Five Cool LS Swapped Vehicles- Built for a Different Purpose

With so many LS-swapped vehicles nowadays, it’s difficult to only pick five out of the bunch. So for this article we chose five very different chassis’ with LS transplants, all built to satisfy the needs of individual goals. The builds were chosen from various enthusiasts who posted their LSX swap build threads on the Internet, over the last year or so. As you will see, the chassis does not matter, it’s what propels it that does.

Hellrot’s E36 M3

Although the BMW M3 E36 chassis has a tight engine bay, you can see the LS-swap fits well without any major modification to the firewall or transmission tunnel (Image via StanceWorks)

Showing the under hood progress of the LQ9-swapped BMW M3. (Image via StanceWorks)

First up is an LS swapped BMW 3 series, an E36-coded chassis, with a very well executed LS-swap. The owner says he “wanted to do this swap for quite some time now, especially with my background of building V8 cars and hot rods, it was just something I needed to do!” With intentions to spray nitrous-oxide, StanceWorks member “HellrotM3” started with an LQ9 iron block from the local junkyard. The intended goal was 450 horsepower to the crank, at a minimum, before any juice is sprayed. He set out on a mission collecting the necessary parts to complete the swap on his soon-to-be shaved and tucked M3.

The engine bay received a minor tuck, routing custom A/C lines out of view and removing any unnecessary accessories (e.g. no cruise control, ABS etc). All of the engine bays’ seam filler was removed and the original mounting tabs were cut to accomplish that smooth shaved look after painting it. However, the owner intended to keep access to items such as the fuse box within arms reach, while also not cluttering up under dash space.

With the Lq9 situated in the M3’s chassis, the ancillary components, like the intake system, are taking formation. (Image via StanceWorks)

The LQ9 was stripped down and all the go-fast goodies began replacing the original equipment. Once the engine was torn down to short-block status, the rotating assembly was found to be in re-usable condition. So, after a quick touch up and paint job, the 6.0-liter was ready to be built upon.

With the new cam installed and degreed, piston-to-valve clearance was checked. The pistons required a fly-cut to obtain proper clearance, which proved to be relatively simple. An LS6 valley cover was swapped in place of the stock unit, using the integrated PCV system justified the decision. CNC-ported GM Performance cylinder heads were used, packed with Lunati dual valve springs that handle up to .675 inches of gross camshaft lift. Comp cams trunnion replacements were used to compliment the high lift cam, and keep the rocker fulcrums stable at high RPM.

A custom grind Competition Cam (.623 inch/.623 inch lift and 238/243 duration on 113 LSA) was used in conjunction with LS7 lifters to move the 7.4-inch Comp Cams pushrods. ARP fasteners were utilized throughout this build, providing maximum strength in the critical areas like the flywheel or to hold the cylinder head down. An F-body LS1 oil pan was used to provide adequate oil pan to steering rack clearance. F.A.S.T. came through with its trick 92 mm throttle body. To top off the engine’s external hard parts, an SLP SFI spec 18.1 engine damper was used to keep the engine’s harmonic frequencies in check.

A T304 Spintech muffler was used in conjunction with a custom termination box, to modulate exhaust pulses. The terminator box accelerates exhaust pulses while at the same time keeps the decibels to street-able tones. No cutting or welding was required to shoe-in the transmission or engine. At the final stages, the E36 M3 was strapped to the dyno, and put down a respectable 494.8 rwhp. Now, the plans to spray the motor have turned into forced induction. It will be interesting to see this build progress.

HellrotM3’s LQ9-swapped BMW in its final stages, ready to rack up some miles and final tuning. (Image via StanceWorks)

Perhaps The Nicest LS Swapped 240SX We’ve Ever Seen

The next LS-swapped vehicle we found was posted as a build thread on LS1tech by forum member “cosmo22nova.” The build started with a Nissan 240sx that required minimal body work before the prep stages began, making it a great blank slate to build on. The 240sx was completely stripped down and sandblasted, before it was prepped for the engine transplant. The owner sourced a LS1 from a Camaro with a spun rod bearing for a great price, creating the platform for his build.

After the LS1 was pampered and rebuilt, it found its way into the Nissan s13 chassis. (Image via LS1tech)

The engine was built with durability in mind, so the owner went to Mahle for its LS power-pack piston kit. Connected to those slugs are SCAT I-beam connecting rods further bolstering the strength of the rotating assembly. Clevite main bearings ensure smooth operation and ARP hardware keeps things where they’re supposed to be. Texas Speed was called upon for the Precision Racing Components (PRC) stage 2.5 cylinder head package for the 5.7 liter engine applications. Manipulating the valve events is a 228r Comp camshaft using LS7 lifters, with hardened pushrods and LS2 lifter trays.

The LSX engine swapped into place, getting wired. (Image via LS1tech)

With the drivetrain in place, the Rocket Bunny wide-body conversion begins. (Image via LS1tech)

An intake manifold was sourced through F.A.S.T. which replaced the stock unit, with that company’s LSX model. A ported LS6 oil pump was used to provide adequate oil pressure in critical situations. Canton’s LS swap specific oil pan replaced the original pan; the oil pan from Canton is baffled and was designed to clear the subframe, and it optimizes oil supply to the oil pump through a series of trap doors. To keep things cool, Chase Bays supplied a “tucked” dual-pass radiator that fits snuggly into the radiator support with dual 1,750cfm fans.

Lots of preparation and thought went into making a robust drivetrain. A rebuilt T56 transmission was used for reliability and the rearend was updated to an Infiniti Q45 differential. The larger ring and pinion improved the rearend strength significantly and Infiniti J30 axles were used for their larger shaft diameter. Regulating engine power is a Spec stage 3 clutch, mated to a Fidanza flywheel.

Once the engine and transmission were mounted, the Rocket Bunny body kit began to make its way to the car helping complete the transformation. Although the USDM front clip could have been used in conjunction with the Rocket Bunny kit, the owner opted for the JDM s13 front clip. A roll cage was designed and welded into place for safety and rigidity. As with most builds, it’s still a work in progress.

The Rocket Bunny kit installed, ready for paint (Image via LS1tech)

Fast First Generation Camaro

The third build we found on LS1tech was from member “Camaro-Sutra“, and his Pro Touring inspired 1969 Camaro LSX 427 TT build. First the Camaro started life as a base model with a 307 engine and a three-speed transmission. Once the Pro Touring build commenced, it was stripped down to the shell, mini-tubs were made to fit the massive 325/30R20 tires, and then the repairs to the body followed. Detroit Speed supplied the Ford 9-inch rearend, and the front subframe assembly. Improving chassis characteristics is a custom six-point 4130 chromoly fabricated roll cage.

As you can see, the quality of the fabrication work is top-notch and really sets this Camaro from the rest. (Image via LS1tech)

After a total of 11 months in the body shop the transplant drivetrain started making headway. Texas Speed and Performance supplied the 427 cubic-inch LSX to power the Camaro. MAST LS3 285 cc black label cylinder heads were used to take care of breathing duties, funneling the air in is a RCI intake manifold. Controlling the valve events is a custom grind camshaft, and with the specifications 247/251 duration and .624 inch/.624 inch lift on a 118 LSA.

The trick AutoRad intercooler and radiator setup can be clearly seen from this picture. (Image via LS1tech)

To push the envelope even further, in true Pro Touring fashion, a twin-turbo setup was installed to break that magical 1,000 horsepower mark. Beautifully crafted Stainless Works turbo exhaust manifolds direct the exhaust gases into the pair of Garrett GT35r turbo’s, directing excessive exhaust pressure is a set of TiAL 44 mm waste gates. Keeping things cool is a pair of compact intercoolers and radiator setup by AutoRad. Although the build is still in its progress, the anticipation of the completion of this build is high.

Force-Fed RX7

The fourth LS-swapped build is a 1979 Mazda Rx7 drag car with a turbocharged 5.3-liter setup by “forcefed86“. Although this was a budget build, quality parts were chosen to give the best results. The Rx7 was previously sporting a small-block Chevy with a turbo 350 transmission, and the owner saw several advantages going to the modern LS engine platform. The car was already back-halved and had a stout chassis to start the build from. The dry weight of the Rx7 tips the scales at approximately 2,400 pounds, giving it a power-to-weight advantage over its domestic rivals. Transferring the power to the ground is a custom Currie Enterprises 9-inch rearend.

Forcefed86’s RX7 launching hard, with the front wheels coming up. (Image via LS1tech)

The wiring process begins, the owner is making his own wiring loom out of the original GM wiring harness. (Image via LS1tech)

After obtaining the iron 5.3 liter from the junkyard, the engine swap process initiated. The iron block received 6.0-liter cylinder heads (casting number 317), stuffed with PAC 1218 valve springs, and a GM ZR1 camshaft to finish the top end off. The 317 cylinder head casting is a favorite among boost-loving LS enthusiasts. Keeping the boost in the cylinders are OEM LS9 MLS head gaskets.

Once the wiring harness was finished, the intercooler pipe plumbing construction began. (Image via LS1tech)

The Mazda uses E85 as fuel, for its cost-effective cooling and octane properties. Controlling the engine is an AEM EMS (PNP), with 120 lb/hr fuel injectors feeding the engine and a Magna 750 fuel pump supplying the fuel. Forced induction was comes from a B.W. 75 mm S400SX3 (1.10 A/R) turbocharger. Interestingly enough, the owner developed a turbo kit that utilizes the stamped steel OEM SS 98 F-body manifolds and 2.5-inch mild steel piping. His fastest recorded quarter-mile et to date is 8.93 seconds at 153 mph.

Staged, ready to cut the 60 foot down in less that 1.4 seconds ! (Image via LS1tech)

LS Swapped Regal

Dave, from HeadGames, front intercooler and radiator setup taking shape. Image via HeadGames

We also found the last car for this story on LS1tech, and the owner is a well-known cylinder head porter and machinist named Dave from HeadGames (username: HeadGames Dave)who began building this LS-swapped TT Regal. What started out as a 1987 Buick Regal T-Type, had a 4.8 liter LS engine installed that is fed copious amounts of boost by a pair of 62mm BorgWarner S300sx FMW turbochargers. Backing all that power up is a 4L80E automatic transmission.

Some port work, performed by Dave from HeadGames Image via HeadGames

The 5.7 liter cylinder heads received the Head Games treatment and were ported accordingly. Dave says he blended the chamber into the 50 degree exhaust valve job and 45 degree for the intake. Light port work was performed to the intake and exhaust ports. A LS9 cam was used to compliment the boosted setup. Custom Ferrea exhaust valves were used in the build to handle the higher EGT’s, and were sized to Head Games specifications.

Dave teamed up with some top fabricators for this build, so the quality of the fabrication is top notch. Antonio Calvo, from Calvo Motorsports, made the collectors with a CNC, and exhaust headers specifically for Dave’s Buick, so nothing off the shelf here. These headers are a work of art. Calvo used to be a fabricator at Full-Race, so the resemblance in quality is surely there. Dave’s Buick Regal TT build is still in progress.

Seeing the influx of LS-swapped vehicles is exciting when a new build pops up every day. There probably isn’t a chassis out there that LSX engine won’t eventually find its way into. The LSX engine platform is durable, compact, light, readily available and efficient. The possibilities are endless with the amount of aftermarket product support currently available for the engine platform, and therefore LSX revolution continues.

Underhood shot, showing the progress of the TT LSX powered Buick Regal (Image via HeadGames)

 

About the author

Bryce Kirk

Bryce has many years of experience on and off the track circuit, working on both domestic and Import performance vehicles. With numerous years of experience in the automotive performance industry, he has worked behind the scenes as an enthusiast and professional. He is passionate for all makes, models, and styles in the automotive culture.
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