The shape of Todd Wayman’s Porsche 944 Turbo is familiar to anyone with even a passing fancy for cars. But the noises it makes are all wrong for the German sports car. Gone is the sonorous, high-pitch buzz from the 2.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder. In its place is the loud, thundering baritone of a GM LS1 V8. It’s a jarring contrast of sight and sound — and it’s very cool.

It’s even cooler that Wayman did the conversion himself.

A Lexus technician by trade, Wayman bought the car from a Porsche Club member who raced the car in the PCA’s E Stock class. It had a cage and the required safety equipment and even a full interior. Wayman used it for HPDEs with NASA and other car marque clubs in 2011. At one of the last events at Heartland Park that year, well, you can almost guess what happened next.

“I was going around the Carousel,” Wayman said. “And those engines are kind of notorious for oil starvation under large sweeping left-hand turns. I came around there, and it made some weird noise — and I blew the motor up, basically.”

At least he had a full winter’s offseason to piece the car back together. But after doing a bit of research, Wayman discovered people were transplanting GM V8s into 944s and there were even two companies that offered kits to facilitate the swap. Wayman had a second generation Mazda RX-7 years before and he’d always wanted to do an LS swap in it, but he ended up selling that car. Now he had a chance to do the same swap in his 944 Turbo.

“I hated everything about the engine in that car,” he said. “It was awful to work on. That motor is complicated. It’s crammed in there.

Topeka1041

“The car drove great,” he added. “It was fun to drive, but that engine, I never liked it, so when it blew up and I started looking around, I found out a lot of people were starting to do LS1 swaps in 944s. As soon as I found that out, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m doing it. There’s no question.’”

Wayman found a salvage yard the specializes in LS engines and he bought a complete setup, which included the engine and transmission, wiring harness and ECU and even the pedal assemblies. Because the 944 has a rear-mounted transaxle, he sold the T-56 transmission. He spent a month doing research and gathering up all the parts he would need, including the kit from Texas Performance Concepts and a hydroboost brake booster from an S195 Mustang.

Topeka1008

“When you do the V8 swap, there is no room for a vacuum booster,” Wayman said. “I had DTC-70 Hawk pads on there, and they are Hawk’s most aggressive pad and I really liked them, but when I went to the hydroboost, the pedal was really stiff and there wasn’t enough play to modulate the brakes real well, so I dropped down to a DTC-60 and that really helped.”

The installation kit comes with bunch of stuff, most notably a bell housing adapter, clutch disc, an oil pan and pickup tube, engine mounts, spacers to lower the cross member and specific headers. There is more to it, but you get the idea.

Topeka1046

Here’s the cool part. Because the car uses the stock transaxle, the factory speedometer still works. Wayman also was able to use his stock factory coolant and oil pressure sensors, so the factory gauges work, too. Even the factory tachometer works.

“Interestingly enough the LS1 tach signal is a four cylinder tach signal, so one wire right to the factory Porsche tach and the tach is completely accurate,” Wayman said. “It was really pretty simple. Not that big of a deal. I guess it’s easy for me to say, because I work on cars all day for a living, but it really wasn’t that bad.”

Topeka1009

Wayman did the installation in his garage in his spare time. He pulled the old motor out the day after Christmas in 2011, and had the car up and running for a shakedown at an autocross in April 2012.

After he bolted the engine in, he set about wiring up the computer. All he had to do was hook up power and ground to the ECM, get power from the computer to the fuel pump and the cooling fans. From the factory, the LS engine is drive-by-wire, but Wayman converted it to a mechanical throttle cable. He had to mount the left-bank coils behind the firewall and run spark plug wires to the plugs, but other than that, the V8 looks like right at home under the 944’s hood.

Topeka1017

He has been battling some clutch issues, but the transaxle is holding up. The brakes stop the car just fine, too. He added a Tilton brake bias adjuster inside the car, which he uses more for adjusting for the different tires he uses. However, the handling hasn’t changed noticeably from when it had a turbocharged four cylinder under the hood.

“For me, going from a 3,000 pound E Stock car to what it is now, the car is every bit as predictable as it was,” Wayman said. “A 944 is so predictable. It doesn’t do anything crazy.”

Topeka1030

The weight hasn’t changed much either. As pictured here, the car weighs 2,851 pounds with a driver. According to back issues of Car and Driver magazine, the curb weight of the 944 Turbo ranged from 2,850 to 3,040 pounds, so there is little wonder why the brakes and handling aren’t affected. Also, when you consider that the engine makes 330 horsepower at the wheels — compared with 217 in stock form — you can begin to see how much of an improvement the GM powertrain is.

“It’s incredible how compact that engine is,” Wayman said. “If you look at the 5.0-liter in one of those new Mustangs, that engine is enormous. The heads are almost a foot wide, because it’s DOHC. The LS1 is so compact for its displacement and the power it puts out. It’s incredible.”

It sounds pretty good, too.

Topeka997

Todd Wayman’s LS1 Porsche 944 Turbo

Year:

1987

Make:

Porsche

Model:

944 Turbo

Weight:

2,851 with driver

Engine:

2002 Camaro SS LS1 5.7-liter V8, 330 whp

Suspension:

Front: Bilstein Escort cup struts 650lb springs

Rear: Bilstein Escort cup shocks & helper springs, retaining the factory torsion bars

Tires:

275-35-R18

Brakes:        

Front: Factory 944 turbo, Hawk DTC-60 pads

Rear: Factory 944 turbo, Hawk DTC-60 pads

Data system:

Aim Solo

Sponsors:

positions available
Topeka1051 Topeka1065
Comments
Image courtesy of Brett Becker