We saw Greg Callahan’s LS2-powered ’67 Chevelle at Nashville Goodguys. Flawlessly built by its owner in a home garage, it’s the epitome of classic styling meeting modern performance at the crossroads. It’s everything you’d want in a driver, but do LS engine swaps like this doom cars to a life of relative ubiquity? Let us know on our Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/pophotroddingmag!
Have you ever had a favorite song that was so overplayed on the radio, you ended up not liking it so much? Or even hating it? We may be heading that direction with LS engine swaps, but it’s not like the situation can be helped. Anyone with a brain would want the most power in the lightest package at the lowest price with the best overall aftermarket support. Need an engine that makes stupid amounts of power? Get an LS. Want something affordable from the salvage yard? Get an LS. Want something that’s guaranteed to fit your engine compartment? Get an LS. Want something that’s light as a feather that can single-handedly solve any balance or handling issue you’ve got? Get an LS. Want an engine that’s got literally an entire universe of aftermarket support? Get an LS. LS engines are so hot right now, our brothers at Car Craft even have a book out that’s totally dedicated to doing LS swaps. If the LS is your bag, grab a copy before they’re gone.
The thing is, LS swaps are becoming so ubiquitous, you practically stare right through them. Tell me this hasn’t happened to you: You head over to a cool car at a show, then get disappointed when you see an LS nestled where a Pontiac or Buick mill should be. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not about to go on a tirade about how we all need to go back to the good ol’ days. Back then everything had a Ford flattie or a small-block Chevy. That kind of rewind isn’t really going back in time at all—both the Ford flathead and the small-block Chevy were the LS engines of their day. Last weekend when we were at the Goodguys show in Nashville, there were so many nice LS-equipped machines that you would’ve thought they came that way from the factory. At one point I saw a pretty ordinary ’72 Oldsmobile with an Olds 455. I had to fight the urge to get on my knees and kiss its bumper.
There is a hot rodder’s saying that can go a number of ways depending on who’s telling it: “Anybody can make a Chevy run, but it takes a real genius to make a Ford go fast.” We’ve heard the word Ford replaced with Mopar, Buick, AMC, and every other brand, but you get the picture. This saying should probably be revamped again to replace “Chevy” with “LS.” With LS engines, legions of guys are making what would’ve been considered in past years insane amounts of power. The LS is like a mechanical Robin Hood, robbing hard-earned power secrets from grizzled veterans and redistributing the wealth to every mouth breather with a toolbox.
There’s no way I can write this without taking shrapnel, but not talking about it is like trying to avoid an elephant in the living room. There are so many LS engines in muscle cars these days that we’re not that impressed anymore. We’re not saying we don’t like them or that we wouldn’t own one—that’s as crazy as it is untrue. Our very own project EcoNova bares that out—not to mention my daily driver is a ’06 Corvette. We’re simply saying that the sheer number of them means that an LS-equipped car better be really freakin’ awesome, or you better be smoking the wheels off it, like Brian Finch in his LS3-powered ’71 Camaro (Check out the Nashville Goodguys autocross coverage on p. 76.)
In the PHR universe, we’re real big fans of what Mast Motorsports has done to LS engines, not to mention last year’s AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge, in which the AMS Racing Xtreme Street entry made 838 hp with a 428-cube LSX—at zero pounds of boost by the way. The beauty of the EMC is that it still attracts lots of other engines that make big power—Fords, Mopars, Buicks, AMCs, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, you name it. It’s an exciting all-you-can-eat, all-make buffet of power. It shows that even the lowly small-block Chevy can still hold its head up high against the mighty LS. We’ve got Eric Weingartner’s Street Class 615hp 407-inch small-block in this issue to prove it (p. 42).
Part of the fun of hot rodding is the change of scenery it provides. If every car has an LS, what’s the fun in that? When I ripped open all your Readers’ Projects envelopes for this issue’s cover theme story (p. 24), I felt like a kid at Christmas because there was a variety of cars and powerplants. In the end, I’m not a pro-this or an anti-that, I just like seeing a bunch of different stuff because it keeps me interested and engaged in the hobby. If we’re seeing the massive move toward LS engines, you’ve got to be seeing it too. Not for nothing, but if you’ve got an LS-powered muscle car, aren’t you kind of pissed off when you keep seeing new ones pop up everywhere? The choice to build or not build an LS-powered hot rod is split between the desire to get the most bang for the buck, and having something unique—both worthy but different goals. Nevertheless, by virtue of the sheer numbers of LS cars out there, only a few of them can have an LS and stand out from the crowd. Those will be the ones we feature in PHR.