Driving a boring car every day just sucks. There are a lot of cool-looking cars out there that don’t have an exciting engine and transmission package, but thankfully that can be changed with some creativity and effort. Project Swedish Meatball is LSX Magazine’s newest build, and it’s our take on an elevated Volvo wagon.
“The Meatball” as we call it, started life as your typical 1994 Volvo 940 wagon powered by a four-cylinder engine that was backed by an automatic transmission. These cars are known to be total tanks and last forever, but that little four-banger and slushbox just wasn’t cutting it for us. Our plan: replace the tired 2.3-liter mill with a 5.3 LS engine, slap a TREMEC six-speed transmission behind it, and add a single 76mm turbo for good measure. The goal is to create a gnarly 700-horsepower daily driver that will last for a very long time.
Our first order of business was to find a shop to help make this creation come to life. We decided to partner with our friends at Big 3 Racing in Hinkley, Ohio for this project. Big 3 Racing was the muscle behind Project 899, so we know they can build just about anything in a reasonable amount of time. Project Swedish Meatball is going to put them to the test since we’re basically re-engineering an entire car.
The 325 cubic-inch 5.3-liter LS we’re building is going to use a set of OEM 243 casting heads, so nothing fancy there at all. We wanted to build a very reliable engine and decided to use one of Summit Racing’s Pro LS forged rotating assemblies. This will give our engine plenty of strength, and the ability to make some serious horsepower.
An ATI balancer will be bolted to the front of the crank to keep the harmonics in check. ICT Billet has supplied the parts for an accessory drive that will work with our swap, and hopefully allow us to keep the A/C too. A Melling oil pump is going to deliver the oil that’s going to be held in a Holley oil pan. A set of Giffin’s Performance engine mounts will mate the LS engine to the Volvo
The top end of the engine will use a full Brian Tooley Racing valvetrain package and BTR Equalizer intake manifold. One of FAST’s new drive-by-wire throttle bodies will bring the boosted air into the engine. Everything will be held together with ARP fasteners. RPM Engine & Machine is getting everything ready for Bob Hess Jr. at Big 3 Racing to assemble the engine.
Since we’re going to be feeding this hungry engine a mixture of gasoline and E85 a stout fuel system was required. We picked up a pair of Holley fuel pumps that will be stuffed into the OEM Volvo fuel tank. All of the go-go juice will be carried to the engine via Earl’s hoses and fittings. Finally, a set of Fuel Injector Clinic fuel injectors will squirt the fuel into the engine.
There’s going to be more than enough boost flowing into the 5.3-liter engine we’re building thanks to Summit Racing’s 76mm turbo. A Summit Racing blow-off valve and wastegate set will keep the boost in check. We’re also going to be using Summit’s line of tubing to construct the entire kit.
Controlling the Meatball’s engine will be an OEM ECU and stand-alone wiring harness from BP Automotive. The care package from BP included our drive-by-wire accelerator pedal, MAP sensor, O2 sensors, and much more. To monitor the vitals of the engine, an AutoMeter InVison dash and CAN bridge will be added to the car. The boost will be controlled by a TurboSmart boost controller. You can’t have a cool car without a rocking sound system, right? Kenwood USA is going to help us update the Meatball’s stereo system.
We needed a solid solution for our transmission and clutch. The team at Silver Sport Transmissions stepped up to assist us with getting everything we needed. They sent us a stout TREMEC transmission, McLeod Racing clutch, flywheel, and bellhousing.
This is just the start for Project Swedish Meatball. We’ve still got some other areas of the car to sort out, so you’ll be seeing us team up with other great companies to address those needs. Once the Volvo is ready, you can expect to see it at car shows, big events, on the streets, and at the track as well. Make sure you follow our progress here on LSX Magazine.