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The Giant Car Craft LS Engine Swap Challenge

A Heads-Up Wrenchfest Where The Winner Takes Home A Brand-New LS6!

By , Photography by ,

The Rules
Rather than go over all the details, we'll just hit the highlights of what the teams were required to accomplish to win. Holley supplied a complete LS6 engine for each team complete with all the necessary pieces, including a Holley intake and an HP EFI system with the wiring harness. Hooker headers were also supplied but were not required, nor was an exhaust system. The teams were selected from a bank of entries, and Holley's Bill Tichenor told us that most teams failed to supply sufficient information and were bounced before the selection process even began. Once the two teams were selected, the car had to drive from the track's main gate to the site under its own power and was allowed to cool down. Four team members were allowed to work on the car, but only with handtools. No power tools were allowed except for unexpected fabrication work. The official time would end when the car started and moved 10 feet under its own power. Holley reps would then inspect the car and assess penalties for loose bolts or other infractions. The final test was a short drive to ensure the car was properly assembled. If it failed the drive, the timer would start again and the team would have to repair and retest the car.

The Engine Swap Challenge
At the horn, both teams attacked their cars. The first surprise came almost immediately from Team Olds when the front bumper fell off within seconds, and in less than two minutes the entire front clip was sitting on the ground next to the car. Team Camaro had barely begun its effort, and it appeared that the team was almost instantly behind. Justin told me later, "Our goal was five minutes to get the old engine out, and we did it in six." Justin's friend Trent Lower was the one who put the most amount of effort into their preparation. "He's a fabricator, so he'll look at something until he figures out a way to make it work better," Justin says. Just after this event, Trent put those talents to work at a shop of his own called Iowa County Customs in Parnell, Iowa. The Olds team looked almost choreographed, where each member had precisely defined tasks. We noticed that when Clay turned the small-block over with the crank bolt there were marks on the balancer to indicate where the converter bolts would be accessible, and the rumor was that the bolts holding the converter in place were very short. We also witnessed a battery quick-disconnect, fuel quick-connect fittings, and radiator hoses with hand-twist clamps preconfigured for the LS engine. While the crew was removing the old engine, Justin was making all the wiring harness connections for the EFI system and filling the engine with oil. With very little drama, the old small-block lay on the ground, and the LS6 slipped right into place.

At around the 11-minute mark, Team Olds had its LS6 bolted in place while Team Camaro was making headway, having removed the Rat. But the Camaro guys were hampered by adding a new flywheel and mechanical clutch linkage adapter on the new LS engine before it could go back in. That's when disaster struck. The mechanical clutch linkage adapter hit a boss on the block that needed some tweaking. While hammering on the aluminum-block boss, the impacts cracked the block through to the water jacket, which immediately began leaking. A Holley representative was called in, but the damage had been done.

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