Cosplay is a fascinating subculture of the American geek population. A surprising number of comic book fans, movie buffs, and sci-fi aficionados like nothing more than turning up at conventions on the weekend dressed as their favorite fictional heroes, with some going to fantastic lengths when assembling their picture-perfect costumes and accessories.
What if I told you that the same option was now available for classic cars? I’m not talking about the fake “426 Hemi” stickers you see on air cleaners, or the white lie SS badges on the front fenders of an otherwise ordinary B-body. No, I’m talking about high-level costuming on par with what the most creative Sailor Moon fanatics are able to assemble in their living rooms with the help of a sewing machine and a bottle of glitter.
Sound far-fetched? Not if you’re one of the companies that have recently released entire lines of parts intended to disguise a swapped LS engine under the hood of their otherwise stock-appearing automobile. Is this a dollop of vintage flavor or a pointless ingredient that masks the owner’s sense of taste? Check it out and decide on your own:
Not everyone is a fan
Let’s back things up a little bit. For those who might not be aware, not all enthusiasts are necessarily accepting nor understanding when it comes to swapping a stock, vintage powertrain for a modern mill like an LS V-8. Maybe you’d get some slack if you decided to deal with a troublesome drivetrain by installing a same-era engine from the same OEM, even if it’s one that didn’t originally come with the vehicle in question. Once you start looking outside the brand box for a solution, however, or suggest that maybe a fuel-injected replacement is the answer to your vapor-lock woes, it might elicit a different response when you pop the hood at cars and coffee. Yes, reliability and horsepower might be better, but replacing the original motor with a modern transplant makes some traditionalists bristle.
LS engines are among the most common swaps out there. Well-packaged, reasonably powerful right out of the box, and inexpensive to find in salvage yards across the nation thanks to their proliferation in pickups, they’ve become the go-to choice for restorers and hot-rodders alike seeking an uncomplicated, modern V-8.
Trouble is, these engines look very little like the vintage small-block Chevys and other traditional, carbureted motors that they replace. Enter Lokar, which for the past several years has been offering the LS Classic series of bolt-on parts intended to turn back the clock on your drivetrain’s cosmetics. Dive in to Lokar’s extensive list of parts, and you’ll be startled to find intakes that run the gamut from cathedral port to ’57 fuelie, to Tri-Power, all of which mesh perfectly with existing LS engine drive-by-wire or drive-by-cable setup.
Up next? Valve covers that will help you further disguise your 6.2-liter LS as a 283, a 327, or a 409, valley plates that cinch everything together, and hidden aftermarket electronic fuel injection systems that help conjure the illusion that you’ve got a carb in there somewhere are also on the table. Some of Lokar’s add-ons even abandon functionality in favor of pure automotive cosplay. For example, a false distributor kit is available to fool onlookers into thinking you’ve abandoned the coil-on-plug setup of a modern LS, as are coil relocation kits.
Does all of the above sound exhausting to you? Lokar will sell you a complete LS3 crate engine that’s been made-up to look like the traditional Chevrolet mill of your choice.
One piece at a time
Before these kits and others like it hit the scene, it was possible to fabricate your way into the drives new/looks old dichotomy, either by disguising certain aspects of the LS engine’s appearance or by adding aftermarket parts that could throw purist bloodhounds off the scent. A piecemeal approach can be a time-consuming challenge. Still, there are other suppliers out there like Delmo’s that will provide adapters for you to, say, cover your LS swap’s valve covers with traditional Ford units, or move your coils away from prying eyes. Holley offers coil covers to make your Gen III or Gen IV LS small-block look more like a ’60s Mk IV big-block. Drive Junky or Vintage Air will sell you a serpentine setup that more closely mimics the look of an earlier small-block, and if you’re willing to forgo the primary appeal of the LS—ease of tuning, dependable fuel injection—then a host of aftermarket carbureted intakes are available that can further fool observers about the age of your engine.
Build what you want, drive what you want
There’s no question that keeping old things looking old is a worthy enterprise. Period-correct modifications that don’t distract from the original design keep the intent of a car harmonious with its styling. Likewise, survivors, or vehicles that have been restored to their original condition, are respectful time capsules that pay homage to the era they represent. That being said, it’s ultimately up to the owner as to how they want their vehicle to look, drive, or feel out on the road. I may personally not want to dress up like Batman outside of October 31, but that doesn’t mean I begrudge anyone else who does. If you want modern technology and engineering with a bit of that original look, and you don’t mind a bit of costume pageantry in the engine bay, cosplay to your heart’s content.