Stateside Shop Tour: SPS, A Leader In Engine Swap Technology

Southern Performance Systems is a relatively small shop in Sugar Hill, Georgia, that is at the forefront of engine swaps and classic car modernization. Although they do the occasional swap and build, most of what they do is sell the parts that make engine swaps easier.

This two-door '55 Chevy was a perfect car for the LS swap. Take a look at that cowl induction hood. If you're already drooling, wait 'till you see what's under that hood!

For the ’55 Chevy in the video, SPS installed a modified LS3 engine and a 4L70E automatic transmission that delivers 420-horsepower to the rear wheels. Holley billet fuel rails, a cold air intake, and a stainless-steel gas tank keep the engine happy. They also installed new Wilwood disc brakes, which required a completely new front suspension system. They used Heidts tubular upper and lower control arms and AFCO adjustable coilovers front and rear.

SPS

SPS also installed a custom all-aluminum core support with an extra large double-pass radiator, designed specifically for the LS engine. They also modified the Vintage Air A/C bracketry to work with the new LS engine. The stellar craftsmanship in this build is the kind of stuff they do.

The Business

We’ve been doing conversions since before it was cool – John

We talked to the founder of Southern Performance Systems, John Tucker, and he told us more about how they got their start and what it is they do at SPS. “We’ve been doing conversions since before it was cool to do it,” he explained. “Our biggest business is not building the cars, it’s selling the stuff to do it. We’re small, but we’re very innovative in what we do.”

The shop opened in 1994, and even then, they were on the cutting edge of what it meant to build hot rods. They were specializing in LT1 engines at the time, but it didn’t take long before they were manufacturing their own products.

“We started developing our own stuff,” John explained. At SPS, they sell complete engine packages that are ready to drop into a customer’s hotrod and drive. “We can ship an engine out of here that’s built with whatever transmission a customer requests,” he said.

This is just a small glimpse into what the folks at SPS do everyday.

They didn’t start doing complete car builds until John built one for a friend. Then they started doing a couple here and there. “We’ve cut back on that though. We use the cars to learn and develop new products, and see how things work. We try to make sure everything that we sell works.”

SPS

This is a supercharged LSX behemoth in another one of their creations.

“We specialize in LS conversions and all related items that might be used to bring the vehicle up to modern day standards,” John detailed. “These being Vintage Air, Wilwood Brakes, Dakota Digital gauges, Heidts suspension components, and much more. We offer our business as a one-stop LS conversion shop.”

Since they do all their own installation work, they know how their products are going to function together. Here is some progress shots of that '55 featured in the video.

John wants to make sure that his customers are getting only the best. “We test our products here,” he continued. “We work with companies, and if we see a problem, we get it straightened out.” It’s great to get involved with a company like SPS since they really stand behind their stuff.

Electronics getting ready to go into that '55.

While they build a few cars, do engine swaps, and offer product packages, the real bread-and-butter of their business, so to speak, are their engine packages. “We offer both turn-key and our own Connect & Drive which is different from GM’s Connect and Cruise,” John explained.

SPS
Their turn-key engine package is ready to run out of the box. “All you do is add fuel and fire,” John told us. “Our Connect & Drive packages are a like a puzzle, we supply the pieces, and the customer assembles those pieces,” John detailed. “These are more for the experienced shop or builder. There is a savings to these packages.”

John also shared a little information about another awesome build they put together not too long ago. It is a 1995 Impala that they built for a customer that also purchased the car new in ’95.

Here is the car we mentioned earlier with the supercharged LSX powerplant. It definitely has the so called "Sleeper" look and feel down to a science.

They  installed a supercharged LSX 427 cubic-inch engine, with a six-speed manual transmission, Wilwood disc brakes, and a 9-inch rearend with 35-spline axles and 3.90 gearing.  “Much of what we used – we made,” John said. “There are now install kits available, but different from our design.”

We are all around impressed by what the folks at SPS are able to build, and the awesome products they offer their customers. It’s more about just selling cool, useful stuff though, it’s their customer service quality-focused attitude that makes them so good at what they do. If you’re looking to upgrade the drivetrain on your car or truck, or just want to see what they have to offer, make sure to check out their website.

About the author

Kyler Lacey

A 2015 Graduate from Whitworth University, Kyler has always loved cars. He grew up with his dad's '67 Camaro in the garage and started turning wrenches at a young age. At seventeen, he bought his first classic, a '57 Chevy Bel Air four-door, and has since added a '66 Plymouth Valiant and '97 Cadillac Deville to his collection. When he isn't writing for Power Automedia, he's out shooting pictures at car shows, hiking in the forests of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, or working on something in the garage.
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