1st Holley LS Fest
Holley Unleashes The LS Beast In Their Inaugural Celebration Of The Modern Small-Block Chevy.
From the February, 2011 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Johnny Hunkins
Photography by Johnny Hunkins, Robert McGaffin
Fifteen years ago, word of a completely new pushrod V-8 engine from General Motors had lips flapping all over. As word of the nascent LS1 spread prior to the introduction of the '97 Corvette, the motoring press and many manufacturers-secretly and not so secretly-snickered at the antiquated cam-in-block two-valve-per-cylinder layout. Fans of BMW and Honda powerplants outright scorned the Gen III small-block for its simplicity and declared the new GM powerplant dead on arrival.
Nevertheless, what GM engineers accomplished in the design and production of the LS-series Gen III and Gen IV was nothing short of amazing. Rather than rely on layers of burgeoning mechanical complexity to achieve performance and efficiency goals, GM took decades of pushrod OHV experience and created the perfect engine; the LS1 was powerful, efficient, lightweight, compact, and, best of all, simple. As the calendar rolls over to 2011, the LS family of engines has been around for 14 years. Now we've got the LS7 with 505 hp, the LSA with 556 hp, and the LS9 with 638 smog-legal horsepower. This kind of skull-crushing simplicity is enough to send any Valvetronic Double VANOS contraption running for the hills, tail between its legs.
The compact size, lightweight, and simplicity of the LS didn't go unnoticed by hot rodders either. The same attributes that allowed GM to build cars with svelte contours, great fuel economy, simplified assembly, and easy serviceability also allowed the likes of us knuckle-draggers to build balls-out muscle machines without breaking a sweat. Making big power with an LS is shamefully easy-getting 550 hp out of a stock 6.0-liter is as simple as a cam and header swap. Stuff that into your VTEC tailpipe and smoke it.
We featured Bob Bertelsen's...
We featured Bob Bertelsen's Trans Am on the cover of our December issue, but make no mistake about it, this is no garage queen. Bertelsen built it in his two-car garage, and he too is gunning for the Optima challenge. Running it hard through the rain-soaked autocross in Bowling Green made us believers all over again.
Over the years, GM has stamped out millions of LS Gen III and Gen IV variants based on the original LS1. In stock form, they come in all shapes and sizes: iron and aluminum block; 4.8-, 5.3-, 5.7-, 6.0-, 6.2-, and 7.0L sizes; standard or variable cam timing; tall or short intake manifolds; naturally aspirated or blown; cathedral or rectangular port; gasoline or alcohol swilling; and even multiple displacement. Hot rodders can now choose from an ever increasing pool of whoop-ass to power their machines.
With so many gearheads cramming LS motors under their hoods, it was inevitable that someone would eventually say, "Hey, let's line 'em up and run 'em!" And while Holley certainly wasn't the first outfit to do so, they showed that they have by far the most comprehensive program with their inaugural LS Fest, held this past Sept. 9-12 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Holley is a manufacturer not an event promoter, which has some cool and not so surprising advantages. For one, the LS Fest was chock full of new LS-based products that have never been seen before. Intake manifolds, fuel system components, EFI systems, headers, motor mounts, and too many others to list made their debut here.
The School of Automotive Machinists...
The School of Automotive Machinists has their hands in many pots, and fastest street car racing is one of them. Here, SAM admission director, David Saunders, heats the meats on the SAM's '98 Camaro en route to another blistering low 10-second pass. Goodies include a 500-inch ERL block with ported LS7 heads, a solid-roller COMP cam, and a FAST intake manifold. Best e.t. on the naturally aspirated combo is 9.96/135.
Holley also has the upper hand in that their headquarters is Bowling Green, the spiritual cradle of all things LS. Bowling Green is home to the Corvette plant, or said another way, the biggest and baddest LS motors on the planet first see the light of day, every day, right here in lush bluegrass country. Holley gets a front row seat to the Corvette birth process, and maybe that's why when it came time to conceive the LS Fest, they included an autocross, a cruise, and a speed-stop challenge in addition to the drag race activities. LS-equipped cars-because of their improved weight balance-have raised the bar for all performance areas, not just straight line. The LS is literally an engine that handles, corners, and stops better-so doing anything less would be missing out.
As such, the LS Fest was chosen by Optima Batteries as a qualifying event for the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. To that end, Mark Stielow earned a spot on the Optima roster with an outstanding performance at LS Fest. Stielow's '69 Camaro has a forged LS7 short-block topped by LS9 heads and blower assembly, a DSE suspension, Baer brakes, and stability control/ABS from the ZR1 Corvette. By scoring at or near the top in all areas of performance (straight line, turning, and braking), Stielow proved that his creation was king of the hill. We're chasing a feature on Stielow's amazing Camaro right now-which should be just in time for him to take home all the marbles at the Optima Challenge in Las Vegas!
Meet LS Fest Grand Champion...
Meet LS Fest Grand Champion winner Mark Stielow and his '69 Camaro. Stielow is a GM engineer with thousands of hours of seat time behind some of GM's most potent performers. Other than the '69 Camaro skin, there is virtually nothing stock about it; a 7.0L LS7 short-block is topped by an intercooled LS9 blower, the suspension and steering is all DSE, and it even uses the ABS and stability control from a C6 Corvette. Stielow scored high points in the autocross, dragstrip, and speed-stop challenge, giving him top honors, and a coveted invitation to the 2010 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational in Las Vegas.
Holley is developing new LS...
Holley is developing new LS products at a blistering pace, and to help them with that task is a brace of project cars that include this '74 Malibu wagon. We're fans of the '73-77 GM A-body, and Holley has granted us an exclusive of this badass family hauler as soon as it's done.
Rodney Massengale of Daleville,...
Rodney Massengale of Daleville, Indiana, operates RPM Transmissions, and is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He also owns this blindingly fast street-legal '06 Corvette Z06, which runs deep into the 9s. Incredibly, the LS7 long-block is all stock, and relies on just a D1SC ProCharger blower to do the dirty work. The stock six-speed manual trans is long gone, and in its place is a homegrown 4L60E with a Coan 3,200-stall converter.
Jeff Cleary of Chesapeake,...
Jeff Cleary of Chesapeake, Virginia, owns this meticulous '67 Corvette, which has been thoroughly modernized with a C5 Corvette suspension up front, a C4 suspension out back, and a T-56 manual trans under the tunnel. Power comes from a mostly stock LS7 with a Katech cam.
You might recognize Mike Copeland...
You might recognize Mike Copeland as the mastermind behind some of GM Performance Division's baddest concept vehicles. He was the driving force behind the most recent resurrection of Project X, and his latest personal project is this '04 GMC Canyon pickup. Gone is the slackard V-6, and in its place resides a 427-inch LS7 with a single-plane GMPP manifold, a COMP 236-at-.050 .620-inch lift solid-roller cam, and Holley 950 HP. Off the squeeze, Copeland has piloted the handy hauler to a best e.t. of 10.44/136.
When you see Joe Elmore of...
When you see Joe Elmore of Horsepower TV at an event, you know it's got to be a good one! Look for killer footage of the Holley LS Fest on HPTV by the time you read this. You might want to reconsider the man-purse look, Elmore.
Bowling Green is Holley central...
Bowling Green is Holley central so all hands were on deck to roll out the latest and greatest Holley LS gear. The Holley group also consists of Nitrous Oxide Systems, Flowtech, Earl's, Weiand, Hooker, and Warrrior. Competitors and visitors spent a lot of time hiding from the Kentucky heat under the Holley tent and exploring the goodies.
Many of our favorite vendors...
Many of our favorite vendors were invited to the Holley LS Fest, including RideTech, maker of extraordinary suspensions for muscle machines. RideTech's '68 Camaro is loaded for bear with a Sunset Racecraft-built 427-inch LS7 and a ZF six-speed trans from a C4 Corvette. Suspension is, you guessed it, RideTech!
"I can't tell you how much...
"I can't tell you how much I've spent on the car, or my mom will freak out," says Mathew Meyers of Roxana, Illinois. Fair enough Mathew, but wise readers will deduce your frugality from your use of a stock boneyard LS1, an '80s G-body frame and suspension, and a 4L60E trans. Running strong 13.50s at 104 mph, it's probably the fastest '62 Corvair around.
Yeah, that's a late-model...
Yeah, that's a late-model '93 Mustang, but don't go looking for a 5.0L Windsor under Jeremy Ross' 5-inch cowl hood. Ten-oh's come gratis a budget 383-inch LS1 with 13:1 compression, AFR 205 heads, a COMP 248/258-at-.050 .650-inch lift solid-roller cam, an Eddy Super Victor intake, and QFT 950-cfm carb. GM also got the nod in the trans department with a Turbo 400 trans and TCS 4,500-stall converter. Like our own Project Fox '93, Ross has about $25,000 tied up in his project. It just goes to show that there's more than one way to skin a cat!
Car Craft magazine sponsored...
Car Craft magazine sponsored the LS Swap competition, the brainchild of CC Tech Editor Jeff Smith (right). The idea was to time how long it would take to swap out a perfectly running engine with a new LS plant. Here, the winning team from the Hot Rod Barn in Williamsburg, Iowa, got the job done in just 31 minutes, 57 seconds. Clearly, they were not being paid by the hour. We can imagine all the Hot Rod Barn customers burning up the phone line for labor charge refunds. Seriously, congrats guys on your win!
There's nothing funny about...
There's nothing funny about the way Mike Meyers' '69 Corvair clicks off 11.70 e.t.'s with ease. Meyers used the same recipe as son Mathew in the creation of his Corvair: a GM G-body perimeter frame chassis with a stock suspension houses a stock LS1 and a 4L60E trans with a Precision 3,600-stall converter. The G-body chassis swap on a Corvair is a natural one as both cars share the same wheelbase and track width. It's like an instant hot rod-just add water!
The '78-87 GM G-body is arguably...
The '78-87 GM G-body is arguably the perfect fodder for an LS swap, and Robert Strong made good use of his '87 Monte Carlo SS by dropping a 398-cube LS1 underhood. The naturally aspirated mill uses a Super Victor intake, a Pro Systems SVI 1050-cfm carb, Jessel 1.8 rockers, and a valve-cover-busting .810-inch lift COMP solid-roller cam. Strong's Monte clicks off low 10s at will, thanks to a Turbo 350, an ATI 9-inch converter, and a Moser 12-bolt with 4.10 gears.