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.

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.

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!