Watch the World’s First V8 Tesla Swap Start Up for the First Time

Rich Rebuilds' latest madcap project puts a Camaro V8 under the hood of a Model S—and it just roared into life.

We’ve been following along with Rich Benoit’s journey to LS swap a Tesla Model S since last December, and enjoyed the progress updates along the way. Things just got real, though—with the first start of the mighty V8 under the hood of the formerly-electric beast.

If you’re new to the project, the basic concept is simple—shoving a 6.2L LS3 V8 engine from a Camaro into the luxury electric sedan. Packing a full 426 horsepower, and paired with a manual transmission, it should provide plenty of grunt to challenge the 4.3 second 0-60 times of the original Model S 75 donor car. It’s a job that comes with more headaches than the typical LS swap, though, as the Tesla is lacking many things that one can take for granted when working on a traditional gasoline-powered car. There’s no fuel tank, for starters, zero provision for a transmission tunnel, and very little room in which to route the exhaust. Undeterred, Rich presses on, with the help of a cavalcade of friends who are just as enthusiastic as he is about the build.

YouTube/Rich Rebuilds

In this most recent instalment, the team set about getting the engine ready for its first start now that it’s installed in the former frunk of the Model S. As it’s just a test, a number of amusing shortcuts are taken. Obviously, the Tesla has no existing ignition switch, so a series of home light switches are rigged up in a plastic box to supply power to the ignition, fuel system, and engine control electronics. Even better, the fuel system is put together from a Miata fuel pump carrier and a Corvette filter/regulator, dunked in a plastic bucket acting as a fuel tank.

That’s not to say that Rich has skimped on quality parts where it counts, however. The engine is running on a Haltech Elite 2500 ECU, a quality option that’s far from the cheapest on the market. It’s paired with a digital dash to keep an eye on vital engine functions, though Rich also hopes to get some of the original Tesla gauge cluster working too. 

With everything rigged up and the team waiting with bated breath, the flick of a cheap light switch brings the LS3 burbling into life. Of course, with no headers fitted and the ECU running a very rough base tune, there’s plenty of pops and bangs, and even some flames from raw fuel burning as it gets sprayed out of the open exhaust ports. However, no harm was done, and the team yell, cheer, and run around in circles celebrating their success. Wouldn’t you?

The rest of the project is moving along, too. The car now features a boxy transmission tunnel with plenty of room for the new driveshaft to run down the center of the car. Reportedly the first aluminum welding effort by team member Joshua, it’s a testament to the quality of work one can produce after reading one welding book. Rich also notes that there should be room for the circular tube exhausts under the car, though a side-exit setup will be necessary as there’s no easy way to snake the pipes past the rear suspension to the rear. 

It’s a compelling project, and not just for the comedy value of swapping a V8 into a formerly electric car. It’s great to simply share in the fun with a bunch of car enthusiasts having a good time on a wild project. We can’t wait to see the car, fittingly nicknamed ICE-T, ripping fat, noisy burnouts—much to the confusion of any onlooking Tesla owners.

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