Turbocharged 388 cid LS-Swapped 1973 Toyota Celica - Engine Builder Magazine

Turbocharged 388 cid LS-Swapped 1973 Toyota Celica

Proof that cars from the '70s were awesome is Steve Groenink's 1973 Toyota Celica. Saved from a farmer's field, this Celica features a turbocharged 388 cid LS engine capable of 6-second passes. Check it out!

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At the tail end of day one during Sick Week 2023, we were walking the pits and headed for our car to start the journey from Orlando, FL to Bradenton. However, when we passed by Steve Groenink and his 1973 Toyota Celica with a sweet-looking, turbocharged, 388 cubic inch LS engine stuffed between the frame rails, we knew our drive across the state could wait a few more minutes.

Steve had run a fast 7.08 at 198 mph earlier that day and was happy to speak with us about his vintage Celica and its LS-swapped engine combo. As it turned out, Steve has owned this Celica for a while now and has big plans and lofty goals for it, as expected.

“I’ve owned the Celica for 11 years,” Groenink told us. “I found it in a farmer’s field. It had been abandoned for 27 years. I paid like $600 for it and it was a basket case, but all the trim and all the glass was there. I’ve had two or three different builds of it over the years. This current LS setup I completed in about 2017. I’ve put 5,000-6,000 street miles on it since then.”

Steve’s 388 cubic inch LS engine features a Concept Performance LSR aluminum block, a Callies Magnum center-counterweighted crankshaft with a 3.650” stroke, MGP aluminum rods, Diamond LS2K pistons, and a Brain Tooley Racing hydraulic roller camshaft.

“The heads are from a now defunct company called SPS,” Groenink says. “The guy now works for Frankenstein, so they’re similar to a Frankenstein M311 head casting.”

The valvetrain includes titanium intake valves and Inconel exhaust valves with a Texas Speed intake up top and a Shearer Fab intercooler. Helping the 388 LS engine make serious power is a Precision XPR 98mm turbo that typically sees 30-40-lbs. of boost.

“To run that 7.08, it was about 32-lbs.,” he says. “I’ve kind of set my personal limit at about 40-lbs. [of boost] for the week, so we’ll see what it does. I’ll probably just keep the same tune-up in it, but my ultimate goal is to run a 6.90 at over 200 mph, so it’s right there.”

The LS engine is cranking out an estimated 1,400-1,600 wheel horsepower. And since Steve has previously scattered an engine due to weaker rods, he’s upgraded to aluminum rods and wants to keep the engine below the 1,800-1,900 hp range.

“It should make the goals I want to make with that horsepower,” he adds.

As for performance off the track, Steve says the Celica is reliable on the street with the exception of a problem he was having with a radiator fan controller. However, little problems like that aren’t typically an issue for seasoned drag-and-drive competitors like Steve.

“In the past, we did Miles of Mayhem (in Canada) and finished second overall in 2021,” he says. “Then, last year, I had just gotten the engine together and had a bit of an issue, so I just didn’t want to risk it, so we pulled out on day one. This is my first time at Sick Week, which is turning into the World Series of Drag and Drive. I figured if I’m going to make the drive, I’m going to make the drive here. It’s the best of the best prep. The car is on a radial tire, so we wanted to make sure we have good tracks for it.”

A number of competitors at Sick Week travelled a good distance to enjoy the week in Florida, but Steve was among the furthest, clocking 3,200 miles to get to Orlando from southern Alberta, Canada.

Having travelled that distance made even tougher to learn that Steve and his Celica had to bow out of competition in Sick Week 2023 after the end of day one due to issues getting to Bradenton from Orlando. We eagerly await his next drag-and-drive event and seeing him crack off a 6.90 pass!

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor OilElring – Das Original and NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].

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