I've heard the arguments, hell, I even lived 'em. "Engine transplants should stay within the [brand] family and LS swaps are unoriginal, sacrilegious and boring." I felt this way for many years; however, as I've indulged myself at shows like SEMA every year, observed different car cultures and witnessed the interest of enthusiasts around me evolve, many of those barriers that once stood tall, have been taken down. I began spotting guys buying BMWs, drag racers jumping into off-road, Japanese wheels looking right at home on Euros, and yes, LS swaps going into any coupe, sedan, wagon or truck imaginable. Let's not forget, we can't watch a round of Formula DRIFT without acknowledging the engine's superiority in the series.
I've come to terms with LS swaps, in fact, I've begun to embrace them and the car builders who aren't unscathed by the haters. This revelation has also allowed me to meet new heroes out there, for example Tyler Powell and his "Fairlady Z06", Sam Morris and his "Pistachio FD", plus many more. And now, as of this week I've done something a little bit more outside my bubble by paying a visit to my first Holley LSFest West-a three-day-long festival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway comprised of all things LS-powered.
Strolling the showgrounds, there were definitely some eye-openers...Some that made me think, "that's badass," others "that's interesting," while there were certainly some vehicles that I knew were gonna piss people off. But all in all, it was a great experience as it cracked open my mind a tad more, allowing me to accept what's become the LS phenomenon. I'll leave you with a gallery of some of the most fascinating things I saw last weekend. At the end of the day, I'm still an import guy who came from the Euro scene and works with Japanese cars 99 percent of the time today, but there's a melting pot of car enthusiasts and builders that don't care what people think and know a good engine when they see one.
This was maybe the wildest thing I saw, which just so happened to belong to the guys over at Dirt Everyday—a Winnebago motorhome that's powered by an LS7 and outfitted to take on off-roading. Probably not the most ideal thing to do donuts in as you can tell from this .
Meet Cleetus McFarland. He's a bit of a celebrity among the Corvette guys but he's new to me (shrug). He turned this Corvette named "Leroy" into a twin-turbo exo-skeleton car and put down 1,352hp on the , and he's also made a 7-second pass on the drag strip.
I didn't come across too many polished builds, but for whatever reason, this looked the part with its lime green paint and twin-turbo LS powerplant.
I'm a huge fan of . Easily one of the coolest Starion/Conquest builds in recent times, maybe even history...
Although we didn't see under the hood, LS swaps and 944s seem to make quite a bit of sense.
Came across this beat-up Station wagon with an old supercharged LS wagon under the hood. He was driving it like he stole it and gets a thumbs up from me.
Not sure how I feel about someone using the "Ratchet Bunny" name but as suspected, S13s were the most popular swapped Japanese imports at LS Fest.
This old doesn't look like much on the outside, but inside is a whole different story with its twin-turbo LS ...
These Nissans were all parked next to each other and looked like some serious competitors in the drift competition. I kind of cringe at the thought of a S15 Silvia with an LS but it was interesting to see.
There were a handful of Datsuns on hand...
Moto IQ's Project V8 RX-7
This supercharged LS-swapped Mini from was one of my favorite things to look at and just be completely confused by! I wish I could've seen this little beast burn some tires but it was still mind boggling to see how they were able to make it all work.
Another one of those interesting (and maybe slightly cringeworthy) builds was this with a turbo LS.
Not sure what this thing is but it just goes to show the scope of what you'll find at LS Fest. Not surprising to see things you might not even understand.
Took me a while to figure out this was a . Its bodywork is a bit on the "what's going on here" side, but it did look like it packed a lot of power and fun with the exposed turbo and nitrous.
The Honky Donk—'67 Camaro body on a H1 chassis with a turbo LS motor. Mind blown!
There wasn't a huge contingent of LS-swapped BMWs, but I was able to find these. As you can tell, some were built for drift, others for time attack.
Last but not least, I had the pleasure of meeting pro-am Canadian drifter who made the trek from Calgary. His R32 Skyline didn't look like a complete drift missile which was a relief, and it makes about 700hp thanks to a 6.0L LSx engine with TorqStorm blower. In my convo with him, he mentioned that he's gone the RB route and has tried to make it work, but for competitive drifting, the LS simply performed better and made the most sense.