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Engines & Drivetrain
LS3 Engine Swap - A 21st Century Girl
A Second-Gen Gets A Much-Needed Motor Modernization.
Dec 1, 2010
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LS3 Engine Swap - A 21st Century Girl
The first step in the swap process was to remove the old 383 Gen I small-block from the second-gen Camaro. Mary's car weighed in at a hefty 3,571 lbs. and she hopes the LS swap will knock at least 100 pounds off the front. (Photo by Mary Pozzi)
GM Performance Parts' latest crate engine offering is the 6.2L (that's 376 ci for those that shun the metric system) LS3. Rated by GM at a conservative 436 hp, it comes complete from the fuel injectors on the composite intake to the oil pan. At a street price of just over $6,000, it's not cheap. But when you consider it's an all-aluminum EFI small-block, it's certainly a great bang for the buck.
We wanted a bit more power, but we didn't want to tear apart a brand new engine. The solution was to toss in a bigger bumpstick from the folks over at COMP. Turns out that GM fits their crate engines with fairly conservative camshafts. This means that tossing in something bigger, along with a stronger set of springs, can yield even more power. In this case we went with a 219/235 duration 0.607/0.621 lift 113 LSA cam and a set of stiffer valve springs (PN 26295-16). We didn't have access to a dyno, but past testing indicated that this should easily put us over the 500 crank-horsepower mark.
For most people out there, a standard GM clutch would be fine, but Mary is a bit harder on equipment, so we picked up a heavy-duty unit from Centerforce. Their dual-friction system (PN DF395010) has great holding-capacity along with civil street characteristics. We've run this system before and the pedal effort makes it a pleasure to use.
Next we installed the Centerforce 12-inch dual-friction disc and pressure plate. Before torquing the pressure plate to the flywheel, we carefully aligned it using the supplied 26-spline installation tool.
Packaged with the crate engine were two throttle bodies. The spare one is to be used in conjunction with GMPP's computer and wiring harness kit. Since we were running the GMPP electronics, we removed the one with the gold throttle plate and replaced it with the other one.
With the clutch installed, we were able to bolt on the Quick Time SFI-certified spun-steel bellhousing (PN 8020), which came in at a relatively svelte 20 pounds. In addition to being super strong, we've found them very accurate dimensionally. Trust us. An out of shape bell is nothing but headaches down the line.
Mating the new-school engine to the old-school frame mounts used to be a pain. But today it was as easy as calling Speed Tech and ordering up a set of their billet engine plates. In turn, this let us bolt on a urethane motor mount kit from Energy Suspension (PN 31114.G) that would work with the factory frame mounts. Keep in mind that engine plates from different companies place the engine in slightly different locations, which affect trans mount and headers. So do your homework before ordering.
After installing the block shield for the Quick Time bellhousing, we attached the Centerforce billet-steel flywheel (PN 700142) using the torque-to-yield bolts supplied with the kit. The SFI-certified flywheel should easily take the punishment Mary is sure to heap upon it.
Carl Cassanova then gave shop owner Cris Gonzalez a hand bolting up the new Tremec T56 Magnum we sourced from Hurst Driveline Conversions (HDC). HDC was able to hook us up with the trans and all the widgets needed to get it in the car and working. We went with the Magnum that has a 2.66 First gear and a 0.63 Sixth gear.
The shifter that comes with the Magnum from Tremec is pretty good, but it doesn't locate the shifter handle in the right spot for a center console. This short-throw Hurst Blackjack shifter from HDC features a 360-degree Delron pivot ball and will line up our shift handle in just the right spot.
Using a poll jack to support the trans, we then installed the three-piece trans crossmember from Speed Tech. The crossmember has some adjustability fore and aft, which is important since engine placement can vary. For a mount, we used an Energy Suspensions urethane piece (PN 31108) supplied by HDC. We did need to raise the trans tunnel about 1.5-inches to clear the transmission.
The headers fit perfectly and had plenty of room on all sides. The Edelbrock collectors use a durable graphite D-nut gasket for a leak-free seal. Street price on these is just over 500 bucks coated, which we think is a pretty good value.
With the trans attached to the GMPP LS3, it was time to gently slide it into place between the Camaro's fenders.
Headers is another area that use to be a pain and now is relatively simple. Quite a few companies bend up pipes for various Camaros, but we thought we would try out these new ceramic-coated long tubes from Edelbrock. These conversion headers are 1 3/4-inch and step to 1 7/8-inch with 3 1/2-inch collectors. They also come in their Ti-Tech coating, which is ceramic based.
You can spend as much or as little on pulleys as you want. In this case, we just wanted something functional and reliable, and this kit from GMPP fit the bill perfectly. The kit (PN 19155067) included a 150-amp alternator, power steering pump, V7 variable displacement A/C compressor, and all the brackets, tensioners, and belts needed. Since Mary isn't going to run A/C, she was able to use a kit that omits this (PN 19155167). The GMPP kit with A/C runs around $800, and the kit without comes in at a budget-friendly $630.
Given that the GMPP kit uses all OEM quality parts, installing it was very easy and everything fit perfectly. We should note that the low mounting of the A/C compressor wouldn't work in a Camaro application without frame modifications.
EFI-fed LS engines require a rock-solid supply of fuel delivered at around 59 psi. Now this is another area where you can save some money, but Mary is rather hard on her Camaro and wanted top-shelf components. With that in mind, we dialed up Aeromotive and ordered enough parts to feed her LS3.
Our fuel line is AN-06, so we used a step down fitting to connect it to the braided fuel line coming from our regulator. We were also careful to route the fuel line away from heat sources like the headers and exhaust.
And here's our pulley system all installed and looking good. If you're on a super tight budget you could source something like this from a bone yard, but we feel the convenience of having all the bolts, nuts, and widgets along with the sparkly new parts is worth the asking price.
It's easy to overcomplicate a fuel system, but this one is simple. Fuel from the tank enters the 100-micron filter (PN 12304) on the left then pulled through the pump into a 10-micron filter (PN 12301) before going to the bypass regulator (PN 13109). The return off the bottom of the regulator sends the unused fuel back to the gas tank. The pump (PN 11106) is Aeromotive's new billet in-line deal that is rated up to 700 hp in naturally aspirated applications. In some cases an EFI gas tank is required, but due to Mary's driving habits, her tank was already equipped with baffles and a port for the return line.
We then used this trick Aeromotive fitting (PN 15118) to change our factory quick-connect fitting into an -AN style that is easier to integrate. In this case it was from 3/8-inch quick-connect to AN-08.
This kit (PN 19291327) includes the controller, engine harness, mass air flow meter, MAF mounting boss, throttle-by-wire pedal assembly, oxygen sensors, and sensor mounting bosses. The computer comes pre-programmed to run a stock LS3, so we will need to do some tuning due to our earlier cam swap. Cost is typically right around $900.
Installing the wiring harness is a snap due to all the connectors being clearly labeled. We thought it was nostalgic that GM refers to the alternator as a generator. Ahh, the good old days.
We then continued plugging in all the various wires to the throttle body, MAP sensor, fuel injectors, and coils. It really couldn't be any easier.
Moving into the interior, we mounted the throttle-by-wire gas pedal. To get the placement just right, we welded a panel to the firewall and then mounted the pedal in just the right spot so Mary can heel-toe shift with the best of them.
Included with the harness is an OE-style fuse box and all the fuses and relays needed to fire up the LS3. Even more importantly, there was a detailed instruction manual for those of us that are electrically challenged. The fuse box can be mounted in the engine bay or under the dash inside the car.
And with that, the engine was in the car, plumbed for fuel, and all wired up. The only thing left do was figure out the radiator hoses and either run the steam tube connecting the heads to the radiator, or plumb it into the top of the water pump.
The T56 Magnum is capable of accepting a mechanical clutch, but we prefer hydraulic. The GM slave cylinder (PN 15046288) was sourced from HDC, while the modified clutch master and firewall mounting plate came from Speed Tech.
Mary decided she wanted to go with manual brakes, so the first thing we did was remove the power booster assembly. This also revealed the sealed-off hole for our clutch master.
We then installed the Speed Tech firewall mounting plate for the clutch master.
Up until now we've been all "function over form," but there's nothing wrong with doing a little dress up. Besides, one goal of Mary's was to knock weight off the front of her car. These billet hood hinges from Eddie Motorsports (EMS) look great and come in a few pounds under the stockers.
Another benefit of the billet EMS hinges is they offer reduced power struts to accommodate lightweight hoods like this 25-pound carbon-fiber hood from Anvil Auto. Between the hinges and the hood that's over 30 pounds off the nose.
DSE offers engine plates (PN 060404) and mounts to help locate an LS engine in just the right spot to clear their headers.
The super compact Mast M-90 DBW computer easily tucked away into the glove box. We really liked how the electronics are out of the way yet easy to access.
With the plate secured, we then added the clutch master, mounted the reservoir to the firewall and installed the 7/8-inch bore Wilwood tandem master cylinder. The braided line from the clutch master was then plugged into the slave cylinder fitting on the transmission.
The engine for this swap is a badass 6.8L L99 mill from Mast Motorsports. It makes 570 hp at 6,200 rpm and 535 pounds of twist at 5,200 rpm. Inside, there's a Callies crank and rods along with Mahle pistons and Mast's Phaser VVT camshaft. Coincidentally, they ran the exact same Centerforce clutch and Quick Time bellhousing as Mary. Maybe we're on to something.
The new Mast Motorsports engine is installed in Stacy's DSE Test Car and ready to rock. With more power and less weight, we're sure the '69 will even be faster as it blasts through tracks all across the country.
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