Name: Tom Halka
Title: Design Responsible Engineer
Years with GM: 35
Other experience: DRE for 3800 V-6 piston and rods, calibrator, emissions-test engineer, power-development engineer
What LS3 part(s) are you responsible for? Piston, connecting rods, pins, rings
What LS7 and LS9 parts are you responsible for? Same
What other Corvette parts have you been involved with in the past? All Gen III and Gen IV pistons and rods, including LS1, LS6, and LS2
Why do you think your LS3 part is the most important part on the engine? Everything about the LS3 flat-top piston is the latest and greatest in terms of performance and refinement. It has a full-floating pin for strength and quiet running, an asymmetrical skirt profile and polymer coating for close fit, and the top groove is anodized for strength and durability.
What is a focus area you watch when designing the LS3 part, especially knowing it is for a Corvette engine? One of my main priorities is making sure that the piston bosses live through high-speed inertia testing. This area has to be absolutely bulletproof. They cannot fail, period. We use structural computer analysis and high-speed dyno testing to prove out the parts. Not only that, I've personally reviewed LS3 pistons run at Virginia International Raceway and the Nürburg-ring as part of the development.
What are the current trends with your LS3 part? Where is it going? We're always looking at more specific power capability. We want to make it as light as possible for high speed but not sacrifice a nickel's worth of durability. One future trend we're watching closely is diamond light coating for rings.
Compare your part to aftermarket parts of the same item. What makes yours better? Our piston design has more analytical backing than any original-equipment Corvette piston in history. Aftermarket piston manufacturers typically don't have the capability to develop skirt profiles for good noise and scuff characteristics with given material properties.
Do you own a Corvette, a classic car, or have a related hobby? I have a rare '79 Buick Century Turbo Coupe with the 3.8L V-6, which was the prerunner to the Grand National [engine]. I rebuilt the engine with many "tweaks," including stock GN pistons. It's faster than a stock GN, while still running the carbureted turbo system. I used to crew for a friend who ran in Formula Ford. I also enjoy NASCAR and go to Michigan International Speedway when I can.