We often talk about the lack of young people getting into the automotive industry, and specifically the engine building niche of the industry. 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 experiences 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.”
In addition to her love of LS engines, Olivia also prefers carbureted setups to more modern EFI, which got her interested in learning how to rebuild carburetors.
“I’ve been having fun with that,” she says. “I love seeing something I worked on directly come to life.”
Much of the work Olivia does on her engines and car projects happens in her garage, but on occasion she gets to utilize a shop owned by her friend Josh. As mentioned earlier, all of Olivia’s projects are well documented on social media, where you can follow along.
“I actually started out in the automotive industry by doing photography and writing for different automotive magazines,” Scaffidi says. “I really enjoyed doing that and Instagram was a way for me to share what I was doing. I got started with Instagram about three years ago. It became a really good marketing tool for myself and allows me to work with different aftermarket companies, promote products that I already love while also getting to work on my own two race cars and hopefully get into more engine projects.”
Olivia is currently focused on a 1971 El Camino and a 1971 Firebird, both of which are being built-up for racing.
“The El Camino is being set up as a stick shift drag car, while the Firebird is more of a really basic, run of the mill F body,” she says. “It has a stock LS1 in it, but my goal is to get an LS3 block and build a 416 or something. Both of those combinations are going to stay naturally aspirated. Everybody wants to do turbos and boost, but we just really like naturally aspirated stuff.
“The goal with those vehicles 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. The Firebird is almost done. It just needs a couple more things in terms of suspension. The El Camino 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.”
Being relatively new to the world of engine building can be tough for anyone, but being a woman learning the tricks of the trade comes with additional challenges. However, Olivia says her experience thus far has been mostly positive.
“Every girl is different, but I’d say in my experience, 90% has been really positive,” she says. “Most people who I talk to are just looking to help out and lend knowledge and advice where they can, and then you have those few people definitely on social media where they just don’t take you seriously, or they think you’re just posing there with the engine and you didn’t really build those cars. You get a couple of those people, but I would say the overwhelming majority has been supportive. The opportunities I get being a girl in this industry has far exceeded anything I thought it would be.”
For now, Olivia is laser focused on soaking up as much engine information as she can, while also striving to get involved more in the race scene.
“I’d love to finally wrap up both of my current builds and actually start racing,” Scaffidi says. “That’s something I’ve always wanted to do is go drag racing and actually have fun with my cars. That’s my main priority is to get out and go racing and get some experience behind the wheel.
“Looking more long-term in the industry, I’d like to be doing a lot more of what I’m doing already – more stuff with social media promotions and a lot more YouTube content. Once I have my cars functioning, I’d like to get away from the cars for a bit and just do engine projects and focus on growing my social media following.”
Looking beyond her El Camino and Firebird builds, Olivia is eyeing a dream project with a late-‘60s Pontiac.
“One of my dream projects would be to take a ‘66 or ‘67 Pontiac A body like a Tempest or a LeMans and ultimately build that into a burnout vehicle with a supercharged LS with an old-school blower on it,” Scaffidi says. “I just love those burnout contests that they’ve been doing as of late.”
With her drive and determination in all the right areas, we’re looking forward to seeing Olivia continue to grow in this industry. If you want to follow along, check her out on Instagram and YouTube at @livscaffidi.