How good are the Gen 3 V-8s? Compared to the original Gen 1 (23-degree) small-blocks, the new motors offer more of everything. That list of everything includes power and torque, fuel mileage, and even reduced emissions. Also missing is engine weight, as the LS1/LS2 engines feature not only aluminum blocks and heads, but also composite intake manifolds. Imagine the response you'd get back in the 1960s or 1970s at the local drive-in after lifting the hood to reveal an all-aluminum small-block.
Now toss in a set of heads that flow more than even ported 23-degree production heads, a lightweight composite intake that offers not just impressive peak power but one hefty torque curve (thanks to the longish runners), and a sophisticated management system that allows the 5.7L LS1 (or 6.0L LS2) to both sip fuel and optimize power production at every throttle angle. And the new LS3 is better still with 6.2 liters and 430 horsepower in base trim.
Following in the footsteps of the original, the LS1/LS2 motors respond equally well to performance mods. Given that time and technology march on, it should come as no surprise that the LS1 heads flow much better than even the trick fuelie heads of yesteryear. While the stock components have improved, so too have the aftermarket versions, as flow figures from a set of ported or aftermarket CNC heads for the LS-series motors easily exceed the magical 300-cfm mark. These are flow numbers only dreamed about by stock 23-degree heads. Only a handful of aftermarket 23-degree race heads can reach 300-cfm figures, a number achieved by properly porting a set of stock LS heads.
Naturally stock LS-series motors also respond well to cam changes. Since it's unnecessary to remove the intake manifold (and distributor) to facilitate lifter removal on the LS-series motors, cam changes on the LS1 and LS2 are a snap. Simply rotating the cam will push the stock hydraulic roller lifters up and out of the way to be retained by the factory plastic guides.
Since the stock components were designed to produce a given amount of power, it's not surprising that aftermarket components can improve an LS1's or LS2's power output. Like all the previous small-blocks, there is power to be had from an intake swap. For LS1 and LS2 motors, the hot setup is actually the factory LS6 intake, though in the case of the LS2 it is necessary to step down in throttle body size. There are a number of other intakes available for the LS-series motors (with more on the way), including carbureted combinations from Edelbrock and GM Performance Parts. Headers are a solid performance upgrade, as are the old standbys like nitrous oxide and forced induction. Add an NOS nitrous kit to even a stock LS1 and you're talking about some serious power. Add it to a modified motor and you're running 10s. The same goes for blowers and turbos, as both the LS1 and LS2 respond very well to boost. Even in emissions-legal trim, a blown LS1 will pump out over 500 wheel horsepower, with 800 wheel hp available for a serious stroker effort. With turbo motors, the sky is the limit, as 1,000 hp is a common occurrence, with the ability to adjust the power output by turning a simple boost knob.
To illustrate the power available from the LS1 and LS2, we gathered together a number of combinations, ranging from 400hp stock applications to 700hp blown and turbo buildups. Since buildups most often include a power goal, we decided to provide LS1 and LS2 recipes to reach 400 hp, 500 hp, 600 hp, and even 700 hp. It's obviously possible to eclipse these numbers, but we thought these power levels best represent what can still be construed as real street motors.
In most cases, we started with a stock LS1 or LS2 crate motor from GM Performance Parts, so these buildups began with what a Camaro, Corvette, or truck owner might currently have under the hood. Since the LS-series crate motors are so popular for street rod and street machine buildups, the recipes illustrate what's possible with modifications to the basic motor. Check out the ease at which serious power is obtained from the LS series and you may rethink stuffing an original small-block in that Camaro, Nova, or Chevelle project.