What’s so special about the LS?

What’s so special about the LS?

How many times have you heard the term “LS-swap”? What is it that makes GM’s LS-series engines so popular with drag racers, hot-rodders, drifters, modders and tuners alike? There has to be a reason this particular engine is so many people’s favourite.

The History

Back in January 1995, the LS was introduced as a “clean sheet” design by Chevrolet, and since then, the LS series of engines has been the firm favourite performance engine in OEM applications, and as the ever popular LS-swap.

While Chev certainly didn’t invent the V8 engine, the classic Small Block Chev (above) was, and still is, such a popular engine, that the brand is almost synonymous with the term V8. Chev took the literal decades of knowledge learned in producing the Small Block Chev and applied that to the LS.

However, there wasn’t much carried over from the old V8 to the new. Basically, rod bearings, lifters, and bore spacing are about the only things the two engines have in common. 

The LS was first introduced in the 1997 Corvette, and since then GM has been shoving them in every vehicle they could. From trucks to Camaros, and everything in between including the Australian-made Holden Commodores.

That means there’s plenty around, they’re not that expensive (but the price is on the rise), and there’s a whole lot of after sales support for them. 


Engine Overview

Let’s start with the block. The lower section of the LS is a “Y-Block” design, and incorporates deep side skirts, along with 6-bolt cross-bolted main bearing caps. There’s four vertical bolts, and then two horizontal bolts that clamp the block wall to the main cap.

This is what the engineers at GM call snap-fit cross-bolt design, and it provides really good crankshaft and block rigidity. So, the bottom end’s pretty strong – throw a set of performance rods and pistons at it, and you’ll be golden. 

To keep the cylinder heads on this thing, Chevy uses extra-long head bolts that thread deep into the block, minimizing cylinder bore distortion and variation in the head bolt torque spec. This creates a really strong and rigid structure, which can support high power mods.

Next, let’s take a look at the heads. The stock aluminium heads are actually really good. From the factory, they’ve got nice open ports, which permits high air-flow, allowing performance that was previously only possible with aftermarket cylinder heads.

The best part about these free-flowing heads is they respond really well to boost –  and we all love boost!

The LS is a relatively small and light engine. This is largely thanks to its old-school pushrod design.

Most modern performance engines utilise an overhead camshaft design which can certainly help the engine breathe, however it adds extra height, weight, and complexity, especially  when the engine is in a V configuration.

If we take a look at something like the Ford Coyote engine, or even Toyota’s 1UZ, the top of the LS is much more compact in design.

This is the reason why they’re so popular for engine conversions – they fit in just about anything! 

And we do mean everything!


Should you get one?

The answer is most certainly yes! If you want to make good power, good torque and fit it in most engine bays, you really can’t go past an LS. Sure you’ll cop a few “not another LS-swap” comments, but hey, your car will be running and theirs probably won’t be!


Which variant should you use?

It all depends on what you can get your hands on and what you are planning to do with it. Any variant of the LS is a pretty safe buy and should give you a good platform for making plenty of safe, reliable power.

There’s huge aftermarket support for the LS series and most parts like cranks, rods, pistons, camshafts, stud kits and gaskets are available off the shelf and overnight.


Things to look out for when buying your LS engine

Lifter problems seem reasonably common and are normally seen in older engines, engines with a high-lift camshaft, or engines that have been thrashed without regular servicing. If you hear an odd top-end knock mixed with a weird squeak, the engine needs attention.

Check the oil pressure first (to make sure its got some!), if it has oil low pressure, odds are the engine needs a set of lifters. Get onto this quickly, that noise is metal-on-metal carnage and it will be doing damage!


Tuning Options

When it comes to LS tuning, Haltech has got you covered! Doing an LS swap has never been easier with Haltech’s terminated engine harness kit.

All your factory connectors are labelled, crimped and terminated at exactly the right length while the ECU end plugs directly into a Haltech Elite ECU.

The kits also include the appropriate ignition harness and all the connectors needed to get you up and running.

Coupled with the Elite ECU, Haltech’s powerful ESP software opens up a world of endless tuning possibilities.

Haltech-controlled LS cars have been successful in various types of motorsport from Drag Racing…

Circuit and Time Attack…

to Drifting.

If you’re after an ECU for your LS-powered setup use the list below to choose the right Haltech ECU for your application.


Gen III (LS1/LS6)

Elite 950 + GM GEN III LS1 & LS6 (non DBW)Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1

Part Number: HT-150721

Elite 2000 + GM GEN III LS1 & LS6 (non DBW) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1 (as per factory)
Part Number: HT-151260

Elite 2500 + GM GEN III LS1 & LS6 (non DBW) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1 (as per factory)
Part Number: HT-151360

Elite 2500 + GM GEN III LS1 & LS6 (DBW Retrofit Ready) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1 (as per factory)
Part Number: HT-151362

Elite 2500 T + GM GEN III LS1 & LS6 (non DBW) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1 (as per factory)
Part Number: HT-151333

Elite 2500 T + GM GEN III LS1 & LS6 (DBW Retrofit Ready) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1 (as per factory)
Part Number: HT-151334

 

Gen IV (LS2/LS3)

Elite 950 + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (non DBW) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1
Part Number: HT-150722

Elite 2000 + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (non DBW) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1
Part Number: HT-151264

Elite 2000 + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (non DBW) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV6 (as per factory)
Part Number: HT-151265

Elite 2500 + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (non DBW) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1

Part Number: HT-151364

Elite 2500 + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (non DBW) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV6
 (as per factory)
Part Number: HT-151365

Elite 2500 + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (DBW Ready) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV6
 (as per factory)
Part Number: HT-151367

Elite 2500 + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (DBW Ready) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1

Part Number: HT-151366

Elite 2500 T + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (non DBW) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV6
 (as per factory)
Part Number: HT-151336

Elite 2500 T + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (DBW Ready) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV6 
(as per factory)
Part Number: HT-151338

Elite 2500 T + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (non DBW) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1

Part Number: HT-151335

Elite 2500 T + GM GEN IV LS2/LS3 (DBW Ready) Terminated Harness Kit
Injector Connector: Bosch EV1

Part Number: HT-151337

 
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