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The Versatile LS Engine

Posted in Features on September 9, 2013
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LS Engine Photo 68811027 LS-Engine

Author: Craig Perronne Photos: Craig Perronne

Ever since its introduction in 1997, the Chevrolet LS series of engines has become wildly popular, and for good reason. Designed with a completely fresh slate, the engineers at General Motors were able to make large gains over the venerable Gen 1, 23-degree V8 engines instead of incremental advances. Right out the gate the LS1 and LS2 engines featured more horsepower and torque than their predecessors. A new head design that offered better flow than even ported 23-degree production heads added to this, along with a composite intake manifold that helped to make a nice broad torque curve. Even fuel mileage and drivability were increased via a sophisticated and adaptable fuel injection system. On top of all this, the LS block and heads are aluminum for a nice weight savings over the traditional cast iron.

The RHS LS race block is the foundation of all the upper end builds Redline performs. It allows for up to a massive 500 cubic inches of displacement because of an increased deck height and raised camshaft location. It is also a much stronger block internally and externally as RHS started out with a blank sheet of paper, so it was designed for harsh motorsport applications from the start. A variety of heads, pistons and other internals can then be sourced depending upon the amount of horsepower desired — and the available budget. The torquey goodness didn’t stop there though, as GM refined the LS family even further. In 2008, Chevrolet introduced the well-known LS3 that produces 430 horsepower and 424 lb-ft of torque straight from the factory. With a simple camshaft change and different heads, the LS3 is capable of producing 500 horsepower and running comfortably all day long. The mighty LS7 can even top that with 505 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque all in a factory-built engine that can be driven every day without idling problems or other weirdness. With their great power, light weight, compact size and superior drivability, it is little wonder that the versatile LS engine has wound up in everything from play cars to sand cars and even full-blown race vehicles. One of the companies responsible for building many of those LS engines is Redline Performance of Anaheim, California. Originally starting as a specialist in the rotary engine world many years ago, Redline shifted the majority of its focus to the versatile LS engine upon its introduction. Offering everything from mild to wild LS builds for just about any application imaginable, Redline also is a specialist in dyno tuning as well. One of their latest projects, a “spec” V8 engine for the LOORRS Pro Lite class, shows the seemingly never-ending versatility of the LS platform. We decided to take a sneak peek at the new mill along with some of what goes into the other LS-based engines that Redline builds.

RHS LS Block Photo 67321489 The RHS LS race block is the foundation of all the upper end builds Redline performs. It allows for up to a massive 500 cubic inches of displacement because of an increased deck height and raised camshaft location. It is also a much stronger block internally and externally as RHS started out with a blank sheet of paper, so it was designed for harsh motorsport applications from the start. A variety of heads, pistons and other internals can then be sourced depending upon the amount of horsepower desired — and the available budget.

For midrange builds and a more affordable option, Redline uses a stock LS block (an LS-3 is pictured here). This saves the cost of a $5,000 race block and is perfect for play car or non-motorsports applications. Redline still fully preps the block by boring and honing it with a torque plate, surfacing the decks and align-honing if needed. All of Redline’s blocks are treated to ARP head and main studs for maximum strength. While a stock block cannot be bored to the big cubic inches of a race block, it can still make good, reliable horsepower -and plenty of it. While the majority of builds are LS-based engines, Redline also does more traditional ones like this massive 540 cubic-inch big-block Chevy V8. The naturally aspirated monster puts out 650 rear wheel horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque. With forced induction it can generate well over 1,000 horsepower and 700 lb-ft of torque. Helping to produce all this power is a Dart race block and heads, Wilson sheet metal manifold, Bryant Racing billet crank and Carrillo connecting rods. At the upper mid range of what Redline does is this 460 cubic inch LS sand car engine that uses a Whipple supercharger to produce a conservative 750 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque at the rear tires. Its foundation is an RHS race block filled with a Callies billet crank and rods, along with AFR heads and CP pistons. T&D shaft-mounted roller rockers and ARP head studs are also used. Feeding it fuel and air is a Redline-tuned Motec EFI system. Redline prides itself on solving and overcoming any problem presented to it. A large one was developing the LS engine that powered Robby Gordon’s Dakar Hummer, as it had to breathe through an extremely diminutive 37mm intake restrictor. This absolutely kills airflow in the upper RPM range so the solution eventually came in the form of using a RHS race block to allow larger cubic inches for more low-end torque. Stock heads are also used, as aftermarket ones would simply run out of air. This engine, built for a South African customer that must use the same restrictor, features an exotic Carbon XR carbon fiber intake with dual throttle bodies. While the long runners of this setup are not ideal for low-end power, the customer likes the bling! For the LS-based Pro Lite engine, Redline’s goal is to make an engine that is competitive, reliable and affordable. To meet the class rules, and since all the other engines in the field are iron as well, Redline sourced this 6.0L iron block from Summit Racing. The block also saves money as it comes in under $800 and is completely machined already. All it needs is cleaning and measuring before assembly. The Pro Lite-spec engine will also use an ASA-spec GM Performance camshaft with .525 lift and .236 duration. Since it is not an all-out, no-holds-barred racing engine, but rather a spec engine, the components chosen for it were carefully selected as a mix of affordability and reliability. The Trick Flow Specialties heads are a perfect example of this. Based on an LS1 design, the aluminum head has similar flow rates to a stock unit, but can better handle the rigors of motorsports. While the LS Pro Lite engine can be had with a traditional wet sump setup, the Daily Engineering oil pan and dry sump makes for a very nice option. Besides just looking sexy, the combo offers much better oiling and helps internal scavenging. By providing a constant flow of oil no matter what the truck is doing, it also helps longevity as well. Key to any race engine is a good quality crank and rods. While there are many options available, Redline also had to take cost into account as the idea behind a spec engine is to save money. They decided on a Callies 3.420 stroke crank along with Callies 6.125 connecting rods. Both have been proven by thousands of miles of racing and will produce an engine that meets the maximum size allowed by the rules of 5.7L. While other miscellaneous parts were still being finalized with LOORRS as we went to press, the engine should be available as a turnkey unit by the time you read this.

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One of Redline’s big advantages is its tuning prowess. Every engine that leaves their facility gets put on a chassis dyno. If the vehicle is not available, Redline puts the engine into their custom-built dyno mule complete with a Mendeola gearbox and tires. This allows for the engine to be loaded on the chassis dyno and operated under more real-world conditions so that the mapping can be optimized. There is no such thing as a generic tune that gets the engine somewhat close. Redline also offers this service for any engine, whether they built it or not, and reports that picking up 20-30 horsepower is not uncommon on an engine that has not had a map custom made for it.

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