HomeGuideFiring Up The World's First V8-Powered Tesla: A Reverse-Retrofitting Project

Firing Up The World’s First V8-Powered Tesla: A Reverse-Retrofitting Project

We’ve been following a certain YouTuber Rich “Rebuilds” Benoit for some time now. His latest project has caught the attention of many people around the world, including us. The reason – the project consists of retrofitting an LS V8 engine into a Tesla Model S. Now this sounds a bit backward in nature. There are companies trying to retrofit old combustion vehicles with electric motors and lithium-ion batteries to make them electric. However, this project is more of a reverse-retrofitting kind.

The easiest answer to why Rich is doing this project is that it is a fun design engineering and fabrication project and because he can. It’s that simple. Rich is a guy who loves such engineering projects and has a bunch of guys helping him out. We previously reported about how Rich and his team reinforced the chassis of the vehicle.

This time around, he has released a video about actually fitting the electronics and harness for the engine control inside the car. This video also includes fitting other systems like the fuel supply system as well.

An Overview of the Retrofitting Project

The idea is to fit a 6.2-liter V8 engine in a ruined Tesla Model S. Rich procured the electric vehicle after an owner discarded it because of a flooding incident. The water ruined most of the interior of the vehicle. Rich had to clean out the vehicle from the mold growing inside. The water also ruined the battery of the vehicle.

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Initially, Rich was going to restore this ruined Model S using aftermarket products and components. But, Tesla doesn’t sell its batteries as an aftermarket product. He then found a wrecked Chevrolet Camaro SS with a not-so-damaged engine. There were some issues with obtaining the parts for the Model S, such as the electronics part. Fortunately, he found another YouTuber, “Plainrock” who makes videos of smashing some of the most popular vehicles. He bought a Model S for him and kept some parts for himself, such as the suspension and electronics.

Rich jokingly calls this project “ICE-T”, which stands for “internal combustion engine – Tesla”.

Setting up the Engine Electronics

The engine electronics is one of the most important parts of this project, and Rich needed some external help for procuring these components. Two YouTubers, Jimmy Oakes and ‘RJ’ came out to help Rich with this part. They brought a Haltech stand-alone harness and fuel supply system. The systems, however, did not come with a fuel tank, so Rich decided to use a – that’s right – bucket.

Setting up the electronics is a very complex process, especially when the system isn’t designed for a specific vehicle. However, the Haltech has quite a simplified harness, and with RJ’s expertise, they were able to set up the electronics.

One of the interesting parts of retrofitting a system into a vehicle not designed for that particular system is the way you access certain components. For example, Tesla Model S is in no way designed for a V8 engine, so accessing certain components, such as swapping out spark plugs, is a tedious task. Here, they did manage to access the spark plugs, but through a peculiar position – through the top of the wheel arch over the right front tire. That will surely puzzle some pedestrians when Rich has to swap out spark plugs.

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The control system consists of two halves – an MCU from the Tesla and an Elite 2500 ECU. The ECU will control the engine electronics and other systems such as fuel regulation, cranking the car, and so on. The MCU, on the other hand, will take care of the interiors and other non-engine electronics.

There was an in-built fuse box in the Haltech system, which once again saved Rich and RJ from having to design one of their own. Rich’s friend, Steven, set about setting up a launch box, which has switches for the fuel pump, master switch, and the engine electronics.

Cranking the Engine

Of course, before actually firing up the engine, Rich had to think of things he never thought of for electric vehicles. Oil filters and engine oil are just two of these things. They used a battery from an old Tesla Model 3 to crank and fire up the engine. While this battery did crank the engine, it wasn’t giving enough power to fire it up. So, they used a bigger 12V battery.

You can watch the video to get an idea of how a V8 engine sounds inside a Tesla Model S here:

What’s Next for Rich and the V8-Powered Tesla?

Rich already had a custom-made driveshaft made specifically for this vehicle. He is also getting custom-made axles, which will need some time and a lot of money, according to him. Currently, there are no exhaust headers, which means that the engine is unloading all the exhaust within the system itself. Rich is thinking about running an exhaust tube past the transmission tunnel (fabricated by Joshua, another of Rich’s friends, which also showcases some of the best aluminum welding designs). The exhaust tube will come out the side of the vehicle rather than the rear, because of space constraints.

Keep an eye on this space, as we’ll keep reporting about this project as and how new videos come out.

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Mihir Tasgaonkar
A mechanical engineer who loves reading and writing about new technologies in the automobile industry.

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