a 2.2 litre in say a 97 sunfire verses a 2.2 litre in a 2005, are these the same engines with dohc or r they totally different because you never hear of the old ones going?
No they are two different engines. 2.3 liter LD2 engine in 1995 or the 2.4 liter LD9 "Twin Cam" engine (1996–2002) From 2003 until the end of production it was the 2.2 liter Ecotec was the only available engine as of the 2003 model year (same engine you'd find in a Chevy Cavalier).
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