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The Drift Competition at Holley LS Fest East 2022 was fierce from start to finish. Forty drivers showed up and battled it out all day Friday in the hopes of earning their place in the 32-car competition that ended with Jonathan Nerren on top, with Nicholas Rodriguez and Josh McGuire hot on his heels. A walk through the drift pits at LS Fest East showcases a broad range of vehicles, from traditional choices like Nissan S-chassis cars and Corvettes to more outlandish options like BMWs, fourth-gen Camaros and pretty much anything else you can power with an LS engine and hang the tail out with. We chatted with three of the competitors to learn more about their machines and what they thought about LS Fest East.
Holley: What's the backstory behind your LS-swapped M3?
Greaves: This one is a 2008 M3. This car in Australia had flood damage, and when you have flood damage in Australia, the car is done so nobody gets stuck with some weird electrical gremlins. I've always been an LS guy. I'm from Australia, and we don't have as many of those engines here, but per population, we have a similar amount. When I originally started it was an N/A cammed LS, super simple, lasted well, but we wanted more power. The simplest way to make power with an LS is to put boost on it, so we boosted a few of them and had pretty good success, and then when we put this together we knew it needed around 1,000 horsepower, so the LS was the engine of choice to get that done and this is what we ended up with.
Holley: How long have you been drifting?
Greaves: I've been drifting for fifteen years, but I haven't driven this car in three years. I shouldn't be able to do better than what I did, to be honest, but for not driving for three years I'm happy.
Holley: What are future plans for the car?
Greaves: I used to complete in (Nissan) Silvias in Australia, and then I actually got my Formula DRIFT Pro license and we flew over here and spoke to sponsors, and a lot of them didn't want me to run a Silvia because it was too old, and they wanted a later model car. This was five to seven years ago, so I went out to find a chassis that I liked, and this is what I came up with. We put this together and basically sent it over here. I'm probably not going to run Pro for the moment, because I literally don't have enough money honestly. It took a fair bit getting here, but the car's here, so we'll see what happens in the next couple years as we push it along.
Holley: What do you think of LS Fest?
Greaves: I love LS Fest. We moved to Michigan nine months ago, and I should not have been driving this weekend. We had a child, bought a house, I got a new job, I have a lot going on, but I'm going to try and make drifting work. This is such a good event, Drift Bunny sponsored us, and they wanted to have a merch stand here so here we . LS fest is super sick, super fun, and there is a competition, but at the end of the day it's about having fun.
Holley: How did your LS-Swapped Supra come to be?
Elsea: A little luck and a little stupidity. I've had the car about two years. I bought it early in 2020 just before they became a million dollars, so I bought it a the last possible second in the final inning of the game. That's where the luck came in. I had a whole LS drivetrain that was ready to go, and it was just so easy to do it and the whole swap kit just bolts right in, so I had to do it, I just had to do it. I bought it as a roller and bought the Sikky swap kit. I actually had a stroker LS and put it in, then switched to the Gen 4 stuff later. It's a 1997 Supra, so it's a kouki with the cool headlights and tail lights, so just a little bit more rare than your average Supra, so why not turn it into a drift car?
Holley: Do you get many comments about what some may consider sacrilege by removing the 2JZ?
Elsea: A lot of people have said a lot of things to me on the internet and called me many names, and I'm so sad and my feelings are hurt, and I just drive my Supra crying because I'm so depressed and sad that people on the internet called me bad names. Some of them get really upset about it. I've never lost sleep over it, and it's actually really funny. I screen shot the comments and send them to my buddies and we laugh. It's funny because you can literally unbolt the engine, leave the transmission in it, bolt the 2JZ into it with the Quick Time bell housing, so it's hilarious when people think the car is ruined because you can swap it back in in half a day. It's hilarious seeing people's reactions, some people love it, some hate it and some are in the middle. I'm in the middle myself, a 2JZ would be cool, I love turbo noises, but I'm an American and live in Birmingham, Alabama, so if someone wants to come in and help me with my 2JZ and tune it whenever I need it, by all means send me a tuner and some help and I'll run the 2JZ in it. Until then, it's staying LS.
Holley: What's your LS setup?
Elsea: It's a Gen 4 LS3 6.2L, aluminum block, big cam, valve springs, lifters, stock bottom end and intake manifold. It makes around 473 horsepower to the rear wheels. I need just a little bit more power. I have nitrous for it, probably going to switch to E85 or just put a crate motor in it.
Holley: Wasn't this car white last year?
Elsea: A lot of people came up to me and asked if it used to be white, and if the new color is a wrap. The answer is no, it's candy paint. But now more people are commenting on the paint than it having an LS, so we're moving in the right direction. I have the people broken in, they're used to the LS now. The car works, it looks cool, we accept it and now they've moved on to look at other parts of the car.
Holley: What kinds of events do you typically take it to?
Elsea: I live right by Midpond [Raceway and Sports Park in Columbiana, Alabama] and they're a big supporter of mine, so anything there I can get invited to I try to go to, sometimes I just randomly show up and try to have some fun. Of course LS Fest, which I'm trying to make a yearly tradition. I love competing because I like to have tangible goals, as far as winning battles, so you really just have to blow everything out of the water in drifting. I have the car now, it's the style and color I like, now I just have to get more practice and throw down every run. That's why I want an LSX 454 crate motor, because it would fit that bill perfectly and make it a lot
Holley: What's the story behind your LS-swapped Mustang?
Whalley: I started building it in 2017 and finished it in 2019. Before I built this car I was driving a Pontiac GTO for the longest time, and it didn't work very well. This chassis kind of fell into my lap, and I was familiar with the LS platform and it was a no-brainer to stick with that engine program for it. It's an LM7 5.3L block originally, punched out to 5.7L with Diamond pistons, K1 rods, ported heads, BTR valve train and a big Garrett turbo on it making around 1,000 horsepower at the crank and 830 horsepower at the wheels on about 18 pounds of boost. It has the same T56 transmission that was in my GTO. It has seen better days, but I have a GSR 4-speed dog box sitting on a shelf waiting to go in it. Just waiting on a bell housing and some parts that are backordered until it goes in.
Holley: What kind of events do you take it to?
Whalley: I mostly just do fun events like Grid Life and No Star Bash. It was originally supposed to be a competition car to get back into Pro-Am, but Pro-Am started dropping off while I was building it so I decided to build it just to go out and have fun and enjoy drifting for a change instead of having the stress of competition all the time. LS Fest is pretty much the only competition I run with it currently.
Holley: What kind of comments do you get on this controversial combination?
Whalley: I get a lot of comments, and it's one side or the other – they either love it or absolutely hate it. I think more people love it than hate it, especially considering I've posted video of this car on Mustang owner group pages and they say thing like “that sounds good, what kind of exhaust do you have on that?” and I'm just like, "...it's a Chevy engine with a big turbo."
Holley: What do you think about LS Fest?
Whalley: I've been coming here since 2012. It's one of the events I try to make every single year. There have only been a couple years I've missed it but it's always worth the trip down here. You see a lot of cool cars and the competition is super tough here too, so it's a really good place to test your skill against against high caliber drivers and not have to be at that Formula DRIFT level.