Giving A Modern LS Engine A Vintage Twist – Part II

In the first of this three-part article series, we showed you how to give your modern LS engine a vintage look the easy way and started the process for a more involved path. In this second installment, we will continue the build process with the help of Eddie Motorsports, Holley, Performance Distributors, ARP, and Design Engineering Inc.

This is where we left off in our first article. It was nothing more than a Hugger Orange LS long block.

Hardware

Instead of using the factory OEM engine bolts, we opted for ARP’s LS engine bolt kit (PN 534-9705). This package includes bolts for everything from the oil pan, front and rear cover, water pump, exhaust manifolds, valve covers, and exhaust manifolds. While the factory bolt would have worked for this combination, we wanted something custom. ARP’s black 12-point bolts are a nice touch for our build and a much better bolt than the OEM’s. We used the bolts everywhere we could, including the front and rear covers, oil pan, exhaust manifolds, and the valve covers. 

ARP's LS engine and accessory kit provide everything you need to bolt-on the front and rear covers, oil pan, exhaust manifolds, valley cover, valve covers, and more. The black 12-point bolts are a nice contrast to the orange paint and look much better than the OEM hardware.

Exhaust

The first order of business was to get rid of the ugly factory cast truck manifolds. While these units can be cleaned up with a grinder and some elbow grease, the outlet side of these units doesn’t always point where they need to on an LS swap. Hooker Blackheart (PN 8502-3HKR) offers a nice set of cast iron manifolds that are much more friendly when it comes to an engine swap. They’re available in a natural or black finish and come with flanges for the exhaust system. We chose the black manifolds over the natural finish units for this project. The manifolds went on with no problem, and we used Mr. Gasket gaskets and 12-point ARP bolts to seal them up. 

We chose the Hooker Blackheart LS swap exhaust manifolds coated in black for this project and used them with Mr. Gasket gaskets and ARP 12-point bolts.

Valley Cover

Since we’re not planning on running knock sensors, Holley’s vintage finned valley cover was a simple choice. It’s an easy way to set your engine’s look apart from the LS’s out there, and the installation is a breeze. With the cover in place, we then secured it down with the ARP bolts.

Holley’s LS finned valley cover is a nice touch over the factory unit. It adds some vintage flair and is super easy to install.

Accessory Drive

If you’re going for that classic look, the factory accessory drive system doesn’t look the part. While the OEM pieces are robust and reliable, they’re also bulky and less than attractive. To address this problem, we made a call to Eddie Motorsports and ordered one of its S-Drive accessory drive units. This unit is designed to bolt on to the LS family of engines and replaces the factory water pump, power steering pump, alternator, and A/C compressor, if equipped. This product is available in several different combinations and finishes. And While the Raven Series is the most popular choice, for our project, we chose the gloss black combined with a natural finish, meaning all of the accessories are natural cast aluminum, for a 1960’s OEM look. 

Eddie Motorsports includes everything you need when installing their S-drive accessory system. We went with powder-coated black and natural finished accessories.

Jason Oberhelman, Marketing Director/Sales Manager of Eddie Motorsports gave us some insight into the S-Drive and the advantages over the OE system. 

“Our S-Drive is more compact than the factory-style kits. It offers a more modern look in several different finishes and configurations. The S-drive uses all new components, unlike the factory system that may come on your take-out engine. This kit has all new parts, like the tensioner, water pump, alternator, A/C compressor, and power steering pump. By the time you combine these new parts on an old take-off system, you’re close to the price of one of our kits,” Oberhelman explained.

After everything was unboxed, we laid out the system for a photo-op and to see what we were up against for the installation. The black powder-coat finish is flawless on the pulleys and brackets, as is the machine work. With the color instructions in hand, we were ready to get to work on assembling the S-Drive.  

We were surprised to see that the S-drive included name brand accessories like ATI Performance Products, Powermaster, and PRW. This system is easy to install and is made in the USA.

The first step per Eddie Motorsport’s detailed instructions was to chase all of the bolt holes. We used the recommended 8mm thread-chaser to clean the treads to ensure we would not have any cross-threading problems.

 

Super Damper

The next step was to install the supplied harmonic damper. Much to our surprise, the S-Drive included an ATI Super Damper. The Super Damper is a revolutionary design that offers an SFI 18.1 spec rating and has undergone severe testing. It’s so good that GM uses them on its ZZ572 GM crate engines as an OEM option. The Super Damper is just one of the exceptional components integrated with the S-Drive unit. 

ICT Billet’s installation tool worked great when pressing the ATI hub onto the crankshaft.

For the installation of the Super Damper, we used an installation tool from ICT Billet. The stud threads into the crankshaft. After it’s inserted and the hub is lined up, attach the washer and nut and use a ratchet to press the hub on the crankshaft. You will then remove the installation tool and connect the Super Damper with the supplied hardware. Then use the provided torque to yield (TTY) LS balancer bolt to secure the super damper. It’s good to note that a used LS balancer bolt should never be reused. Eddie Motorsports knows that’s the case and includes a new TTY bolt and all of the necessary hardware. The rest of the installation is straight forward unless you have a truck block, which we do, but we will get into that a little later. 

The Super Damper is a revolutionary design that offers an SFI 18.1 spec rating and has undergone severe testing.

Keeping It Cool

The next step is to take the supplied studs and insert them in the block. If you have trouble threading them in — these guys thought of everything — Eddie Motorsports includes a pair of nuts that you can double-up on the thread and then use a wrench to install them. Make sure to use anti-seize on the studs and hardware. You will now insert the supplied water pump gaskets, PRW aluminum water pump, and alternator bracket. Now, install the stainless steel standoffs, before installing the S-Drive aluminum thermostat housing and supplied thermostat and install the pulley. 

Like the rest of the S-drive from Eddie Motorsports, the installation of the water pump was straight forward with no surprises.

Power Steering

After you’ve completed this stage, things move fast, unless you have a truck engine as we mentioned before. If you do, you will need to need to modify the block. While this may sound overwhelming, it’s not a big deal and can be done with hand tools. You will need to bolt the power steering bracket into place with the supplied bolt and align it with a boss on the block. After it’s aligned on the engine, use a punch to mark the center. You will then use an 8.5mm or “Q” drill bit to drill an 11/16-inch deep hole. Tap it with an M10x1.5mm tap, and you’re done. You can then insert the studs and mount the GM type-II power steering pump, pulley, fitting, and the line. 

If you are using an LS truck engine, you will need to drill and tap the block for the power steering bracket. Eddie Motorsports instructions do a great job of explaining this process.

Charge It

Our next step is to install the brackets for the Powermaster 170 amp alternator. Again, this process is simple, and no modifications were needed. Like the rest of our installation, the billet machined brackets fit the alternator to our LS block perfectly.

A 170 Amp Powermaster alternator is included with the S-drive system.

Air Conditioning

Our S-Drive system also included a Sanden-style compact A/C compressor, which bolted on effortlessly with the supplied brackets and hardware. The kit includes a billet front cover and a top plate for the unit. We did not install the top plate yet per the company’s instructions. This piece is not to be installed on the engine until you’re ready to attach the hoses and charge the system. So, we will wait until our vintage LS is in the vehicle. 

The S-Drive system includes covers for the A/C compressor, A/C compressor pulley, and the belt tensioner for a super clean look.

Wrap It Up

At this point, we have a few more things to finish before we button up the accessory drive. We went ahead and installed the crank pulley on the Super Damper, making sure to use the correct bolts and washers. We then mounted the tensioner and the cover before sliding the provided Gates belt into place. 

This S-drive system is so complete, that we didn't else for the installation. Everything was included in the box.

While Eddie Motorsports could have used overseas components to up its profit margins, they didn’t. The company manufactures all of its products in the USA and uses brand names for its accessories, like ATI, Powermaster, GM, and PRW, making for an excellent drive system.

“With so much competition in the market, we needed a way to stand above the rest, besides our already proven billet components. We partnered with leaders in the industry to provide top-tier components with our S-drive kits. This helps to give our customers peace of mind that they are truly receiving the best value for their hard-earned money, which they are choosing to spend with us. Oberhelman continues, “True American Billet is our slogan and it is who we are. Over the years we have found that it really is not any cheaper to mass-produce overseas when you factor in things like freight, returns, and quality control. And overall, our prices are not any more than someone selling a kit with all of the components made overseas.  Being made in the USA is a point we are extremely proud of and happy to label on our parts.”

The S-drive fit and finish is second to none, and Eddie Motorsports even offers a full one-year warranty against any defects in workmanship or manufacturing. On top of that, even the components that it doesn’t make, like the alternator, water pump, and A/C compressor, have their own warranty that may be honored above its own.

LS Valve Cover Adapters

The LS valve covers are not very attractive, even with the coils removed and relocated. To combat this problem, we ordered a set of small-block valve cover adapters from Holley (PN 241-298). Since our units were cast aluminum, we had to paint them Hugger Orange to match the engine. After the paint dried, we swapped out the factory covers for the Holley adapters, which allows us to utilize the old small-block Chevrolet valve covers in place of the OEM units. Another great feature of this setup is that the new valve covers will hide our coil packs. 

Holley’s small-block valve cover adapters for the LS allow you to run SBC valve covers while hiding the LS coil packs.

Heat’s Bad

If it’s two things that will kill a coil, it’s excessive heat and vibration. Due to the mounting hardware for the coils, we aren’t worried about vibration. However, we are concerned about the heat since we’re covering the coil packs. For this problem, we turned to Design Engineering Inc. (DEI).

Since our coil packs were going to be mounted under the valve covers, we used DEI's LS Coil Pack Heat Shield to protect them from the heat.

DEI offers a product called the LS Coil Pack Heat Shield. These are designed to solve the problem of coil failure from extreme engine heat. And since we’re covering the coils with SBC valve covers, we want to shield as much of that heat as possible. The LS Engine Coil Pack Heat Shields are a semi-rigid shield made from double-sided aluminum and high-temperature foam core, which insulates and reflects heat away to extend the coils’ life. The sheets come pre-cut for the factory LS coil packs, but are easy to trim. 

We used the small-block Chevrolet gaskets as a template and cut the excess off. After we had installed the studs in the valve cover adapters, we marked each shield before punching any holes. To make the holes, we used an old piece of stainless steel tubing and a dead blow hammer. This process made quick work of punching out the unwanted material, allowing the shields to slip down on the studs. And while the DEI shields will help protect the coils, this is only part of the equation. We will also need to create an air gap between the adapters and the SBC valve covers, which we will show in our next article. 

We used an old piece of 3/8 stainless steel and a dead blow hammer to makes holes in the material for the hardware to fit through.

Ignition

With the DEI shields in place, it was time to mount our coils. The Holley valve cover adapters will accept a couple of different LS coils. We decided to use a set of Gen I LS units from Performance Distributors. If it’s one thing we won’t chance, it’s a 20-year-old coil pack with 150,000 miles on the clock. The Sultans Of Spark ignition coils will give us reliability over a used set and 7000 more volts per coil of additional spark energy. The added firepower will allow us to up the gaps on our spark plugs to .065-inches giving us more spark in the combustion chamber for an increased burn for extra performance and better fuel efficiency.

With the valve cover adapters and coils in place, we will need to make new spark plug wires since the factory LS wires are not long enough.

While we have made some significant changes to our LS’s look, we still have a few more modifications to go before it’s complete. In our next and final installment, we will finish up the valve covers, route the spark plug wires, and discuss the different types of intake manifolds, induction, and a few other surprises. 

With the LS engine on the stand, we couldn’t help but slap on a set of Holley SBC valve covers and a dual-plane intake manifold.

 

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About the author

Brian Havins

A gearhead for life, Brian is obsessed with all things fast. Banging gears, turning wrenches, and praying while spraying are just a few of his favorite things.
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