[Bangin’ the Gears] Modern Motor Swaps: Yay or nay?


Love’em or hate’em, modern motor swaps are a big part of the industry. But with all the hoopla about LS-swap this and modular-Ford-swap that, we forget that enthusiasts have been swapping newer, more powerful motors into their hot rods for years. Need proof? We only need look at the many Flatheads swapped into pre-deuce Fords or the many early coupes and roadsters that received hot-rod Cadillac motors shortly thereafter. So why should the thought of a modern Ford, Dodge or Chevrolet motor swapped into an older vehicle evoke as much anger as it does applause? Maybe because we’ve reached a point in the industry where gearheads are looking back as much as they’re looking forward. Before writing me off as another LS-fan boy, I might add that I love a period-correct combos just as much as I love a resto-mod build (or however you want to label it) powered by a modern drivetrain. I’ve learned to appreciate a wide scope of vehicles for an even wider range of reasons–in the end, if someone invests hard-earned time or money into something he or she loves, I can appreciate it. But I digress.

Walking a recent car show, I decided to sit back and listen to the comments from two different Chevy II Nova owners with modern twists to their rides. Both had LS-swaps; one still utilized the stock intake manifold and was largely stock, while the other had been converted to a carburetor setup with the coils relocated out of sight. The stock LS swap received as much praise as it did criticism. Proponents vowed “I love LS swaps,” and “a classic car with modern drivetrain and electronics means you can daily drive it,” while opponents commented “the new motors are so ugly, he could have made just as much power with a SBC,” and “he should have left it alone, it’s not true to its roots,” –the stalemate was exactly what I expected.

But the real conundrum started when I eavesdropped near the carbed LS-swapped Nova. The majority of onlookers took a gander and followed it with some praise without ever mentioning that it was an LS motor. Were they even aware? The remaining majority noted that the headers weren’t like an SBC, which prompted a closer look into the motor’s true identity. Most onlookers then commended the owner for keeping the carburetor and inquired how he’d done it, while others shrugged their shoulders as if they’d never considered the option or were indifferent at best.

Of course, this prompted even more pondering as to the root of the controversy; is the modern motor the problem or is it the fuel injection? Perhaps it’s both. I polled locals at several local shows and was again met with opponents and proponents with only a handful of gearheads that were indifferent–when asked what these same people thought about a traditional SBC topped with modern fuel injection, the results were identical.

So again, I was left with little more than my thoughts…and a cold Coke this time. What I’ve come to realize is that it’s not so much the fuel injection or the modern motors, but just about anything modern and new. Look at independent front suspension and aluminum wheels. You either love’em or you hate’em, which again brings me back to the reality that our industry is looking backwards just as much as it is forwards–and if you ask me, I’m OK with that. I will add one caveat though: No matter your stance, we should be accepting of all hot rods no matter the marquee, the style, the year or the color because in the end, we’re all apart of a special industry that should acknowledge our differences, share our opinions and above all, stick together.

Until next month, enjoy the summer and send us pictures of you and your hot rod, whatever it might be.




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