There are all kinds of cool custom-built, LS-powered cars out there and the GM LS Gen -3 and -4 engine families are clearly the swap darlings of the 21st Century. In just the past few weeks, we’ve learned of a number of cars new to us that have been the subject of an LS-conversion project. They include the Nissan 370Z, the Lexus IS300, the Mazda Miata, and the BMW M3 to name a few.
Other cars have been on the radar of those doing LS swaps for a while now. Some of those include the rear-drive Nissan 240SX and various iterations of the Porsche 911, not to mention the legions of ’79-’04 Fox-body and SN-95 Mustangs that have been irritating the Ford faithful for at least the past few years or so with these power-infusing LS conversions.
Well, you can add this one to the mix and to some, it will likely be a real mind blower. Perusing eBay the other day, we came across a–can you believe it?–Lamborghini Diablo with a C6 Corvette LS3 mounted in the middle of its structure –we give you the LS3 Diablo.
The seller, Benji, relates: “I purchased a ’95 Diablo back in 2008 with an illuminated check-engine light. The previous owner had spent approximately $50,000 between a couple different dealers to fix the issue but it never got resolved. Thankfully, the car ran well and the gauges worked well so it wasn’t as much of concern to me. I did however take the car to a shop for the same thing with no resolution. I wanted to drive the car often but didn’t realize putting mileage on it meant a great deal of depreciation and living 50 miles from town didn’t help either. I, along with many others, have a great passion for Lamborghinis especially the Countach and Diablo, because they are such iconic vehicles. I was at a crossroads on how I can drive the car and not worry about some of these issues. I suppose if I were just a collector it wouldn’t be so bad but I like to drive and share this piece of art with others.”
“I sold that first Diablo and purchased this ’95 Diablo that had suffered an engine fire. The rear panels had already been replaced with fiberglass and all the pieces bolt together like original. The car had no drivetrain but the frame was in excellent shape and still had the original Brembo brakes. After considering powertrain options, the best to suit the job was a C6 Corvette LS3 with a Porsche 911, five-speed (G50) transaxle. I wanted the car to match or exceed factory power ratings and a mildly modified LS3 would certainly do that. This was also the only package that would allow the axles to pass through the small section of the frame opening without it being altered and I wanted to minimize cutting on the frame to retain rigidity.”
Benji got the engine from Don Hardy Race Cars and the transaxle from Renegade Hybrids. The LS3 has a mild cam upgrade and the transmission was upgraded with a billet shifter and a cable, a billet end-plate, a taller 5th gear, and a limited slip. Also added was a custom-built aluminum radiator with Spal fans to fit the factory locations and mounts. All wiring in the rear is new using 14-gauge and heat shrink. The rest of the wiring from the cab forward is pretty much original using the original fuse panel.
It took Benji a while to collect all the interior panels, some new and some used, and it was important to him is that the pieces were mostly original. He wanted to give the cabin some updates, which includes alcantara-and-leather-mix seat covers with orange stitching. During the upholstery work, other amenities were added, including two cup holders as well as heaters in the seats and a high-end sound system controlled by a Pioneer CD player.
Benji also said, “You can’t share an exotic with people if you don’t get it out of the garage, and now that I have created something I can drive with less worry I can enjoy the car with all sorts of benefits. These include better fuel economy with my best being 23.8 MPG; 550 flywheel horsepower and 494 lb.-ft. of torque; the LS3 being super easy to work on; low maintenance costs; streetable gear ratios for in-town driving; more accessible and reasonably-priced parts; and if service is needed it can be performed by most mechanics. The car is now also OBD-II compliant for easier diagnostic checks and I also like that there is only one ECU and fuel pump to deal with to keep things more simple. I have driven the car from Nevada and through the Colorado mountains with no issues.”
Overall, Benji reports the car runs great, and he says, “whatever engine you have in a Diablo, it causes a stir everywhere and is an event to drive. I often think of how many conversations these cars start because of their iconic nature, keeping in mind that most people don’t see the engine driving down the road, but rather they see the design–thanks to designer Gandini for that. The main purpose for listing car is because I’ve spent the last nine years working on it inside and out and feel I have fulfilled my ambition and got to enjoy it a bit. I’m not desperate to sell the car but thought I’d see how it goes.”
And there you have it. An Italian exotic custom-built by one guy. It’s sort of like a modern-day DeTomaso Pantera which was an Italian-bodied car with a American-built Ford 351C V-8 engine. But with an LS3 making considerably more power than those U.S.-imported ’71-’74 Panteras, we’re relatively confident that this is one of only a handful of LS converted Lambos you are going to find.