Top Six Reasons Why Chevrolet LS Engine Family Are So Damn Good
6. Engine Strength
What would a good engine be without a solid foundation? Chevrolet knew that the strength of the block was extremely important when they developed the LS engine. Let’s start with the block design. Chevrolet designed the Gen III (LS) block as a “Y” block. The Y-block design helps increase rigidity in the main cap area. Previous small blocks didn’t have this design. The Y-block design allows them to use 6 bolt main caps on the crankshaft. Four bolts are facing vertically, and two bolts horizontally that clamp the block wall to the main cap. This is what GM engineers call snap-fit cross-bolting. This design provides great crankshaft and block rigidity. Chevrolet took it a step further by not just designing an incredibly strong bottom end, but also a strong top end. Chevy designed the block to take extra long head bolts that thread deep into the block. This minimizes cylinder bore distortion and variation in the head bolt torque spec.
Chevrolet has produced the LS engine since 1997, and they came in everything rear wheel drive. Since they were put in so many cars, there is a slight overabundance of them. This has kept prices fairly low, and with the rising popularity of LS swaps the prices have dropped further. You can walk into any junkyard and find an LS engine within a few minutes. Replacement parts are also very cheap, and this is due to a number of reasons. The main reason is that Chevrolet is one of the largest manufacturers in the US, and many companies make parts for Chevy products. Although some parts can be expensive, parts are generally dirt cheap compared to high-performance Japanese engines.
4. Displacement Options
Since the LS engine came in a variety of automobiles, Chevrolet needed to develop different size engines for different uses. Chevy trucks came with iron-block 4.8L and 5.3L they also came with all-aluminum 6.0L and 6.2L engines. Car engines came in 5.3L, 5.7L, 6.0L, 6.2L and 7.0L size engines, some configured for front-wheel-drive. There are also options when deciding if you want an iron or aluminum block.
The rise of stroker kits has also increased the number of displacement options. The LS7 can be pretty expensive, but you can always buy a stroker 427 ci kit for your LS3. Another popular stroker size is a 383ci LS1 stroker. If you count Chevy Performance LSX engines, then the biggest available LS engine would be the LSX 454 (7.4L). The cheapest of the LS engine family is the 5.3L truck engine since it came in most of the trucks and SUVs that Chevrolet has produced. All of these engines have been pushed past 1000+ horsepower by racers, and have done so reliably.
3. Aftermarket Support
As you can imagine, the aftermarket for the Chevy LS has exploded since its massive rise. From just the basic bolt-ons like an intake/exhaust, all the way up the race-spec cylinder heads and turbo kits. The most common modification being a high-performance camshaft, which is really the best bang-for-buck upgrade you can do on the LS engine. The aftermarket also makes a lot of swap kits, making it a breeze to swap a Chevy LS engine into basically any automobile you want.
Chevy really knew what they were doing when they designed the LS engines, they designed an engine family that made good horsepower and good torque. How did they do this? The factory heads flow nearly as good as NASCAR heads did at the time (300+ cfm). They achieved this by using modern computer technology to test different port lengths and designed to find the best performing head design. You may be surprised by how the port shape, size, and length can affect torque and horsepower ratings. Chevrolet also designed the intake manifold using similar technology, they aimed for the LS engine to produce usable power really low in the RPMs, and decent power up high. They also focused on small features like the cam size, they made the cam core massive, which means you can easily fit a .600+ lift cam and it won’t be that harsh on your motor. All Chevy LS engines are known to respond to modifications really well, even an intake/exhaust will gain you substantial amounts of HP, the typical head/cam swap is known for gaining over 100 HP. Some people even leave the stock heads on and just have them worked over, combined with a big cam many LS engines are making over 440 rwhp with just head work and a cam. What other engines can you name that makes that much horsepower with just a cam swap?
Believe it or not a 5.7L LS1 will fit into a 1.6L Mazda Miata. The LS engine family is known for having smaller proportions than its competitor’s engines, making it much easier to swap into cars with small engine bays. The main reason that they’re such a compact engine is because of their “old-school” pushrod design, as well as all of the modern designs they used when designing the engine block. The push-rod design that they continue to use is unlike almost all modern engines which have overhead cams. You can achieve better performance and economy with an overhead cam but at the cost of a much larger and heavier engine.
Which LS Should You Swap in Your Car?
GM first introduced the LS engine in the 1997 Corvette. They called it the “Gen III small-block” now known as the LS1. The LS1 is a 5.7L engine, and it featured an all-aluminum design. It also featured coil near plug ignition, and various other new engine management features. These new features made it vastly greater than the previous generation small block. In 1998 the LS1 replaced the LT1 found in Camaros and Firebirds. Chevrolet then began producing an iron-block Gen III small block which came in the pick-up trucks and SUVs.
Chevrolet later produced the “Gen IV small-block,” which featured MPG-boosting cylinder deactivation. Gen IV also featured larger displacements compared to Gen III and re-engineered camshaft sensing. These were all great improvements for the LS engine family, making it a word class engine. The Gen IV family includes the LS2, LS3, supercharged LS9, supercharged LSA, and the all-mighty LS7.
LS Engine Swap Options
The world would be an awesome place if everyone could afford to put an LS9 in their car, but that’s not how it works. There are quite a few choices when it comes to which LS you should swap into your car. If you have the money an LS7 or LSA are awesome options. The LS7 produces a ridiculous amount of horsepower naturally aspirated. The LSA produces a ridiculous amount of power with its supercharger.
But on a budget then the truck LS engines are a great option. You can purchase an aluminum or cast iron 5.3L or 4.8L LS for a reasonable amount of bucks. Install a cam and do a little head work and you’ll easily be making 400whp or more. If you’re planning on boosting your project the 4.8L truck engine will be perfect for you. The 4.8L can take insane amounts of boost completely stock and will really perform well.
If you don’t want a barebones 5.3L or 4.8L you could always step up to a 6.2L truck block which is based on the LS3. With the larger displacement and slightly better cylinder heads, you can get your project in the neighbourhood of 500rwhp or more.
Here’s the bottom line; the LS is cheap, light, compact, and makes a ton of horsepower. It can fit into nearly anything you want, and it can be done on a tight budget. From the average Joe to a professional racer, the LS engine is perfect for nearly anything.
Other products to help your LS Swap:
- LS Swap Cooling
- LS Swap Exhaust
- LS Swap Ignition
- AutoMeter 5284 LS Gauge Adapters
- HOLLEY 22-101 LS Swap Water Pump
- HOOKER LS Cast Iron Exhaust Manifolds
- HOLLEY 302-1 - LS Retro-fit Oil Pan
- HOOKER LS Swap Engine Mount Brackets
- HOOKER LS Swap Engine Mount Brackets 78-88 GM A/G-Body
- HOOKER LS Swap Engine Mount Brackets 68-69 F / 68-74 X-Body
- Muscle Car LS Conversion Radiator
- Lokar TC-1000LS1 Hi-Tech Throttle Cable
- Lokar DBW-GM02 Drive-By-Wire Electronic Throttle Control
- ARP LS Bolt Sets
Books to read before an LS Swap:
- LS Swaps: How to Swap GM LS Engines into Almost Anything
- How to Rebuild GM LS-Series Engines
- Swap LS Engines into Camaros & Firebirds: 1967-1981
- How to Build High-Performance Chevy LS1/LS6 V-8s
LS Swap Articles and Tech Tips:
- Junkyard LS Engine Builds: Breakdown on GM’s LS Engines
- Details and Tips to Make Your LS Engine Conversion Easy
- A True Budget Junkyard LS Swap
- LS Engine Swap Tips - Heart Transplant
- Putting FiTech’s New Wallet-Friendly LS Induction System to the Test
- FiTech Reinvents EFI! How They Do It Better & Cheaper
- We Dig Deep Into The Latest EFI Systems on the Market Today
- FiTech Fuel Injection -Home of the most advanced EFI systems
- Here's 10 Things to Help You When Converting to EFI
- Fuel Injection vs Carburetors
- CARBURETOR VS FUEL INJECTION – A SHORT HISTORY AND PROS & CONS
- Carburetor to Fuel Injection | Hagerty Articles
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