Choosing which engine to build for your project Camaro is serious business. After all, the engine is an expensive part of your build and it’s not something you want to waste money on by not getting it right the first time. In deciding which way to go, the first order of business is getting a firm grip on how you plan on driving the car. If it’s just going to be a cruiser, then something in close-to-stock form is the way to go. If drag racing is your thing, then building a mill that spins high should be the target. However, if you’re like us, then you might have your sights set on whipping around an autocross or road course. In this realm, horsepower numbers need to be set aside and the focus put on the real star of the show: torque. And not just any torque, but low- and mid-range twist. Gobs of luscious torque in the lower half of the rpm range is what gets your car moving and helps you accelerate out of a corner.
Our second-gen project, Orange Krate, is destined to spend a good amount of it’s time pegging the g-meter at various driving events, so we knew that we wanted its engine to have more than just a heaping spoonful of torque. We also realized that it would be seeing plenty of street miles as well, so building some lumpy and obnoxious engine was a non-starter. When we think great power combined with silky sweet street manners, we come up with one platform: the GM line of LS engines. As a bonus, this performance comes wrapped in a lightweight package that can still knock down great mileage numbers when teamed up with the Tremec TKO-600 five-speed overdrive trans we’ll be running from Hurst Driveline Conversions.
With the choice to go LS clear, we just needed to decide on which particular engine to go with. We wanted torque, and nothing makes torque better than displacement. Currently, the biggest aluminum block offered by GM, besides the astronomically priced LS7, is the 376ci (that’s 6.2L for those stuck in metric land) block. Since we’re building from scratch, we also figured we could ratchet up those cubes by going the stroker route. After all, a stroker crank costs only a few bucks more than a forged 3.62-inch factory stroke version, and the extra cubes equates to more torque potential. For a displacement target, we decided to go with a 416, which is a 4-inch stroke teamed with a 4.070-inch bore. Now we’ve see people turn LS3s into 427s by going with a 4.125-inch stroke, but on a factory sleeve, that’s pushing things to the ragged edge and requires a crazy short piston. Again, our plan for Orange Krate is to heap on tons of really hard miles and we felt it was a good idea to trade in some cubes for peace of mind and longevity. So with a plan in mind, and a truck full of parts, we headed over to Turn Key Engine Supply in Oceanside, California, to ratchet together a powerplant for our ’71 project car.