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LS Engine Swap Tips - Heart Transplant

Here are the latest products to help you swap an LS motor into your vintage Chevy.

By Mike Copeland, Photography by The Super Chevy Archives

Back in 2009 when LS swaps were gaining ground, we had Mike Copeland write an in-depth story on the things you need to consider when swapping in an LS engine into a vintage muscle car. Mike was the project manager for the Performance Vehicles division at GM then and is now the operations manager at Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, so he knows a few things about the LS platform. Fast forward just two years and the aftermarket is in high gear, producing a lot more products to support such a task.

It was time for us to bring that story up to date and also show y'all where to get the latest and greatest products for the LS. We have broken the story up into specific sections like wiring and exhaust that will highlight the things you need to consider and the products that are available.

Engine

First off, you need to know where you can actually get the LS motor for your swap. Obviously a wrecking yard will be a good place to look for used engines. Try and pick up the computer, harness and gas pedal if at all possible. If you go that route, make sure the yard offers some sort of return/exchange policy just in case your engine turns out to be broken. If you would rather have something new, then you will need to contact an aftermarket company. GM Performance Parts has crate versions of just about every LS available from the simple LS1 up to the badass supercharged LS9. Not to be outdone by GMPP there are places like Mast Motorsports and Pace Performance that will sell you a complete LS engine ready to go. If you want to build one from scratch, look to Dart, RHS and GMPP for short- and tall-deck blocks. These allow you to build LS-based engines all the way to past 500 ci.

GM Performance Parts, like we mentioned earlier, has the entire LS family covered and is really proud of its eco-friendly E-Rod program. In a nutshell, the E-Rod package is a crate engine combined with engine wiring harness, engine control module, exhaust manifolds, catalytic converters, oxygen sensors and sensor bosses, fuel tank evaporative emissions canister, mass airflow sensor and sensor boss, accelerator pedal (for use with the electronic throttle), air filter and instruction manual. The highest horsepower E-Rod package right now is the LSA. It's the engine out of the Cadillac CTS-V series of high-performance vehicles. Using an advanced, highly efficient four-lobe supercharger, the LSA 6.2L engine is rated at 556 horsepower.

Pace Performance designed this little Screamin' Mimi engine package using GM's 4.8L truck engines. The dyno-tested package made 300 horsepower and 340 lb-ft. This engine only requires a two-wire hook-up to run, timing is preset (but can be adjusted), does not require oxygen sensors and runs on low 5-7 psi fuel pressures. It comes with a 12-month limited parts replacement warranty and is offered for $2999.95.

For the LS guy who wants something really gnarly, check out Dart's LS1-style billet aluminum block. Machined on precision CNC equipment from a solid billet of 6061 aluminum, the Dart LS1 block offers virtually unlimited choices in deck height, cylinder bore centerline, bore diameter and lifter/cam configurations. The Dart LS1-style billet block is available with or without water jackets and can be ordered with additional head bolts, custom motor mount bosses and optional camshaft diameters.

Flex Plates & Flywheels

The rear snout on the crankshaft on all LS-series engines is 0.400 thousands short compared to traditional small- or big-block Chevy engines. If you are using an LS engine/transmission package, there is no issue. If you are installing a traditional GM transmission on LS engines, changes must be made to locate the flywheel or flex plate in the correct location.

Engineered to prevent cracking and ring gear breakage commonly found in lesser quality flexplates, this new design includes an integrated early-style GM torque converter pattern that gives the option of using an LS-series or earlier model transmission with LS engines, including the LS9 or LSA. In addition, the precision-ground, 3/16-inch-thick, A36 steel plate material is 0.067 inch thicker than the original factory piece, which makes it stronger. Finally, the most important feature is that these performance flexplates have been tested and are SFI 29.1--approved for strength and durability.

The APS starters from MSD feature a 3.4-horsepower motor powering a 4.4:1 reduction gearset to deliver great torque--enough for 18:1 compression racing engines. Inside the compact housing, MSD put two ball bearings to guide the balanced armature through countless smooth engagements and starts. Another handy feature is that the billet-mounting block can be rotated in different positions to help clear oil pans and suspension parts.

By Mike Copeland
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