Abstract This paper describes a specific thermodynamic analysis in order to efficiently match a vapour cycle to that of a stationary Internal Combustion Engine (ICE). Three different working fluids are considered to represent the main classes of fluids, with reference to the shape of the vapour lines in the T– s diagram: overhanging, nearly isoentropic and bell shaped. First a parametric analysis is conducted in order to determine optimal evaporating pressures for each fluid. After which three different cycles setups are considered: a simple cycle with the use of only engine exhaust gases as a thermal source, a simple cycle with the use of exhaust gases and engine cooling water and a regenerated cycle. A second law analysis of the cycles is performed, with reference to the available heat sources. This is done in order to determine the best fluid and cycle configuration to be employed, the main parameters of the thermodynamic cycles and the overall efficiency of the combined power system. The analysis demonstrates that a 12% increase in the overall efficiency can be achieved with respect to the engine with no bottoming; nevertheless it has been observed that the Organic Rankine Cycles (ORCs) can recover only a small fraction of the heat released by the engine through the cooling water.