It’s been almost a year since we heard about Rich Rebuilds’ plan to transform an electric Tesla Model S into a gas-guzzling V8 sport sedan. And while the car technically fired up for the first time this past May, it took a lot of polishing (and cutting, and welding) to achieve show-worthy condition—all good things take time, after all.
The car finally debuted last month at SEMA, trailered by Rich Benoit and his crew nearly 3,000 miles to be rightfully gawked over. After getting it home and settling in with the project, Benoit has put together a video showing off the intricacies of the build. Now, the Tesla that took SEMA by storm has officially become a road-going car.
Aptly named “ICE-T,” the build features a Camaro-sourced LS3 V8 placed neatly into the Tesla Model S’s frunk. The engine is mated to a sequentially shifted manual gearbox, which is nestled neatly inside a custom-fabricated gear tunnel that spans the length of the car.
From the outside, the Model S looks like any other Tesla—in fact, if it wasn’t for the burbly exhaust coming from the carefully hidden side pipes, you’d never suspect this former EV was up to anything. Even the gas filler neck is hidden inside of the charge port flap, which was enough to trick a gas station attendant.
Building the V8 Model S was a balancing act. On one hand, Rich had to call attention to the car in a sea of other Teslas being shown at SEMA. On the other, he wanted to keep it fairly stock—at least from an appearance standpoint—to juxtapose the internal combustion engine with what’s typically a battery-electric vehicle. Visual modifications were purposefully made to call just enough attention to the car. The exterior was finished in a brownish-copper vinyl wrap, which plays into its nickname—better than “ROOT-BEER,” if you ask me. Lightweight wheels by Weld were then equipped, and the car’s factory suspension was swapped for an aftermarket air setup.
The interior maintains the same ethos. The new gear tunnel hump and Haltech Display Dash below the infotainment screen are dead giveaways that something’s different, as is the sequential gear shifter protruding from the transmission tunnel. However, most of the aftermarket modifications are hidden; the compressors and tank for the air suspension are tucked away in the rear floor of the car. Even the factory displays are functional, albeit riddled with some error messages since the factory drivetrain components have been removed.
Like the errors on the car’s display, there are some small problems that need fixing. For example, the Tesla ironically has charging issues and Rich wants to replace the belt-driven water pump with an electric one. The car also needs to be properly tuned, which is something the YouTuber plans to do before putting it on a dyno or getting a final curb weight. But that’s excusable for a SEMA build with just 50 miles on the clock.
Benoit promises the build won’t be a throwaway car, but instead something he’ll own and tweak for some time. He even took it to a local Chevy dealership for its first oil change.
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