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LS Lessons: General Motors LS Series V8 Spotter’s Guide

The LS series of General Motors V8s started life powering the C5 Corvette in 1997 so it’s easy to see how they have become the most-swapped American V8 on the road. LS swaps are not only the order of the day for resto-modded muscle cars but are also becoming prevalent with Japanese imports on the street and Formula Drift circuit. Contemplating a swap? Wondering when and where do your source you LS ponies? Here’s a quick guide to help you navigate this small-block landscape.

Of course engines from older cars and cars that were produced in greater numbers will be easier to find and cheaper to buy. It should be noted that many of these engines can also be had as crate motors.

LS Heritage
The General Motors LS engine family debuted in the then-new 1997 model year C5 Corvette as the all-aluminum LS1 V8. General Motors called it the Gen III small-block V8 and a year later (the 1998 model year), the LS1 replaced the LT1 small-block in Camaros and Firebirds.

LS1/LS6 / 1997 – 2005 / 305 – 350 HP
The all-aluminum LS1 displaces 5.7 liters and can be found under the hoods of Corvettes, Camaros, Firebirds, and GTOs produced from model year 1997 to 2004. The engine made 345 to 350 horsepower in the C5, 305 to 325 ponies in the Camaros and Firebirds, and 350 horses in the 2004 GTO.

The LS6 was introduced in the same time-frame, i.e. 2001 to 2005, and was offered in the Corvette Z06 where it pumped out an impressive 405 horsepower. This 5.7-liter plant can also be found in the first-generation Cadillac CTS-V.

LS1 Swap Candidates

1997-2000 Chevrolet Corvette                    345 HP @ 5600 rpm

2001-2004 Chevrolet Corvette                    350 HP @ 5600 rpm

1998-2000 Chevrolet Camaro Z28              305 HP @ 5200 rpm

 

1998-2000 Chevrolet Camaro SS                320 HP @ 5200 rpm

2001-2002 Chevrolet Camaro Z28              310 HP @ 5200 rpm

2001-2002 Chevrolet Camaro SS                325 HP @ 5200 rpm

 

1998-2000 Pontiac Firebird Formula         305 HP @ 5200 rpm

1998-2000 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am       320 HP @ 5200 rpm

2001-2002 Pontiac Firebird Formula         310 HP @ 5200 rpm

2001-2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am       325 HP @ 5200 rpm

2004 Pontiac GTO                                           350 HP @ 5200 rpm

 

LS2 / 2005 / 400 HP
In 2005, The General came out with the LS2, known as the “Gen IV design” by Bow Tie aficionados. Displacement was bumped to 6.0 liters and output also increased to 400 horses. The motor could be found under the hoods of the Corvette, Pontiac GTO, Pontiac G8 GT, and the ill-fated throwback Chevy SSR roadster pickup. The LS2 is versatile from a parts swapping standpoint as cylinder heads from the LS1, LS6, LS3, and L92 V8s are bolt-on propositions.

Chevrolet Corvette

Pontiac GTO

Pontiac G8 GT

Chevy SSR

 

LS3 / 2008 / 430 HP

Fast forward to the 2008 Corvette and you’ll come face-to-radiator with the LS3… and you’ve jump up the power tree again… this time to a whopping 430 horsepower. While displacement has also moved up to 6.2 liters, the casting for the block has been altered to add strength and rigidity. The LS3 can also be found in the 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP and is standard fare in the 2010 Camaro SS.

Chevrolet Corvette

Chevrolet Camaro SS

Pontiac G8 GXP

 

LS4 / 303 HP
Here’s the red-headed stepchild of the LS line. The LS4’s oddball status comes from its front-drive configuration. The 5.3-liter powerplant, used in the front-wheel-drive Chevrolet Impala SS and Pontiac Grand Prix GXP, has an altered accessory system that allows it to be mounted transversely. These unique attributes make the LS4 a difficult engine swap partner.

Chevrolet Impala SS

Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

Pontiac Grand Prix GXP

 

LS7 / 2006 to 2015 / 505 HP
From the black sheep to the big dog. At 7.0 liters or 427 cubic inches, the LS7 motor teases big-block status. The LS7 can be found in C6 Corvette Z06s from 2006 to 2015 and the 2014 Camaro Z/28. Along with its added displacement the LS7 is all about lightness and flow. It uses titanium rods and intake valves and aggressive head port design to drop the hammer to the tune of 505 horsepower.

Chevrolet C6 Corvette

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

 

LS9 / 2009 – 2019 / 638 – 755 HP

The LS9 is a supercharged and intercooled 6.2-liter. Found exclusively in the Corvette ZR1, it holds the distinction of being the most powerful production engine GM has ever offered. The engine features specially cast cylinder heads and forced induction comes from a stout 2.3-liter roots-style blower. ZR1s are rare and expensive with a six-digit price tag but new crate motors are priced around $21,000, with used examples pricing out at half that.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

 

LSA / 2009 / 556 HP
The LSA is a drawn-down version of the LS9 that is standard fare in the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V. It displaces 6.2 liters and sports forced induction but its supercharger is smaller at 1.9 liters. The LSA lacks the 9’s forged pistons and has a smaller intercooler set-up but horsepower is still impressive at 556 horsepower.

Cadillac CTS-V

 

Gen III & Gen IV LS Vortec Truck Engines

Beware of iron. Not all LS powerplants are created equal… the nomenclature is also used on The General’s line of truck motors. These iterations are available in 4.8-, 5.3-liters of displacement in conventional 1/2-ton vehicles and 6.0 liters in 3/4-ton and 1-ton trucks. These engines feature iron blocks and are built for ruggedness not speed. The popular 5.3-liter version has power output ranging from 270 to 325 horsepower.

A deeper dive as far as bore sizes, rod lengths, head design and so on is in order to better understand the interchangeability of these bullets, but this guide serves as a great starting place. Happy hunting.

 

 

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