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Holley's 2012 Engine Swap Challenge

Sneaky Time Savers

By , Photography by

Times: 31:57, 38:33, and 35:21. For many of us weekend warriors, that's about how long it takes us to change our oil and rotate the tires. But for the last three years, that's how long it took the winning teams to swap an LS engine into a non-LS–powered car in the Car Craft Engine Swap Challenge at Holley's LS Fest. The competition pits two teams in a head-to-head race to take out an old-school engine and replace it with an LS engine provided by Holley. To complicate things, the cars have to run and drive before and after the swap. Up for grabs are the engine and all the other goodies Holley provides to make it run.

This year's challenge was like a Super Bowl of sorts in that it brought back the previous two winners. Methodical and efficient, the School of Automotive Machinists (SAM) was back with a G-body for the second year in a row. The team consisted of Kevin Shofe and Sam Blankenship. They squared off against Justin Dermody and Shane Sherman, scrappy, back-alley brawlers from Just Automotive of Williamsburg, Iowa. Justin and three other friends won the first competition two years ago.

When Holley first hatched the plan for the Engine Swap Challenge, they figured it would take hours to accomplish the task. Justin and his crew blew that notion out of the water by completing the swap in a heroic 31.57 minutes. Cleverly researched and rehearsed, their most dramatic time-saving trick was removing their car's entire front clip as a single piece, giving them unfettered access to the engine as they swapped parts.

Holley countered with a rules revision for the second year: All the sheetmetal must remain on the car. Only the hood could be removed. Both teams were also required to start with an LS long-block and had to assemble the intake, accessory drive, induction, and fuel system. Holley's intention was to add some time to the competition, giving spectators more of a show to watch. It worked, sorta. SAM's team worked like a carefully orchestrated NASCAR pit crew, assembling and swapping the engine into a Monte Carlo SS in 38 minutes.

Again, Holley changed the format, requiring two-person teams (instead of four) for this year, and again, Justin and Shane floored everyone, taking a scant 32 minutes to swap engines. Their victory likely sent the judges scurrying back to their underground bunker to draft a new set of rules that will rival the complexity of a Rube Goldberg machine. Maybe we should sponsor an honorary Smokey Yunick award for Best Swap Innovation, and the trophy should be a gold-plated pair of Vice Grips. Read the story, and you will understand.


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