The main attraction of any LS Fest is the wild variety of vehicles that show up with LS and LT swaps. And every year, we look forward to seeing what builds people can dream up and roll into the show. Whatever your favorite model car or truck is, chances are pretty good that you can find an example at LS Fest that’s been swapped. There are always far too many amazing builds to cover here. In no particular order, here are several of our top swap picks.
Lux Land Rover
The Land Rover Defender has a cult-like following, and in recent years these have seen a resurgence in interest. This 1991 D110 model originally came from the factory with a 2.5-liter diesel that churned out a measly 121 horsepower. Thanks to Impatient Creations, this Defender now sports roughly four times the horsepower of the factory diesel engine.
The 6.2-liter LS3 wears a custom engraved intake and valve covers that are paint matched to the satin blue exterior. A 6L80 auto makes cruising around town or the trails easy. To call this Defender a luxury offroad vehicle would be a bit of an understatement. Looking at the exterior and interior, one may not think it is 31 years old.
Impatient Creations did a fantastic job making the interior look nicer than almost anything you’ll see on a new SUV. Black leather with blue diamond stitching covers both front and rear seats. Machined aluminum pieces for the shift knob, door handles, and steering wheel adapter adds a nice offroad touch to the otherwise plush interior. For electronics, there’s a large touch screen where the factory radio previously resided. Rolling on 33-inch tires with 480 horsepower on tap, this beautiful Defender can go anywhere in style and comfort.
I’m sure some will recognize this VW Beetle from YouTube and Instagram. Known as the Thug Bug, this wild ’65 Beetle was built entirely at home by Trent Matheis. Trent comes from a family of gearheads and automotive enthusiasts. His father owns Matheis Race Cars, and his mother drives an LS-swapped second-gen Camaro. The car actually belonged to Trent’s grandfather. He received the Bug from his grandmother after the passing of his grandfather. Once Trent saw Blake Wilky’s Urban Assault video, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with the car. Adding to the cool factor is Trent built the Thug Bug when he was 15 years old and drove it daily to high school!
Trent says his dad helped him with the design, but every bit of the chassis was bent and welded by himself. He even designed and fabricated the front upper and lower control arms, the spindles, and the trailing arms. To smooth out any rough terrain, Trent uses King Shocks dual rate coilovers and triple bypass shocks on all four corners. He says the suspension setup is good for about 20-inches of travel.
Although the Thug Bug possesses a neck-snapping appearance, the powertrain is relatively simple but effective. The engine is a stock bottom-end 5.7-liter LS that has been upgraded with a stage 2 turbo cam from Brian Tooley Racing, a 102 mm throttle body, and a pair of 58mm turbos. The combination is good for approximately 700 horsepower. A Weddle Industries sequential S4D transmission handles shifting duties, which sends power to the rear wheels via 300m 935 CV axles. A Holley Terminator ECU keeps everything running smoothly. The best part is that the car is street legal and does wheelies!
The Bill Collector
Typically at the LS Fest drag racing competition, you expect to see countless F-bodies, Corvettes, C10s, and even Mustangs. What you probably wouldn’t expect to see is a 1971 Impala on 26-inch Forgiato wheels with a parachute hanging off the back. Taking a peek through the grille, you start to get a little idea of why the parachute is there. Once it was in the beams popping and banging on the two-step, the car certainly got our attention. When the green light dropped, this giant boat of a car on big wheels and thin tires yanked the front wheels in the air. We then knew this Impala was rowdy.
Known as The Bill Collector, this ’71 is built and raced by Kaotic Speed of Fayetteville, Georgia. Prior to LS Fest East 2022, the car was powered by a Steve Morris Engines (SME) ProCharged LS that makes 2,200 horsepower. However, when Morris announced he had designed his own custom billet LS style engine he called the SML, The Bill Collector had to have one. In fact, SML serial number 1 found its way under the hood of the Impala just before this year’s LS Fest East. This SML measures 427 cubic inches, uses a matching pair of custom cylinder heads designed and built by SME specifically for the SML and is filled with the best hot rod parts money can buy. Fed by twin Bullseye 88 mm turbos, the combination makes over 3,000 horsepower at 38 pounds of boost with plenty more left in it.
Getting that insane amount of power to hook in any race car is challenging. But getting it to hook in a heavyweight Impala on a thin sidewall hard tire poses even more of a challenge. The suspension tuning, weight distribution and transfer, and power management must be on point. Menser shocks have the suspension covered while Holley handles the power management. A three-speed transmission from FTI gets all that power to the rear wheels. Since this is a grudge race car and only runs when the timing boards are off, I won’t give away any details alluding to how quick this car really is. However, it’s safe to say you should think twice before getting next to The Bill Collector. If you’re considering getting into the donk drag racing game, give Kaotic Speed a call.
While walking the pit area of the autocross competition, there are always a few cars with wide body fenders. Some look professionally fabricated and installed, while others look like they were added on a whim late one night after too many adult beverages. Then there is this gorgeous gloss-black Datsun 240Z you see here. It stopped me mid-step. Known as the Fairlady Z06, this is quite possibly the most wicked 240Z ever. Tyler Powell, an engineer and fabricator by trade, is responsible for this sinister creation. With a car name like Fairlady Z06, it’s no surprise there’s an LS7 under the long sleek nose of this Z car.
What is very much a surprise is that the extremely wide body was built out of necessity due to the fact that the car has the front and rear suspension cradles out of the same C6 Z06 Corvette the engine came from. With the help of his father, Tyler designed and fabricated a custom tube chassis to connect the front and rear cradles and house the Z06’s engine and drivetrain. Thinking that he would be able to massage the factory 240Z body to fit the new rolling chassis, Tyler realized that something more extreme would be necessary after trying two different aftermarket wide body kits.
Being a fabricator, Tyler took matters into his own hands and set to work laying and shaping fiberglass over a ZTrix wide body kit until he was happy with the new look and functionality of the body panels. The results speak for themselves. The Fairlady Z06 is sleek, curvy, and extra wide from every angle. The highly modified body and fenders beautifully cover the 18×11 and 18×12 BC Forged wheels wrapped in 315 wide fronts and 335 wide rear tires. To get the car as low as possible while remaining functional, Tyler installed JRI hydraulic coilovers that allow him to raise the car’s ride height when needed.
The Fairlady Z06 appropriately wears a license plate reading FATL8Y. She is a one-of-kind LS-swapped Z car to which all others will be compared.
As the sun set on day 3 of LS Fest East, we were headed back to Texas. After seeing firsthand the well-executed swaps at Beech Bend Raceway, we couldn’t help thinking about what new swaps would make great projects. Who knows, maybe we will see some of our ideas roll into LS Fest West next spring.