The Chevrolet LS engine was first introduced in 1997, starting with the LS1. This engine made its way into Chevrolet’s C5 Corvette. Boasting a new design, new materials and new price point, the LS engine was set to revolutionize the performance car world.
The C5 boasted 345 horsepower, with a 5.7 V8 LS engine. This allowed it to reach speeds in excess of 170MPH and go from 0-60 in just under five seconds. The V8 engine was one of the main reasons for this extraordinary amount of power and speed. But it wasn’t just the Corvette C5 that the LS engine found a home under the hood of, over time, it has found its way under the hoods of dozens of different vehicles and into the hearts of motoring enthusiasts everywhere.
What are the main selling points of the LS engine?
The LS engine’s popularity comes down to a few factors. Firstly, they’re really cheap to convert! There are literally dozens of cars in which the LS engine can fit into. From Ford Mustangs to trucks – there’s even a Jeep Wrangler conversion kit available – your LS engine will fit into just about any vehicle.
The second main selling point of the LS engine was its weight and revolutionary design. Whereas old GM engines used to be made of iron, the LS was made of aluminum – this meant it weighed 109lbs, versus the iron-block’s 218lbs. In a high-performance, weight-saving is everything and if you can save it in the engine block, you definitely should.
The design of the LS engine was unique as it was the first time that Chevrolet had rolled out their “Y” block design. This new design from Chevrolet for their cars helped them to maintain a high-performance crankshaft, greater torque and keep the size small, it also helped them to increase the rigidity of the engine block itself, reducing the risk of all manner of engine problems.
Another main selling point of the LS – and this is important for all you swappers out there – is the availability and price points of aftermarket parts. So, no matter whether you’re swapping your truck or Jeep engine out for a variant of the LS engine, you’re likely to be able to find cheap, high-quality aftermarket parts.
This feature in particular makes the LS engine of any variety a firm favourite among autobuilders. If you’re building a car from the ground-up, you’re going to need a variety of different parts from different manufacturers. The LS engine is one of those engines that’s going to fit right into where it should, being able to cross-over with other parts from other manufacturers without too much trouble.
What Will I Need to Convert?
If you’re looking to convert your own vehicle to an LS engine, then there are a few things you’re going to need beforehand – luckily, the LS was built with versatility in mind, so no matter what you’re trying to put the engine into, it is likely going to fit like a glove.
Converting another engine to an LS engine requires you to purchase a conversion kit – these will vary in price, depending on where you can source your parts. Assuming that you can’t get anything in the aftermarket – which is unlikely, given that the aftermarket for Chevy LS engines is very, very good – you’re looking at around $1500-5000 for certain kits, depending on the vehicle you’re swapping with. This isn’t necessarily particularly “cheap”, but neither is buying a whole new engine from the manufacturer for your vehicle, when you could be swapping it out for something different.
These kits contain everything you need to start your conversion, from the radiator to the fuel system, exhaust, adapters of all types for things like water and oil pressure – all of the little pieces usually come in these kits. The larger pieces, you may have to go through a vendor for, but you can buy the small pieces in conversion kits online.
Alternatively, you can build your own kit slowly over time, based on what you can afford, when you can afford it. This is best for those on a budget, who aren’t in any rush to make their conversion happen.
Whether you’re upgrading an old 80s Chev, or looking to upgrade the sports performance of your off-road Jeep Wrangler, the LS engine is a fantastic choice for any enthusiastic engine swapper. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get an excellent engine which will run forever, is cheap to maintain and spare parts aren’t hard to come by, should something go wrong.