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