Video: Ben Davis Sticks A 6.0 LS Into A 1981 Toyota Corolla

Ben Davis is a drag racer. He’s also a damn fine mechanic and more than knows his way around a welder to build what he needs. Back in 2014, he decided he wanted to build a “sleeper” without having to modify the hood at all. With that in mind, he went out and picked up a 1981 Toyota Corolla four-door for $200 and got started installing an LS engine in it.

This shot shows the finished product along with a handy LED underhood lamp that Davis installed. All images courtesy Ben Davis.

This shot shows the finished product along with a handy LED underhood lamp that Davis installed. All images courtesy Ben Davis.

Other than a set of drag slicks and non-stock wheels, he didn’t want your first glance to give away the fact that he’s got a pretty nice powerhouse under the hood. Unlike most LS swaps we’ve seen, Davis didn’t use anything pre-fabricated; he built everything he needed by hand. His Snap-On 140-amp welder definitely got a workout during this build. The only exception to this is the aluminum driveshaft, although he did measure and cut the original for the shop to use as a template.

Getting ready to install the aluminum block 6.0 LS. This shot perfectly shows the solid motor mounts Davis fabricated.

Getting ready to install the aluminum block 6.0 LS. This shot perfectly shows the solid motor mounts Davis fabricated.

“If you’re not an expert welder, just practice with some scrap material to get the feel of your welder.”

The LS In Question Is A Six-Liter Aluminum Block

Davis picked up his six-liter LS from a junkyard minus the transmission. He tore it apart and cleaned it all up, sending the block and stock 9.5:1 heads out for vat-dipping. He then had new cam bearing installed in the block and installed a factory style hydraulic roller cam (239/247 @ .050 with .623 lift and 110 degree LSA) from Comp Cams. He installed a set of PRC .650 lift springs that he got from Texas Speed to eliminate valve float. An MSD controller was attached to a custom mount next to the driver seat and controls the fire in the engine. This combination makes about 436 horsepower according to Ben. However, he says there’s more in it, he just has to get the tune right.

Fuel system by QF.

Fuel system by QF.

Backing Up The Six Liter

Davis wanted to keep his expenditures low, so for the transmission he went with a beefy TH350 transmission that he already had in the ‘Yota behind a 350 SBC that he was yanking. The TH350 has a Jegs 3800-4100 stall converter in it. He plans on putting a PTE 5600 stall speed converter in it in the future.

The Ford 8.8-inch rear end that Davis narrowed by seven inches. Also visible are the dual-tone mufflers he built for it.

The Ford 8.8-inch rear end that Davis narrowed by seven inches. Also visible are the dual-tone mufflers he built for it.

There’s no way the stock rear end that he was using with the 350/350 combo would work with the LS he was installing, so he pulled an 8.8-inch differential with 3.73 gears out of a ‘96 Explorer he found at the junkyard and transferred the mounts and brackets he needed to it after chopping it down a total of seven inches. He also had to swap the parking brake and caliper brackets side to side to clear the shock mounts. For axles he went with a set of Moser right side axles that are two inches shorter than stock.

The exhaust is also completely custom. The headers use hogged out stock GM flanges with 1 7/8-inch pipes stepped to two inch into three inch collectors. The mufflers are also handmade by Davis.

Mounting The Engine And Transmission In The Corolla

Davis didn’t use any kits to complete this swap. For motor mounts, he welded some spare tubing he had in his garage to a couple pieces of 3/16-inch sheets. Next, he welded the tubes to plates that were then attached to the frame. Holes were drilled in the engine-side plates in order to bolt them to the engine block. He had to move the transmission crossmember a bit from where it was for the 350/350 combo, and he used a stock urethane mount on the tailshaft.

Sticking To The Home-Brew Theme

One custom-made air cleaner.

One custom-made air cleaner.

Davis used a carbureted LS intake up top. Since he wanted to keep the stock Corolla hood, he couldn’t use any sort of “stock” air cleaner housing, so he hand built one out of small gauge sheetmetal, cutting a rectangle out of the “snout” to fit the air filter. Under that is a Holley 750 double pumper, but he’s got plans to up that to an 850 soon.

Steering By Mustang

The Mustang rack and homemade control arms.

To keep the Corolla planted going down the track, Davis also custom-built the Panhard bar out back, and the tubular lower control arms. Keeping the car going straight down the track is a ’96 Mustang rack and pinion with a set of offset rack bushings to let the rack clear the oil pan. A couple steering shaft joints and a DD shaft from Borgeson completed the rack installation. The struts and knuckles are also from the ’96 Mustang.

Block assembly begins.

Block assembly begins.

Davis told us that for most of the sheetmetal work he set his welder at the lowest setting to keep from burning through. He also told us “If you’re not an expert welder, just practice with some scrap material to get the feel of your welder.” Davis originally didn’t want to speak with us for this article because he thought his car wasn’t worthy of it. We think it’s definitely worthy of it. How about you, do you think it belongs here on the pages of LSX Magazine? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Mike Aguilar

Mike has been wrenching on cars since the early 1970s when he worked at his dad's auto repair shop. By the age of 14 Mike had built his first performance suspension, and by 16 he had built, and was racing cars in several sanctioned events in the San Francisco bay area.
Read My Articles

Late Model LS Power in your inbox.

Build your own custom newsletter with the content you love from LSX Magazine, directly to your inbox, absolutely FREE!

Free WordPress Themes
LSX Magazine NEWSLETTER - SIGN UP FREE!

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.

LSX Magazine - The Late Model GM Magazine for Camaro

We'll send you the most interesting LSX Magazine articles, news, car features, and videos every week.

LSX Magazine - The Late Model GM Magazine for Camaro

LSX Magazine NEWSLETTER - SIGN UP FREE!

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.

LSX Magazine - The Late Model GM Magazine for Camaro

Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...



Corvette Enthusiasts

Performance Driving

Engine Tech

LSX Magazine - The Late Model GM Magazine for Camaro

Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...

  • Corvette Enthusiasts
  • Performance Driving
  • Engine Tech

LSX Magazine - The Late Model GM Magazine for Camaro

Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.

LSX Magazine - The Late Model GM Magazine for Camaro

Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.

Loading