Book Review – GM LS-Series Engines: The Complete Swap Manual

Engine swap book for performance enthusiasts.
The essential American performance engine title has changed hands a very few amount of times over the last 80 years. Without question, the Ford V-8 engine, also known as the Flathead, was the essential centerpiece of any V-8 hot rod beginning in 1932. With an overhead valve conversion by Ardun, the engine was able to make big power in a somewhat reliable fashion.

Chevy Small Block

In 1955 however, Chevrolet introduced what is now known as the Chevy small block. The small block, in a variety of sizes, ranging from 265 cubic inches to 400, has found its way into nearly every car through a variety of swaps, some easy, others ridiculous.

The small block, or Generation 1, lasted 48 years in production cars before being replaced by the LT series. Now the LS series, which includes Generation III and IV of the GM V-8 family, has taken over the performance industry as the engine of choice for just about anything. LS engines appear in several GM cars, most notably the Corvette, Camaro and CTS-V. However, the real popularity of the LS engine lies with the potential of swapping the motor into something else.

The engine swaps easily into many classics, especially muscle cars. An LS1 in a ’69 Camaro is probably more common than an original six cylinder, given the unpopularity of the original engine. The LS also swaps into pretty much any other car, if you have the time and lots of money. Mazda RX-7s, Nissan 240SXs and even Honda S200s have been given the LS engine as a powerplant. While the engine swaps relatively easily; there are still a variety of parts and factors that go into the process.

Complete Swap Manual

“GM LS-Series Engines: The Complete Swap Manual,” by Joseph Potak, provides a step by step guide to preparing the engine and car for an LS swap. While the LS engine remains one of the easiest engines to swap into a variety of cars, several parts must be obtained for its completion. From the oil pan to the wiring harness, there are multiple details required for a smooth swap.

The book opens with a very handy guide to the variety of GM V-8 engines that the LS series encompasses. It also explains the differences between the LS and the Vortec truck engines found in many GM products, including the automaker’s huge selling full size pickups. Since the Vortec engines share many components with LS engine, they can offer a more budget conscious alternative and produce similar results. Each engine in the family is listed along with the cars that it was available in. The included charts offer a great quick reference for someone looking for a suitable engine.

Detailed Swap Instructions

Once an engine is selected for a car, the swap process begins. The book offers comprehensive advice to ensure a smooth swap. When trading out engines for a vehicle, a number of small components must be obtained to ensure that the engine will fire once installed in the new vehicle. Wiring harnesses, engine mounts, fuel systems, cooling systems and transmission compatibility are the major areas of consideration. Nothing is worse than installing an engine and finding out you have to put more work into the fuel system to get it to run.

After the first chapter overview, the book breaks down the swap chapter by chapter. When mounting the motor, several intuitive tips can make the engine fit without hassle. The alternator placement on an LS1 from a 2004 Pontiac GTO and a 2002 Pontiac Firebird differs; therefore, using one over the other can leave different parts of the engine bay clear for other components. Transmission mounting can also be an issue, especially if the car receiving the swap is a non-GM vehicle. A third area of importance is the oil pan. The LS family has a dizzying variety of oil pans. Some dry sump pans from high performance Corvettes can lead to problems in other cars given their extreme width. Pictures of several LS oil pan options help determine the best fit.

Perhaps the most intimidating aspect of an LS swap, especially those experimenting with fuel injection for the first time, is the engine electronics. The snaking wires of an engine wiring harness can be quite intimidating. The book provides a step by step guide to installing the wiring in the correct places. It also provides an overview of popular aftermarket performance chips, sure to be popular in most swaps.

Swap Troubleshooting Guide

A troubleshooting guide at the back is a great feature for the inevitability of a completed swap that still won’t start. This handy guide can help the car get started for the first time and on its way to enjoyment. Another short chapter at the end provides a tease at the variety of performance upgrades that can be added. From superchargers to cams to nitrous oxide, a lot of fun is waiting to be had with a monster of a powerful engine. However, it would be a shame to get carried away and ruin a perfectly swapped engine. Still, the potential is there for a variety of cars and power levels as described in this comprehensive title.

Other Potak titles include “1993-2002 Camaro And Firebird Performance Handbook” and “How To Build And Modify GM LS-Series Engines.”

Resources

GM LS-Series Engines: The Complete Swap Manual; Joseph Potak; Motorbooks; 2011

“LS Engine Swap – LS6 Into 1970 Camaro”; Hot Rod; Marlan Davis; July 2007


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Harrison Card is a student at UNC Charlotte. He writes for UNCC's University Times, covering a variety of topics. Harrison is an avid motorsports fan, and has a huge interest in all sorts of automobiles ranging from the Ford Model B to the Honda Civic Type R.

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