Photography by Luke Oxley
Cruising through the SEMA show, running to different client meetings, and snapping quick pictures along the way, it takes something pretty crazy to make you completely stop in your tracks – and that’s exactly what happened the first time I saw a V12LS engine. Nestled in a wild 1967 Camaro was a bright-green, ITB’d engine that I didn’t recognize, with a network of headers trailing off of it. Counting the individual throttle bodies, I deduced it was a 12-cylinder, and then heard who I assumed was the owner excitedly telling a crowd of onlookers that this engine was a V12 built with LS engine parts. While I was blown away by this information, I couldn’t stop to chat and headed towards the New Product Showcase Hall to judge some new products as a Global Media Awards judge. This is where I saw my second V12LS, this one in red, sitting on an engine cradle where I could really take in the details of the custom longblock.
Of course, I had to give an award to this engine, as it was not only truly unique, but something I could see builders from all over gravitating towards. That night at the media reception, I met up with the brothers behind V12LS, Matt and Shane Corish, hailing all the way from Australia, and had a great, lengthy chat about the development of their engine. After they had shipped their first batch of engines for 2017, I wanted to follow-up and see how business was going. My chat with co-founder Matt Corish was not only informational, but teased some exciting developments to come. Here’s how it went down:
PAS: Making your own engines definitely means you’re into cars. Tell me about your automotive fascination and where it started.
MC: We both started playing with cars and bikes at an early age, modifying just about everything we could get our hands on. Growing up on a farm, you learn to make better parts when you break something, and we both have a strong interest in anything different, from rotary engines to old flatheads.
Being based in Australia. How would you say the car scene differs or is similar to the scene in the US?
Australia has a smaller population and proportionally less petrol heads, but the Aussies literally drive the wheels off their cars at events. Just Google “Summernats Burnout” and you will see what I mean. In the U.S., the average quality of builds is much higher and you can legally cruise the streets with blowers and big rubber, while things are much more restricted down under.
Was the American market always the plan for V12LS?
Yes, we set out to bring a new dimension to custom car building and America is certainly the place to do that.
We were first exposed to V12LS at SEMA 2016. How was your experience at SEMA, and what did you take away from it?
SEMA 2016 was huge for us. At that stage, we had only two prototype engines; one in the new product display, and one in the V12 Camaro of Mike Heim from Quality Custom Rides. We were there to gauge the response from the industry to see if the V12LS was a product worth pursuing. The response from everyone at the show was amazing! We received five awards, including runner-up for Best Engineered New Product.
Tell me about how V12LS came to be. How did you guys come up with the idea and how were you able to get the ball rolling?
At SEMA 2015, we saw hundreds of highly modified vehicles, crazy trucks and hotrods, but most of them all had one thing in common, an off-the-shelf crate engine. When people saw something different, like a hot rod with a Cummins diesel, they went crazy. We realized we could offer an alternative engine that is as unique as the rest of these builds; something new and exciting.
What kinds of difficulties did you come across while developing the engines? How many prototypes did you go through?
We prototyped three engines and these welded prototypes were very difficult. They had to be cut, machined, V'd out, heated, welded, re-heat-treated, then re-machined to make sure everything aligned again. Fully sealing the water jackets and keeping everything straight while welding was challenging. We have overcome most of these issues now, and casting our own blocks certainly helped with that.
Besides the block, what else does V12LS produce for the engine?
V12LS make everything that you need to build an engine that you can't get from a standard LS engine. This includes the block, heads, oil pan, crank, cam, valley plate, intake, and rocker covers.
Take me through the manufacturing of a V12LS engine. What kinds of techniques and materials are used?
We use a combination of traditional and high tech manufacturing techniques to create the one-piece cast V12LS blocks. Starting with a CAD design of each component, we then CNC-mill the patterns to be used for sand casting. In some cases, we 3D print the sand cores for prototyping, which is great for very complicated cores, such as the cylinder head water jackets.
Once the sand molds are ready, the blocks are cast at the foundry in either iron or aluminum. Aluminum blocks are heat-treated to T6, while iron blocks are naturally aged for a few weeks before machining.
The raw casting is then put on two different CNC machines where all the surfaces are cleaned up and the holes are drilled and tapped.
After CNC machining, the cylinders, lifter bores, and main tunnels are honed to size, and the aluminum blocks are fitted with dry sleeves.
Why did you choose LS engine parts to work with your blocks?
The LS is such a good engine. They are a nice combination of traditional simplicity and modern design. The aftermarket support is huge, so we can buy everything we need off the shelf. Companies like JE Pistons now even offer balanced sets of 12 pistons to suit the V12LS.
Is there a learning curve here, or is it almost the same as working on a longer LS V8?
Any engine builder familiar with the LS can build our V12 the same way they would build the V8. All techniques and tolerances are the same, it just takes a little longer to put together. The only real difference is in setting up the engine management system.
Did you guys ever have a certain application in mind when developing the engine, or was it always meant to be as universal as possible?
High-end custom cars were the applications we had in mind, and, at only 8.8 inches longer than a traditional V8 LS, they will fit in most vehicles that have an inline-six option. The swap is relatively easy into an early GM muscle car and really takes the build to another level.
When a customer orders an engine from you, what kinds of options do they have offered by you?
We offer an engine builder kit, as well as longblocks and turnkey engines. The engine builder kit comes with everything unique to the V12, allowing the builder to create their own V12LS using off-the-shelf parts. We offer LS3 and LSX bore sizes, and either cathedral port or LS7-style heads.
The turnkey engines have a sheet metal intake, and come with a Haltech ECU that’s tuned and ready to drop into the car. We include exhaust flanges, so all you need to do is get some headers made and you are good to go!
What is the performance potential of a V12LS engine? How crazy have you seen things get?
We typically see a little over one-and-a-half times the power of the equivalent built V8, which is due to the perfect balance of the V12 rotating assembly and less accessory drive losses. Our blocks are designed with Siamese bores and extra webbing, making them very strong. Over 1,000 naturally-aspirated horsepower is easily achievable on pump fuel with a street friendly cam. We are expecting to see some boosted engines this year though, which is really exciting.
What have you seen a V12LS swapped into so far?
It’s still early days for us, with only one batch of engines out the door in 2017, but there are some interesting swaps going on. GM cars, such as the Camaro and Tri-Five are most popular. Cheetah Evolution are building a V12LS Cheetah! That thing is going to be crazy.
Personally, I would love to see a V12 GTO Judge. We are also working with a Formula Drift driver on a mid-engine, twin-supercharged V12LS monster.
What’s next for V12LS?
We will continue to push the V12LS engines further with larger heads and boost to see what they are really capable of. We have other designs for unique engines across many makes and platforms.
Any plans for a V12 Barra? (Ford Australia’s awesome 4.0L inline-six engines)
Actually, we are very familiar with the Australian continuation of the Ford inline-sixes and have designed a V12 block that accepts two Ford inline-six heads. Whether or not this will make it into production really depends on demand, but we will definitely make a few prototypes.
You can keep up with V12LS by following them on Facebook (V12LS.com), Twitter (@V12LS_COM), and on their website at V12LS.com. There are definitely some exciting things to come, and we can’t wait to start seeing some V12LS projects pop up all over North America and beyond!