BUILDING AN OLD SCHOOL STYLIZED LS ENGINE
LS engine swaps have been where it’s at in the classic scene for quite some time now. With more than 400 horses, these power plants can really bring your project alive. When you drop in a LS engine, you get modern power but lose the old school feel of a carbureted engine. With a smooth intake and obtrusive coil packs on the valve covers, it’s easy to spot these motors in older vehicles. Up until now, folks have had to make the difficult decision of going with traditional style or modern function. But what if you can have both? Del Uschenko and his talented team at Delmo’s Speed & Kustom have developed a way to have it all in their Del S3 package.
Starting off, the best way to transform one of these engines is by stripping them down. As you can see this GM LS3 block had the intake and exhaust removed. Making sure all the openings were covered, this engine was cleaned up and painted in an orange engine enamel that resembles the paint on factory small blocks. When we showed up, the harmonic damper was already installed, and the pulley was attached with the three provided bolts.
Del uses a serpentine system from Drive Junky, which keeps everything, like the alternator, power steering pump and air conditioning compressor, fitting tightly together. Kits come in different variations depending on what accessories you plan to run. They also come in anodized black or polished. The one here has a low-mount AC compressor.
To help maintain an original look with these builds, Del and the crew adapt small-block valve covers to fit the LS engines. This mod has really changed the game because it’s a great way to pull off a retro style with these new-age engines. Here, Del painted the covers to match this engine block.
To allow the valve cover to fit on the heads Del offers machined adapters for use on LS engines. The provided studs are placed on the heads, and the adapter brackets are locked in place with washers and locking nuts. Then, the provided studs were placed on the adapters followed by the gasket. Trans Dapt Performance Products also has adapters like these for sale.
Once the paint on the valve covers was dry on these, they were bolted to the adapters. Notice that this set has the Del S3 badges that are only used on builds done at Delmo’s. There are many valve cover options for sale by Summit Racing to fit many different looks as well.
Clearance issues can occur when installing a LS in classic vehicles. To solve this problem, Del used a Holley GM Retro-fit oil pan. These also come with a new oil pick-up tube that you must be installed as well. Next, the oil sump baffle was attached to the inside of the pan and then it was bolted to the block with use of a gasket to prevent leaks.
To pull off a faux carbureted look, a Holley mid-rise intake and universal EFI throttle body was used. With the gaskets installed, the Holley mid-rise intake manifold was bolted to the heads on the LS3. The universal throttle body was placed on the intake with a gasket in between. As you can see, this modern engine is already taking form. For extra styling, you can paint the intake to match the block.
To provide gas to the engine, Holley fuel rails complete with injectors were installed on the intake. Though this is a bit of a give away that this is a modern engine, it is necessary. The system will also need to be plumbed for fuel with a pump as well.
Various headers can be used but Del uses late-model Camaro exhaust manifolds to pull off a factory look. These have plenty of clearance for most low vehicles. With gaskets in place, the headers can be simply bolted on to the heads.
Finishing it off, Del attached a custom 327-style air cleaner and cover on top of the throttle body. This completes the majority of the assembly. Not shown was the installation of a starter and addition of motor oil. To fire the engine, custom spark plug wires will need to be made, and the coil packs will have to be relocated. Hamburger’s Performance Products sells coil pack brackets to make this easier. To make it all work, an EFI ECU and harness kit will need to be installed and tuned. Afterwards you’ll have a modern-running LS engine that will fool most people into thinking it’s a traditional carbureted small-block.