First things first

Lets get some things out of the way first, and talk about why this subject came up. Junkyard. Everybody and their brothers cousins uncles nephews babysitter seems to know that “All ya gotta do is get a LS motor from the junkyard and make 1000 hp!!” Well, kind of. Most anyone who has ventured down this path knows exactly what I’m talking about. This pertains mostly to people who already have an existing hot rod, pickup, muscle car, rat rod etc. and want to do the swap in that vehicle. This is the part we see as a shop the most, and it presents an array of choices and challenges for the customer.

Junkyard Dreams

So, you have gone to the junkyard, whether its your local pick and pull, or the digital junkyard known as eBay or Facebook Marketplace. You managed to get yourself a 5.3 or 6.0 and you even managed to get the ECU to boot. You could be into it anywhere from 800 to 1500 bucks right out of the gate. “Cheap!” you say! Not so fast. This is the point where it typically goes off the rails. It has become very common knowledge that the first thing you do a LS engine to add power is swap out the camshaft. And when you change a camshaft, its best to get some new lifters. Whenever you change the lift and duration specs of your cam it is advised to replace and or upgrade your valve springs to handle the change. While the valve springs are off, you’d be silly not to change the valve seals! If you add those parts up and add some labor if you aren’t doing it yourself, that could easily be another 2500 smackaroos. Are you going to spend the time to thin down a stock wiring harness? Are you going to but one from PSI maybe? Maybe you’re going to go aftermarket EFI with something like Holley HP or Terminator X. Feel free to add another 600 to 1500 depending on what you option out.You have a decent looking car and don’t want something that looks like it just came out of the junkyard under the hood do ya? Of course not! Now its time to spend time cleaning it up. Degreasing, washing, needle scaling, scraping and degreasing again…..and either you can do it, or a shop will do it, but it adds money. Your “cheap” engine is already at somewhere in the 4500 dollar range, and there are more parts to be had before that 80k mile powerplant is all settled into the chassis.

For the record

I am not here to say that LS engines suck or that no one should swap them, that simply isn’t true. I am speaking to a category of person I see as a customer quite frequently and have had to take this journey with them verbally several times. When a customer comes in and asks about doing a LS swap, I usually go over the first paragraph, and I can see their heart start to sink. Typically it’s someone who has a car or hotrod with a Small block chevy in it, and they’ve seen some things about LS swaps on the interwebs. They have done some research, and somewhere in that dialogue it seems they have come to believe that their ol’ 350 is somehow worthless. Also not true, in my humble opinion.

Hit for hit

Now we are at the real meat and potatoes of this alphabet soup. 99.9% of people who come to my shop for an engine, of any kind, want it to be new. Not a junkyard pig covered in lipstick. When the parts catalogs come out, EVERY piece for your GEN 1 SBC will be cheaper. The good stuff too, Forged cranks, forged rods and pistons, even new blocks.