Over the past few years there have been times when I had wished that I had been born in the 50s. During that era I would have been of age to start driving in the 60s and I would have some of the best cars ever built available from which to choose. The 60s driving generation had the opportunity to choose from a handful of 2-seat roadster fitted with a V-8 engine capable of being purchased off of a showroom floor as well as smoking tires on its way out. Most people may not know that the AC Shelby Cobra was originally built from the AC Ace 2, a 2-seat roadster powered by a 2.6 litre 6-cylinder engine built by Ford for their Zephyr model. It wasnt until Carroll Shelby called AC and asked if they could try and fit a larger V8 engine into their Ace 2 would their Shelby Cobra Roadster become world famous. The Sunbeam Tiger was also powered by a 200hp Ford Windsor 289cu. in. 4.7L V8 but started its life as the Series 2 Sunbeam Alpine originally fitted with a 1600cc engine capable of a mere 84bhp. The trend was to take an existing model and put some life into it with a heart transplant!
Fast forward to the mid-80s when I finally obtained my drivers license. The 2-seat roadster was long gone and the best fun car available to me at the time was the front wheel driven 1984-86 Honda Civic CRX. You were hard-pressed to find any magazine comparisons of the Honda Civic CRX vs. the AC Shelby Cobra. In fact, there were no 2-seat roadsters that remotely resembled the original British roadsters of the 60s. In 1989, Mazda introduced a car that changed the sports car world by introducing the Mazda MX-5 Miata. While it certainly has the ragtop roadster feel on the road, it also still had just a 1600cc engine capable of a mere 90bhp. By no means did this make it a bad car! The little Japanese roadster was just missing one thing of which many owners were still seeking. Power. There are companies such as Monster Motorsports that can build a Monster Miata powered by a 302 cu.in. Ford V-8 but they have a hefty price tag of approximately $25,000 and only produced approximately 250bhp. For a fraction of that price there were aftermarket turbo kits available to make the same power.
Fifteen years later a company in Florida called V8 Roadsters developed a subframe which supports any of the LS-series V8 Chevrolet engines and bolts right up to the Miata chassis. The LS-series engines are arguable the most widely used engine for engine-swap race cars being built today and the horsepower entry starts at a whopping 350rwhp from a simple LS1 engine. In order to put any useable power to the ground the drivetrain is beefed up using either a 2004-2006 Cadillac CTS differential or the famous Ford 8.8 axle found in numerous Ford products capable of handling gobs of torque. A GM T-56 6-speed transmission is used to transfer the power to the differential. For the cost of the V8Roadsters kit, engine and drivetrain and various other miscellaneous items to tie it all together you can have a classic roadster capable of providing anywhere from 350 to 600hp to the wheels.
(I'd like to attach a few images here of the LS1 under the hood)
Our particular project cost approximately $16,000 including the price of a used 1994 Mazda MX-5 along with about 80 total labor hours. This is an extremely small price to pay for supercar performance with 0 60mph times below four seconds and double wishbone suspension still capable of pulling 1.1 lateral gs on daily driven street tires.