Our 6 favorite engine swaps from LS Fest East 2022

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Brandan Gillogly

Whether it’s a pickup or sports car that came with a Gen III, Gen IV, or Gen V GM V-8, or literally any vehicle that has one swapped in its place, Holley’s LS Fest events are celebrations of all things LS-powered*. We soaked it all in at Kentucky’s LS Fest East this year, walking the show field, the drag race staging lanes, and the drift pits to find interesting swaps that we didn’t expect. Really, though—should we be surprised at this point by an LS engine being swapped into anything? Nevertheless, we found plenty worth showcasing. Here are just some of our favorites from the hundreds of cars that made it out to Beech Bend Raceway Park for LS Fest East 2022.

1969 Corvair

Mike Meyers is a Corvair fanatic. His first car was a Corvair and he’s passed his love of the rear-engine cars to his daughter and two sons. Between the four of them they’ve owned more than a dozen Corvairs including coupes, wagons, and vans. This 1969 coupe was a parts car Meyers was using to get another Corvair up and running, but his gears got turning when he noticed that a Corvair coupe, sedan, and wagon all share the same 108-inch wheelbase, and the G-body Monte Carlo used a 108.3-inch wheelbase. Combining the G-body chassis with the Corvair body was more difficult than it sounds, but it got Meyers a V-8 ‘Vair. He drove it with Gen 1 small-block power for a few years before swapping in an LS1. It’s now powered by a Procharged iron-block 6.0-liter. He brought it to LS Fest with the goal of running a nine-second elapsed time but couldn’t quite reach it.

1991 Toyota MR2

This mid-engine runabout is actually the second iteration of LS-swapped MR2s built by Jason Senseney, who works at Fairway Automotive in St. Louis. His first version was found in a barn and its four-cylinder powertrain was ditched in favor of an LS4 and 4T65E-HD transaxle. After it was damaged in a collision, a better, cleaner candidate was chosen for the second version, which is much more powerful. The 5.3-liter V-8 was tuned up with a Trick Flow cam, ported heads, and a Turbonetics turbocharger that pushes about seven or eight pounds of boost into the engine. There’s also nitrous in case even more power is required. When the stock transaxle couldn’t hold up the power, Senseney rebuilt it.

“It’s been holding together pretty good,” Senseney said of the new transaxle that now sports beefier internals from ZZPerformance and GMR along with a new torque converter. To make the swap a bit easier, the MR2 now uses the Impala’s steering column, wiring harness, and gauge cluster, which looks right at home in the dash. The Impala drivetrain made the rear track a bit wider than stock, which was all the reason Senseney needed to go to The Finest Autoworks for a widebody kit.

1989 Chrysler Conquest

Blane and Austin Darling and their father, Abe, dropped a 4.8-liter truck engine into this captive import, but the burnout contest at last year’s LS Fest East did a number on the engine when a lifter tray allowed a lifter to rotate and wipe out a cam. This year, a 5.3-liter took its place and they’re keeping an eye on their oil level, which they think was too high previously, causing it aerate. Just in case, the car also has an Accusump to provide a few engine-saving seconds of oil pressure in case things get weird.

1988 Fiero

LS4 swaps are becoming more popular with Fiero owners and we can see why. The compact engine looks right at home in Gary Pickard’s 1988 Fiero and he’s helping more Fiero fans with the swap thanks to his company, Pickard Performance, which offers LS4 swap parts. Pickard’s personal car uses a six-speed F40 transaxle that was found in several GM front-wheel drive vehicles, including the Pontiac G6 and Buick Regal. The compact transaxle is an easier fit than an automatic and it was bolstered by way of a Wavetrac limited-slip and a Spec mini twin disc clutch. The supercharged engine produces somewhere in the neighborhood of 550 hp at the crank. To keep up with the car’s added propulsion, Pickard uses a FieroGuru Performance brake package that puts late model GM rotors up front with Wilwood calipers. In case you were wondering, the rocker accents are from a Subaru WRX, and the color is Audi’s Nardo Gray.

1977 Pontiac Trans Am

Michael Hunt and Lee Clayton own Treadwear, a company that makes and sells graphics for tire sidewalls. They’ve built some incredible machines to show off their products and “Translammed” is one of the most ambitious. This machine was made by grafting the body of a ’77 Trans Am onto the chassis of a 2003 Corvette Z06, keeping the Corvette’s floorboards, rockers, and interior, and of course, its LS6 V-8. Because the Corvette’s wheelbase was four inches shorter than the F-body’s, four inches were taken out of the Pontiac’s doors and roof. To get the T-tops to match, polycarbonate sheets were set on top of the factory T-tops and they were placed into a powdercoating oven until they drooped and formed the right contour over the glass.

1995 Lexus SC300

When we saw this red SC300 coupe on the drift course, we initially thought it was a Nissan 240, because well, that’s what you expect to see on a drift course. We weren’t able to get the details on this swap, but we do know the car belongs to Kevin Smith from KSR Performance and it seems like he is the man responsible for this build and its wild, eight-into-one exhaust. Smith did a great job at LS Fest’s burnout contest as well, taking home second place while making some great engine noise in the process.

Stay tuned for more articles from LS Fest East 2022!

*We know that truck engines aren’t technically “LS” engines because they have their own engine codes, and Gen V V-8 car engines have LT prefixes. We contend that, in this context, they are all part of the family.

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