LS1 5.7L V8 Swap: 1989 Isuzu Spacecab Pickup

LS1 swaps are all the rage these days, almost to the point of being somewhat tiresome. Pity the guy who walks into a web forum or message board and thinks he’s being funny when he suggests an LS1 swap as an attempt at humor – we’ve heard it all before. But the good news is, there’s no shortage of swaps that can be performed these days, thanks to seemingly endless pages of information detailing the pluses and minuses of undertaking a swap on a particular platform. This is the first time I’ve seen an Isuzu Spacecab pickup used as the basis for an LS1 conversion, and it looks to be quite well done – check it out here on craigslist with an asking price of $16,500. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find. 

I always struggle with how do you assign a price tag to something like this. Yes, there’s a ton of money invested here, particularly in the drivetrain, a fact no one will dispute. Where it gets hazy is whether someone would rather pay $17K for a swapped Isuzu pickup, or that same price for a mint condition survivor with its original, wheezy engine. Plus, there’s the vehicle itself, as not everyone dreams of finding an Isuzu pickup with a V8 under the hood. You really have to approach these projects without any preconceived notions about which vehicle is the best basis for the conversion, as they’ve become so easy to perform that there’s no longer a “standard” swap model.

While the purist in me is inclined to say I’d rather find a four wheel drive Isuzu P’up with the the extra space behind the front seats and the standard engine in minty condition, I can also understand how this conversion could make sense for the builder. I have a 1986 Trooper, and it’s slow even by glacial standards. If it had a V8 under the hood, I might be more inclined to use it in every day traffic, as opposed to now, where I have to plan my highway merges very carefully and try to limit use to backroads only. The seller notes there is 90,000 miles on both the body and the drivetrain, and that body and interior condition is said to be excellent. Would you daily this swapped P’up or keep it for weekends only?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    After having an early ’80s Mazda pickup as one of our shop cars I would most certainly have done an engine swap if we planned on using it for anything but running around for parts. If you were going up to 60 mph with it you were wise to bring your lunch along. Dependable but really, really slow. Wouldn’t use this truck for parts running but would put it on the road anytime.

    Like 3
  2. Tony Primo

    You could probably make a few bucks with this truck if you could find a few suckers to race. The word would get out fast now though.

    Like 5
  3. Matt

    For $10,000 I’d daily the heck out of this rig, but for $17,000 I can get a nice C4 or C5 that won’t drive me nuts trying to figure how to fix whatever custom part broke.

    Like 12
  4. Marko

    I think if I had the loose cash to buy this Isuzu, I would do it just for the sheer enjoyment of leaving other supposed hot rodders in the dust, scratching their heads.

    Like 5
  5. Steve R

    The seller is lying. He claims it’s smog, that’s not the case since it’s in San Jose California, because of that I wouldn’t trust anything he says.

    Steve R

    Like 2
    • Jack M.

      There are roughly 40 million people in California. There are 291 million people in the other 49 States. I live in Canada with a population of 33 million people the majority of which couldn’t care less if California wants to pass it or not. Very cool swap.

      Like 14
      • Steve R

        The ad is on Craigslist, that comment about Hagerty classic car insurance along with being smog exempt was designed to deceive local buyers. That means he’s dishonest. If he wasn’t trying to deceive buyers he would have advertised on a nationally oriented site and spelled out the car needed to be sold out of state.

        Steve R

        Like 6
      • Steve R

        I forgot to add, if a seller is lying about something as basic as being smog exempt, that means they are willing to lie about everything.

        Steve R

        Like 9
    • angliagt angliagt Member

      That jumped right out at me.He probably means
      it won’t pass smog in California.It’s probably registered
      out of state (doesn’t show the plates).

      Like 1
    • Mr.BZ

      I agree about the smog, Steve R. I recently escaped the insanity of the bay area and nothing from ’86 is exempt, unless he means he lives in a rural county that does not smog test, if those still exist.

      Like 2
      • angliagt angliagt Member

        All pre- ’76 gas vehicles require a smog check.
        In “Non-smog” counties,you’re only required to smog
        when you sell (Seller’s responsible),& the “Smog”
        counties you are required to smog EVERY two years.

        Like 2
    • alphasud Member

      You may be right Steve but it’s up to the buyer with any private sale to do the research and if you are not mechanically inclined schedule with a shop to perform a pre-purchase inspection. Certain areas in California are subject to enhanced emissions inspections. Same can be said across the country. I have worked as a technician in PA, CA, and CO over the years. Colorado Denver metro was the most strict. Again it’s up to the seller to determine what needs to be done to satisfy the state.
      This truck can be certified and registered in every state I mentioned. I just needs to have the factory emissions equipment from the Corvette and will have to test as such. The fact that it’s a LS series engine will make it easier with the state arbitration because it’s a well documented engine.

  6. KEVIN

    Joe Isuzu approves

    Like 7
  7. Skorzeny

    Tiresome? There is nothing tiresome about improving performance reliably, and relatively inexpensively with an LS motor. And this is a great looking LS.

    Like 3
    • ousooner919 Member

      ….aaand there he is. No need to get butthurt about it…for many of us, they actually are pretty tiresome.

  8. Jcs

    Anyone buying this rig probably doesn’t want to live in the Peoples Republiç of California anyway. Cool little truck.

    Like 17
    • angliagt angliagt Member

      Your comment makes no sense at all.

      Like 4
      • AZVanMan

        Driving a highly modified gas engine truck in the most heavily-regulated state in the union? I think I get Jcs’ point.

        Like 12
      • Mark

        You need to study up on Commie-fornia. The scenery is beautiful but that’s about it. They have the highest income tax, highest suicide rate, highest drug death rate, highest homeless rate & they tax EVERYTHING. And that’s just tip of the iceberg. The populace is raised on “victimology” . On a side note, I’d buy this truck. I think it’d be a fun daily & it reminds me of the Mitsubishi Mighty Max I drove back in the 80’s.

        Like 2
  9. Dan B.

    Awesome swap. As a Californian and a car guy, I’m a bit perplexed about the claim that it’s smog-exempt. It’s not, unless you also swap in the cat and all pollution control equipment from the newer engine and have a smog ref sign off on it. This gets you a CARB sticker for the engine bay. That part is actually pretty easy if one takes the time and extra effort to do so.

    Like 1
  10. BigBlocksRock

    Can you say “Chev-er-ray”?

    Like 1
  11. sw2cam

    I thought it was the communist state of california.

    Like 6
  12. Justin

    They do have russian bear on flag

    Like 2
  13. Justin

    They have strong russian bear on flag.

    Like 2
  14. sw2cam

    Not many commiefornian can read. Government says soon schools close so there is more money for parties pockets. The only roads that are fixed go to party leaders house.

    Like 1

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