The Best LS Engine Swaps of 2018 Holley LS Fest East

As the smoke finally cleared out of Beech Bend Raceway, it marked the end of Holley’s LS Fest East for 2018. It was a spectacular event with some show-stopping cars and nonstop racing action. Even though the rain ended the event early, we still managed to make our way through the venue to check out some of the many remarkable builds. This event is like no other — you can find nearly any make and model car you like, from the 1930’s to the present. Of course the common denominator as always is the LS powerplant under the hood. Here is a look at some of the best swaps that were at the show.

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Mark McKinney from Fayetteville, Tennessee brought out his 2001 Honda S2000 and it was a super-clean build. The car sports a naturally-aspirated 5.3-liter with an LS1 intake mated to a manual transmission. Meticulously detailed, the engine bay was one of the cleanest setups on the property. Everything was smoothed, body worked, and painted white to match the exterior color. The wiring on the S2000 has all but disappeared to the eye as it was routed to minimize engine clutter that’s normally very common with most LS swaps.

The outside of the S2000 was just as clean as the engine bay. A set of wide-body components were utilized to cover the massive Nitto NT555 rubber and the 18-inch Cosmis Racing Wheels with candy red centers. The hard top was a nice touch to keep the outside theme flowing while the interior took a minimalist approach. It consisted of basically of two Bride racing seats, seatbelt harnesses, and a roll bar. The entire inside of the car was painted white and the factory dash and trim pieces were retained. 

Next up was Brian Shelley’s 1998 F550 Ferrari built at his shop, MCR Tuning. This car looked completely stock until the hood was popped. That was the intention of Brian and crew when they decided to build the Ferrari. Brian obtained the car after Hurricane Harvey dismantled the Gulf Coast last year. As you can imagine, this F550 was totaled after being completely submerged by the Gulf’s raging waters.

It’s truly amazing at how well the de-stroked LS3 fits into the engine bay. At 5.5-liters the twin turbo powerhouse produces over 800 horsepower in Ferrari fashion at 8,500 rpm which was limited by the injectors. So how do you keep a Ferrari looking the part with an LS engine? Brian stated,”We created a custom torque tube adapter to bolt a six bell housing to the factory Ferrari torque tube. We kept the gated shifter and our goal was to make it look completely factory except underneath the hood. No holes were cut or anything crazy. Our end goal is 1,000 horsepower with a factory-looking car.”

They are well on the way to accomplishing mission — congratulations to Brian and crew as they walked away from LS Fest with the award for best non-domestic. 

This killer-looking 1966 Chevy II SS was built by Chris Dalton and his good friend, Jeff Kyle. These two guys were brought together by the way of the dragstrip and their daughters. You see, both of their girls were competing against each other racing Junior Dragsters, so naturally Chris and Kyle would see each other at every event. Eventually, the two daughters grew out of racing the dragsters but the dynamic duo continued working together and became best of friends. 

The Chevy II was purchased 15 years ago for $600 and sat until they decided to take it on the Power Tour in 2014. Since that time, the car has undergone several transformations and the results are now what you see. The engine is a heads-and-cam built 6.0-liter LS with a built 4l60e transmission. The LS carried on the same red and black theme of the car and it is immaculate. The red Holley Sniper EFI intake was the perfect contrast to the black valve covers and firewall. The suspension consists of a TCI front subframe and Church Boys Racing Tri-4-Link rear setup. With a staggered set of Budnik 18×8’s on the front and 19×12’s on the rear the Chevy definitely has a sinister-looking stance and attitude. Chris and Jeff took care of all of the body work while the paint was done by Chris’ father, Larry. The paint on the car, which was no small task, was finished up with red and black graphic. The red leather interior was done by Kirk’s Interior but not before Chris machined some custom billet parts for the seats and speaker covers. 

Chris stated, “We’re done with the car and don’t have any more plans for it. We’re going to just drive it.” In the same breathe he also said,” I would like to put a supercharger on it. I think we will do that.”

These two are definitely your typical car guys.

Another crowd favorite was Alex Battista’s super-clean 1998 240SX. This car was one of the cleanest vehicles around with a superb factory red paint job. The 400 -horse LS2 6.0-liter mated to a GTO T-56 looked right at home in the S-14 chassis. Alex bought the car at the age of 15 even before he was able to legally drive because he found the car of his dreams. 

Alex stated, “A 240SX is something I have always wanted. One night while searching the internet, I saw an ad for this car and I had to have it. I got in contact with the owner that night and the following weekend I went to go pick it up. From that day, it’s been five years in the making and, to say the least, it’s not stock anymore.”

This was pretty obvious when looking over the car before even seeing the LS because the black chrome Enkie RPF1’s and Brembo brakes set the car apart. 

The swap, according to Alex, was pretty simple.

“I did everything from start to finish in my own garage with my own hands. Companies like Sikky made the process a breeze with their chassis-specific swap kits. Chasebays was the go-to for the engine harness and they supplied me with a 2-piece drive-by-wire harness for the build. The car has been gone though completely from front to back.”

Alex plans to add a supercharger, roll cage, and possibly a wide-body kit. If it were our call, we would just leave it alone and drive the wheels off of it! Well, maybe a supercharger would be cool.  

Another awesome swap was done by the guys over at LOJ Conversion Corp out of Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. They loaded up in an Infinity G35 in New Jersey and drove it to Bowling Green. If you look at the car you’ll see that it’s a pretty nice swap but nothing over-the-top. The reason that we love this swap so much is due to the story behind the scenes. You see, the guys from LOJ had a friend of theirs drive the stock G35 to the track and park it in their booth. Three guys then started dismantling the Infinity at 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning and by 4:30 that same day, the car was fired up and running with an LS engine.

LOJ specializes in conversion kits for the G35 and includes everything needed for the swap. All of the factory G35 accessories were retained and reused along with the factory transmission. This is one of the more complete kits that we have seen and it allowed the crew to swap an engine in a day trackside. 

When the show was over the guys loaded up in the car again and drove 800-plus miles back to New Jersey with zero issues and got 21 miles per gallon. If you have an excuse of why you haven’t LS-swapped your vehicle yet, your argument is now invalid. This entire swap was done in a parking lot with only the use of hand tools and some man hours. The hardest part according to LOJ was getting someone to haul off the factory G35 engine. 

These were just a few of our favorite swaps at the 2018 Holley LS Fest this year. It’s almost impossible to see all of the cars at the event so we probably missed a few. With that said, if you think you have a great swap with a great story, hit us up. We would love to hear about it and who knows, maybe you will be on our list next year!

About the author

Brian Havins

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