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How to Look SBC With a Gen III

By Todd Ryden – Photography by the Author

About the only downfall of the GM LS engine platform is the engine’s overall aesthetics. This is especially true when it comes to LS swaps in muscle cars, classics, and vintage hot rods. The eight coil packs and that unsightly plastic intake manifold with sensors and wires scattered just don’t look at home under the hood of a traditional Tri-Five or vintage Nova.

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What’s that distributor fit you ask? A modern LS of course, that is, if you’re looking for classic looks from your LS. LS Classic Series specializes in making your LS engine look more at home in your muscle car, and we’re trying out their distributor and plug wire set to move the coils off the valve covers as well as their valley pan cover with a front vent and oil fill.

There are a several adapters available these days that allow you to cover the coil packs or change valve covers and even a few four-barrel-style intakes if you choose to go that route. One company that has taken LS beautification to an all-new level is LS Classic Series. Started by a Corvette restoration company and now owned by Lokar, LS Classic not only offers direct-fit cast aluminum script valve covers (that do not require adapters) and billet valley pans with the front oil fill tube, but they also designed complete cast intake manifolds reminiscent of the early GM mechanical fuel injection systems. They can even make your LS look like a big-block or 409!

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The distributor from LS Classic takes coil relocation to another level. There are no terminals in the cap so the wires can be routed straight through the hollow distributor shaft and out to wherever you mount to the LS coils.

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One of the keys to any LS appearance upgrade is to remove the coils from the valve covers. Not only does LS Classic offer trick remote coil mounts, but they also developed a faux distributor that gives you the ability to route the spark plug wires through it and back to the new coil locations. The distributor is fitted with a points-style cap and is hollow so the wires simply pass through the housing, creating a clean and quite sneaky way to route the plug wires. How’s that for LS trickery?

 

We have a languishing 1966 Nova SS project that is getting updated with an LS1. Years ago we painted the engine Chevy orange with the plans to run a carburetor or throttle body on a Chevy Performance intake. The goal was to give our LS1 the look of an L79, the rare 327 engine option that cranked out 350 hp. We even added a set of valve cover adapters years ago so we could run the original chrome covers, but that was about the extent of our prepwork.

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LS Classic provides high-quality suppression-style plug wires rated at only 40 ohms per foot. Even if you were to use the full length (about 9 feet) you’d still have less than 400 ohms on each wire. The coil side terminal and boot are installed and multi-angle terminals and boots are provided for the spark plug side.

It was a good start, but we definitely fell short of making the engine look like a traditional 327. With a little more help from LS Classic, our vision is coming into focus and has given us a boost to get this project shifted into high gear.

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With our L79 appearance goal, we wanted to run a factory chrome 327 valve cover, so a set of LS-to-SBC adapters were sourced through Hedman Performance Group a long time ago. LS Classic offers a number of trick valve covers that bolt directly to LS heads, including classic big-block or even W-motor valve covers.
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The valve cover adapters fit to the LS head through a set of spacers and longer center bolts (a gasket, too, of course). Then another gasket is required to bolt the SBC cover in place. LS Classic offers a trick direct bolt-on cast aluminum Corvette script cover, but our tunnel vision was fixed on the factory-style chrome 327 Nova covers.

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The LS Classic valley pan is CNC machined to accept an O-ring gasket for a clean, secure seal to the engine. The cover also features a front oil fill tube, which is key to creating a vintage visual. The pan cover has an as-cast finish on top, and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to paint it orange … the jury is still out on that. Note that if you plan to run EFI still the OEM knock sensors can be relocated to the sides of the block.

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Back to the distributor. It simply installs to the back two valley cover retaining bolts and has adjustment slots to help clear the firewall or air cleaner, just like you need to consider on a standard SBC. Our LS1 has the cam sensor in the rear of the block, but will still fit. The oil pressure sensor will be moved down to the bypass cover over the filter.
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Our plan all along was to use an aluminum intake such as this early version from Chevrolet Performance. Edelbrock, Holley, and other companies offer dual- and single-plane intakes to accept a carburetor or throttle body for fuel injection.
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LS Classic offers a trick remote coil mount that secures four of the common LS3 coils and is easy to mount. Our coils were on back order but to illustrate the assembly we used our stock LS1 series coils.
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Back to the spark plug wires. We started by routing the plug wires up and through the distributor housing since the LS coil side of the wire already has the boot and terminal terminated. And to answer your question, yes, they even provide a coil wire with terminals, too.
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LS Classic thought of everything, including a 90-degree socket boot to secure and route the plug wire into the cap. You can decide to keep the wires routed to each bank for a cleaner appearance, or try to follow the SBC firing order. Either way, when you connect the coils, make sure everything is wired in the correct order (by the way, the LS firing order is 1-8-7-2-6-5-4-3 rather than a small-block of 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2.)
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A multi-angle terminal and boot are supplied for the spark plug side. A set of crimping pliers will be required to finish the wires.
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We’re not sure if we’ll be using manifolds or headers. For now, and to assist in routing the wires, we installed the factory cast-iron manifolds. Once the factory heat shields are removed, the OEM manifolds look pretty decent all in all.
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We topped our Chevy intake off with an Atomic Throttle Body from MSD. We like the looks of a throttle body versus a port fuel setup to keep the modern fuel injection technology hidden under the air cleaner.
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Topping off the system is the unique L79 Nova dual snorkel air cleaner. The plug wires, distributor and front oil fill really sell the engine as a small-block to most people passing by, while the performance and reliability of a modern driveline is at the beckon of our right foot!

SOURCE
LS Classic Series by Lokar
(877) 469-7440
lsclassic.com

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