This LS3-Swapped, All-Wheel-Drive Chevy Sonic Rally Car Is Ridiculous

Now that's a gravel-chucking machine.

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Midwest Motorsport Media

We're always down for a good V-8 swap, and this one is exceptionally cool. It's a Chevy Sonic hatchback rally car that's had an LS3 crate motor shoehorned under its hood, and equipped with all-wheel drive. After seeing a video of it flying through the forest (shown below), we just had to know more about this thing. So we talked to Pat Moro, driver and the owner of PMR Motorsports.

Moro and the rest of the PMR Motorsports team have been competing in stage rally for years, starting out with Subarus before eventually moving to the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship using highly modified all-wheel drive Chevy Sonics. The idea to build an LS3-powered rally car came from Moro’s desire for low-end torque and immediate response that the usual turbo inline-fours couldn’t provide. After the Red Bull series dissolved, PMR was left with an unused Sonic rallycross car, which eventually transformed into the V-8-powered beast you see here. The four-cylinder engine was swapped out for an LS3 crate motor, and fit onto the existing all-wheel drive system and six-speed sequential gearbox. He sent me a collection of photos from the build process, which give an idea of how he and his team went about completing the car.

Since the car was already built for the extreme environment of rallycross, Moro says there wasn’t too much more work that needed to be done to turn it into a stage car. The subframe was adapted to fit the motor, and the long-travel suspension was carried over. It sports widebody fenders, a full roll cage, racing seats, and meaty gravel tires. For those wondering whether the addition of four extra cylinders on the nose might affect balance, get this: According to Moro, the V-8 is actually 17 pounds lighter than the rallycross engine. Gotta love an LS.

Moro tells me there’s still a lot of shakedown sessions needed to get the car dialed in, but the brief time he’s spent behind the wheel so far have been exciting.

“It’s kinda like a shifter kart, it’s so much easier to control [versus a turbo-four car] because you have so much range to go through,” he told me. “It’s such an enjoyable rally car to drive.”

As for overall weight, well, it is much heavier than a normal Sonic—but not for the reasons you might think. The car weighed 2861 pounds when it was built, but rules have since been added by the ARA Championship (the series the car was built to compete in) that restrict weight minimums based on displacement. Because Moro’s Sonic now displaces 6.2 liters, it has a weight minimum of 3200 pounds. He’s had to add literal blocks of lead to the interior to get the weight up. “We might have the heaviest Chevy Sonic on the planet.”

Moro built this car with reliability in mind. The engine is detuned, and uses a lot of off-the-shelf parts. It even runs on pump gas. If something breaks, odds are a replacement part can be found at the local AutoZone. Worst-case scenario, an engine blows up and you’re out $8000—not a huge amount in the world of top-level stage rally. When compared to something like an R5 Fiesta WRC car, which uses specialized race gas and needs its engine rebuilt every 2000 miles, this V-8 Sonic actually starts to make sense (as crazy as that sounds).

The LS3-powered Sonic will make its competition debut at the 100 Acre Woods Rally on March 15th, 2019. We can’t wait to see how it does.

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