David Adkins’ ’63 Impala: The Fastest LS On The Planet

David Adkins' 1963 Impala

If we asked you what you thought the fastest LS-powered car in the world was, we’d be willing to bet that you’d never guess it was a 1963 Impala. Well, we suppose that would depend largely on whether or not you’ve been following David Adkin’s career. But for those of you out there who don’t know, or know of, David, he just so happens to be the owner of the world’s fastest LS-powered vehicle, and he just keeps getting faster.

“We’re running against guys that have $100,000, twin turbo, big cube, Hemi engines,” Adkins said. “And we’re out there competing every time out, so I definitely think we’re doing something right.”

The car was originally built in 1994, and obviously was not LS-powered at the time. Before it fell into David’s hands, the car was running basement-8s in its original configuration. Fast, but a far cry from setting the world on fire. However, when David finally got his hands on it nearly 12 years ago, he knew he wanted it to be a serious force to be reckoned with and so the build commenced.

Fast forward seven race seasons and three LS combinations, and you will find the Impala pushing the edge of what LS power is capable of. The current combination is a 400 cubic-inch mill, spec’d and built by TJ Grimes of Baker Engineering—who just so happens to crew with Adkins regularly as well—and fed by two Garrett GTX5533 Gen II turbos making more than 60 pounds of boost. You may remember TJ’s work from the fastest stock bottom end 5.3 in the world. Needless to say, the guy knows his way around an engine.

The block is a Dart LS Next compressed graphite iron piece, and Baker actually designed and built a set of heads—which still use an inline valve configuration—made from billet aluminum and featuring a 1-inch thick deck for increased resistance to warpage under extreme boost pressure. Grimes also handles all of the tuning on the vehicle as well, which is done through a Holley EFI system that was added for the 2017 season. Turbosmart wastegates and blow off valves help keep the car’s considerable boost in order. The car has made 35 passes so far this season, and the only thing that has needed to be changed is a set of rockers, the oil, and spark plugs.

Backing the bullet is a Rossler transmission coupled by a ProTorque EV1 torque converter, and operated by a Precision shifter. It sends all that power out back to a Strange rearend. JRi shocks at all four corners keep the Impala planted on terra firma.

Last year, you could find Adkins racing NMCA Radial Wars, in which he regularly ran in the 4.20 range in the eighth-mile. However, at Lights Out in February, Adkins says the car ran a 4.08 right off the trailer, and eventually went a best of 3.973—tying him with Keith Barry for the fastest LS-powered vehicle ever. The car eventually qualified 20th out of the group of 50. Unfortunately, after rain wetted down the track, Adkins spun the tires and lost in the first round.

After that, it was back to Radial Wars, and the car was in tip top shape. The car qualified first in Bradenton with a 3.99-second pass. In fact, it was the only radial car to make it into the 3s all weekend, which enable him to take home the overall win. Next, it was on to Atlanta. The car came out of the chute fighting, and laid down a 3.94 right off the trailer—officially making it the fastest LS-powered car of all time. The car continued its success, laying down a fastest pass of the weekend in Bowling Green with a 4.03 after initially qualifying second. Adkins made it all the way to the final round, but during the race the front end tried to come up on Adkins at the 60-foot mark. When it touched back down, the car unloaded the rear tires. Adkins pedaled the car to a 4.75 but it wasn’t enough and it cost him the win.

Next up is some no-prep grudge racing, but unfortunately for us, none of it is timed. Regardless of how fast Adkins goes, we’re sure that he’ll defend the LS in true style. David says he’s not done for the year, and speculates that the car might even have a faster pass in it. Only time will tell, but we sure do love watching his car blast down the track.

“Before this car, the fastest I had ever been was mid-8s back in the early-‘90s,” Adkin said. “I worked into it slowly, and now here we are running 3s in the eighth on radials—it’s just wild.”

“It’s a cool car, it’s just one of a kind. There’s not another one out there like it,” Adkins said. “There’s very few ’63 Impalas that were even raced at all, most of the people building them are making them low-riders. But people really love it, because it’s different. I get guys coming up to me telling me ‘oh yeah, I used to have one of those back in high school.’ It’s not a Camaro, it’s not a Mustang, it’s something different.”

And if eighth-mile racing isn’t your bag, Adkins is working on a quarter-mile bruiser that just might shut the mouths of every mod-motor fan out there. The current LS record for the quarter-mile is 6.11. And while Adkins says that he thinks the Impala could go 6 flat, it would require a lot of reconfiguration that they don’t necessarily want to do on the car. That said, they are working on something that just might pull off a 5-second quarter-mile pass.

“I’ve got a ’70 and a half Bickel car, with about 100 passes on it that I’m switching the drivetrain over to LS right now,” Adkins said. “Our target weight is around 2,400 pounds, and I’m looking to go 5s with it in the quarter. The goal in the eighth-mile is 3.70s.”

Even though Adkins has the fastest LS-powered vehicle on the planet, he shows no signs of slowing down. If he manages to break into the 5s, we can finally stop listening to the blue oval boys telling us no LS has ever been in the 5s. If you ask us, it’s only a matter of time before Adkins again goes where no LS has gone before.

About the author

Chase Christensen

Chase Christensen hails from Salt Lake City, and grew up around high-performance GM vehicles. He took possession of his very first F-body— an ’86 Trans Am— at the age of 13 and has been wrenching ever since.
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