- YouTuber Rich Benoit is known for repairing and rebuilding Teslas.
- For his latest creation, he built the Model S with an engine from a Chevy Camaro.
- In addition to installing the V-8 engine, he built the exhaust system, manual transmission, and more.
The following is a transcript of the video.
Rich Benoites: My name is Rich, and I run a YouTube channel called Rich Rebuilds. And on that YouTube channel, we make a lot of really weird and fun stuff. So we started by mostly doing EV. We switched to gas, and now we do gas and EV and have fun.
It’s funny, because once you build and repair a Tesla, you fix it, and you start from there. No real improvement to it. So many things are controlled electronically, that doesn’t make it fun for the hot-rodders out there. So I said to myself, “You know, how do we put those two things together? How do we have, you know, a really good car and combine it with the capabilities of a classic V8 engine?” So we decided to combine the two.
A lot of people think that, “Oh, you took a new Tesla and ripped it off.” It’s like, no, no, it’s in a flood. And Tesla won’t sell batteries and motors to fix it. So I said, “You know, if Tesla doesn’t want to, then General Motors will.” There was a Camaro SS that was completely destroyed, and the engine was available, and decided to put it in a Tesla. For me, it’s one of those things that has to do with recycling. So they’re both like a wrecked car sitting in a field, and I’m like, “Why are those two just sitting there? Why not combine the two and make something that actually runs and works?”
So I spent the first few months completely stripping it, removing all the interior components, pressure washing everything, and removing everything like, bad smells and the like, dirt from the car. So I took out the two bikes, the two bikes toasted. The battery pack is pretty bulky from being underwater for too long. You know, anything less than aluminum is stripped from the car.
So I think a lot of measuring and prep is the hardest part, making sure the engine sits straight and right in the car. Because don’t forget, not only do you have to make sure the engine is properly installed in the car, but there’s also a transmission that adds a few more legs, and there’s also a very long drive shaft that spins at thousands of RPMs that literally sits right between your legs. must be straight too. Like, lots of different angles and things have to be straight for the car to even roll down the road.
Believe it or not, it almost makes sense that the V8 fits perfectly. Once you get the front motor out there’s so much room there. And the LS3 is actually very narrow, actually quite fits in there. So what we noticed was that when we took the car to SEMA our hood was open, everyone would just pass by because the installation was so clean. It was only until they saw the Tesla logo that everyone just got rubber-necked, stopped, and went to the car.
The exhaust manufacturing process is interesting, as the battery pack for the Tesla Model S weighs, in my opinion, between 1,100 and 1,200 pounds. So since the old battery was, you know, about 4 inches thick and very heavy, and tucked really well under the car, after we took it off and made the exhaust system we decided to go with oval tubing. Because when you use oval tubes, like NASCAR uses, you actually save a lot of space being oval versus completely circular. So if you notice, we have a side exhaust system. Most cars have a rear exhaust, which is actually just below the rear bumper. We couldn’t do it because the independent rear suspension was so big the exhaust actually couldn’t get through. So we just stopped the exhaust system right to the side, just before the rear wheel.
One of the biggest challenges is the construction of transmission tunnels. You know, at Tesla, one of the few cars made, the floor is completely flat. You know, most cars today are rear-wheel drive, there’s a tunnel from front to back. This one didn’t have it, so we had to make our own, and it sure was challenging. So we have a great fabricator, Joshua, who is actually able to cut a car in half down the middle and actually build a transmission tunnel.
One of the other tricky issues we had with this car was the wiring. So we literally stripped the car to the bare frame. It’s really just a shell. And we had to reassemble the whole car again. And we actually remove about 50% to 60% of the entire car wiring harness. So if the battery isn’t there, it’s a set of high-voltage wires. There are wires to the rear motor, front motor, both missing. You know, we saved a lot of weight from the older lithium-powered battery packs to the internal combustion engine. The car still has a touch screen. There are still instrument clusters. And all functions work. Navigation works,
work. So when you sit in the car, you can, you know, push a button and play with the various functions of the vehicle, and it works.
I’m very satisfied with the way it’s run, yes. We still need to make some adjustments to it. But in the end, when you sit in it and drive it, you almost forget it’s a Tesla. Like, you just think you’re driving a regular, powerful V8 engine. And it’s really weird, because if you don’t think about it, you’re like, “Okay, this is pretty cool. There’s a manual. I’m working on my assignment.” But you really have to take a step back and say to yourself, “This car never had any of this.”