LS-engine swaps have been taking over the hot-rod scene for quite a while. With more than 400 horses as-delivered from the factory, these mills can really bring any project alive — just ask the Ford guys, even they’re using LS engines.
Unfortunately, we all understand the initial cost can be more than a traditional small-block, but the beneﬁts can soon make any enthusiast realize the initial cost outweighs that concern. LS engines are abundant in salvage yards, and with the aftermarket flooding the hobby with swap-related necessities, you can have a reliable engine that is right at home in nearly any driving condition. In short, it’s no wonder these engines are so popular with classic car guys and gals.
Those considering this type of swap truly want the benefits a modern drivetrain offers. However, while some are content with the modern look of the LS, others are hesitant to change their mill because they prefer the classic look of a traditional small-block. Boys and girls, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Thanks to LS Classic by Lokar, it is easy to make any LS engine resemble an old-school small block. The items are bolt-on, and the list of parts even includes a distributor — kind of. It’s amazing how traditional the components can make an LS engine appear.
Starting At The Top
The first thing I noticed was the various intake/fuel-delivery systems available. I couldn’t believe how cool they look. If you like the appearance of a fuelie Vette intake — which also looks right at home in any classic Chevy — LS Classic has one that mimics the original. The ’57-style “fuelie” intake is designed to give your LS engine the look of the high-performance Chevrolet of the ’50s. There is also a later ’63 fuelie intake available.
LS Classic designed these manifolds to give a vintage-Chevy vibe to your restomod while utilizing some modern LS3 components such as injectors, drive-by-wire throttle body, and intake gaskets. Since this unit uses the stock LS3 injectors and throttle body, it does not come with these items, which helps save you a little cash.
The intake is designed to fit LS3 cylinder heads and adapts to LS7 and cathedral-port heads with available billet spacers. It uses OEM rubber intake gaskets for optimal sealing and is a two-piece design, just like the original. To make the unit functional, LS Classic recommends using the Holley Terminator X ECU.
If you want your induction to resemble a Tri-Power unit, here it is. LS Classic took Chevrolet’s modern engine and gave it a traditional flair. This makes it look right at home in any vintage car or truck. As you can see, it pays tribute to the baddest-looking intake ever found on a big-block Corvette. However, under the air cleaner, you won’t find a trio of anything.
The unit actually incorporates two 90mm, LS3 drive-by-wire throttle bodies that can be controlled by a Holley Dominator ECU with a dual drive-by-wire harness (available from LS Classic). This kit includes the intake, throttle bodies, fuel rails, and air cleaner assembly. However, it does require you to supply fuel injectors. The package is available to fit both cathedral and LS3 intake ports.
Finally, if you prefer the look of a single fuel squirter, the 14-inch Classic is designed to pay homage to the classic ’60s and ’70s muscle cars and trucks. The design traditionalizes the LS engine by concealing the large, bulky drive-by-wire throttle body of the LS3. This kit includes the intake manifold, fuel rails, and air cleaner assembly, and is available for either cathedral or LS3 intake ports.
The throttle body and fuel injectors are not included; those items can be taken from the LS engine you are using for your swap. It must be used in conjunction with an ECU that supports both drive-by-wire and speed density tuning. Again, the Holley Terminator X is a perfect choice.
“All intake kits utilize a stock GM four-bolt, 90mm throttle body, so the intakes are compatible with both GM and aftermarket ECUs and wiring harnesses,” says Lokar’s National Sales Manager, Joe Rode.
Since the LS intake is not fully sealed to the top of the engine, you will also need a valley plate. LS Classic offers a valley plate that combines a classic look of a front breather/oil-fill tube into the modern-LS valley plate. This is great for early 283- and 327-powered hot rods if keeping the original appearance is important. It is sold in a natural finish that can be painted or powdercoated. These valley plates are available for third- and fourth-gen LS engines.
LS Classic also offers a valley plate without the breather/fill tube which gives the engine a smooth appearance and still allows it to vent. Included is a billet oil-pressure sensor relocation mount, DOD seals, and hardware needed to mount the valley plate. A 1/8-inch NTP port is located near the middle of the valley plate to allow a fitting to be hidden under the intake manifold — unlike the OEM version that places it up front, in plain sight. These valley plates are available for third- and fourth-gen LS engines.
One of the biggest complaints we hear against doing an LS swap has to do with the absence of the distributor. Traditionalists are adamant about this. While distributors have been around for a long time, coil-on-plug systems are the go-to setup for the OEM and aftermarket.
But, if you still prefer to have a distributor, LS Classic has a distributor and wire kit — kind of. It’s a great compromise to give you the look you want and the performance your engine needs. The company starts with a set of un-terminated plug wires that pass through a hollow, cast-aluminum distributor body. The distributor bolts to the top of the valley plate using the rear valley plate mounting holes.
While it is not an actual distributor, it does give the engine the proper traditional look many are after. This kit includes the distributor housing, terminals, boots, and wires. You will need a set of plug wire crimpers to complete the wire set.
This “distributor” kit allows you to mount the coils in places other than on the valve covers. However, you will have to keep the positioning within the length of the plug wires.
Covertly Covered Up
At one time, keeping a traditional look regarding valve covers was a difficult task. That has changed. The finned LS valve covers are the perfect finishing touch to your retro-looking LS swap. These cast aluminum valve covers accept OEM rubber seals and come with all necessary mounting hardware.
According to Rode, “our valve covers bolt directly to the LS head. Since we do not use an adapter — like most companies — there is less chance of leaking and no added height.”
The finned cover has an area for custom laser engraving if you choose to include this. The casting is thick enough for drilling and tapping to include the fittings of your choosing.
Everyone wants a big block under their hood, and you can even adorn your LS engine to appear as such. These big-block valve covers are designed to give the appearance of a big-block Chevy, again, without using any adapters. The covers are made from cast aluminum and include a billet filler cap. They come with all the necessary mounting hardware, and sealing is accomplished with stock GM LS-style valve cover gaskets. Sold in a natural finish, they can be painted, powdercoated, polished, or even chromed.
Talk about cool and classic, the W-head-style valve covers are designed to look like those found on a 348 or 409 Chevy, while fitting the LS engine. Again, this is done without the use of adapters. These covers are also made from cast aluminum and include load spreaders with screws, 409 stickers, and all the mounting hardware needed. Again, sealing is accomplished with stock LS valve cover gaskets. Like the other valve covers, these are sold in a natural finish, but can be painted, powdercoated, polished, or chrome plated.
Finally, LS Classic also offers a complete crate engine package that makes getting a traditional-looking LS engine easier than ever. According to the company, your new mill starts with a brand-new 480 horsepower LS3 from Chevrolet Performance. The LS Classic team then paints it orange (if you so desire) and installs your favorite components to create the perfect crate engine for your project. Once the engine is assembled, LS Classics then connects the Holley EFI ECU and harness and runs the engine on its in-house run stand.
After verifying your engine will start and run with no issues, the guys put it back in the original GM crate with the electronics and ship it directly to you or your builder. While LS Classic guarantees an easy start-up, the engine will need to receive a comprehensive “drivability” tune once the vehicle is ready to drive. The engines also require a starter, thermostat and housing, and the appropriate oil pan to fit your vehicle.
These are entirely custom packages tailored to your needs. Keep in mind, pricing changes with options added, but the engines start at $13,900.
Since making your LS swap look like a classic engine is now as easy as bolting on a few parts, what are you waiting for? Now you can have the benefits of a modern engine and still have the classic look you cherish. If you’re ready to make the swap, there is no time like the present. All you need to do is reach out to LS Classic today.