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Crane Cam Swap on a 408 LS1 - Science or Sorcery?

Showing just how much difference a cam can make on a 408 LS1

Richard Holdener Sep 17, 2013
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What does it take to add 175 horsepower to your LS motor? The usual answer is forced induction, but what about a simple cam swap? Such a cam must surely combine the wonder of Elvin magic with the technical wizardry of Tony Stark. With no disrespect to Legolas or the invincible Iron man, sometimes facts are even better than fiction. It isn't every day that you bolt on an additional 175 hp with a new cam, nor is it every day that you test a combination that has everything going for it except the cam.

 Ls1 Cam 2/14

If you were to take a NASCAR or Pro Stock motor and stick in a stock cam, what might happen? Whether Sprint Cup or Pro Stock, the rest of the engine combination was designed for a specific cam profile. Replacing that with a mild, stock LS grind will have predictable results—a huge loss in power. We figure a stock cam grind stuck in a NASCAR motor would drop the 800+ hp power output by as much as 300hp or more. The results would be even more dramatic on a 500-inch Pro Stock motor (bordering on 500hp). Swap out that wimpy stock cam and watch the power jump back to where it should be for those applications. Does this mean all cam swaps are worth 500hp, 300hp, or (in our case) 175 hp? The answer is obviously no, but our LS cam swap was much more real world than the NASCAR or Pro Stock examples.

In fact, the Crane cam that netted the extra 175 horsepower was an off-the-shelf hydraulic roller profile that could in no way be considered radical for the intended application. Speaking of applications, the test motor started out life as an LQ4 6.0L truck motor. Thanks to a rotating assembly that included a 4.0-inch Scat forged steel crank, matching 6.125-inch I-beam rods and JE forged pistons, the 6.0L displacement now stood a tad over 6.6 liters. The 4.030-in. bore combined with the 4.0-inch stroker crank to produce 408 cubic-inches. The -10cc dished pistons supplied by JE combined with the 65cc chambers in the AFR heads to produce a static compression ratio near 11.0:1. Balancing and machine work came courtesy of L&R Automotive, while MLS head gaskets and head studs came from Fel Pro and ARP. Keeping all that compression sealed in the chamber was a Total Seal ring package, while Sealed Power and Moroso supplied the new oil pump, pan, and windage tray.

The 408 short-block offered plenty of cubes and compression, but power production for any motor is a function of the heads, intake, and (as we shall see) cam profile. Topping off the 408 was a set of AFR 245 LSX Mongoose heads. The 245 AFR heads offered exceptional airflow, though the chamber size was ideally designed for a 4.125-inch bore combination. Despite being optimized for the larger-bore applications, the AFR 245s worked well on our 4.030-bore stroker. With intake flow topping 350cfm, the AFR 245s were capable of supporting over 700hp, or more than enough for the mild cams we were testing. Though the combination was obviously not destined for towing, we nonetheless selected a truck-based intake manifold in the form of the LSXRT from FAST. Truth be told, eliminating the hood clearance limitations provided a straighter shot for the intake runners on the LSXRT (over the LSXR). The FAST intake was combined with a set of 42-pound FAST injectors, billet fuel rails, and 102mm throttle body. All testing was run through a set of 1-3/4-inch QTP headers (and mufflers) with precision tuning supplied by a Holley Dominator EFI system.

To establish a baseline, we first ran the stroker with a stock cam. The only stock stick we had at our disposal was from a 2004 5.3L LM7. The mildest of the LS bunch, the LM7 cam offered a .466/.457-inch lift split, a 190/191-degree duration split and 114-degree LSA. Using the Holley Dominator system, Westech's Ernie Mena had the stroker combination up and running in record time, and the stock-cammed 408 eventually produced 449hp at 5,100 rpm and 522 lb-ft of torque at 3,900rpm. Obviously the mild stock cam was limiting top-end power, but the 408 still managed to exceed 500 lb-ft of torque from 3,500 rpm to 4,600 rpm. Swapping over to the 240 cam from Crane (PN 1449251) resulted in some serious power gains. The 240 cam increased lift to .600-in. (both intake and exhaust), the duration split to 240/246 degrees, while the LSA remained constant at 114 degrees. Equipped with the new cam, the peak power numbers jumped to 626 hp at 6,500 rpm and 580 lb-ft at 5,400 rpm, a gain of 177hp measured peak to peak. The gains exceeded 220hp at 6,000 rpm and would have increased further had we elected to rev the stock cam past 6,000rpm (where it was falling off rapidly). Whether science or scorcery, one thing is certain—this Crane cam worked like magic on the 408 stroker.

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Scat Rotating 3/14

1 The 408 upgrade on the 6.0L truck block included a Scat rotating assembly. Scat supplied a 4.0-inch, 4340 forged steel crank and matching 6.125-inch rods.

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Forged 4/14

2 JE came through with a set of 4.030-inch forged pistons for the stroker. The design featured a small (-10cc) dish combined with valve reliefs to provide adequate piston-to-valve clearance for our 175hp Crane cam.

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Truck 5/14

3 To establish a baseline, we installed a stock 5.3L truck cam. The smallest of the stock LS grinds, the 5.3L truck cam offered a .466/.457-in. lift split, a 190/191-degree duration split (at .050) and 114-degree LSA.

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Moroso Oiling 6/14

4 The bottom-end was treated to a complete Moroso oiling system, including this windage tray and pump pickup.

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Moroso F Body Pan An 7/14

5 The Moroso F-body pan featured AN fittings to work with a relocated oil filter.

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Afr Mongoose 8/14

6 Topping the test mule was a set of CNC-ported AFR 245 LSX Mongoose heads. With intake flow numbers exceeding 350 cfm, the AFR heads were capable of supporting over 700 hp.

408 Ls1 Cam Swap 408 9/14

7 Run with the stock 5.3L cam, FAST LSXRT intake and Holley Dominator EFI system, the 408 stroker produced 449 hp at 5,100 rpm and 522 lb-ft of torque at 3,900 rpm. Torque production from the 408 exceeded 500 lb-ft from 3,500 rpm to 4,600 rpm.

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Meziere Electric Water 10/14

8 Off came the Meziere electric water pump, damper and front cover to provide access to the timing gear. The upper and lower gears were then lined up with the number 1 piston positioned at TDC (not shown in photo).

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Meziere Electric Water Pump Remove Cam 11/14

9 After removing the cam sprockets and retaining plate, we rotated the cam to push the lifters up into the plastic retainers. The long lifter retaining tools provided extra insurance against the lifters falling into the motor during the cam swap.

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Remove Stock 12/14

10 Out came the stock cam and in went the “MAGIC” Crane cam. Designed by Stark Industies and forged by elves, the 240 cam offered .600-in. lift, a 240/246-degree duration split and 114-degree LSA.

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Engine 13/14

11 After the cam swap, the combination was run once again on the engine dyno to the tune of 626 hp at 6,500 rpm and 580 lb-ft at 5,400 rpm. Generally speaking, huge power gains (177 hp measured peak to peak) come with a loss in low-speed torque. This Crane cam swap suffered very little in the way of low-speed power compared to the stock cam and we would gladly trade 10-20 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm for the extra 221 hp that came at 6,000 rpm!

408 Ls1 Cam Swap Chart 14/14


Air Flow Research
Valencia, CA 91355
Crane Cams
Daytona Beach, FL 32117
JE Pistons
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Holley Performance Products
Bowling Green, KY 42101
Memphis, TN 38118
Scat Enterprises



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