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TURN THAT CRATE LS ENGINE INTO A VINTAGE WORK OF ART WITH LS CLASSIC SERIES BY LOKAR

By Ryan Manson – Photography by the Author

It’s not hard to argue the merits of the modern LS engine, especially those that show up in a wooden crate with everything inside needed to make ’em run. Turn-key, reliable powerplants using 21st century technology inside and out, capable of making gobs of power; what’s not to love? They work as advertised, there’s no arguing that, but when compared to their vintage brethren of years gone passed, the modern LS engine falls flat. All that wiring, plastic, and drab gray aluminum leaves a lot to be desired in the looks department, especially when said powerplant finds itself between the inner fenders of a classic Chevy muscle car. The guys at LS Classic know this all too well and made it their credo to bring some vintage styling to the LS engine line.

01 crate LS3 engine as it shipped from Chevrolet Performance
Here’s our crate LS3 engine as it shipped from Chevrolet Performance. As far as nostalgia goes, it’s woefully lacking that aesthetic—but we’ll fix that!

As alluded, LS Classic Series by Lokar (their official name) offers a bunch of different components to help dress up that modern-looking LS engine, replacing that plastic with a little classic. From subtle things like cast-aluminum valve covers that mimic the stylings of the 409 or big-block Chevy to entire induction systems that disguise the new as old, LS Classic has the solutions to bring your modern LS engine into the past. Their products are well thought out and designed to perform as good as they look. These aren’t cheesy dress-up parts that simply bolt in place and hide the components, oftentimes they incorporate the OE design, such as their use of original LS valve cover gaskets. Many of their induction systems use the original drive-by-wire throttle body and fuel injectors, making the installation plug-and-play with the OE ECU negating the need for a costly retune or custom ECU. And if modifying a modern crate engine is beyond your comfort level, they even offer fully dressed crate engines that are ready to drop into that classic muscle car.

02 LS Engine removing the throttle body, intake manifold, fuel injectors, water pump, coils, valve covers, valley cover, and the harmonic balancercrank pulley
The first step is to prep the long-block by removing the throttle body, intake manifold, fuel injectors, water pump, coils, valve covers, valley cover, and the harmonic balancer/crank pulley. The coils and coil harnesses, fuel injectors and their harnesses, throttle body, and oil pressure sending unit will all be reused with the LS Classic kit. The rest of the stock components can be set aside.

Like water and oil, a modern, plastic-laden LS engine and a vintage muscle car just don’t go together, but we understand the desire to retain that Rat-powered aesthetic. So if you want to add a little classic flair to that modern engine and help it look more at home in that muscle car, check out LS Classic’s full line; we think your vintage proclivities will thank you.
ACP

Read More: Dozens of LS Swaps, motors and more here.

03 installing is the LS Classic valley cover kit (PN GMLS2006M)
The first item we’ll be installing is the LS Classic valley cover kit (PN GMLS2006M). Machined from billet aluminum, it features a chrome oil fill tube to help convey the big-block vibe.
04 LS correct O-rings and gasket to keep things sealed up as GM designed
The valley cover comes complete with all the necessary installation hardware as well as the correct O-rings and gasket to keep things sealed up as GM designed.
05 LS Classic provides an adapter that replaces the stock oil cooler block-off plate and moves the sending unit to the lower driver side of the oil pan
In stock guise, the oil pressure sending unit mounts atop the valley cover. This will foul the new four-barrel intake manifold we’ll be installing, so LS Classic provides an adapter that replaces the stock oil cooler block-off plate and moves the sending unit to the lower driver side of the oil pan.
06 PN GMLS5029
Our LS Classic serpentine kit requires the use of an F-body water pump, which they offer as PN GMLS5029.
07 LS Classic's 14-inch Classic Intake Kit (PN GMLS3006)
To stay with our big-block theme, we opted to use LS Classic’s 14-inch Classic Intake Kit (PN GMLS3006), which consists of a Holley single-plane aluminum intake manifold …
08 Holley billet aluminum fuel rails and hardware
… Holley billet aluminum fuel rails and hardware …
09 14-inch chrome round air cleaner and 4150 carb adapter baseplate
… and a 14-inch chrome round air cleaner and 4150 carb adapter baseplate. The carb baseplate adapter allows the use of the stock LS3 drive-by-wire throttle body on the four-barrel intake.
10 14-inch round air cleaner to the LS3 throttle body
The air cleaner’s base is a custom design that mates the 14-inch round air cleaner to the LS3 throttle body, ingeniously hiding it in the process.
11 stock LS3 fuel injectors are installed in the intake
The stock LS3 fuel injectors are installed in the intake, held fast by the Holley fuel rails.
12 cast-aluminum big-block Chevy valve covers (PN GMLS10030)
Without the proper valve covers, our LS3 would simply be an LS3 with a round air cleaner, that’s why the guys at LS Classic went through the painstaking task of developing a pair of cast-aluminum big-block Chevy valve covers (PN GMLS10030) that not only look the part but are designed to bolt straight to the factory LS heads using a set of aluminum standoffs and flush-mounted hardware. OE LS rubber seals install between the valve covers and the heads.
13 aluminum stand-offs install using the same threaded holes as the stock LS valve covers
The aluminum stand-offs install using the same threaded holes as the stock LS valve covers. Note the O-rings that provide proper sealing.
14 A baffled PCV port is also available at the rear of the valve cover
The LS Classic big-block covers attach to the standoffs using flush-mounted hardware. A billet aluminum, screw-in oil fill cap further lends credence to the big-block look. A baffled PCV port is also available at the rear of the valve cover.
14 accurate Chevy Tonawanda factory sticker
Further pushing the big-block look is an accurate Chevy Tonawanda factory sticker, just like the original’s wore.
16 Atop the intake, the carb baseplate adapter is installed
Atop the intake, the carb baseplate adapter is installed …
17 stock LS3 throttle body
… followed by the stock LS3 throttle body.
18 air cleaner assembly is then installed
The air cleaner assembly is then installed.
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The air cleaner assembly is then installed.
20 (PN GMLS5007B)
Since our LS3 showed up sans accessories, we thought it only made sense to stay with the LS Classic family of parts, using their F-body serpentine belt accessory drive kit (PN GMLS5007B). The kit uses a spring-loaded tensioner and a six-rib serpentine belt to drive the 180-amp Powermaster alternator, GM Type-II power steering pump with an integrated billet aluminum reservoir, and a high-capacity Sanden 708 A/C compressor.
21 F-body serpentine belt accessory drive kit
Since our LS3 showed up sans accessories, we thought it only made sense to stay with the LS Classic family of parts, using their F-body serpentine belt accessory drive kit (PN GMLS5007B). The kit uses a spring-loaded tensioner and a six-rib serpentine belt to drive the 180-amp Powermaster alternator, GM Type-II power steering pump with an integrated billet aluminum reservoir, and a high-capacity Sanden 708 A/C compressor.
22 F-body water pump
We jumped the gun earlier when we installed the F-body water pump as there are a few fasteners that are difficult to access with it in place. Once removed, the rear passenger side bracket bolted directly to the stock holes in the end of the heads, using spacers to ensure the brackets clear the valve covers.
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We jumped the gun earlier when we installed the F-body water pump as there are a few fasteners that are difficult to access with it in place. Once removed, the rear passenger side bracket bolted directly to the stock holes in the end of the heads, using spacers to ensure the brackets clear the valve covers.
24 driver side rear bracket installation LS3
The driver side rear bracket installation was just as painless, once the alternator was removed.
25 F-body water pump can be installed for the final time
Now the F-body water pump can be installed for the final time.
26 power steering reservoir was raised back to its stock location
The power steering reservoir was raised back to its stock location, followed by the alternator and the front bracket. Two idler pulleys ensure the accessories have plenty of belt wrap to prevent slippage.
27 LS3 securing the AC compressor in place
On the passenger side, the front bracket is installed, securing the A/C compressor in place. Another idler pulley is installed on this bracket.
28 spring-loaded belt tensioner is then installed on the water pump LS3
A spring-loaded belt tensioner is then installed on the water pump.
29 balancer (PN ADO-12553118) and the installation tool (PN SUM-900135) from Summit Racing
To achieve proper belt alignment, an F-body harmonic balancer is required. We ordered both the balancer (PN ADO-12553118) and the installation tool (PN SUM-900135) from Summit Racing.
30 new crank bolt (PN NAL-12557840)
Torquing the crank bolt properly on an LS engine can be a challenge, but these two tools make that job a lot easier. Summit’s Harmonic Balancer Wrench (PN SUM-906008) will keep things from spinning on you and their Flywheel Holding Tool (PN SUM-900332-1) will do the same while keeping your hands free. Don’t forget a new crank bolt (PN NAL-12557840) while you’re at it.
31 Flywheel Holding Tool (PN SUM-900332-1)
Torquing the crank bolt properly on an LS engine can be a challenge, but these two tools make that job a lot easier. Summit’s Harmonic Balancer Wrench (PN SUM-906008) will keep things from spinning on you and their Flywheel Holding Tool (PN SUM-900332-1) will do the same while keeping your hands free. Don’t forget a new crank bolt (PN NAL-12557840) while you’re at it.
32 accessory drive all screwed in place with the belt installed
Here’s the accessory drive all screwed in place with the belt installed.
33 universal Coil Relocation Brackets (PN GMLS4001)
The removal of the stock valve covers means we need to figure out how/where to mount the ignition coils. LS Classic has it figured out with their universal Coil Relocation Brackets (PN GMLS4001) that accept the stock LS3 coils.
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The removal of the stock valve covers means we need to figure out how/where to mount the ignition coils. LS Classic has it figured out with their universal Coil Relocation Brackets (PN GMLS4001) that accept the stock LS3 coils.
35 coil extension harness (PN GMLS4008)
A coil extension harness (PN GMLS4008) will allow us to install the coils in a remote location once the engine is installed.
36 LS Classic's cast-aluminum faux-distributor kit (PN GMLS4002)
The last piece of the vintage dress puzzle is LS Classic’s cast-aluminum faux-distributor kit (PN GMLS4002). This piece really pushes the appearance further into big-block land by routing the spark plug wires from the remotely mounted coils up through the bottom of the distributor housing, out the cap, and to their respective spark plug. The LS Classic Distributor Kit includes extra-long, 9-foot 7mm Kevlar spiral core spark plug wires with high-temp silicone boots.
37 coil ends of the plug wires are pre-terminate
The coil ends of the plug wires are pre-terminated and since we have yet to finalize the coil mounting location, we kept them extra long just in case.
38 LS setup that would look at home in any vintage GM muscle car
The final product looks amazing and pulls off the big-block vibe incredibly well. This is one LS setup that would look at home in any vintage GM muscle car, fooling even the purest of enthusiasts.

Sources:
Chevrolet Performance
chevrolet.com/performance-parts

Clampdown Competition
clampdowncomp.com

Holley Performance Products
(866) 464-6553
holley.com

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

Summit Racing
(800) 230-3030
summitracing.com

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