Tesla: Simplified, with Added Lightness

The genius of Colin Chapman’s “Simplify, then add lightness” motto may not apply modern electric cars. For one, EVs tend to be heavy. Batteries and electric motors, while having beneficial packaging, are much heavier than conventional internal combustion drivetrains. They are also more complicated, if not intimidating, to those who grew up gapping their own sparkplugs.  

Rich Rebuilds is a YouTube channel ran by a dude named Rich (I know, shocking) who rebuilds (you didn’t see that coming) Tesla vehicles. Surely, you have heard of him. If you haven’t, go to his channel now be entertained in a geeky way for hours.

But rebuilding wrecked Teslas can be challenging. Parts availability is one thing and Tesla’s secretive sauce is another. So, what does one do with a Tesla that wrecked beyond the point of bringing it to OEM specification? With this one, Rich chose to do the obvious and almost blasphemous thing – he LS swapped it.

Hilariously named ICE-T, Rich rebuilt the wrecked Tesla’s front-end and dropped in the engine in there. All of this becomes more complicated when one factors in that a Tesla was not designed with a longitudinally mounted V8 in mind. There was no transmission tunnel, no place for fuel lines, a fuel tank, or an exhaust system. Rich had to figure all that out. And then there was the issue of suspension calibration. It’s all more complicated than it seems.

Following that, Rich brought the V8 Tesla to our favorite performance shop – Ace Performance – for some dyno runs. But before that, some mild tuning was done and Rich got a tour of the shop. Watch the video for some seriously cool projects that Ace is working on now.

Back on the dyno, after a bit of an issue, the V8-swapped Tesla made good power. But more importantly, Brian Barnhill from Ace goes into some fundamentals of dyno tunning and the Haltech engine control system. It’s really worth your time to listen to his talk. And then some runs are made. I won’t spoil the final number but it’s what’s expected from a healthy small block.

More impressive than the power is the added lightness of the ICE-powered Tesla. I won’t spoil that, either, and I’ll force you to watch the video. But the final horsepower-to-weight ration of this sedan is not far off from a certain American iconic sports car. And it looks damn good, too. Enjoy the video.

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4 responses to “Tesla: Simplified, with Added Lightness”

  1. Batshitbox Avatar

    Maybe I missed this while I was gapping my plugs; Is torque wrangling an issue here? Or are 21st century cars so overbuilt by law that this SBC won’t twist the chassis the way my mom’s old convertible Camaro 327 did?

    I know Teslas handle a Tesload of torque with the factory motivators, but those motors aren’t putting it all out right at the firewall, and perpendicular to the wheelbase.

    Let me know when they plonk a 6BT in one of these. Ooo! Detriot Diesel 8V71 supercharged 2-stroke!

    1. OA5599 Avatar

      You know that one of Rich’s on-deck projects is a diesel swap, right? It’s a 4BT, but still…

      Your mom’s Camaro twisted in no small part due to the lack of roof on a unibody. Hardtops were a lot stiffer, and ones with aftermarket chassis mods were even stiffer than that. The V8 Tesla build had a lot of jokes about the fabricator learning to weld specifically for this project, but the workmanship revealed him as someone who clearly had a lot of experience. I think if he could scratch-build the front subframe and the rear suspension that cleanly, he could also fab up something to tie them together.

      1. Batshitbox Avatar

        You didn’t think I actually watched the video, did you? I’m far too behind on my This Old Tony and Fireball Machine videos to look at car projects for half an hour!

        I was thinking that with the gratuitous requirements for cabin strength required by law (in North America, a car has to be able to hold three times it’s own weight on its roof* and Teslas are heavier than average) that any off-the-lot sedan would probably have enough inherent strength to withstand a warmed over LS. I think a daily driver probably has a better roll cage than anything NASCAR put on the track prior to 1990.

        *so we beef up the cabin to maker our weight bearing metric, which makes the car heavier, which moves the goalpost , so we beef up the cabin to meet our weight bearing metric, which…

  2. ETP Online Avatar

    This was an epic presentation. Not to mention how you thoroughly discussed on how tesla is simplified with added lightness!