Best Of The West: The Top Picks From LS Fest

When you attend a car show or event, you never know what to expect. Some shows are packed with vehicles, while others are not. And the weather can certainly play a role in who shows up. Our first show of the season was Holley’s LS Fest West 2021, and we are happy to say it was fantastic. The three-day event was packed with cars, participants, and a ton of spectators. And with so many vehicles on the property, it’s not only hard to see all of them; it’s challenging to pick a favorite. Here are just a few cars that caught our eye while cruising around Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

LS9 Swapped Colorado

We’ve been chasing this Colorado for a while now. A friend of ours, Mark Plewa, originally built the truck, and unfortunately, COVID-19 kept us from shooting it last year. Plewa then sold it, so you can imagine our surprise as it popped up at LS Fest West. Izzy Performance in Los Angeles is the new owner of this incredible machine. 

If you pulled the Weld bead lock wheels off and the ZR1 badges, most people wouldn’t have a second thought about lining up next to the Colorado. But, they would be mistaken. Under the hood of this beast sits a modified LS9 with a Nitrous Outlet system too. And while we could get into all of the details of this beauty, expect a full feature on this bad boy soon.

The Elco 

When it comes to El Caminos, people either love them or hate them. These vehicles often joked about because no one knows if they are a truck, car, or “trar.” If you’re on the fence about liking El Caminos, Chris Decker’s 1967 El Camino might just push you over the edge. 

The ‘Camino is Decker’s first car and has been a work in progress for the last 23 years. Over the years, it housed small-blocks, big-blocks, automatics, nitrous, and most recently, an LS powerplant. The 376 cubic-inch LS3 is force-fed by a massive Gen 3 Whipple, which is mated to a Tremec T56 Magnum. We know for a fact that this combination is good for 1,000-plus horsepower, and Decker is headed to the dyno soon to verify our suspicions. If you want to see more, hang around because this one is due for a full feature as well. 

The Fast Track

Jessie Maurer of Las Vegas showed up with his freshly built 1961 C10 truck. Maurer picked up this truck as a project after finding out his father had cancer. And while the father-son project was never supposed to be this radical of a build, a cheap turbo system sealed that deal, and the two decided to go fast. 

The LS-powered C10 had a forged 6.0-liter engine with a nice S480 turbo and a 4L60e transmission. The team just got the truck running right before the event, so they had no idea what kind of power it was making. Right out of the gate, the C10 busted off a 7.20 in the 1/8-mile, which was a good start for Maurer on low boost. From there, they only planned to go faster as the plan was to turn it up during qualifying.

Mini Tire Slayer

If there’s one thing we love about LS Fest, it’s a tiny car with big LS power. Stephan Brown made the trip out to Sin City with his wild 2004 rear-wheel-drive V8 Mini Cooper. In 2016 Brown found the Mini for sale with a Gen I small-block Chevy. He purchased the car, and unfortunately, the old Chevy didn’t last very long. Over the next three and a half years, Brown worked his magic updating the car, including an LS swap. When the vehicle wasn’t grabbing the attention of onlookers, it was killing the tires during Holley’s burnout competition.  

The LS1 cranks out 403 horsepower to the wheels, and gear changes are commanded by a sequentially shifted T56 transmission. Other mods include a fuel cell, NRG racing seats, FAST intake, ICT Billet brackets, rear-mounted radiator, and a Toyota rear differential. Brown is hoping to have the Mini at SEMA this year, so if you’re going, keep an eye peeled for this super clean tire-shredding machine. 

LSX Grand National

There’s a lot of cars out there that people have no problem swapping. And then there’s the Buick Grand National. And while we can appreciate the GN in stock form, the turbocharged V6 doesn’t do much for us. Kyle Schaffer bought his 1986 Grand National four years ago from his friend Frank. And while Schaffer didn’t think there was any way Frank would sell the prised machine, the two struck a deal in the wee hours of the morning and took it home. 

As you can imagine, the first thing to go was the 3.8-liter V6. A 370 cubic-inch LS quickly replaced the factory mill with a massive 98mm Precision Gen II ProMod turbocharger. The factory transmission was also removed and swapped out for a Powerglide two-speed unit. This 8-second streetcar makes 1,100 horsepower to the wheels. Schaffer’s favorite thing about this car is that it’s a G-body, and he loves the body lines.

Haters Wanted

As if the LS-swapped Buick Grand National wasn’t enough of a slap in the face for the purist, we ran across another car that would probably make Henry Ford irate along with every other Mustang lover on the planet. 

Martin Sanchez brought out an LS-swapped 1999 Ford Mustang Cobra. This sought-after Mustang is powered by a 388 cubic-inch LSX engine with a massive 94mm turbocharger which makes over 1,100 horsepower on high boost. Martin ran the 10.00 index class, so he dialed the car back to 700 horsepower on low boost for LS Fest this year. When asked why he chose to LS-swap a Mustang, Martin said, “That’s what you have to do if you want to make them faster.” Martin even used a Mustang Coyote engine cover on top of the LS intake manifold to add insult to injury.  

Hold… On

Karo Mahdessian, the owner of Holden Parts USA, brought out his killer 2015 Chevrolet SS that’s been outfitted with Holden parts imported from Australia. Mahdessian converted the SS to a Holden HSVGTS with a new Holden front and rear bumper, side skirts, and taillights. 

This menacing machine also has a bunch of other upgrades, including a carbon-fiber hood, custom-built drag wing. A 416 cubic-inch stroker engine sits under the hood with a Harrop supercharger on top. The engine is connected to a TH400 transmission and a ZL1 rear differential. At LS Fest West, Karo managed a 9.40 at 140 mph in the 1/4-mile, which is impressive due to a failing intercooler water pump which caused air intake temperatures to rocket to over 180 degrees. 

If you happen to own a Chevy SS and would like to convert it to a Holden, Mahdessian can help. He has access to just about any piece you need to make your SS look like it’s from the land down under. Just do us a favor and leave the roo bars in Australia, please. 

The First Gen

We know that first-gen Camaros are popular, but they are really hot at LS Fest West. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing one or more on the property at any given time. And while we were cruising down vendor’s row, a red 1969 Camaro jumped out at us from the Speedtech Performance booth. Roger Maniscalco was the owner of this pristine pro-touring machine and has owned it since he was 16-years-old back in 1985. 

The Camaro was originally green with a green interior and housed a 350 engine and TH350 transmission. The car transitioned from there to a blown big-block 427 along with various upgrades. The Camaro now has a 525 horsepower LS3 mated to a six-speed transmission and all of Speedtech’s Extreme suspension components underneath the Camaro. 

This car is not only a beauty; it means business with a set of massive 315 tires and Forgeline wheels on all four corners perfect for autocross and road racing. But don’t worry, this car is no trailer queen. Maniscalco drives his ’69 all over the place and even drove it to Las Vegas from Utah for the event. It even has air conditioning and a sound system, making it the perfect cruiser/ racing terror.


LS Fest has yet to disappoint us and offers the widest variety of cars of any show we have ever seen. And while we did some see other super cool rides, finding the owners can be a problem in the sea of people at these events. But, lucky for you, we did manage to get some images and make a gallery for your viewing pleasure. 

Photo gallery



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About the author

Brian Havins

A gearhead for life, Brian is obsessed with all things fast. Banging gears, turning wrenches, and praying while spraying are just a few of his favorite things.
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