When the LS Crate Motor was introduced in 1997, an evolution in crate motors occurred. Just like that, there was a factory engine that was affordable, durable, lightweight and capable of producing the horsepower people were looking for. This earliest version was called the Gen III Small-Block. Truck engines had an iron-block. The all-aluminum LS1 engine debuted in the then-new C5 Corvette.
The Gen IV’s arrived in 2005. Although GM continued to distinguish between Gen III and Gen IV, fans of these engines were quick to call all engines built on the platform “LS.”
The range of LS crate motors continues to be wide. Truck engines, called Vortec rather than LS, include iron-block engines offered as 4.8L and 5.3L models, and all-aluminum 6.0L and 6.2L premium engines. Car engines, usually with the “LS” designation, include 5.3L, 5.7L, 6.0L, 6.2L and 7.0L displacements. Regardless, all LS crate motors exhibit shared traits, including:
• 4.400” bore centers
• 6-bolt, cross-bolted main bearing caps
• Center main thrust bearing
• 9.240” deck height
• 4-bolt-per-cylinder head bolt pattern
• 0.842” lifter bores
• Distributorless, coil-near-plug ignition system
These common traits result in a substantial amount of interchangeability between all LS crate motors. Mix and match components include crankshafts, cylinder heads, intake manifolds and more. But, the details of what is and is not compatible can be tricky. To help you, Chevrolet Performance offers a 160-page reference guide “How to Build High-Performance Chevy LS1/LS6 V-8s” by Will Handzel.
LS Crate Motor – A Brief History
LS1/LS6 – The LS1 motors were produced between 1997 and 2004. LS6 motors were produced between 2001 and 2005. Either have a 5.7L displacement, but LS6 engines have unique block castings, heads, camshafts and intake manifolds.
LS2/L76/L77 – The LS2 6.0L engine debuted in 2005. The L76 version was offered in the Pontiac G8 GT, and the L77 is currently offered in the Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit Vehicle. This motor is one of the most versatile in the LS family. LS1, LS6, LS3 and L92/L94 cylinder heads can be used.
LS3/L99 – The LS3 motor was introduced in 2008. The L99 version was outfitted with GM’s Active Fuel Management system and standard on fifth-gen Camaro SS models with an automatic transmission. The current LS3 6.2L crate motor is one of the most popular LS swap engines.
LS4 – Possibly the most unique version of the LS engine in a car. It was a 5.3L used in the front-wheel-drive Chevy Impala SS and Pontiac Grand Prix GXP, with a number of distinctive components.
LS7 – A 7.0L displacement made this the largest LS motor offered in production vehicles. Unlike earlier LS engines, the LS7 uses a Siamese-bore cylinder block design, required for its 4.125” bores. Special components made it a street-tuned racing engine. The Chevy Performance crate motor features a unique Tri-Y exhaust manifold design.
LS9 – This 6.2L supercharged and charge-cooled engine, for the C6 Corvette ZR1, is rated at 638 horsepower. It uses extra strength cylinder heads and block, a sixth-generation Roots-type supercharger and a dry-sump oiling system.
LSA – Similar to the LS9, but with several differences such as hypereutectic rather than forged pistons, and an 8-bolt flywheel rather than a 9-bolt. The LSA has a distinctive charge-cooler design on top of the supercharger, with differences between Cadillac and Camaro applications. The crate motor, rated at 556 horsepower, reflects the Camaro ZL1 application.
General Motors caused the industry to rethink factory motors back at the beginning of the LS family. As a result, Chevrolet Performance’s LS Crate Motor are easily found in vintage muscle cars, classic trucks, street rods and race cars. In the current economy, builders and enthusiasts often find themselves with fewer dollars to spend. Chevrolet Performance’s reputation for quality, affordable products continues, and the LS crate motor market responds.