We first learned of Concord Engines when our sister publication, Shop Owner, went and visited owner Tony Paladino for their “Auto Pros on the Road” series. When we made the trip to the Mooresville, NC area, we knew we had to stop and see Concord Engines in Kannapolis, NC for ourselves.
Concord Engines specializes in engine rebuilding and custom engines for residents of Kannapolis, Concord, China Grove, Davidson, Mooresville, Statesville, Charlotte, Salisbury, Lexington, and other surrounding areas. Tony Paladino’s shop has been serving the Kannapolis area since 2014, but he began his career at the age of 15 when he bought a junkyard Mopar 440 engine to breathe new life into his underperforming Chrysler. A local machine shop rebuilt his motor and Paladino was so intrigued by the process that he started learning the machining and rebuilding trade.
Now, 30 years later, Paladino, his son A.J. and machinist Jennings Herman offer engine rebuilding services at a competitive price. One such platform that they specialize in is the LS. Tony had a 5.3L LS in the shop getting rebuilt when we visited, so he was kind enough to give us a rundown of the engine build, and the different power levels Concord Engines can build these to.
“This is the ‘05 Chevy Tahoe, right before they went to the DOD AFM, which we delete them on a lot of engines,” says Tony Paladino. “This one here will be a non-AFM engine, non-VVT engine and it’s just a straightforward, standard rebuild on this. We reman the engine completely. We disassemble the engine, clean the parts, magnaflux it to make sure there are no cracks, we check the holes to make sure nothing is not rebuildable, and then we bore and hone it and turn the crank.
“We’ve already got the crank installed in this. It’s ready for the pistons and rods now. The cam shaft is also in, which is a stock camshaft for this one. If you start messing around with camshafts and the fuel injection system, you have to do tuning. I don’t think this customer wants to tune, so we’re just going to build him a good, reliable truck engine so he can get another 200,000-250,000 miles on his vehicle.”
While this particular 5.3L LS is a stock reman job, Concord Engines does offer two other levels of builds surrounding the 5.3L LS – the Street Fighter and the Mighty Mouse.
“We can offer the stock build and we have what we call Street Fighter, and depending on a lot of things, they’ll make anywhere from 380-420 horsepower,” Paladino says. “That depends on what kind of induction system they put on, fuel injection or carbureted, because a lot of people don’t know you can run these off an MSD 6014 box and square bore flange Holley intake, and they run extremely well carbureted. A lot of the hot rodders and street guys like that version of a Street Fighter.
“Then, we also go to the next level, which is the Mighty Mouse, and we’ve gotten up to 565 horse out of that, again depending on what’s bolted on after the build. With a carburetor, they usually average about 525 horse.”
The biggest difference between a stock 5.3L LS engine build and a Street Fighter version are some of the components that’ll help up the ante.
“You can retain the stock crankshaft,” he says. “We like to use the Gen IV rod for the performance builds because they’re bushed and you can retain a hypereutectic piston, so you can fairly cheaply build the bottom rotating assembly. The camshaft is naturally where you’re making the power and the cylinder heads. We do some performance work to the cylinder heads and utilize some different camshafts and valve springs, and that usually takes care of them.
“I like to put a HP-series bearing into the mains for them and a HP-series for the rods on any of the performance builds to get away from the standard stuff. I like to use the King SI bearing (silicon impregnated), which is a real good bearing for street use and everyday use. If you start twisting these things up, you need a little something better. That seems to work real well with these.”
If customers are interested in taking a 5.3L LS to even higher heights, Concord Engines can build them a Mighty Mouse version, which again, goes that little bit extra above the stock build and Street Fighter build.
“When we start talking Mighty Mouse, we use forged connecting rods and forged pistons,” Paladino notes. “Naturally, the camshaft changes and we do a lot more work to the heads. We bowl cut them, so you’re doing a blend of the valve seat and fixing up the cylinder head. We developed that engine under some rules though.
“I’m sure a lot of people are going to say, ‘Why don’t they just bolt on a good set of heads?’ This build came about with the local racetrack. The owner of the racetrack wanted to start allowing LS engines in, but he wanted something affordable and durable, so we had to retain that stock head to keep costs down. That’s why the Mighty Mouse was designed around that.
“We did a lot of research and found out that the stock head, after about 535 lift, it didn’t matter what we did to it, they stopped breathing no matter what we did. The Mighty Mouse utilizes a 525 lift cam. It’s split duration and it’s a custom ground cam by Howard’s.”
One of the true secrets to the success of Concord’s 5.3L LS builds has to do with the main bearings. Tony didn’t give up that secret, but says the fix helps with oil flow.
“It helps get more oil flow to the rod bearings,” Paladino says. “A lot of people are having problems with the CT525s chucking rods, and everything lines up right there. If they did what I do, they probably wouldn’t be chucking rods.”
No matter whether you’re looking for a stock rebuild, a little extra horsepower, or something that will really get you moving, Concord Engines has the know-how and the capability to make it happen.
Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade1, Elring – Das Original and NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].