The smoke has cleared at Beech Bend Raceway as LS Fest East 2021 has come to an end. And we have to say this was one of the largest, most entertaining events we have ever witnessed. And while we don’t have all of the numbers for this year’s show yet, we can tell you that this event was one of the largest, if not the largest, LS Fest to date. People came from all over to participate in this three-day LS-based show, and for a good reason. If you love LS and LT engines, high-octane events, and some of the best LS swaps in the nation, this is without a doubt the show of shows.
The drag racing portion of LS Fest always brings out an eclectic mix of vehicles. There is a class for everyone from True Street all the way to the $20,000 to-win No Time shootout. Walking through the pits you’ll see plenty of builds that you might be following online through various social media platforms. The sheer volume and quality of cars on the grounds here at Beech Bend Raceway Park is truly incredible and it’s what makes LS Fest a true must-attend event for any racing fan.
Beastly First Gen Camaro
TorqStorm Supercharges is an enthusiast-driven company that makes some stout centrifugal superchargers that work in a variety of applications. If you’re going to make high-performance parts, you need a way to test what you build. TorqStorm’s purple Oldsmobile Cutlass shop car has grabbed plenty of people’s attention, but the company wanted something that it could use to really show off its products, that’s what led to the purchase of this stunning 1969 Camaro.
The Camaro was previously owned by Danny Garbarino and was a much-feared grudge car. The owner of TorqStorm purchased the F-body to use as a testbed for its blowers and to show off exactly what they were capable of. Prestige Motorsports was tasked with building a wicked 388 cubic-inch LS mill to push the TorqStorm blower to its limits. The engine uses an RHS block and heads as its base with a Visner intake manifold. A 3-inch TorqStorm blower crams the boosted air into the engine. The engine made just over 912 horsepower on the dyno at 10 PSI of boost.
Chris Brooker is the Camaro’s wheelman and he adds some details about the build.
“We really wanted to build an engine that would max out one of our blowers to see what it was capable of. Previously, we never had the ability to push these blowers to the edge of what they’re capable of and this car solves that problem. The Camaro is the perfect testbed to learn what these blowers can do since it’s such a good car and can easily handle all the power we’re trying to throw at it. We’re learning a lot and that will help us create even more powerful superchargers.”
An Impala Done Right
People’s taste in vehicles can vary widely based on a lot of factors. Colt Rist has a soft spot for the 2000s-era Chevrolet Impala thanks to driving his family’s 2004 Impala growing up. The problem is, those vehicles only came from the factory in a front-wheel-drive configuration, so they weren’t exactly built for performance.
Rist originally planned on building his family’s Impala into a high-performance machine. The Ohio winters were very hard on the Impala and caused way too much rust damage, so Rist needed a new vehicle to build. A 2004 Indianapolis Edition Impala SS was sourced and Rist got to work building his dream car.
“I built pretty much everything on this car myself at home. The rear-wheel-drive conversion was completed using the 10-bolt reared out of a 1980 Camaro and I built the 4-link suspension. The car uses a set of coilover shocks in the rear. I went through the stock bottom end 5.3-liter engine myself, swapped in a Texas Speed cam, added the sheet metal intake, and designed the fuel system,” Rist says.
The cool thing about Rest’s Impala is that it’s still very much a streetcar. He drives the car often and plans on tackling the 2021 edition of Hot Rod Drag Week right after LS Fest.
Down Under Flavor
Chris Hanifan is a drag racing legend in his home country of Australia, he’s one of the founders of Top Doorslammer, the Australian version of Pro Mod. Hanifan has been on fire at over 200 mph driving a Pro Mod, yet, he still has the desire to make licks at the track. The 1976 Holden One Ton Hanifan brought to LS Fest is a true Australian import that he built himself and drives on the street.
“The overall build of this Holden is pretty simple. I used a junkyard 5.3-liter LS with over 176,000 miles on it for the engine, it still uses the stock bottom end that came in it from the factory. To help the engine breathe better, I added a set of six-liter truck heads. For boost, I decided to use a Precision turbo. I pretty much built everything you see on this Holden myself,” Hanifan says.
Now, Hanifan’s Holden isn’t just a cool-looking showpiece, it gets driven on the street regularly, and has been 10.50 at 130 mph at the track. Hanifan added that the Holden is perfect for him because he just turned 61 and needed something that wasn’t as quick as a Pro Mod but would still give him plenty of thrills at the track.
Stirring Up A Storm
The GMC Cyclone was a unique vehicle released by General Motors thanks to its spicy turbocharged V6 and all-wheel-drive configuration. Chris Germano loves the styling of the Cyclone, but isn’t a fan of the finicky six-cylinder engine. The solution for Germano was simple, replace the six-banger with some good old V8 LS power, while keeping it boosted, and all-wheel-drive.
Germano’s truck uses a Dart-based 427 cubic-inch LS that was built by Page Racing Engines. Cameron’s Torque Converter Service supplied the lock-up torque converter that’s bolted to the 4L80E transmission from Upstate Pro Trans. Bully Racing built the rear end with Moser axles, and also built the front differential that Germano uses in the truck. Phillip Hartman fabricated the turbo system that uses an 88mm turbo for boost.
“I had the truck for a long time and told myself I would never modify it. After a while, I decided I wanted to enjoy the truck the way I thought it should be enjoyed, but the stock engine left a lot to be desired. I broke about three stock engines, got tired of that, swapped the LS engine, and haven’t had any issues since. This truck has loads of traction and power. It has run 5.83 at 120 mph and I can still drive it on the street with zero issues,” Germano says.
Orange Juice Gets Squeezed
Nitrous Outlet founder Dave Vasser does more than just create great products for racers, he’s at the track putting laps in behind the wheel of his own race car. Vasser normally campaigns his Orange Justice Camaro in the Ultra Street radial tire class, but at LS Fest he decided to run with the clocks off for the $20,000 purse that was on the line. For Vasser, this is more than just a trip to the biggest LS race on the planet to spread the nitrous gospel on vendor row, he’s here to get data on the changes he’s made to his race car.
“We needed more power, so CID joined our program and provided a set of LS7 heads and one of its intake manifolds. Cam Motion created a new camshaft for this build, and I also decided to put a new set of Diamond pistons in the engine. SAMTech built the 434 cubic-inch monster and took some compression out of it too. We changed the stator in the Pro Torque converter and went back to one of our Stinger 4 nitrous plates. To help balance the engine, we added individual O2 sensors to each header, and Mike Thompson came on board to help us with the tuning side of things,” Vasser explains.
The addition of Thompson is something that Vasser thinks will really help his racing program. Thompson is teaching Vasser and his team how to get the most of Holley Dominator ECU’s wheelie control, and how to use the individual O2s to their maximum potential. The plan for the winter is to send Orange Juice to the chassis shop to go on a diet to help make it more competitive in Ultra Street for the 2022 season.
A Different Kind Of Pony
It’s really impossible to predict what you’ll see at LS Fest each year. There are always going to be tons of late-model GM products all over the grounds at Beech Bend Raceway Park, but there are going to be some things you’d never expect to see, like James Aoki’s all-wheel-drive Foxbody Mustang. This is far from your average LS-swapped Mustang, and it was built mostly with salvage yard parts.
Aoki’s 1989 Mustang is powered by a Gen III 5.3-liter iron block LS that’s filled with a Gen IV rotating assembly. The Mustang’s engine is topped off with a set of truck heads, an LG Motorsports camshaft, and an LS1 intake. Aoki built the turbo kit himself to work with a VS Racing turbo. To make the Mustang all-wheel-drive, Aoki added a Trailblazer front differential, S10 axles and brakes, WRX front coilers, and Ford Taurus steering knuckles.
“I built this car because it had never been done before and it stands out from every other LS-powered Mustang. It took about four months in the garage to build, and a lot of trips to the junkyard to get all of the parts needed to finish it. I still street drive it a lot and it’s actually pretty nice to drive. The car has been 9.09 and with a little more fine-tuning should run consistent eight-second passes no problem,” Aoki says.
The No Time Stars Of LS Fest
LS Fest has featured the quickest and fastest LS-powered vehicles for over 10 years. The classes and the people racing may have changed, but the amazing cars making incredible passes haven’t. This year at LS Fest the marquee class was the $20,000 to win no time shootout. The purse and prestige of winning at LS Fest attracted the meanest LS-powered cars from around the country to Beech Bend Raceway Park to see who had the fastest ride on the property.
When the dust settled, Jeff Spear found himself in the winner’s circle. Spear was driving a 2000 Mustang owned by Derick Kelly.
“It was a struggle this weekend to get down the track because it was so tricky, especially during the heat of the day. We weren’t trying to set any records, our goal was to go A to B each pass because we knew when the sun went down we could put some more power in the car. The car wanted to spin and wheelie at different times, it was the kind of race where you were trying to race the track more than the person in the other lane. Every round was a battle, we didn’t have an easy pairing in the first two rounds. In the final we had Adam Preston driving Jimmy Spurgeon’s S10. We knew they were tough and decided to load a bit more up into the tune to give them a run for their money. Preston ended up going red, but it was a close race and we’re thankful we won,” Spear says.
The Grand Champion
The Grand Champion is a unique event to LS Fest. In this competition, racers compete in rounds that include drag racing, two different autocross sessions, and the 3S Challenge. One competitor that is always in the running for this race is Mike DuSold, owner of DuSold Designs. We caught up with DuSold and his 1967 Camaro to see what updates he made for the 2021 season.
As you may or may not know, the DuSold crew recently set the twin-turbo LS-powered Camaro up for Pikes Peak and had a fantastic outing despite a few gremlins while going up the mountain, finishing fourth in its class and 12th place overall. And while you might expect DuSold to change up the combination for the Grand Champion shootout, much to our surprise, that was not the case. DuSold said, “For this event, we didn’t really change much on the car other than bolting a set of street tires and pulling a bunch of power out of it. I was expecting to make a lot of modifications to the car, but it’s not bad at all.” DuSold told us that he didn’t want to change much on the car because testing for the hill climb resumes next week as the team heads for Circuit Of The Americas (COTA) for more testing.
At the time of our interview, DuSold was sitting in first place at the Beech Bend Autocross, second place in the National Corvette Museum autocross, and the top five for the drag racing portion. At the time, the only event left was the 3S Challenge before DuSold would know his fate. As it turns out, he was able to walk away with another Grand Champion win in the vintage class for 2021.
As you can imagine, the Dyno Challenge is a popular area of interest as contestants try their luck on the rollers. To win this event, you need to have the highest numbers in your class.
To say that Dan Mason had a good weekend in Bowling Green would be an understatement. He has made some serious changes to his LS-swapped Ram truck since we had last seen it and was on a mission to snag an eight-second time slip which he managed. The twin-turbo LS truck not only ran a personal best of 8.89 at 152 mph, he was also in first place for the Dyno Challenge Power Adder class as the Ram cranked out a stout 1,047 horsepower at the wheels.
There were more cars on hand at this year’s event than we have ever seen on the grounds of Beech Bend, and the scenery changed, and different vehicles arrived daily. Holly did a great job here as well, as they opened up some more room to make way for all of the beautiful and a couple not so beautiful creations (you know who you are). And while there were some subtle swaps on the grounds, we got to see some wild ones as well.
One of our favorites included ICT Billet‘s LS-swapped twin-turbo, Lamborghini Gallardo, dubbed the “Amerighini.” The company faced a few challenges shoehorning the slightly longer LS engine in place of the original supercar powerplant. However, the effort was well worth it as this car turned heads all weekend long.
Another crowd favorite was Cole Reynolds‘ Chevrolet LUV. Reynolds started on the LUV just a few months ago and immediately ran into some problems. Being six-foot-five-inches tall, he quickly realized that he was not going to fit in the truck comfortably. And since it’s going to be a race truck, it made sense to reconfigure the interior.
With the help and input of some of his coworkers at DuSold Design, Reynolds decided to move the engine to the rear of the truck and bolt it to a Porsche transaxle. While he was at it, he relocated the driver’s seat to the center of the cab. The new configuration allows ample room to get comfortable and stretch his legs out in the mini truck. When asked about the events he planned to attend with the Luv, Reynolds said the Global Time Attack races, Optima’s Ultimate Street Car Challenge, LS Fest, and various other events were all on his radar.
Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire
One thing that you can expect to find at LS Fest is smoke. Sure, you always anticipate it at the water box on the dragstrip, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Nope, we’re talking about a good old burnout contest where participants destroy the tires and sometimes their cars while creating as much smoke as possible. Is it entertaining? Absolutely and it makes for some spectacular shots as well.
Drifting at LS Fest is another crowd favorite as the people get to see some highly skilled drivers pitch the cars in and out of the corners. While most have almost laser-guided precision, you can always count on a little accidental bumping among competitors. Even the YouTube sensation Cleetus McFarland got in on this year’s action with his Freedom Factory wrapped Corvette.
LS Fest has always been a draw for vendors, and this year was no different. Hundreds of manufacturers lined the midway showing off their latest offerings for LS and LT engines. There, you can find everything from wheels, engines, accessories, and just about everything imaginable. Lingenfelter had a C8 Corvette on display which showcased their latest offering for the GM mid-engine sportscar.
Mark Your Calendar
Even though we just wrapped up LS Fest East for 2021, it’s time to mark your calendars for LS Fest West 2022. And while you still have some time to plan for it, trust us when we say it will be here before you know it. And one thing’s for sure; this event will not disappoint if you’re an LS or LT enthusiast, and we hope to see you there.