Some call it a trend, but the fact is modern-day LS powerplants are finding their way beneath the hoods of our favorite street machines.
The smaller LS variant, namely the 5.3L (also called Vortec 5300 and LM7) engine, is growing especially popular these daysbut why? For starters, originally offered in 1999, it was placed in a variety of truck applications, making it widely available. And these little gems featured the same 3.62-inch stroke as the 5.7L counterpart, only with a slightly smaller bore at 3.78 inches instead of the 3.90 inches. The difference really comes down to cubic inches at 325 ci versus the 346 ci. The other notable feature is the block construction; both are offered in aluminum, but the cast-iron 5.3Ls are easier to get a hold of.
Rather than just talking about it, we wanted to showcase how well a factory 5.3L would respond with a small shot of nitrous. Our test subject belongs to one of our esteemed associates, David Stoker, who recently dropped an ’04 vintage 5.3L drivetrain into a ’72 Nova. The entire package costs just under $2,500, including the salvage yard 5.3L, the 4L60E transmission that was attached to it, and the Turn Key Engine Supply retrofit kit.
Aside from the late-model powerplant, the Nova still sports its original suspension. The only other big-ticket item, if you can call it that, is a 10-bolt rearend with 3.42:1 gears that he scored off the local classifieds. With everything in place, we’re talking about a 3,300-pound cruiser (without driver) that rides on a set of 26x8.5 Mickey Thompson ET Drag slicks at the track for extra bite.
When it came to the baseline numbers, the little 5.3L proved it was no slouch by belting out 8.59 at 81 mph in the eighth-mile, approximately 13.40 in the quarter-mile. Sure, that’s a solid number, but we wanted to see the gains to be had with an additional 125hp shot from our Nitrous Oxide Systems EFI Wet Plate system (PN 05168).
At the end of the test session, the results were impressive, to say the least; this budget-based Nova has enough oats to eat up the heartiest of street contenders. We also appreciate the fact that Stoker isn’t afraid to show it off at the dragstrip, and that alone is enough to put a great big grin on our faces.
|*E.T. (quarter-mile conversion)||13.40||11.86|
|*Based on 1.56 conversion factor|
|Mickey Thompson ET Drag|
|Tire Pressure||13 psi|
|Nitrous Oxide Systems||05168||125||55/35 (Nitrous/Fuel)|