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LT1 Vs. LS1 Engine - The Battle For Bragging Rights

The Battle For Bragging Rights

Jim McIlvaine Nov 1, 2003
0311gmhtp_01_z Lt1_vs_ls1 Pontiac 2/1

Editors spend the dog days of summer criss-crossing the country, tracking down feature cars and attending events that seem to come at a non-stop pace. Rick Jensen ran the gauntlet in late May, spending two of his first full weeks as editor living out of a suitcase, only to come back to New Jersey for our second shootout and find himself waiting out bad weather in a hotel room near Englishtown. On June 10, 2003, Mother Nature finally had mercy and dried the skies long enough for us to get it on.

In our last shootout, we put the call out to LT1 owners who limited their modifications to bolt-on parts. Through carefully selected changes and weight reductions, those cars put up some surprisingly strong numbers, while giving former GMHTP Edtior Johnny Hunkins several ideas for his own bolt-on LT1 project car. This year we extended the invitation to all LT1 and LS1 owners and kept the restrictions to a bare minimum. We wanted the focus to remain on street-driven vehicles, so we required all cars to be registered, licensed and insured in their home state. In keeping with Englishtown's strict 94 dB noise restrictions, we also limited the event to muffled cars with rear-exiting exhaust. Obviously, all cars and drivers had to meet NHRA safety requirements for their specific ET.

Beyond those basic guidelines, the sky was the limit and any combination of nitrous, forced induction and big cubes was fair game. Unlike our previous shootout, weight reduction wasn't a major factor this time around and most of our participants found a way to run fast without sacrificing much in the way of creature comforts. While the LS1s have an edge over their predecessors in stock form, once the modifications start adding up, it's anyone's game. Who would come out on top? Read on.

After nearly a week of steady rain, we were greeted by sunny skies with trackside thermometers at Englishtown hitting a balmy 92 degrees. Relative humidity was decent at 25 percent and barometric pressure sat at 29.97 inches. Density altitude numbers started out the morning around 700 feet, but as the day wore on, they climbed above 2,200 feet. A slight tailwind in the morning shifted direction as the day went on and by late afternoon, cars were fighting a slight headwind. Burnouts lasting three to five seconds were the norm for the day, although those who spent less time warming up their tires didn't seem to be adversely affected. The absence of street tires also kept the track from going away like it would during a regular test and tune.

The consensus opinion was that although the day was long, the staff at Raceway Park was top notch and the shootout went smoothly, with everyone enjoying the experience. Sharing the track with a photo crew and models from Stuff magazine also kept things interesting, to say the least.

Priscilla TrevinoPriscilla easily made the most passes of the day and didn't suffer any drop off in either ET or mph, even though her cooldown between several runs was almost non-existent. Most of the adjustments she made during the day focused on shocks, as she searched for an optimum setting that also helped keep the car stationary while she stalled up the converter. She did notice a slight floating sensation in the car at the top end and is concerned that three years of hard racing is starting to manifest itself in the transmission.

Keith BrantleyKeith was running Hoosier Quick Time Pros prior to the event, but recently moved to full slicks. The stickier meats helped give him the most consistent runs of everyone in the group, with absolutely no tire spin coming off the line. In spite of that consistency, Keith was coping with some shifting issues. "It was probably within a tenth of what it was capable of doing in those conditions, but it kept falling off at about 6600 rpm and I couldn't figure out why. On my second pass, I stayed in second gear trying to confirm it and sure enough it went to about 6600 and laid over," says Keith. He did make some other mild tweaks to the timing and shocks during the course of the day, but Brantley's times hardly budged and his mph was even more consistent. Keith is confident a bigger converter will do a better job of keeping him in his powerband, but realizes the stock 10-bolt will also need some attention soon.

Dennis KazimirDennis is a fixture at Englishtown making as many as 200 passes per year, always driving the car to and from the facility. He found the conditions during our shootout to be very comparable to what he sees there on a normal race car day. "I was spinning just a little bit off the line, but not enough to substantially kill the 60-foot," says Kazimir. Problems did pop up for Dennis later in the day, as the car repeatedly shut off after the 60-foot mark, forcing him to abort those final passes. Dennis also bumped up the shift point from 5500 to 6600 rpm, which shaved a tenth off his time before the weather took its toll on track conditions late in the day.

Miriah SchrammMiriah is a frequent visitor to Englishtown and relished the opportunity to run on the track without having to deal with cars ruining the tacky surface with street tires. She kept the car in third gear during her entire pass and typically launched anywhere between idle and 2000 rpm. Schramm's launch technique and driving approach are pretty straightforward and everyone was impressed by her short times, which hovered around 1.64 all day. Unbeknownst to us, Miriah opened up her cutout on her third pass, but still managed to stay within the track's decibel limits. As she heated up her tires for her fourth pass, track officials determined her exhaust was too loud and parked her car for the remainder of the day.

Travis LinvilleNo one spun off the line more than Travis and his screaming tires did not fall upon deaf ears. One of the other attendees generously offered to lend him a brand-new set of Hoosier Quick Time Pros and Travis gladly accepted. The new rubber made an immediate difference off the line and helped shave some time off Linville's 60-ft. and ET before track conditions headed south for the day. Traction issues aside, Travis was very pleased with the track and his car's solid performance. One of the few power shifters in our group, Travis routinely banged through the gears at 6200 rpm and hit the 1320 at about the same. Breakage was surprisingly non-existent for the day, but Linville came the closest, as his muffler decided to hit the eject button on his final run of the day, coming to a stop about half-way down the track.

Bill MaloneyAs the lone power-adder car in our group, Bill's Vette clearly has the potential to run 9s, as evidenced by the 10.0 he ran a week after our event. A regular at E-town, Maloney usually hits the track between 15 and 20 times per year. His launch technique for this particular day involved coming off the light at about quarter throttle, then hammering the accelerator and hitting the nitrous at about the 30-ft. mark. The window switch on the TNT system comes on at 3800 rpm and shuts off at 6500 rpm, keeping Bill occupied until he hits the traps at about 6800 rpm. The Vette Doctors were very instrumental in getting Bill's Vette dialed in and Carmen Melillo was on hand all day long, tweaking the tuning in-between rounds.

Mike FaeryMike was not pleased with the track conditions and had trouble launching the car all day. He scaled back his normal 4000-rpm launches down between 2500 and 3500 as he searched for the sweet spot. "To try to get the car into the 1.6s, I would let it come out of the hole and then hammer it, I'd ride the clutch, I tried everything," Faery says. He also switched to a shorter belt that bypassed the power steering pump and lowered his air pressure throughout the day, but never managed to better his initial run of 11.44 at 120 mph. Once the car hooked up, Mike shifted at 6400 rpm and sailed through the top end at around 6300, although he typically hits the traps closer to 6600 rpm at his home track.

Ted HunterLow numbers don't always impress folks, especially a guy who disconnected his odometer after about 150,000 miles. Being the slowest car of the day really didn't bother Ted, as reaction time and consistency are of much greater importance to this hardcore bracket racer. All of his passes were within 11 hundredths of each other and his two quickest times (both 12.244) came later in the day, when many of the other drivers' times were getting progressively slower. Ted also managed to cut several .50x and .51x lights in the process. His launches routinely came off idle, with the 1-2 shift point set at 6200, the 2-3 shift point set at 6400 and the car typically hitting the traps around 5600 rpm.

ConclusionWhen initial invitations were sent out, we planned on having six LT1s face off against six LS1s, but attrition took its toll early, particularly on the LT1s. By the time the big day had arrived, only three cars remained to defend the honor of the LT1. Unlike our previous shootout, most of the participants this time around didn't wait until the last minute to throw new parts on their cars and it showed in their consistent ETs. However, future participants should note that two drivers did attempt to up the ante on their torque converters just prior to the event. Both later discovered that the pumpkins shipped to them had a substantially lower stall speed than they had ordered, ultimately costing them precious tenths on the track.

We were certainly impressed with all of the participants, particularly the speed and dead-on consistency of Keith Brantley's Impala, the durability of Ted Hunter's 200,000+ mile bracket car, and Priscilla Trevino's 11-second bolt-on LS1. Bill Maloney's Vette was the quickest car of the day, but we expected that from his nitrous-enhanced 422 cubic-inch combination. With such a wide variety of cars, engine combinations and intended uses, it's tough to determine a clear winner. Inevitably, the choice between LT1 and LS1 will come down to the individual and when given these two options, it's tough to make a bad decision.

Racing was temporarily halted as the twig-like people from Stuff smoked, posed, snapped photos and took cell phone calls by the tree, all the while looking generally pissed to be outside of New York City. It takes a strict diet and a good body to make it in this business.

Any questions?

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