It used to be anything over 400 hp for a street engine was a big deal. Today, 1,000 hp seems to be the benchmark for high-powered, street-legal engine combinations. In large part, that is due to the versatility of the venerable LS engine family from GM.
The Gen III version of the small-block started with the LS1 in the 1997 Corvette. It proved to be a worthy successor to the original. The new engine family kept the same bore spacing as the original small block, but that’s essentially all it carries over from the original SBC. The Gen III engine is smaller and lighter and made more horsepower and torque per cubic inch. It also created fewer emissions and got better fuel mileage than the SBC 350. It was designed for multiple displacements, so it could be used in a wide variety of cars and trucks later on.
With only the rod bearings, lifters, and bore spacing in common with the previous small-block, GM’s LS small block engine was introduced as a new design. Several variations of the LS were used in the Corvette from the LS1 in 1997 to the LS9 in 2013. The new LT version of the GM small block has been used since 2014.
The LS small block comes in three variations – Gen III, IV and V. Generations I and II are the original small-block engines that been used in GM applications since it was initially released in 1954. The performance improvements of the LS family over the Gen I, II are significant. So much so, in fact, that producing over 1,000 hp with only a handful of aftermarket add-ons isn’t hard.
One engine builder we spoke to recently, Mullenix Racing Engines, said they have a customer who is using his Camaro as a daily driver with their 376 cid LSR set up that makes upwards of 1,000 wheel horsepower.
Another builder we spoke to, Carmen Trischitta of CT Performance Machine, told us about a boosted 1,200 hp LS3 Stroker he recently built that needed some aftermarket help to bring it back to service. “The block was stock from a Cadillac Escalade and came into the shop in rough shape. I had to have a custom set of gaskets made from Cometic because I had to straighten the block out. The dealership was in it trying to grind stuff away and put peaks and valleys all over it, which is bad news. I had to take .012˝ off the decks to get them where they needed to be so the gaskets would seal. Whatever I took off, I had to add to the gasket, so Cometic helped with that.”
CT Performance uses a custom ground turbo cam from Bullet, Morel billet HLT (hydraulic limited travel) lifters, a Cloyes billet timing chain, and King coated XP race bearings. To top off this LS3 build, they used a 94mm Bullseye turbo.
“I hate being cookie-cutter,” Trischitta says. “I like having stuff no one else has. Sometimes you’ve got to have some patience for that stuff because it doesn’t happen overnight.”
CT Performance and Mullenix are only a couple of examples of the numerous engine builders who are working with the LS platform to transform it into something more than their customers expected. The parts they use are a significant part of the recipe, but no two builds are the same.
One of the most exceptional characteristics of the classic SBC was that everyone made performance parts for them from mild-to-wild, whatever your heart (or budget) desired. People in the aftermarket thought that the SBC could never be replaced, but in the eyes of many hot rodders and engine builders, the heir to the throne is the LS platform. We took a look at the performance LS parts on display at this year’s PRI Show to give you a better idea of what is available for your next build, whether it’s mild or wild.
Holley Modular Lo-Ram Intake
Holley has announced the release of two new intake manifolds from its Holley EFI division – these modular Lo-Ram intake manifolds are designed for cathedral port LS engines and can be configured for turbocharged and centrifugally supercharged applications.
With a peak power limit of 7,000-8,000 rpm, this ultra-low design is a good fit for high-revving LS engines stuffed into a small engine compartment. These intake manifolds will work with OE or aftermarket cylinder heads and a 105 mm throttle body. The fuel rail kits come with two sets of brackets: a set for long (usually standard length) fuel injectors and a set for short (such as Pico, or LS7) fuel injectors.
EngineQuest LS Heads
New from EQ are these OEM style replacement heads for LS applications that feature improved flow port finish, hardened exhaust seats, CNC machined valve guides and seats, and three-angle valve grind. They are available as bare cast or fully assembled. EngineQuest says that these heads will bolt on 404 hp at 5,000 rpm.
Texas Speed – Cleetus McFarland “Dumpster Fire” Cam
Run the same camshaft as Cleetus McFarland’s C6 Corvette “Ruby.” This camshaft from Texas Speed is designed for stock stroke turbocharged engines utilizing cathedral-port cylinder heads. Whether you’re chasing a mild 500 rwhp or shooting for 1,000+, this cam will light a fire to your LS build. The cams are available in single and dual-valve spring packages.
Katech – High Capacity Scavenge Ported Oil Pump
Katech’s “red pump” features a thicker scavenge section rotor to increase scavenge pumping volume by 30%. The oil level in the stock Z06 dry sump tank can drop significantly at high rpms, resulting in oil starvation. The high capcity pump helps keep the oil tank level higher to prevent oil starvation. The pump also features 20% more pressure side flow volume. LS9 engines require higher flow on the pressure side because they use piston oilers. The pump is also designed for engines that require higher oil flow volume due to looser bearing tolerances or aftermarket lifters, according to Katech.
CVF Racing – Wraptor Serpentine Belt System for Supercharged LS
The Wraptor 8-Track Serpentine System kit for Chevy LS engines with air conditioning, power steering, and alternator fits LS1, LS2, LS3, LS6, and LS7 engines. The unique 8-rib serpentine pulley design increases grip, reduces stretching, and prevents belt slipping compared to traditional six-rib designs. A spring-loaded Gates belt tensioner ensures proper tension during hard acceleration and deceleration. Mounts GM Type II Power Steering pump low on driver side and puts a Sanden Peanut style AC Compressor up on the passenger side. Places the alternator on the driver’s side above the power steering pump. The kit uses a special LS water pump with provision for bolt-on water pump pulley.
Crower – Modular CNC Valve Covers
Crower showed off some pretty cool valve covers at this year’s PRI Show. These aluminum CNC-machined covers are modular and can be installed on either bank of an LS engine by merely swapping the hardware around that bolt into the ends of the cover. You can add a breather or block-off plate and even a sensor in the cover if you wish.
Dura-Bond – LS “Block Saver” Cam Bearings
Most engine builders hate to throw blocks in the scrap pile if they don’t have to. Now you won’t have to with Dura-Bond’s Block Saver camshaft bearings. These soft bearings are available in sizes from .010˝ to .020˝ over and will save your bacon if you’ve wiped out a cam bearing and need to bring the block back to spec. Dura-Bond also offers Cam Saver bearings that are .010˝-.020˝ undersize. Found a junkyard block that is a little off, but the price is too reasonable to pass up? Now you can make it work.
RHS Rectangle Port Cylinder Heads for LS3
Available bare or assembled with COMP Cams valvetrain components, RHS’ LS3 heads are engineered with the same architecture as the factory head, and all stock components will fit without issue. The RHS Pro Action LS3 heads also feature factory correct intake manifold alignment slots to ensure intake manifold ports line up correctly with the cylinder head ports to avoid power-robbing misalignment. The assembled versions feature either dual or beehive valve springs, chrome-moly steel retainers, heavy-duty stainless steel valves, and top-quality valve seals – all inspected and assembled by RHS performance technicians. The beehive valve springs allow up to .570˝ lift cams while the dual spring option is good up to .660˝ lift, therefore increasing rpm over stock springs.
FiTech Fuel Injection
FiTech’s Ultimate LS 2×4 EFI system is supplied with everything needed for a complete install, including two, four-barrel throttle bodies, injectors, fuel rails, sensors and more. The ECU provides sequential fuel and spark control as well as transmission controls for the GM 4L60/65/80E transmissions.
Mahle – LS 5.3L DI Drop-In 3.9cc Power Pak
Mahle has introduced the LS 5.3L Direct Injected Drop-In Power Pak piston assembly that is a forged replacement. It requires no balancing or compression change. The piston features GRAFAL phosphate dry lubricant and is made of 4032 alloy. The piston kit includes a 1.0mm, 1.0mm, 2.0mm ring pack, pins and clips.
Let’s Race – Universal LS Intake Manifold Stamping
Increase the volume of the current intake manifold or use the stamping to aid in the development of a whole new intake manifold design. The stamping features a 3mm wall thickness. EB