In this day and age it seems like everyone is easily offended. People get upset about politics, rights, and even a cup of coffee. Unfortunatly car guys are no exception. If you want to make a car purist irate simply take a vehicle and install another manufacturer’s engine under the hood; you’ll have some that love it and some that are so triggered by the engine swap they can no longer rationally function.
Some of the stronger arguments to this case would be an LS Fox body swap: the hardcore blue oval guys lose their minds every time they run across one. If you want to see the import crew have a meltdown, install a Vortec truck engine in the mighty ’93 RX7 FD3S and watch the fallout begin.
One group that has always remained pretty true to their roots is the Mopar crowd, and for a good reason. After all they, they do come with a Hemi, and this engine design is the same setup that is utilized to power Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars in the NHRA. However, if you want to make this group angry, swap the Mopar powerplant out for an LS and wait for the condemnation to ensue.
Chris Asimopoulos, a construction worker out of New Jersey, knows all about this type of drama thanks to his 1970 LS-swapped Plymouth Duster. In 2015 he was driving by a local car dealer and saw the Duster sitting on the car lot. He loved the look but had no idea what it was. The Duster body was straight, no rust, and most importantly, it was not another Camaro or Mustang. It was at this point that Chris knew he had to have it.
Over the next two years the build took place as Chris had spare time in his schedule to tackle the project. One of the biggest challenges was finding solutions to installing the LS in the in the Duster. As he searched the web for help, Chris couldn’t find any information that would help him because there weren’t any LS-swapped Mopars that he could find. In the end, the setup he chose to go with was a full K-member and LS swap mounts from AJE. He also used AJE upper and lower control arms with QA1 single adjustable shocks on the front. The rear suspension utilizes Cal-Trac split mono-leaf springs and double adjustable shocks from QA1.
For the engine, Chris decided on a 2002 Vortec 5.3-liter with a stock bottom end with a healthy cam, head gaskets, and valve springs. A Holley Performance Products Hi-ram intake manifold, 102mm throttle body, and a Shearer Fab air-to-water intercooler top off the long block. The huge billet S480 clone turbo sits on top of a set of Hooker turbo manifolds along with a 60mm wastegate. When asked about how much boost the car runs, Chris said he likes to run “all of it.” The exhaust is very simplistic with nothing more than a 5-inch fender exit exhaust protruding from the body.
The ECU for the Duster consists of a Megasquirt Gold box to which Chris handles all of his tuning duties. A Magnafuel 4303 pump and regulator keep the fuel rails full as the 155-pound injectors disperse the metered E85 fuel to the cylinders when needed. A GM flex fuel sensor was also incorporated to make sure the right fuel ratio is always in the mix.
The driveline for the Duster is a Mopar guy’s nightmare too: a GM TH400 transmission combined with a PTC converter sends the power through a 3-inch chrome-moly driveshaft to a Ford 8.8 inch rearend. The rear axle houses a 3.55 ring and pinion, Strange Engineering 35-spline axles and a spool. The rearend puts the power to the ground via a set of Weld Prostars wrapped with Hoosier 28×10.5W tires.
The interior for the Duster is pretty simplistic: it just consists of two Kirkey racing seats with covers with a five-point harness. An ARC 12 switch panel runs all of the electronic duties for the car. A TCI Outlaw shifter with two buttons — one for line lock one for scramble boost — can also be found in the cockpit.
So what do people think about the LSX Duster? According to Chris, “this car has caused so much chaos because it’s an old Mopar with an LSX powerplant; everyone loses their minds when they see it. I’ve gotten banned off of most Facebook pages multiple times for even posting a picture of the car. One thing is for sure, whenever you see my car in a post, there is an insane amount of comments telling me I’m stupid and I ruined the car.” Chris continued, “I love the recognition I get, though. There are plenty of Fox bodies and Camaros with LS motors, but very very few Mopars.”
We can’t help but love the idea of an LS-powered Duster. The car is a bare-bones hot rod that commands the attention of anyone who drives by it. The no-thrills approach to speed is simple, and if something is not needed, it’s not on the vehicle. Chris wouldn’t share any times with us, but he said most of his racing action takes place on the street. He is planning on racing the car at a few events across the country with some friends this year so keep your eyes peeled for this mongrel … it will be the car in the crowd that has everyone talking.