Text by Brendan Moran, photos courtesy of GMPP
In the past, swapping engines into a classic Chevy required either a considerable amount of automotive know-how, copious amounts of free time, or a deep wallet–and formidable patience didn’t hurt. These days, the hot rodders over at GM Performance Parts have removed much of this agony from engine swaps, by offering turn-key engines and the hardware you’ll need to drop in some tire-shredding American muscle.
Yes, these mills make sick power. But an engine swap isn’t only about gaining dragstrip and street glory; there are several very practical reasons why one should consider replacing an older powerplant. Inch for inch, a new engine can be more fuel-efficient than its latter-day counterparts. And modern design and manufacturing processes have resulted in V-8s that are both stronger and more reliable. Lastly, GMPP is the only source for all-new GM crate engines. They are designed, engineered, and validated to production levels–including a 50-hour, full-load dyno test that every engine must pass. And each is backed with a 24-month/50,000-mile warranty.
The first step in updating the performance of your vintage vehicle is to choose an appropriate crate engine. GMPP offers many choices, ranging from carbed smallblocks suitable for those on a budget, to the venerable LS7 for others seeking the latest in modern high performance. All these blocks can also be ordered in different states of assembly, from a short-block all the way up to turn-key systems that only need spark and some fuel to run right out of the crate. However, your biggest decision will likely be: carbed or EFI? Carbureted engines retain the look and the raw power of the original engines, while EFI gives reliability and all-around driveability with big performance potential. However, GMPP also created the Ram-Jet series that merge these seemly contradictory philosophies.
With a seemingly endless amount of platforms and configurations to choose from, we’ve complied a list of our 10 favorites to get you started. So whether you just want to wake up that first-generation Chevelle cruiser, or create a track demon with a barn-find Stingray, a new crate engine will not disappoint. To learn more about these engines, as well as locate your nearest dealer, check out www.gmperformanceparts.com.
CRATE SWAPPING MADE EASY
Installing a new crate engine can be a very rewarding endeavor, but requires a bit of planning. Thankfully, GMPP offers accessories that will make installation easy, and allow you to get the most out of your new motor.
An Accessory Drive Kit features every accessory that you’d need to put a factory-spec serpentine accessory drive system on your A/C or non-A/C project vehicle. A billet HEI Distributor features a CNC-machined aluminum housing, ball bearing guide, oversized shaft, and longsintered bushing for durability. The Muscle Car Oil Pan will help expedite getting a GMPP LS/LSX crate engine into your early 1970s GM vehicle. You carb fans will appreciate the Vortec Eliminator Intake and Holley 4160-style 770-cfm carburetor. EFI lover? The LS Controller Kit is the key to unlocking the potential of the LS engine series. It comes complete with the controller, GM-spec wiring harness, all sensors–even the gas pedal to ensure that system works right. Each LS controller calibration comes with a production tune that is aimed at a performance application; it will run great, make more than the reported power, and still pass the demanding durability test. Buyers who make big mods like a cam, etc. will need to have a professional re-tune their engine with HP Tuners or similar software.
This combination of Fast Burn aluminum performance heads and a 383 stroker small-block can add up to 425 horses and 449 lb-ft of torque, when finished with a high-rise intake and a Holley 770-cfm four-barrel. Think big-block power with small-block fuel economy and weight savings. The Fast Burn heads use high-flow intake runners and a unique combustion chamber design to process air quickly and efficiently. The reciprocating assembly is comprised of heavyduty components including a 4340, nitrided, and induction-hardened forged crankshaft and unique, heavy-duty, powdered metal rods. This combination generates great mid- and high-rpm power.
Requires addition of carburetor, ignition, intake manifold, fuel pump, water pump, and starter (not included). For notes on completing your particular GMPP crate engine, as well as installation guides, visit www.gmperformanceparts.com.
Fast Burn 385
GMPP took the bottom end of the famed ZZ4 and combined it with their horsepower-building Fast Burn cylinder heads to create the Fast Burn 385. A more aggressive roller cam delivers the valve actuation to maximize the airflow capability of the Vortec-style aluminum heads. A sturdy iron block with four-bolt mains, a forged crankshaft, and quiet hypereutectic pistons create the Fast Burn 385’s rock-solid foundation. This turn-key crate engine comes with the HEI distributor, Holley 750-cfm carburetor, and balancer installed–along with an aluminum dual-plane intake manifold, an accessory drive package, and fuel pump. All this results in 385 horsepower and a respectable 385 lb-ft of torque, ideal for those desiring a quick and easy swap on a budget.
Comes with a 12.75-inch, externally balanced, 153-tooth automatic trans flexplate. Change to an externally balanced flywheel for manual trans applications. Requires fuel line from fuel pump to carburetor. Fuel pump pressure is pre-set; fuel pressure regulator not required. Some assembly and minor engine tuning required. For notes on completing your particular GMPP crate engine, as well as installation guides, visit www.gmperformanceparts.com.
The ZZ454/440 improves on the legendary 454 bigblock by swapping the cast iron production heads for a set of high-flow, oval-port aluminum heads, adding 15hp and dropping almost 100 pounds off the nose of the car. This lighter engine creates better weight distribution, dramatically enhancing overall performance. The aluminum heads use large 2.25-inch intake and 1.88-inch exhaust valves as well as smaller, 110cc combustion chambers, boosting compression to 9.6:1 (up from 8.5:1 on the 454 HO). Enhanced airflow capacity–combined with a high-lift, hydraulic roller cam–delivers great idle quality, requiring no periodic lash adjustments. Utilizing GM’s new cylinder block casting techniques, together with a proven bottom end, gives the ZZ454/440 a good balance of high performance and reliability.
Requires addition of carburetor, starter, distributor, and ignition system (not included). Comes with an externally balanced, 14-inch auto trans flexplate; use flywheel P/N 14096987 and 11-inch clutch assembly for manual transmission applications. For notes on completing your particular GMPP crate engine, as well as installation guides, visit www.gmperformanceparts.com.
With more than 500 horsepower and 567 lb-ft of torque, this engine demands both respect and a robust chassis to handle its raw power. A forged crankshaft, along with forged rods and pistons, anchor the bottom end, while oval-port aluminum heads give excellent airflow characteristics. The ZZ505/502 Deluxe package includes an oil pan, Holley 870-cfm, four-barrel carburetor, HEI distributor, plug wires, starter, water pump, balancer, and an aluminum intake. This big-block delivers substantial power and relentless torque, suitable for the street or the strip.
Carburetor needs to be installed by an engine installer. Comes with an externally balanced, 14-inch auto trans flexplate. Use flywheel P/N 14096987 and 11-inch clutch assembly for manual trans applications. For notes on completing your particular GMPP crate engine, as well as installation guides, visit www.gmperformanceparts.com.
Anniversary Edition 427
Forty years ago, a few clever, dealer-sponsored Super Stock drag racers found loopholes in Chevrolet’s COPO ordering system and created a handful of factory-built, 427-powered supercars (aka the “ZL1”). Largely akin to the celebrated L88 427, the ZL1 takes the best components from the L88 engine and puts them in an exotic aluminum block–making it the most powerful engine ever released by General Motors. Along with a retooled version of the ZL1 aluminum block, the Anniversary Edition 427 introduces many enhancements to the original design. This creates a modern engine with smoother street operation and reduced maintenance. With only 427 of these engines being produced, installing it would give any classic a very rare distinction.
Requires addition of starter and fuel pump (not included). Comes with an internally balanced 14-inch auto trans flexplate; use flywheel P/N 12582964 and 11.5-inch clutch assembly for manual transmission applications. For notes on completing your particular GMPP crate engine, as well as installation guides, visit www.gmperformanceparts.com
Ram Jet 350
Despite what you may think, Chevrolet first introduced fuel injection on the small-block in 1957. Created in the style of these mechanically injected engines, the Ram Jet 350 combines the classic look of the original system with the dependability and performance of contemporary port fuel injection. Using electronically controlled fuel injection, it delivers crisp throttle response akin to modern production cars. The Ram Jet 350 uses the sophisticated MEFI 4 controller, which utilizes the latest electronics and closed loop capability. The Ram Jet 350 can be installed in any 1976-or-earlier vehicle that was originally equipped with a carburetor–most without the need of major modifications.
Distributor with melonized steel gear must be used with long-blocks and partial engines with steel camshafts, or engine damage will occur. Comes with externally balanced, manual trans flywheel; change to externally balanced flexplate for auto trans applications. For a safe, proper, and trouble-free engine break-in, the MEFI 4 computer has a “green” mode that controls rpm during the break-in period. For notes on completing your particular GMPP crate engine, as well as installation guides, visit www.gmperformanceparts.com.
Ram Jet 502
Blending the torque and performance of the big block with modern port fuel injection and a tunnel ram-style, high-rise intake manifold, this engine gives the best of both worlds. The same sturdy bottom end assembly used on other 502-inch crate engines makes up the foundation of the Ram Jet 502–including a stronger cylinder block and all-forged reciprocating assembly. The unique Ram Jet fuel injection system stands 11 inches tall and consists of a two-piece manifold/plenum assembly, eight injectors, a throttle body, and an updated MEFI 4 controller, which all work in concert to create an engine that provides modern reliability with big-block power.
The Ram Jet 502 requires a 12-volt power source, exhaust system, and fuel feed and fuel return line. An in-tank fuel pump is recommended. For notes on completing your particular GMPP crate engine, as well as installation guides, visit www.gmperformanceparts.com.
Based on the LS1 5.7L engine, the LS6 uses a unique block casting technique along with better cylinder bay-to-bay breathing. It benefits from a higher-lift camshaft and higher-compression pistons, raising horsepower from 350 to 405, and torque from 340 to 400 lb-ft. Powerful enough to shoot the Z06 from 0-60 in four seconds flat, and through the quarter-mile in about 12.5 seconds. The LS6 crate engine comes as an all-inclusive assembly, complete with CTS-V oil pan, large volume composite intake manifold with single-bore throttle body, and high-performance, long-style exhaust manifolds. A great small-block performer, the LS6 can be found today on everything from 1969 Stingrays to late-model F-bodies.
14-inch manual flywheel included. Assembly does not include any electronics. Includes CTS-V-style oil pan. For notes on completing your particular GMPP crate engine, as well as installation guides, visit www.gmperformanceparts.com.
Equipped with the same great features as the LS3 crate engine, including a 6-bolt aluminum block, nodular crank, high performance rods, 10.7:1 pistons, and high-flowing, rectangular-port heads that share their design with the LS7. But unlike the LS3, the LS376/480 comes packaged with the LS Hot Cam (P/N 12617570), creating a dramatic increase in power across the entire power band while still maintaining drivability. With just this simple camshaft swap, horsepower jumps from 430 to 480, and torque goes from 424 lb-ft to 475. This engine is a versatile thoroughbred that’s comfortable running on the street, strip, or road course.
Includes Corvette wet sump oil pan, electronic throttle body, and 14-inch auto trans flexplate. Assembly does not include any electronics. For non-Corvette applications, GMPP offers the LS376/480 controller kit, P/N 19201327. For notes on completing your particular GMPP crate engine, as well as installation guides, visit www.gmperformanceparts.com.
Propelling the 2006 Z06 to nearly 200mph and an 11.5-second quarter mile, the LS7 has proven itself as one of today’s most powerful and capable engines. This offspring of the LS family uses a 7.0-liter, aluminum, dry-sump block, CNC-ported cylinder heads, and titanium rods and valves to pump out 505 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. This produces exceptional high-rpm performance and lowend pull, giving it the power expected of a big-block. Despite producing incredible power its advanced design is highly fuel-efficient, allowing the 2006 Z06 to get over 28 mpg while still being the second fastest Corvette ever produced. The LS7 would be ideal in any high-end project requiring serious power and dependability.
Assembly does not include any electronics. Comes assembled with 14-inch, 168-tooth Corvette Z06 flywheel. LS7 is the same size, and mounts the same, as previous LS series engines. LS7 Controller Kit P/N 19243066 available for non-Corvette applications. For notes on completing your particular GMPP crate engine, as well as installation guides, visit www.gmperformanceparts.com.
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