Hemi Swaps vs LS Swaps - Why Hemi Swaps are Cooler
Once Uncharted Territory, The LS Engine Swap Can Now Be Done On Multiple Vehicle Platforms With Off-The-Shelf Parts. Holley Is Trying To Make That Happen Now With The Gen III Hemi. Will It Be As Popular As The LS Swap?
I received a press release a few days ago that sparked an interesting line of thought. Holley recently announced a new line of Gen III Hemi swap products into older vehicles, namely D100/D150 pickups and 19661972 B-Body cars. The products include engine and transmission mount adapters, headers, and exhaust and fuel systems. These parts are in addition to their various standalone engine management systems that can control the engine, should you wish to keep it running on EFI.
A friend who works at Holley says the company is going "all in" on the Gen III Hemi swap stuff, so expect a lot more parts to be rolling out of Bowling Green, Kentucky, soon. That got me thinking: With the backing of Holley and their massive catalog of parts, will the Gen III Hemi swap become as ubiquitous as the LS engine swap? If so, is that a good thing?
I think the answer to the second question is an unqualified yes, while the first warrants a slightly less enthusiastic "probably." I've been around long enough to remember the first LS engine swaps by the pioneering souls who took on the challenge of figuring out clearance issues and adaptability. At Car Craft at the time, tech editor Jeff Smith led the charge, producing interchange and compatibility articles and engine tests at Westech. Companies like Muscle Rods were early adopters and developed motor mounts and oil pans to fit most GM chassis, but I think it's safe to say that once Holley jumped in the game, the movement exploded. Yes, the groundswell had already been there, and it's likely that if Holley had not invested in a comprehensive line LS engine swap components, another company likely would have. But Holley did, and with their deep parts catalog and R&D capabilities, they have become a one-stop-shop for customers looking to drop an LS engine into just about any GM car made since the '40s, and more than a few Fords and import cars, as well.
That kind of cottage industry support has existed for the Gen III Hemi as well, with companies like Bouchillon Performance Industries and Arrington Performance providing excellent tech info and adaptor and swap parts. We've also featured the efforts of our favorite junkyard/high-end build shop Cleveland Power & Performance, an outfit that sells lots of Hemi drivetrains on a pallet and built the body-swapped 1969 Charger "Reverence" that was debuted at the 2018 SEMA Show. Still, it sometimes takes a heavyweight in the industry to push a trend into the mainstream.
Interestingly enough, with any mainstream adaptation of a trend, backlash usually develops, and there's plenty of disdain for the LS swap these days. LS engines are in practically every car you see at the SEMA show, in hundreds (if not thousands) of web and magazine articles, and all over the Power Tour. Have an old Cadillac that needs an engine rebuild? Throw that 472 boat anchor away and drop in a 5.3! Many people would say that doing so ruins that old Caddy. I have a less harsh opinion, but I must admit I find it refreshing to look under a hood and not see an LS engine there. So if the GEN III Hemi swap takes off, will it do so in such a way that people will be sick of them as well? I don't think so; at least not to the extent of the LS. People have been putting Hemi engines into all kinds of cars for decades, and it almost universally elevates the status of the car. I think the cachet of the 331/426 Hemi spills over into the Gen III version of the engine, as well. It might not have the presence of 426 Hemi, with its big, wrinkle-black valve covers, but it's still a Hemi, and Dodge did their marketing well by keeping that mystique alive. It also helps that the current Hemi is pretty great. It makes lots of power and is just as compact as the LS, so it could theoretically fit in the same places.
So far in my career, I've steadfastly avoided putting an LS engine into any car I've ever owned. Of all of them, however, my 1993 GMC would benefit the most from an infusion of the mighty LS engine. I always end up wrinkling up my nose after giving the idea some thought. Still, should a kit come along that lets someone drop a Hemi into a GMT400 pickup, well, I kind of like that idea.
SOURCE: HOT ROD NETWORK 2020