With the introduction of GM's LS engine family, the Gen II LT1 and LT4 small-blocks have been all but forgotten. It's a shame, because they offer easy retrofitting into older cars originally equipped with a standard small-block (the mounts literally bolt right up), come stock with great-flowing aluminum heads, and offer lots of performance for the dollar.
One of the hassles with getting these motors going in a car that didn't have an LT1 from the factory is the fuel injection system. While the systems are pretty advanced compared with the earlier TPI and TBI setups, simple performance upgrades or using a nonstock transmission can make the stock computer go nuts.
Our $400 Craigslist-score '83 Z28 was originally a Crossfire Injection ride, but that lump was mercifully replaced at some point with the LT1 out of a '94 Camaro. Our initial excitement was short-lived, however, because when we hooked the laptop up to the car's PCM (power control module) we learned it was throwing just about every smog-related trouble code possible. No wonder the seller's ad said, "No smog shop will touch this car with a 10-foot pole!" Undeterred, we hopped on PCM for Less (pcmforless.com), a company that literally tunes hundreds of cars a year, both by mail-order and on the dyno. That volume allows the company not only to offer its product at a cheap price, but it ensures that you get the max performance out of your car. We opted for the email version of the tune. You just enter the modifications of your car, and in a few days you'll receive a new operating program. The only equipment needed to load it is a Windows PC, a cable ordered from one of the many sources on the Internet, and the ability to click a mouse.
The performance gains and improvement in overall driveability are definitely noticeable. The PCM controls nearly everything in the drivetrain: fuel delivery, timing, even the automatic transmission line pressure. The new program optimizes these settings and also gives you the option of deleting the smog controls. Since our car has seen the street for the last time, we tossed the emissions stuff and never had to get greasy doing it!-Vince Stroud