I picked up an Olds 350 diesel block with plans to go all roller, all forged and turbocharged but decided even though I’d been flying the flag of the Rocket engine for 30 + years I could no longer condone 10 mpg, the equivalent weight of two engines up front and parts costs approaching the national debt. This one took a lot of soul searching but I went to a – gulp – LS engine. Agghhhhh!
Yes I’ll admit it, I spouted negativity about the TV show that did a resto-mod on a 69 Cutlass hardtop with an LS engine and now I was as bad as them. Yes, an Olds V8 with fuel injection, roller cam, aluminum heads and a turbocharger would have been awesome but it still would have been heavy, got awful mileage and cost me a ton. I’ve debated all the reasons to go LS and to not go LS and tortured myself over it, trust me. Used to be I’d buck trends on principal and then catch up 20 years later. This time I figured I’d do what I’d seen others do and hoped I’d be as happy as they seemed to be.
The engine I settled on was a 2004 6.0 from a Chevy 3500 cube Van for $900 with the 4L80E trans and wiring harnesses. It had 187,000 miles on it which scared the hell out of me but everyone says these things go and go and go so just change the gaskets and live happily ever after.
Being a paranoid little fat guy I thought it best to take it apart to make sure it was in good shape and since I was going to swap the cam I had to do some disassembly anyway.
Good thing I went inside it or it would have blown up on the launch pad.
While pulling the cam forward to get it out of the block it abruptly stopped moving. Investigation revealed the center cam bearing was stuck to the cam journal and slid out of the block with the cam. Never had that happen before. It was a real treat knocking the bearing off it but after a while of poking at it with a long screwdriver victory was mine.
The rod bearings were in good shape but fell out of the journals while inspecting them so I ordered up a new set. Good thing I took it apart. I went to ARP rod bolts since I hate torque to yield bolts. The mains were in super nice shape so I left them alone.
I had a machinist friend check the heads which were cracked and non-repairable so I went on the hunt for new heads.
Good thing I took it apart. Notice a theme here?
I scored a set of low mile LS3 heads online for $500 that had killer aftermarket valve springs, retainers and locks and after having the machinist give them his okee dokee, I put them on with ARP bolts also. I also added a Ls9 cam, L92 intake, 80 lb injectors, Edelbrock fuel rails, blah blah blah.
The rest is fairly standard except the part where I succumbed to the siren call of forced induction. These LS engines respond really well to blowers and turbos so what the hell, why not? I made friends with a lunatic online who had a 80′s Fairmont 4 door with a turbo 5.3 LS engine that he’d got to run 9.90 at 140. Figuring he’d done the brain work already I just copied what he did with his blessing and we’d see how it worked for me. I’ll keep the boost a little lower than him though, I don’t need 717 HP at the wheels like he made. I’ll settle for a paltry 500 or so and just live with the ridicule
So the chassis was all together with the drivetrain now we just had to repair the rot we found in the body at the hidden mounting points. That took about a week but we got it done, laid a coat of Chassis black over it and dropped the body back on the frame with urethane bushings between them. Naturally, we found the engine was in the wrong spot once the body was back on but after 5 or 10 tries we got it right where we wanted it.
There was a lot of fabrication involved in mounting dual electric fans to the stock radiator support and mating an intercooler up inside the nose but we got it all to fit really well. A Grand National fuel tank fit reasonably well once the tank straps were modified.
The downpipe off the turbo was in no way going to clear my stock AC firewall housing so I but the bullet once again and bought aftermarket AC to gain the necessary clearance. To be honest I didn’t quite know how I was going to mate the 1969 AC hoses with the 2004 compressor so this made the whole thing easy. My credit cards were now on fire but hey, the plumbing was easier.
That’s pretty much where progress has stopped. I had it at my shop where there was plenty of room in the winter but when we opened in March it was time to take it home. I’ve picked away at it a little since then but it’s nowhere near running yet. My hope is to fire it up this summer, see what I created and hope I don’t hate it too much.
I’ve wanted to post the build up somewhere but was hesitating since the story isn’t finished. I hate when I read a build up on a website, get 15 pages into it and then it stops at the half or 3/4 mark. Then you read 10 “any updates?” posts from people who can’t or won’t do their own build and have to live through other posters. I don’t want to be that guy but if I don’t write the details down somewhere I’m going to start forgetting things.
So for now that’s the story. Hopefully there’ll be a happy ending sometime soon. If not my follow up article will be “how to walk away from a project when you’re in waaaay too deep” :)