Volume II, Issue 12, Page 4

Is it over?

Has the small-block Chevy gone “Legacy” ?


ne thing was clear at the Performance and Racing Industry show: LSx engines are all the rage.  If you’re making aftermarket engine parts, you either have LSx stuff to sell, you are going to have LSx stuff to sell, or you are going to be asked when you will have LSx stuff to sell.

Other than some of the race cars, all the Chevys in the various booths either were LSx or big-block powered.  As I walked the aisles at the huge event, I saw LSx pistons, rods, cranks, cams, heads, blocks, (oh, and some sweet LS7 rocker arms from Jesel) and everything else to make even more power from the General’s now decade-old new small- block. 

During the show, I was talking with a fellow who was describing his LT1 project, and I remarked that with a couple of dollars, he could step up to an LS2 and make more power with a lighter engine.  He responded: “I know, it’s just that I happened to have one lying around”.  As I survey the various enthusiast message boards I frequent, it’s a rare new project indeed that will be small-block powered.  Perhaps there are a lot of street cars being built with Chevy small-blocks, but if they are, not many people are talking about them.   I’ll bet most people are only using small-blocks if they happen to have one lying around. 

The reality is that a junkyard LS1 makes more power than a warmed over 350 or 383.  There are thousands of LSx all over the country in various forms in auto recycle yards and they can be had cheaply.  Take the money you’d normally use to modify that 350 and instead put your coin towards swapping the EFI late-model into your carbureted platform.  You’ll end up with a lighter, more reliable, and more powerful engine.  Bonus: it won’t leak oil. 

These days, you don’t even have to step up to EFI if you don’t want to.  Contrary to even GM’s expectations, the LSx responds very well to a carb.  The folks at Wegner Motorsports have done a lot of dyno testing, and have found more peak horsepower with a carb than with EFI.  For a few hundred dollars, you can get a standalone ignition from MSD, a carburetor intake manifold from GM Performance Parts (or Edelbrock), and run your LS1 with that 30 year old Holley 850 you’ve kept around all this time.  And if you really want to mess with people, GMPP even offers a conversion kit that will allow you to put a distributor and mechanical fuel pump on an LSx.  That’ll put some whip into the double takes you’ll get with your hood up.  For getting the motor bolted into place in your hot rod, motor mounts, fuel pumps, and headers for the more popular conversions are all available too.

No doubt the price equation is still on the side of the legacy small-block, especially if you decide to make use of the large (and growing) LSx aftermarket.  If you want to go nuts, you can build a 454 LSx using GM or aftermarket components and expect close to 700hp without power adders.  That will cost way more than a warmed over 383, but you’ll have almost double the power. 

We all figured that eventually the LSx motors will replace the small- block for enthusiast use.  After all, GM hasn’t put a small-block in a production vehicle in a long time.  But I’m here to tell you: with 10 years under its belt, 2007 is the year the LSx has relegated the small- block to legacy status.    

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