The five best LS swap cars for 2024 include the Jeep Wrangler (YJ & TJ), the Nissan 240sx (1989–1998), General Motors G-Body (1978–1988) and F-Body (1967–2002), and the FoxBody-era Ford Mustang (1979–1993). There are hundreds of different vehicles that enthusiasts have thrown an LS-V8 engine inside, but I’ve found these are some of the most popular and easiest choices over the years. Depending on the LS engine you swap in, you can go from 200 horsepower to over 500 horsepower overnight. Let’s take a look at the five best LS swap cars for 2024.
What is an “LS Swap”
We should probably start by talking about what exactly an LS swap is before I get into the best vehicles. An LS swap is when you replace a car or truck factory installed engine with an LS engine. There are many reasons people do this, mostly related to increasing reliability, longevity, and ultimately, performance.
An LS engine refers to any third or fourth generation General Motors/Chevrolet small-block V8 engine. The very first engine GM released in this series was the 1997 LS1, which they soon followed with the LS6 in 2001. Other popular LS engines were the LS2 and LS3, which powered various Chevrolet Corvettes.
The LS series is also referred to as the Vortec engine series. GM uses the term LS for car engines and Vortec for their truck engines. There are over 35 different LS/Vortec engines, ranging from 4.8-7.0 liters in displacement. GM built both aluminum and iron engine block options, and mostly aluminum cylinder heads.
LS engines are popular for swaps into older cars. Several LS swaps have netted builds exceeding 1,000-2,000 horsepower, and the platform is excellent. In addition, the LS/Vortec series of engines also have a huge aftermarket, making replacement parts (and mods) plentiful. There are millions of LS/Vortecs out there, and smaller displacement versions (4.8 & 5.3 liters) can be had for under $1,500.
5 Best LS Swap Cars for 2024
Obviously, you can swap an LS engine into just about anything. Usually, American domestic cars are some of the most popular choices for an LS swap. Yet, I’ve seen LS swap cars from Honda S2000s, Mazda Miatas, Nissan 300zxs, to even Mercury Zephyrs from ‘80s, and Chevy Chevelles from the ‘60s. However, some cars are much easier to swap an LS engine into than others.
A few of the most basic considerations are engine-bay size and how to physically mount and secure the engine inside. Some cars are just too small to accept a small-block V8 in them without some serious fabrication and customization. But there are many other cars that have been LS swapped hundreds of times. There are even some LS swap kits on the market for various models. Below, we’ll go over some of the most popular and Best LS swap cars for the upcoming 2024 year.
Off Road Swap – YJ & TJ Jeep Wrangler
Starting off our list is the YJ and TJ series Jeep Wrangler that lasted from 1987–1995 and 1997–2006. Long one of the most popular vehicles for off-road mudding and desert crawling, for years Jeep woefully underpowered the Wranglers. They gave the Wranglers various AMC designed inline-four and inline-six motors. Most of which never even cracked 200 horsepower or 250 lb-ft of torque.
If you’re looking to get the most out of the Wrangler’s ability to crawl and mud, you’ll definitely want to upgrade to LS-V8 power. The extra horsepower will help you blast through mud and sand when you need to without getting bogged down. Even better, the extra torque will do all that and more, helping your Jeep get truly sideways on some boulders.
Back in 2016, the guys at MotorTrend swapped an LS1 from a 2002 Chevrolet Corvette in a TJ Wrangler with good success. In their article, they show how to swap in an LS to a TJ Wrangler, which was a tight fit. They also address the other important aspects, like cooling, getting the Jeep ECU to communicate with the GM fuel-injection system, and adding in new engine mounts to hold the LS1. While they don’t give away the final dyno numbers, the stock engines make 350 horsepower, more than enough for any TJ Wrangler to rule the day.
Top Import Swap Cars – 1989–1998 Nissan 240sx
While it’s often American vehicles that make the best LS swap cars due to their setup, the S13 and S14 Nissan 240sx (1989–1998) are some of the perfect power plants for a GM small-block V8. Now, before I upset any purists, I am in now way suggesting anyone rip the glorious SR20DET out of their 240sx and replace it with a V8.
Unfortunately, Nissan never gave Americans the SR20DET, we only got the inferior K24E/DE. Nissan made this engine pitifully underpowered and it was a joke compared with its turbocharged cousin. However, that also makes it a great candidate as one of the best import LS swap cars. They are already rear-wheel drive from the factory, not all-wheel drive like many other imports. In addition, it’s surprising but the LS/Vortec series actually fits pretty well inside the engine bay. Obviously, you’ll still need mounts for the engine and transmission. But there are tons of LSx swap kits on the market for the 240sx, with many of them utilizing a 300zx Z32 transmission.
As you can probably imagine, the sky is truly the limit for a Nissan 240sx LS swap, as MotorTrend demonstrated back in 2022 when they featured a LS swap from Jarin Espinda from the island of Hawaii. Espinda replaced the factory motor with a 427 cid, LS7 crate engine, and he strapped on a Nelson Racing 72mm T4 turbocharger running 11 PSI of boost. Naturally aspirated, the engine was at 500 horsepower, which jumped up to 783 horsepower after adding boost. To handle the power, the LS7 was completely built from Texas Speed & Performance, and had a host of suspension upgrades.
While he hasn’t updated his Instagram since the article, it still serves as an inspiration for 240sx-LS swaps in the future.
Best LS Swap Cars – 1978–1988 GM G-Body Platform
Fondly remembered by 1980s gearheads and the generation that grew up besides then, the GM G-body platform from 1978–1988 still has a special place in many hot rodder’s hearts. GM’s 1980s G-body lineup included iconic rides like the Buick Regal Grand National, Chevrolet El Camino and Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Pontiac Grand Prix. For the most part, GM made these cars underpowered as this was the height of the muscle car malaise era.
Yet, that’s precisely what makes them such great candidates to be one of the best LS swap platforms available. Holley has several complete systems for the various G-body vehicles, complete with mounts, accessories, and a full ECU system for fuel-injection. This post from the GBodyForum gives great insight into common questions and DIYs for LS-G-body swaps. Swapping in an LS is relatively straightforward inside the G-body, but not without some customization and trial and error.
A great example of a GM G-body-LS swap is from Holley, who showcased Garrett Reed’s supercharged 1984 Monte Carlo. For his powerplant, Reed used a LSX376 crate engine from Chevrolet Performance and a 4L80E transmission. Reed also fitted a massive Whipple supercharger on top of it, which produces 650 wheel-horsepower. The GM G-body always needed a powerful V8 from the beginning, and now we can finally give it one.
Easiest LS Swap Cars – 1967–2002 Chevy Camaro and Firebird
As the original platform that GM gave the LS series to in the late-1990s, the F-body Camaro and Firebirds are the perfect LS swap cars out there. From the factory, GM gave these cars either big-block or small-block V8s. So, an LS/Vortec engine will fit in there perfectly. Additionally, GM/Chevy set these cars up from the factory ready to race and handle serious torque. So the driveline is already pretty stout.
While the original Camaro engines through the early-1970s had some serious grit, there was a complete lull until the early-1990s. Between then, while the Trans Am might have looked fantastic, it wasn’t a muscle car in the performance sense. Luckily, you can now give the F-bodies of old the horsepower and torque they deserved with an LS swap. These are some of the most popular vehicles for LS swaps, and as a result there are tons of kits available for them. For the later F-bodies, the LS is an easier swap because of the similarity with the LT-series.
In this build featured in MotorTrend, some enthusiasts put a junkyard LS1 inside a 1969 Pontiac Firebird convertible. These swaps are rendered more difficult because they involve converting a car from carburetion to fuel injection, but the engine fits in very cleanly (with a matching subframe).
Another build from the Motor Trend guys saw them stuffing an LS1 inside a 1992 Chevrolet Camaro. In 1992, the Iroc came with the 245 horsepower, 5.7 liter L98 V8. Yet, that doesn’t hold a candle to the 350 horsepower LS1, which also featured fuel injection instead of throttle body injection. F-body LS swaps are popular for a reason, and they can be extremely satisfying.
Most Popular Cars for Swaps – 1979–1993 Ford Mustang Fox Body
It might sound a bit sacrilegious at first, but a third generation FoxBody Ford Mustang is one of the best LS swap cars out there today. It was in 1974 that Ford completely emasculated the Mustang. By the time Ford introduced the Fox bodystyle in 1979, the 5.0 V8 made just 140 horsepower. It wouldn’t become respectable until the introduction of electronic fuel injection midway through the ‘80s, but even those are severely underwhelming today.
Granted, the 1987+ EFI HO 5.0 was a big improvement over previous engines. Still, it can’t hold a candle to the newer LS/Vortec series from GM. Luckily, the engines fit in quite well and are much less complicated than swapping a newer Ford 5.0. While the 5.0 Coyote is one of Ford’s best motors, it’s not a simple pushrod, overhead valve engine like the LS/Vortecs. Coyote swaps are popular too, but aren’t cheap and are extremely complicated, which is the opposite of an LS swap.
At the annual LS Fest West in Las Vegas during Spring 2023, Jon Waterfield Motorsports brought out their blown 5.3 Vortec (via MotorTrend). Utilizing a massive 339 cube GMC 6-71 supercharger, the car is an absolute burnout machine, and looks about as American as you could possibly get. The GMC 6-71 has been a very popular blower for all kinds of builds for decades, and GM originally used them for their 6-71 Detroit Diesel series of motors.
Another FoxBody Mustang-LS swap has the guys at MotorTrend putting a cammed LS1 with ported heads inside another 1990 Mustang. This one stayed naturally aspirated, but still put down a solid 405 wheel-horsepower and 382 wheel-torque. That was good for a ¼ mile of 11.2 seconds @ 122.8 mph — now that’s a swap.
Best LS Swap Cars Summary
There are a ton of different options for the best LS swap cars for 2024. From older GM G and F-bodies, to the Nissan S-chassis (240sx), to even FoxBody Mustangs and Jeep Wranglers, the LS is the perfect engine for many builds. With gobs of torque on demand, rock solid reliability, and a massive aftermarket, it’s hard to find much fault with a GM third or fourth generation small-block V8 swap. With an LS swap, you can transform what was a pedestrian ride into a full-fledged street demon, capable of putting modern Mustangs and Camaros to shame.
Best LS Swap Cars FAQ
While no LS swap is ever easy, some of the most popular LS swaps are the FoxBody Mustang, GM G and F-bodies, YJ and TJ Jeep Wranglers, and Nissan 240sx. All of these have LS swap kits available from Holley and other manufacturers, and enthusiasts have done them hundreds of times.
There are many different LS and Vortec engines that are good choices for a swap. Some of the most popular are the 4.8 and 5.3 liter Vortec series, because they have iron blocks, can be found for cheap in the junkyard, and are capable of more than 500 horsepower with a built motor and forced induction.
While the old saying goes you can put an LS into anything, from a practical standpoint that’s not entirely true. Some of the most popular LS swaps however are the FoxBody Mustang, GM G and F-bodies, YJ and TJ Jeep Wranglers, and Nissan 240sx.
For many people the 4.8 and 5.3 liter Vortec series are extremely popular for LS swaps. They have iron blocks, can be found for cheap in the junkyard, and are capable of more than 500 horsepower with a built motor and forced induction.