There is no sense in keeping it a secret… I am new to the world of LS engines. Holley LS Fest East 2023 was my head-first dive into the LS community. I grew up building carbureted engines and only recently learned to appreciate the LS platform. With both the platform and the event being new to me, it made for a “kid in a candy store” like expression on my face, nearly the whole time.
Several builds stood out to me while I walked the grounds of Beech Bend Raceway. While LS Fest is known for having all sorts of unexpected swaps in attendance, it was the clean and well-executed builds that grabbed my attention. I was drawn to any build that combined craftsmanship with a well-thought-out plan and execution. With all of that information, here are five of my favorite builds from LS Fest East.
Mason Brackett’s Nissan 240SX
I know what you’re thinking, right off the bat is a pretty commonly performed LS swap. While swapping an LS engine into a 240SX isn’t uncommon, this build is still filled with amazing features. To start, its 408 cubic-inch stroker LS engine looks right at home as if this 240SX rolled out of the factory with it. The stroker short-block is paired with an LS3 top end and a heavenly-sounding custom camshaft from PatGTuning. Acting as the chef’s kiss is a TREMEC Magnum transmission. This thing runs and sounds exactly how you would expect it to, perfectly.
While it could be argued that this 240SX is now more domestic than JDM, its JDM bloodlines were not left behind. With a Spirit Rei Aero kit, lowered suspension, and wide wheels, it carries its JDM heritage confidently. This build is no doubt the accumulation of flawless paint, a tidy engine bay, and bald eagles.
Kyle Lindsey’s 1989 S10
Kyle has gone above and beyond with his LS-swapped S10. In the last four years, his truck has seen many different iterations. From a 4.3-liter V6, a 355 cubic-inch small block Chevy, and finally, a 5.3-liter LS. This build stands out due to it showcasing many hours of labor towards perfection, as well as showing off how easy Holley makes these swaps. Kyle utilized the Holley LS Swap System for this build, making it as turnkey as possible. Behind his LS engine is a B&M 4l60E transmission, perfect for cruising.
Not only did Kyle spend hours upon hours perfecting the engine bay, but he spent just as much time restoring the exterior, interior, and underside of the truck. Kyle replaced body panels and repainted factory panels to achieve a flawless exterior. He installed an insane sound system and reupholstered everything on the inside of the truck. In a more impressive feat, he kept the underside scratch-free while installing the engine and transmission. Every inch of this truck is a perfect example of why horsepower numbers aren’t the only thing that matters.
LS-Swapped BMW 335i Built To Kill Tires
This 335i features a twin-turbo 408 cubic-inch LS engine backed by a T56 manual transmission. The 408 is specifically built with low compression to handle high amounts of boost. If I asked you to guess what sort of boost numbers this combination is making, you probably wouldn’t guess 31 psi. Originally built for drifting, this 335i is prepared to go fast and shred tires with its 1,000-plus horsepower on tap.
Seeing style and 1,000 horsepower collide results in what the owner refers to as “The Panda.” Occasionally, when a build is focused on making big horsepower numbers it can miss the mark in personality. Fortunately, The Panda successfully combines European styling with American muscle to have a uniquely classy character with a touch of ‘Merica thrown in for good measure.
Zach Pennock’s 1958 F-100
Rowdy is the most fitting word for this build. With a 427 cubic-inch LS engine built by Texas Speed and Performance, a Stage 3 871 supercharger from Blower Drive Service, dual throttle bodies, and Holley EFI, this thing was destined to be rowdy from its inception. According to Zach, he’s wanted a roots-blown engine since he was a child, and while his F-100 is built with components well suited for drag racing it appears that he’s having fun making huge smokey clouds doing burnouts.
At LS Fest, the truck was making approximately 800 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque. Zach has since turned up the boost while dialing in the truck on the drag strip. With the build being wrapped up just in time for LS Fest East, we’ve only seen the beginning of this ’58 Ford. Expect to see much more of Zach doing wild burnouts, as he will have his F-100 at the SEMA Show in November to have some fun with the crew from Hoonigan.
A Veteran’s Dream Fulfilled
Despite having a twin-turbo 6.0-liter LS engine, a TH400 transmission, and a 9-inch rearend, none of that has to do with why this fox body stood out to me. It was the story behind the build that made me pick it for my list of favorites. It reminded me of why I love the automotive community. This build originated because a Vietnam Veteran had a dream of going fast before he passed away. With the dream being made known, a group of friends began the search for a car to build. They settled on this Mustang and started the LS swap.
The group was able to get the car completed and make it to LS Fest East 2022 for its debut. The Veteran got to ride shotgun on its maiden pass down the drag strip. I wasn’t informed exactly how fast he got to go, just that it was “very fast.” That Vietnam Veteran got to live out one of his last life wishes. Sadly, two weeks after that, the Veteran passed away. Despite the sad ending, it makes me happy to know that he got to stick around long enough to live out his dream.
Ready For The Next One
Even though this was my first time at such an event and being new to the LS community, I feel like a longtime member after being there. Diving into everything LS Fest East 2023 had to offer was a revelation. It’s one thing to hear about the capabilities and innovations of the LS engine, but to witness firsthand the creativity, craftsmanship, and passion behind these builds is an entirely different experience.
The seamless blend of the unexpected with meticulous attention to detail showcased the incredible talent within this community. While I’ve highlighted a select few that stood out to me, every builder and enthusiast present contributed to the unforgettable ambiance of the event. It’s evident that the spirit of passion in the automotive world is alive and thriving, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the LS community and the marvels it will produce.