For years we've discussed the advantages of LS powerplants, mostly in respect to their power potential, along with the benefits of modern-day fuel injection. In the past the biggest drawback was the cost involved to get into one. These days the Gen III engines have been out for well over a decade so we're seeing the transition from an expensive piece of high-tech aluminum to a more down-to-earth, reasonably priced commodity that the average hot rodder can afford.
Within this family is the Vortec 5300, also known as the LM7. These cast-iron 5.3L powerplants were introduced in 1999 and utilized in various truck platforms, including the Tahoe, Silverado, Suburban, Avalanche, and two-wheel-drive Escalade. This engine had a slightly smaller bore-3.78 inches versus the 3.90 LS-and the stroke remained the same for both, 3.62 inches. We're talking about a 325ci versus 346ci mill, making it very similar and able to take advantage of the LS bolt-ons from the aftermarket. Of course, if you prefer its aluminum counterpart, you can also look into the L33, which can be found in '05-07 four-wheel-drive Silverados, but chances are you'll have better luck getting your hands on the cast-iron piece.
This month we follow along as one of our colleagues, David Stoker, drops in a 5.3L into a newly acquired '72 Nova. Far from refined, the car's a fairly straight roller, mostly intact-and more importantly, the price was right. Says Stoker, "The plan is to build a reliable driver out of it. Nothing fancy, just comfortable and something I wouldn't have to worry about with door dings."
Stoker started by purchasing a low-mileage 5.3L assembly from the local salvage yard for $750, which seems to be the going rate, and it came with the factory harness, computer, and injectors to the front drive assembly and belt. For a grand total of $1,300 he even brought home the 4L60E transmission that was originally hitched to it.
To handle the LS transplant, we started with a Turn Key Engine Supply LS conversion kit. A bit of advice, though: Turn Key offers a variety of kits for an infinite number of vehicles, so be sure to call directly for your specific application. From there, we utilized a few select components and began the transformation.
Bear in mind, a project like this is going to require a bit of sweat equity, and the difficulty is really determined by your level of experience. This particular project was handled at home. Should you take on a similar assignment, we're sure you'll agree that the price is right and the results will make you want to do it again. Follow along as we give you the general idea of what's involved and the components it takes to get the job done.
What We Did
Upgraded to a modern-day powerplant