At the beginning of this year we launched a series of technical articles that have covered Chevrolet Performance's Connect-And-Cruise LSA engine and transmission package, and what it takes to install it into a 1970 Chevelle. Since the LS6 Chevelle was the most powerful muscle car in the Bow Tie line up in 1970, the 556hp LSA was a perfect match.
The LSA is a 6.2L LS platform engine fitted with an intercooled Eaton supercharger. The engine is original equipment in the Cadillac CTS-V and Camaro ZL1 (upgraded to 580 hp). Years ago if you wanted to put an LS engine in your car, you needed to do a lot of custom fabrication and wiring. Thanks to Chevrolet Performance's Connect-And-Cruise line of engine and transmission packages those problems are history.
Dr. Jamie Meyer, Performance Marketing Manager for GM, said, "The Chevrolet Performance engineering team has worked to provide our customers with a turn-key solution for their project car. By providing a brand new, state-of-the art Chevrolet Performance LS crate engine, backing it with a SuperMatic 4L85E transmission, including the transmission hardware, and rounding it out with all of the electronics, it provides for a wonderful foundation for a well-rounded performance car like the D&P Classic Chevy project Chevelle.
"The consumer enjoys the same high performance engine that we install in production cars with a two-year/50,000-mile warranty, and the piece of mind that our engineers have chosen the right parts for them." He added, "The LSA, like the LS3 and 5.3 engines, is available as an E-ROD configured engine package, which provides all of the emissions equipment if that is required in your state. When considered as one crate powertrain package, this is how modern street machines are being built."
Like the doctor said, each Connect-And-Cruise LSA engine and transmission package comes with an installation kit, including flex plates, covers and other important components to keep typical mid-project parts chasing to a minimum.
They said minimum, but there were still supporting items needed to get the motor mounted in the car and hooked up to all the other things, like the cooling and fuel systems. We decided to use as many factory parts as possible to support the swap, so we enlisted the help from our local Chevrolet dealership, Guaranty Chevrolet. This dealership has been the Southern California's leader in Chevrolet Performance parts for more than 30 years. "We have the largest inventory in the Western United States with over 40 employees in the parts department alone. We have the full line of GM replacement and performance engines and transmissions in stock. As a matter of fact we have over 150 engines and transmissions in stock at all time," said Carl Lutes, Parts Manager at Guaranty Chevrolet.
When we couldn't use a factory part, we turned to the aftermarket to fill in the blanks. Darryl Nance of D&P Classic Chevy was instrumental in getting the correct parts and did it as if it were second nature. He said, "At D&P we have been restoring and modernizing classic GM vehicles for decades. We have installed virtually every engine offered by Chevrolet Performance. From the mighty 572 to the dependable 350, we have installed them all in nearly every platform GM offered. My personal favorite and the engine of choice for our customers is the LS. The benefits of improved performance, mileage, and dependability make this a no brainer for many of us. I can safely say that we have done hundreds of engine conversions over the years, and the best engine for the money is an LS. At D&P we have installed everything from the mighty LS9 [ZR1 Vette] to the basic 430 H.P. LS3 and nearly everything in between."
It's been a few months since our last story, as we needed to give the D&P crew some time to button up all the little things. We are going to quickly bring you up to speed on everything that was done from the beginning before we get into what it was like to drive the modern powered Chevelle.
Here is the Chevrolet Performance Connect-And-Cruise LSA/4L85E Crate Powertrain System. It features a 6.2L (376 cubic-inch), 556 horsepower engine fitted with an 1.9-liter intercooled Eaton supercharger. Behind that is a 4L85E automatic trans with a gear set of: 1st: 2.48, 2nd: 1.48, 3rd: 1.00, 4th: 0.75. You also get calibrated engine and transmission controllers, a drive-by-wire gas pedal, ignition, and all the wiring harnesses necessary to run the motor and trans. The controllers are specially designed for retrofit installation in older vehicles, for easier and quicker installation and operation, without the need for third-party tuning.
The oil pan that comes on the LSA is not designed to fit the Chevelle chassis, so a new unit was needed. A Chevrolet Performance Muscle Car Pan kit was ordered from Guaranty Chevrolet. The pan features a profile more suited to muscle car frames. The pan is a factory piece from a different application, so it won't hinder performance. The kit comes with an oil pan, dipstick and tube, bolts, gaskets, pick-up tube, and windage tray.
The LS uses a different motor mount position than other small- and big-blocks. To move the mount where it needs to be for older cars, we used these Holley adapter plates. We used the stock position plates with a set of Tall Narrow urethane motor mounts from Energy Suspension.
The transmission is a bit longer than what was in the car, so a new crossmember from G Force was installed. This is one hefty piece of steel designed to fit in the ‘70 Chevelle with the longer transmission. The integrated exhaust clearance humps will provide much more room for the exhaust pipes, and in turn, give us more ground clearance.
Once the motor was in the car, we found we had clearance issues between the tie rod ends and the oil pan on the driver's side. The cure was to get new tie rod ends that have the grease fitting on the back instead of the side.
The passenger's side also had a clearance issue, but it couldn't be cured with just a new tie rod. There was a boss cast on the side that features a tapped blind hole. The center link contacted the boss well before we got to full lock. With the boss removed we still had contact, so we welded a 1/4-inch spacer to the steering stop to limit the steering just a bit.
The LSA has a drive-by-wire throttle system and thanks to the Connect-And-Cruise packaging, we don't have to scour the junkyards to find a gas pedal to run the throttle. The pedal assembly is not a simple bolt to the firewall installation, though.The assembly needs to be spaced away from the firewall and put on a small angle to clear the floor and still provide full throttle. D&P built a spacer (inset) to mount the assembly to the firewall instead of modifying the car's sheetmetal.
The engine does not come with a front engine accessory drive (FEAD). D&P found that the FEAD that comes on the LSA wouldn't entirely work with the Chevelle. The alternator hit the steering box. D&P got together with Gary Mulder of GM and Carl Lutes of Guaranty Chevrolet and figured out the solution. That was to use a combination of items from two factory systems—the LSA and the LS7. Everything on the passenger's side is from the LSA kit, while the driver's side items are from the LS7. The LS7 kit flips the alternator and power steering placement compared to the LSA. This moves those items up just a bit and gave us the clearance needed, while still being factory off-the-shelf parts.
Since we are putting 21st century technology into a 20th century vehicle, the factory gas tank just wouldn't support the new motor without modification. We went with an upgrade in the way of a stainless steel gas tank from Rick's Tanks. The tank is hand-formed from 304-grade stainless steel and TIG welded. It features a baffle system that controls fuel slosh and surrounds the fuel pickups to eliminate starvation. It came with a matching electric fuel pump, stainless mounting straps, gas gauge sending unit and hardware.
New fuel lines were made out of Earl's components, including Speed-Flex hose with Speed-Seal hose ends. We got the filter/regulator from Guaranty Chevrolet, and it's a key piece to the system. Its design allows you to run a single fuel line down the length of the car and just a short section of hose for a return.
The power steering reservoir took some custom fabricated brackets to hold it to the alternator bracket. It needs to be up high since the LS7 brackets put the power steering pump so close to the alternator that there just isn't any room for it down low.
The lines are also hand-fabbed at D&P out of high quality hose and fittings. The hoses were routed out of the pump away from the belts in a nice sweeping curve over to the top of the box.
To shift the transmission a TCI Fast Gate Shifter was mounted to the floor. The shifter is universal in design, allowing it to be used in virtually any 3- or 4-speed application, either street or race. It comes with a durable injection molded cover, cable and all required hardware for a simple installation. A custom console is being built for the car so the supplied cover is not going to be used.
The motor does not come with a complete intercooler system. D&P picked up a Magnuson Products Intercooler Support Kit, which comes with a reservoir, pump, heat exchanger, hoses and hardware. The pump and reservoir got mounted on the passenger's side area. The heat exchanger was hung on custom brackets in front of the US Radiator. The radiator was a custom piece ordered by D&P that features smaller hose ends to match the LS ports. Then Gates hoses PN22147 for the upper and 9796090 for the lower) were used.
Since the LSA has a front-facing throttle body, it's pretty obvious a traditional air cleaner won't work. An Airaid U-Build-It (UBI) kit was used to create what you see here. The master kit includes an intake tube, coupler, hump hose, reducer, brackets, hose clamps, hardware, and serviceable AIRAID filter. The 4-inch UBI kit features roto-molded intake tubes with multiple angles and straights that allowed D&P to route the intake under the radiator hose and over to the fender.
The wiring of the LSA is pretty straight forward, as everything simply plugs in. Besides finding a good place to mount the control modules, all you need to do is hook up a few power wires and some grounds to the car. D&P placed the modules on top of the glove box under the dash. This keeps them in a safe place and all you need to do is pull six screws from the dash pad and pop it off to service them, if needed. There is a data cable that comes out to let you tune the system if you want and that wire is routed to the bottom of the dash.
We didn't cover the exhaust system in this story but it wasn't a difficult endeavor. D&P took the car to their exhaust guy, and he strung a new set of pipes. He did have to build collectors for the LSA manifolds since they are not offered. He also added the provisions for the O2 sensors.
Time for the driving review of the freshly-built LSA Chevelle. When the car is fired up, its sounds nice and tame, no big lumpy cam or drama that might tell you what's lurking under the hood. If you drive mellow, the car is smooth and refined—almost mundane—until you hit the wick. That's when Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde. The supercharger whines as the R's climb and rear tires erupt into smoke, even at a 30mph roll. With over 550 hp coming out of the engine (along with a mountain of torque), this Chevelle is more powerful than any previous factory offering, even the legendary LS6.
The owner of the car, Eric Walker, showed up just as we pulled in. He hopped behind the wheel while we sat shotgun. Watching him hit the key and hearing his car for the first time was pretty cool as his smile just got wider and wider. He took us on another test drive and when we got back we asked him, "Well, how was it?" Here is his response, verbatim: "When I first sat in the car and turned the key, I didn't know what to expect. When you find a car in a barn that sat for 20 years and then all of a sudden your driving it down a surface street, you start to get a little emotional. Once I pulled out of the garage, I was a little nervous because the motor was so new. I think I was driving it like an old lady at first. I could feel the engine pull me with each throttle, almost like it was telling me to give it more. So I did. OMG—I almost wanted to cry. At half throttle, to feel that supercharged motor purr down the street was unreal. I could feel people looking at me with smiles on their faces, as if they were impressed with my quarter-mile time or something. I haven't had that feeling since my son was born and I love it. This is a feeling I long for, and classic cars brings that out. Let me put it like this. You know when your about to go to prom and you have a pretty girl as your date, but the only thing you can think about is your parents '67 Camaro, or '70 Chevelle they are going to lend you? That feeling of excitement, anticipation, amazement and almost a sense of disbelief? That is how I felt driving for those five minutes down those surface streets. The only difference was I didn't have that pretty prom date, I had a bald editor from Super Chevy by my side. Oh Well!"