V8-Swapping a Tesla Model S Is Even Harder Than It Sounds

Back in December, we told you all about EV guru Rich Benoit’s plan to stuff a 6.2-liter V8 under the frunk of a Tesla Model S. Some called it fantastic while others said the idea was “dumb” or just “completely stupid.” Regardless, it’s still happening, and there’s progress to check out.

But, as you’d expect, progress moves rather slowly when you’re stuffing a gasoline powertrain and row-your-own gearbox into a purpose-built platform meant to house batteries and an electric motor or two. Let’s use this time to check out how things have been going so far.

Over the past few months, the project has evolved from a simple concept to a work-in-progress. Rich and his team at Electrified Garage have worked hard to figure out how to reverse engineer Tesla’s platform into a host for an older Camaro motor.

The V8 was successfully mounted through a gigantic hole cut in what is now the car’s firewall. There’s also a long rectangular tunnel cut out of the floor pan and through the structural support, showing where the transmission will be mounted. The driveshaft will run through there, too, which is part of why a ton of shiny new sound deadening material has been installed to offset the increased noise.

Speaking of custom parts, the driveshaft is one of many needed for the application that shows just how long made-to-order components take. Rich says he waited nearly 12 weeks for the Tesla’s driveshaft to arrive at the shop, and they’re now waiting on axles.

One of the other hurdles the team needs to overcome is the challenge of electrical wiring. Not only is the donor shell an old flood car, making its electrical integrity questionable at best, but it also contains quite a bit of tech that just won’t be used in the final project.

For example, Autopilot won’t be used in the new vehicle, so the necessary hardware will be removed and sold on eBay. The same goes for parking sensors, high voltage connectors, wiring for the charging infrastructure, and more. Despite Rich anticipating using as many factory parts in the vehicle as possible, he also seems to be creating the most analog Tesla on the road.

The team at Electrified Garage is now working on finalizing stripped-down versions of the existing harnesses to control minimal equipment. In the rear of the car, for example, Rich only anticipates functionality for the doors, hatch, taillights, parking brakes, key fob antenna, wheel speed sensors, and vehicle lighting.

There’s still quite a bit of work to do, but the build process is moving along and it’s interesting to watch this battery-powered luxury car turn into a semi-modern performance sedan with a V8 under the hood.

Oh, and in case you were wondering—Rich settled on the name “ICE-T” for the car. And no, that’s not a play on the vehicle’s paint, nor does it have any ties to the rapper-turned-actor that goes by the same name. It’s actually an acronym: Internal Combustion Engine Tesla. He jokes that the name is probably better than his initial pick, “Angela,” which was the name of a character on the TV series Westworld portrayed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s second wife, Talulah Riley. His justifications? The car was two things that he Musk didn’t want to see—his ex, or a V8 in a Tesla.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: Rob@thedrive.com

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