And none of them are a Mazda Miata.
There are plenty of good reasons why the mighty Chevrolet LS small block has become the goto powerhouse for engine swaps. They're plentiful, having been around since 1995, they're uncomplicated, reliable, there's an insanely large knowledge base available on them, they're incredibly tunable, and there's a whole industry to tap in the form of the aftermarket. The bottom line is that they come with plenty of torquey power, but they can be upgraded to make insane amounts of power reliably.
But that doesn't mean swapping an LS into any car is a weekend job. The internet is littered with classified ads of people trying to sell half-completed projects. It takes planning, fabrication tools, electronics knowledge, and, most importantly, a healthy credit card. The ability to get the seemingly small things right like the throttle linkages, cooling systems, and proper functioning fuel delivery are also key for the project to actually work. These are some of our favorites that have done it right.
When a couple of enthusiasts decided to build a track car, they figured the E46 generation's legendary straight-six engine was great albeit a little underpowered. Under the fiberglass hood sits a fire breathing 7.0-liter LS7 V8 with a 100-mm throttle body and an MSD intake making 650 horsepower and 545 lb-ft of torque. Power is fed to the rear wheels through a Cadillac CTS-V six-speed manual transmission with an Exedy clutch and a limited-slip differential. It's savage, it upsets the purists, and we love it.
The Lamborghini Diablo is one of the coolest old-school supercars to roam the earth, and they're relatively affordable to buy on the used market. However, they stop being affordable when the 20-year-old highly-strung Italian V12 decides to implode. This guy figured he wanted to drive his Diablo daily, so he sold the V12 and replaced it with a healthy LS3 V8 from a Corvette. It was reliable and problem-free enough that he then upgraded it from 492 to 550 hp. As far as engineering goes, the area behind the driver where the engine for a Diablo sits isn't the most accessible area to play in, but the V12 used more room. The LS is matched to a Porsche 911 G-50 gearbox, and the set up is lighter than the original.
A stock Mini from 1977 arrived from the factory with around 40 hp and 50 lb-ft of torque. The original Mini is also tiny, and not the obvious candidate for a supercharged LS1 V8 to sit where the hood used to be. It's owned by Dario of The House Of Boost fame, and, according to him, "Its only job is to kill tires." It's built on a custom chassis, drinks methanol, we don't know exactly how much power it makes, but you can find it by following the cloud of smoke around Canada.
The mid-engine Porsche 914 is the runt of the litter when it comes to the German brand's classic sports cars. The 914 has been in owner Sean Thomas's family for over 20 years, but now has a 5.7-liter LS1 V8 engine powering it. His 914 also has replacements for other parts of the car as the original Porsche parts don't tend to stand up to the extra power. Thomas drives the car a lot for sporting events and thinks it can go quicker than the 11.8 seconds in the quarter-mile he logged if he gets better at driving it.
There's only one reason you drop an LS9 crate engine in a late 1990s Chevrolet Tahoe, and this one has been perfectly executed. Under the hood of this sleeper SUV is a 6.2-liter supercharged engine usually found in the C6 generation Corvette ZR1, developing 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque. The list of upgrades to strengthen and improve the Tahoe are hidden by what looks like an immaculately kept 22-year-old truck's bodywork. Those improvements include a 1-ton 4-speed automatic transmission, a Dana 60 rear end with Detroit Locker rear differential, upgraded cooling, custom traction bars, and upgraded Baer brakes. The only real giveaway there might be more than meets the eye at a traffic light is the Superlift lowering suspension.
A few people are going to be scratching their heads over the Pontiac Montana name. It was instantly forgettable as a minivan and stopped being sold after the 2006 model year in the United States because of slow sales, but continued to be sold in Canada and Mexico until 2009. This one hails from Canada, and its owner, Kevin Piper, dropped a 303-hp LS4 V8 in it. Part of his reasoning was because the Montana's GM's 4T65-E automatic transmission was also used in the Impala SS. The importance of this is that the transverse 5.3-liter LS4 V8 would hook right up, be strong enough, and need minimal fabrication to push all the power to the front wheels. According to Piper, the hardest part of the swap was relocating the windshield wiper system as there was no longer room for it under the hood.
When this 1998 Ferrari 550 Maranello was pronounced dead after drowning in the floods caused by Hurricane Harvey, MCR Tuning didn't give up. They got hold of an LSX crate engine and a pair of Garrett 35/82R turbochargers and went to work. The LSX cart engine is intended for the track and comes out of the box with 627 hp, but MCR Tuning wanted 1,000 hp under the hood of one of Maranello's finest. It's an incredible piece of engineering, and one hell of a way to bring a Ferrari back from the dead.
Technically, this wasn't a car but became one. Back in 2014, Honda set a world record for the fastest mower by going 116.1 mph. The German company Viking thought it could do better, though, and went about it by putting a 5.7-liter LS1 V8 in one of its mowers. To make the 408 hp and 435 lb-ft of torque power useable, Viking fitted a TH400 automatic transmission and BMW rear end with a Quaife differential. It went on to set the new mower record of 133.5 mph on a wet track and in fog. That means the bigger achievement was finding someone lunatic enough to drive it.
The Volkswagen Beetle is an unassuming little car, and can't be described as being aggressive. This 1998 model has one hell of a mean streak and hides a 5.3-liter LS4 V8 making 303 hp and 323 lb-ft of torque under the hood. It's still front-wheel drive, which must make for some insane torque steer to deal with. Power is controlled by a 4T65E-HD four-speed automatic transmission. We've seen a few sleepers in this list, but this one is easily the sleepiest of them all. It was built by Dave's Discount Custom Auto, and just in time for 2019's LS Fest event.