In a world full of LS swaps, it’s not always the LS that stands out in the swap, but what you swap it into that that gets all the attention. Zach Matson took standing out to a new level when he turned his 2006 Honda Civic into a rear-wheel drive, LS-swapped machine and created what could be described as the ultimate way to put other VTEC-powered Civics to shame.
To pull off this project, Matson did what many of us would like to do and simply invited several friends over to help him perform the conversion and complete the build in only a few weekends. While talking to Matson about his creation, he had this to say, “It’s a 2006 Honda Civic LX that originally had a 1.8-liter engine and five-speed manual transmission with 208,000 miles on it. I obtained the car from a kid I knew in high school. He was going to send it to the junkyard because the motor was knocking, so I ended up buying it from him for $500 in November of 2022 and drove it for about a month. I actually drove the car into my garage on the 18th of December. I had to decide whether I wanted to fix it and boost it for fun or do something else. I’ve done a handful of other projects, and I just so happened to have a 4.8-liter Gen 3 LS laying in the corner of my garage and a spare 4L60E with a complete wiring harness. So I did my research in seeing if anyone else had done it, and to my surprise, I could not find anything on anyone LS swapping an eighth-generation Honda Civic.”
When thinking about what is involved with LS swapping a compact car, thoughts of a long drawn-out project over several months may come to mind. However, the length of this project was much shorter. “So on the 18th I drove it into my garage in the morning and had three friends come over, and by mid-afternoon, the old engine and trans were gone, and most of the interior was ripped out. That very same day I cut through the firewall and sat the LS engine and transmission in it for kicks to see what it looked like,” Matson said.
I asked Matson about the LS engine itself, what it came from, and his current setup. “My original 4.8-liter came out of a 2007 Chevy Express 3500 plumbing van and it had a 4L80E attached to it. I wanted it for my truck, and my local junkyard said they’d give me both for $300, so that’s how I got the engine. Fast forward, that motor was blown, and within 17 hours of finding out the motor was junk, I got a 5.3-liter LS with 262,000 miles on it out of an ’03 Chevy Suburban and had it in the Civic and running. The transmission I’m running now came out of a 2000-2006 Tahoe, and I plan on upgrading to a stronger 4L80E sometime soon.”
Putting an LS in a Honda Civic is a wicked project in and of itself, but it isn’t the only cool part of this build. The conversion to rear-wheel drive is the cherry on top. Surprisingly, Matson explained fitting the solid axle under the rear of the car was harder to accomplish than the engine swap. “The rearend swap was the hardest part of the build. There are a lot of videos and tutorials on the internet about how to mount a four-link suspension to a frame like a truck has. The issue is that the Civic is a unibody and there’s nothing straight to connect to. I found a local shop that makes custom drag racing frames, and after talking to the owner, he told me not to overthink it. After that, I picked up a 2-by-3-inch steel tube and found two identical holes on the inside frame of the car, welded it to the floor, and then mounted the rearend. The rearend I chose is just a stock axle out of a 2001 Chevy 1500 pickup that was two-wheel drive. It ended up only taking me about 3 weeks to put it all together.”