We often talk about the lack of young people getting into the automotive industry, and specifically the engine building niche. However, Olivia Scaffidi is one example of the younger generation looking to do more engine building as she continues to learn the craft. It’s the challenge of building horsepower that she loves the most.
“I like how challenging it is,” Olivia Scaffidi says, who resides in Southern California. “It’s both math and science. Just when I feel like I kind of know what I’m doing, I found out there’s just so much more to learn. I really enjoy that aspect of it. I love working with my hands.”
Olivia, along with her boyfriend Travis, have aspirations of engine building and racing and they share their experience through social media channels such as Instagram and YouTube. Olivia in particular has always been into cars, engines and all things fast.
“I don’t have any family into cars at all,” Scaffidi admits. “My passion has all come from self interest. What really sparked my interest specifically in engines was watching the Motor Trend show Engine Masters and just a real interest in learning how it all works. I love the V8 engine, so I’ve been learning everything I can.
“I have always been into muscle cars and old cars, and I really love late-model engines. I love LS engines quite a bit and my boyfriend and I started getting into the hobby of going to the junkyard every weekend and seeing what they have. From there, it sparked an engine project.
We wanted to see how budget conscious we could be in putting together a really cool combination or my El Camino.”
Olivia’s 1971 El Camino, which is being built-up as a stick shift drag car, will remain naturally aspirated with the end goal being to compete in endurance events.
“The goal is to do an endurance-style event such as Hot Rod Drag Week or Rocky Mountain Race Week, where you have to do lots of driving and lots of racing,” she says. “We’re going to be swapping in a 6.0L that we put together and after that it just needs the cage and its ready to go.”
Olivia and Travis love a good junkyard find, and they often visit a yard located in Sun Valley, CA where they seem to come out with a few gems more often than not.
“We get pretty excited when we find LS engines [at the junkyard],” she says. “We’re usually not very optimistic about finding something good. The fact we’ve found three LQ4s and they’ve all been good for projects is awesome. I have other friends that go to that same yard and they walk away with nothing every time, so I feel pretty lucky.”
One of those 6.0L LQ4s is what Olivia is rebuilding for her El Camino project.
“The El Camino was always a muscle car that I knew I wanted,” Scaffidi says. “Having a bed makes the car just so much more functional for us because we’re always going to junkyards getting engines and other parts. It’s been a really useful vehicle.”
Originally, the El Camino had a 350 small block Chevy under the hood with a COMP Cams camshaft in it, a pair of BluePrint aluminum cylinder heads, a newer intake and a Holley carb on top.
“It’s not completely stock and it’s pretty fun, but I’m so drawn to drag racing that I knew I wanted to step it up quite a bit,” Scaffidi admits.
One of those junkyard LQ4s was just the thing Olivia needed to make the horsepower she was looking for in her El Camino.
“I really love LS engines as a platform because they just make horsepower and I love that you could go to the junkyard and still get a usable block at the very least, or a usable short block, and make a ton of power with them – even naturally aspirated,” she says. “We went to a local junkyard and we found the LQ4 in a three-quarter ton van that we plucked out.”
The engine was in pretty good shape, but it did have a chipped piston, which fortunately didn’t actually damage the cylinder walls at all. Olivia got the engine machined, honed .050˝ over, checked for overall integrity and was even able to keep the crank that was in it.
“It’s 365 cubic inches with a 4.005˝ bore and a 3.622˝ stroke,” she says. “From there, we used Gen IV LS rods, CP Carrillo flattop pistons and AFR Enforcer heads. It’s essentially an LS2. The CP Carrillo flattop pistons have a -2.7cc valve relief on them. The Tick Performance Polluter V2 cam is 239/244 duration at 50 with .635˝/.610˝ lift and that’s on a 111 +2 lobe separation angle. The AFR Enforcer heads feature 210cc runners with 64cc chambers and they flow 268 cfm.
“The AFR Enforcer heads have the cathedral port and they’re AFR’s new budget cylinder head. We wanted to use those to keep the build pretty relatable. Not everybody has $3,000 just for cylinder heads. We wanted to focus on the budget aspect.”
In addition to doing a lot of the engine build, Olivia is also learning to rebuild carburetors, so naturally, the LQ4 got a carburetor setup.
“We get a bunch of flack for being carburetor people, but I really do like that combo, so I’m using a Holley high rise, single-plane manifold with a QFT 750 mechanical secondary carb to top off the whole combination,” she says. “Granatelli Motorsports also sent us the coil packs and valve covers for it to dress it up in an old-school look the way we wanted.”
With some 5w30 oil running inside it, the 6.0L 365 cid LQ4 engine made 570 horsepower and 500 lb.-ft. of torque on the dyno, which Olivia was more than happy with. If you want to follow along with Olivia and her projects, check her out on Instagram and YouTube at @livscaffidi.