It's tough going outside one's comfort zone. Nobody has a crystal ball that enables them to see how risky moves pan out, and whether or not the payoff justifies the risk. However, when it comes to taking on a new project car that's outside one's normal tuning bounds, a screaming deal certainly stacks the deck and opens up a whole new realm of possibility. Especially when it's something you never thought would ever be financially possible.
For East Coast enthusiast Daniel Pacificador, his recently completed 997 Porsche 911 S project was an exit from his usual tuner car comfort zone. When combined with an American power plant tuning institution—the GM LS3 V8—his copy of this iconic 911 generation resulted in a beautiful, reliable, and above all capable sports car that breaks down traditional tuning bounds and fits in anywhere. It wasn't an easy decision, and even his friends expressed their concern, but trust us, the end justifies the means in this case.
After my colleagues Kristen Lee and Andrew Collins saw the Pacificador's 911 at a Wekfest show in New Jersey, I was able to catch up with Pacificador later and get the low-down on it.
Historically, Pacificador's been deep into JDM tuning, with his (now-previous) 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STI occupying space in his garage as his faithful, long-term main steed. He also owns a heavily modified '89 R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R that he counts as his dream car, but it's also the root of a big conundrum for him: the GT-R is simply too nice, and its parts are simply too expensive/rare, to warrant regular and track usage. "The problem with this car is after how much I've put into it, I'm scared to track it," Pacificador said. "I know that sounds so stupid, because it was initially supposed to be my Sunday track car." But if you pop its RB26DETT engine on track, it's not a cheap thing to remedy. Pacificador wanted something that'd be more versatile, less expensive to maintain, and stand up to track work without issue.
Ask any enthusiast, any real enthusiast—when a sick deal calls, you pick up the phone. Pacificador caught word of a clean, mint interior'd, 40,000-mile 997 Porsche 911 S sitting in a barn in Florida since 2013 without its original 3.8-liter M97 heart (it was a victim of a d-chunk failure at some point long ago), collecting dust, and the owner wanted a stupid-low sum of $9,000 to get it it out their sight.
"When we found out the price of the shell—having a Porsche was something I never thought that I could afford—I gave Chavis a ring and we priced out the cost of the swap. I don't know how much Porsches without motors usually go for, but I thought 'in the grand scheme of things, why don't more people do this?'" Pacificador said.
He was especially intrigued as he'd been thinking of picking up something that was a tad more grown up—less boy-racer—that he could roll up in to any venue for any occasion, and it not be a clearly-heavily-modified tuner car. Plus, to get his STI into the overall shape he'd been planning for, it was going to cost an awful lot of money (insert EJ25 jokes here).
What happened next came together quite well. After being in talks with Tyler at Chavis Performance and Engineering for a while, he sold the STI to a friend (generally always an ideal scenario), bought the 997, and had it shipped up to North to be crafted into something very special.
Chavis knows a thing or two about sticking non-flat engines in Porsches. The two parties determined that the best course of action for filling the original M97 engine's void with less expensive and more trouble-free motoring was to stick a GM LS engine in it and call it a day.
Though, it wasn't just some junkyard pull. They selected a brand-new LS3 stroked out by BluePrint Engines that produces a very healthy 625 horsepower and 560 lb ft of torque at the crank—figures that most likely would've cost a much prettier penny (especially in the long run) to achieve with the old flat 3.8-liter.
Pacificador reports that Chavis has a proprietary mounting solution which suspends the engine at the factory engine mounting points, as well as includes an adapter plate which pairs it to the Porsche's six-speed G97.01 manual gearbox. They also manufacture a proprietary plug-n-play engine harness which takes all the GM engine's PCM data, translates it into German (well, just into Porsche messaging), and sends it to all of its systems. This gives him 100% gauge functionality with working check engine lights, ABS, Porsche Stability Management (PSM), and a fully functioning HVAC system. The power plant's brain remains a GM E38 PCM/ECU tuned by HPTuners.
Once the heart was squared away and running right, next came the rest. The car got a good overall service after nearly 10 years of inaction. Daniel had it repainted in Porsche's Carmona Red Metallic, opted for a set of KW V1 coilovers to keep it suspended in the air, and mounted up a clean set of iconic Work Meister S1 wheels in 18X11.5 ET48 (O-Disk, which is its deep dish version) and 19X8.5 ET36 (also O-Disk).
The tires are massive 235/35/19-front, 305/30/18-rear Falken FK510 tires, but the plan is to replace them with Toyo R888Rs.
Inside, he opted for an RWB steering wheel with Never Content/Works Bell quick release, retrofitted Tommy Kaira shift knob with Breaker Spec adapter/extender, Pioneer radio, Numeric shifter, and Numeric metallic shifter cables.
Outside, the fresh Carmona Red Metallic paint was complemented by a full Chavis Performance and Engineering Aerokit, Porsche RS wing, Moshammer Side Skirts, an Akrapovic GT3 rear diffuser, and AEROWOLF mirror visors.
Supply and Cross-Platform Downsides
The trickiest part of the project was the fact that it happened during COVID, having to deal with supply chain issues and overall parts shortages. "I feel like it was a project that could have taken only a couple months and took a year and a half," Pacificador said.
A lot of the project was sitting and waiting for parts to come in, which would mess with other steps of the process, such as getting the 911 prepped and ready for paint and body work. "Sometimes you don't know you need something else, so you're like 'oh crap I need this now' and you order that, and it'd take another couple of months."
Despite the delays, the 997 turned out great, and any swap gremlins are pretty much all resolved, too. Pacificador's been in communication with Chavis post-swap about any small issues that have popped up, particularly with pin-pointing check engine lights. Because it possesses both Porsche and GM modules, sometimes it takes some lengthy diagnosing to troubleshoot. Early on, some electrical gremlins popped up that could have been from a variety of sources, particularly with the radio and alarm. Then, at times he found himself replacing some things that weren't the source. Though, these kinds of issues are inevitable with any swap.
Living With a V8 911
Since his LS 997 911's completion, Pacificador's driven it almost every day and has put about 6,000 miles on it. The beauty of having the LS bolted up back there, is so much that can be picked up at any local parts retailer, rather than having to pay Porsche tax or have certain parts shipped from Europe.
Plus, it's been very well received, even if one might assume that Porsche enthusiasts would automatically call it sacrilege. "It sparks conversation. I feel like if you don't have a Turbo or GT3, people are more understanding of why the swap happened, because of bore score and all the other early 997 issues. No one's mad at it—if I did it to a Turbo that'd be different," Pacificador reports.
In terms of functionality, maintenance, and taking it to wherever he wants, there's massive appeal. Daniel's never had a naturally aspirated car before, either, and finds it to be a lot of fun.
He's waiting until he reaches 10,000 miles before he takes it to the track, and before that happens, he also needs to throw on a more track-centric oil pan that prevents oil from sloshing away from the pickup. Additionally, it needs some upgrades to its cooling system. The last thing he'd want to do is to lunch a fresh, high-output V8 that he's invested so much time and money into.
To sum this car up, he'd say it's all-encompassing. The car's the most versatile car he's ever had—it's fast, easy to work on, and fits in everywhere. From muscle car, to Porsche and tuner meets, as well as going on drives with friends, he can hang out and talk shop with everyone. This might be the best-possible outcome for a car that fits in so well in these three communities.
"It's never out of place, and I think that's the coolest thing about it," Pacificador said. "It's checked every box of car culture for me, and I can even take it to weddings and work."
Though surprisingly, yet also unsurprisingly, he did get a little shit from people early on. Maybe his buddies thought it'd be a money pit, or it'd be kind of weird, but the end result speaks for itself. "Legitimately, so many people said not to do this, so it's also a big fat F-U," Pacificador continued. To anyone who's been in a similar situation, this is great to hear. "Now, it's surprising to me how many people actually love the car. So many friends said it was a bad idea, but the whole time I knew it was going to be really cool. Don't listen to other people, just do what you love. Who cares what they think."
Solid advice that is applicable in anyone's automotive pursuits. Daniel's got one hell of a cool Porsche in his garage, and we can't wait to see how it progresses from here. We're also looking forward to some sick track footage someday.
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