Rare Car Network

Rare Car Network
Unique Classics, Replicas and Build Culture
						Renegade Hybrids B6
Bowtie Brigade

Renegade Hybrid's LS-equipped Lotus and Porsches

Editor’s note: Renegade Hybrids has been known for replacing Porsche power plants with Chevy V8s for several decades. I recall a version with a 350 Chevy in a 914 built by the founder with this setup, and later on a 944. Both were way more fun than the stock engine, and nicely balanced to boot.

Fast-forward to today, and the current owner, Scott Mann (a pro driver and instructor as well), has plenty of other hybrid cars at his Las Vegas facility. They now include LS V8 conversions for the Porsche 914, 911, 996, 928, 944, Boxster, Cayman and Lotus. We drove a few of them, and came away totally impressed. The cars feel like factory offerings — only better. Looking at the components, it’s clear that Mann and his crew are dedicated engineers and technicians, to ensure all of these conversions perform seamlessly.

The latest is the LS-powered Lotus, which he waxes about below. Enjoy his colorful descriptions, but keep in mind that there’s a whole lineup of other LS conversions available — and even more on the way.

By Scott Mann

Photos by Steve Temple

Back when tube-chassis and fiberglass were not just relegated to the kit industry, disco-lovin’ hipsters that couldn’t see out of the Countach or afford a Ferrari 308 found lust in a Lotus Esprit.

As bell-bottoms turned to parachute pants, the supercar industry was just out of puberty and beginning to explore its manhood. Uncomfortable, impractical, noisy, nasty, temperamental two-seaters dominated the parking valets on Rodeo Drive and south Miami Beach. Hoping to catch a little of the wind from the blowhard American market, Lotus slapped the word “turbo” on the side of a sexy door wedge and gave it a metrosexual name: the Esprit.

Even with questionable build quality, a little ancient engineering and a tiny budget, Lotus managed to keep the Esprit on the market and on the silver screen, with James Bond behind the wheel for way over a decade. However, even with the lightweight design and a stripped-down package, the four-banger turbo was no performance match for the big boys. Time to add four more squirrels and actually use the engine bay to its full potential! Oh, and I almost forgot, double the price.

Fast-forward all the way to 2017 and meet a slightly eclectic car buff that lived and worked the LA scene for 30 years. Never short of words, opinions, stories, or out-of-the-box ideas, Scott Mann (that’s me) is the owner and engineer of a Vegas-based company, Renegade Hybrids.

Yes, that’s the same company that does the Chevy V8 installs in Porsches. (You can already tell where this one is going, right?) “It was an obvious conversion,” I said to myself, glancing at the metallic blue ’83 Esprit with satisfaction. “If Lotus did it, and we can do a Boxster and a 914, this should be easy!” (Turns out that was definitely not the case.)

We are spoiled with the Germans that over-build everything. Lotus was more minimalistic and almost dainty with all that they touched. However, this did not discourage me from doing what Renegade does best. After all, if Lotus is all about saving weight, the ultralight and compact LS-based GM V8 would be a perfect candidate, this time wrapped with British tubing and glass.

Before you scoff at the magically appearing “LS-everything” phrase, let’s at least crunch the FAQ’s. Same weight? Almost. Chassis mods? Nope. Fiberglass mods? Very few. Tranny? Boxster S six-speed. Shifter? Also Boxster S. Cooling? Stock with upgraded fans. Gauges? Speed Hut. Brakes? Wilwood. AC? Yes. Conversion kit? Renegade! Most important, does it haul butt? You bet is does! It all makes sense — especially in the eyes of a renegade like me.

Be reminded that you are driving an ’80s Euro-beast when you position your feet in the tiny pedal-box, but a quick tap of the key takes you straight to computer-aided bliss. Direct from GM Performance, the E-Rod LS3 V8 idles like it should be moving thread instead, and roars like something out of Jurassic Park. No sweat for all 430 horses to rip the tires free in three out of six gears. But when it’s time to gobble up a desert bi-way while listening to the dulcet sax of Kenny G, you can almost hear the tape hiss!

Mann has considerable seat time pressing down on the loud pedal at 50-plus racetracks abroad. Having driven a stock Esprit hoping to find the “spirit” many years ago, he recalls only that it was “forgettable.” This car needed the power and seamless shifting to move beyond dorky. It’s still a proper mid-engine sports car, with good balance and a stable road feel. The conversion takes nothing away from the experience. Quite the contrary, honestly. It has been reborn as a supercar yet again!

Any complaints? Not really. The conversion is so good, it kind of reminds the driver that we are truly spoiled by today’s technology. If you have a little “retro” in your heart, and the Lotus Esprit was on your wall when you were a kid, this is the way you should own one.

Comments for: Bowtie Brigade

comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories You Might Like

Filed Under

Engine Swap GM LS