GM Performance Build Center - Trickle Down Effect

When GM Needs High-Tech Horespwer, It Turns To The Performance Build Center.

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Speculation on what will reside under the hood of the new Camaro runs rampant around the Internet. Undoubtedly there will be a base V-6 model, and the V-8 version will most likely roll under the power of an LS3 mill.

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But if fortune smiles upon those who consider themselves loyal Camaro fans, GM just might build something really special. After all, what would be cooler than some sort of COPO edition fifth-gen Camaro with 427 cubic inches of LS7 goodness under the bonnet?

If that sounds like crazy talk, consider this: With the release of the LS9, the LS7 is no longer the baddest dog in GM’s kennel. Add to that the existing precedent of Corvette technology trickling down to the Camaro, and the idea doesn’t sound so whacked.

In any event, if GM decides to stuff something cool under the hood of the new Camaro, then chances are it’ll come from the Performance Build Center (PBC) in Wixom, Michigan.

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Wixom is where GM turns for hand-assembled engineering masterpieces like the LS7 in the Z06, the supercharged Northstar in the V-series Caddies, and the 638hp LS9 for the new ZR1 super Vette. Engines aren’t built at Wixom by preprogrammed robots; real live flesh-and-blood craftsmen
build them.

These are true gearheads who take so much pride in their work that their name is prominently displayed on the finished product.

When Camaro Performers magazine was invited to visit Wixom—in this case to watch them build one of the first LS9 engines—we jumped at the chance to see how GM goes about hand-assembling one of their potent V-8s. After all, if we wish hard enough, maybe one will wind up in a future Camaro. n

The inside of the Wixom plant is squeaky clean and laid out around three main production lines. These lines can be quickly reconfigured to build either LS7s, LS9s, or blown Northstar engines. The blocks and cranks in the foreground are newly arrived LS9 pieces awaiting inspection. The parts that arrive from the suppliers are supposed to be clean, but GM Powertrain does it again just to make sure. Any contaminants are caught in a filter. After this initial washing, the blocks are placed in this pressure wash booth, blasted spotless and then air-blown dried.

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Organization is the key to hand-building reliable performance engines on this scale. Each builder takes an engine through a series of stations, from bare block to finished product. Each station is laid out to accomplish a specific task. Only the tools needed are on hand. The task sheets are color-coded: green for LS9 and white for LS7 engines. If this were an LS7 build, the white tray (red arrow) would hold all the parts needed at this station. For LS9 builds, the parts are in job-specific green bins. Note the computer-controlled torque wrench.

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