinnings was needed. It’s no big deal if
you’re prepared, but don’t expect to man-handle a half-cut around like you can
Another negative is that it’s harder for both you and the wrecker to
ascertain the state of the engine. Years ago I bought a Subaru Legacy turbo
half-cut – only to find when I got home that the front cam pulleys on the engine
had all been broken by a minor front-end impact. And of course, whether the
engine crank had kept turning with stationary camshafts was also unknown... It
went back to the wrecker – but it was all a hassle.
In this case, the car has obviously suffered a front three-quarters hit,
damaging the radiator and the power converter heat exchanger. But I didn’t know
that when I bought it sight unseen, and I doubt if the wrecker had spotted it
either. It’s also a bit of a hit or miss affair (pun - ho ho) whether or not you
get lots of good panels – or none. If you get a pristine set of panels, you can
sell them off to defray the cost of the half cut.
Finally, you should know something about the car that you’re buying the
half-cut from. In some cars there are very important bits which may be missing,
simply because they come from the other end of the car. That might be the
gearbox (some rear-wheel-drive, front-engine cars have the gearbox mounted at
the back) or as in the case of this car, a high voltage battery that is normally
mounted behind the rear seat. As can be seen here, in this case it was
When looking at doing a major engine transplant (or other major modifications
that might result in broken mechanical items), we’d always recommend buying a
half-cut. You just get so many important bits and pieces. But when making the
decision to go that way, don’t overlook the negatives.
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