How A Bunch Of Guys Scrounged Up This Sick LS1
From the February, 2009 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Will Handzel
As if just building a 1,700hp LS1 wasn't enough. If you can believe it, this engine was built from spare parts in a bunch of guys' spare time as a dare to be the first to run 6 seconds in the quarter-mile with an LS1 V-8, which they achieved in a borrowed race car. As unbelievable as it sounds, it's true, and you're going to find out how this wild LS1 went together and what it means to the future of making power with the LS family.
In case you don't know, the latest version of GM's small-block V-8 engine has been powering new vehicles since it was introduced in the '97 C5 Corvette as the Regular Production Order (RPO) LS1. This engine family has shown itself to have great potential, but until now, max effort LS1s were only making about 1,200 hp. So how one builds an LS1 to survive while making over 200 hp per cylinder is a real story!
WHERE TO START
While many would think the engine block would be the most important component to get right, they would only be partially correct. While block prep is important, this band of shop rats found that the oiling system was the key to making the engine package live under the 30-plus psi boost from two massive turbochargers. But before we get to the oiling system, let's talk about what work was performed on the engine block. For starters, the original 5.7L, 99 mm (3.897-inch)-bore aluminum LS1 engine block is not being used here. The aluminum blocks have not proven themselves capable of handling over 1,000 hp, so an iron 6.0L, 101.4 mm (4.000-inch)-bore truck block was used as the starting point.
These iron blocks, with a few modifications, have been handling over 1,200 hp in quarter-mile trim for a while now, so this is another test of their capabilities. They are about 90 pounds heavier than the aluminum blocks, but in this case, the iron piece is the only option, and the added weight is negligible.
To add strength, the bottom 2/3s of this engine block was filled to just about 1-inch below the deck on each side with Moroso's Hard Blok cement. This way, when the engine is running, water will still circulate through the heads and the 1-inch cavity in the block during its short runs. While this is not a suitable setup to maintain temperature in a street application, it is a fairly common practice in ultimate-performance quarter-mile engines to stabilize the bores under the extreme loading. Before pouring the cement in the block, a torque plate is bolted onto the deck with factory head bolts so the block is in it's stressed state when filled.
To further improve the stability of the block, a main cap girdle was carved out of a 3/4-inch-thick aluminum plate and bolted to the main caps and engine oil pan rail with ARP studs and bolts, respectively. Also, the block was drilled and tapped for custom, oversized ARP studs at the deck and main caps.
OILING FOR BIG POWER
To give you an idea how involved the oiling system is for this 1,700hp engine, you should know there are actually three separate pumps evacuating or pressurizing oiling cavities. Why, you ask? Well, Billy Briggs, Wheel to Wheel Powertrain's (W2W) chief engine builder, and Kurt Urban, W2W's Director of Operations, brainstormed this oiling system in an effort to achieve "stability and a solid oiling wedge" under the extreme conditions of making about five times as much power as this engine made from the factory.
The stability end of this equation is in terms of getting the piston ring to stay locked onto the ring lands. Evacuating the crankcase increases the chances of keeping the rings sealed tightly on the ring lands in practically any situation. This is important because engines that operate under extreme boost closely resemble ticking time bombs because the air/fuel mixture finds its way into many places it shouldn't be, such as the crankcase and valve covers. Pulling a vacuum has the added benefit of minimizing the amount of vaporized and liquid oil that is slopping around inside the engine cavities, robbing horsepower as it drags on the rotating and reciprocating components.This vacuuming aka savaging) responsibility falls on a Dailey three-stage, external dry-sump oil pump that spins the same speed as the crankshaft. Now, 1:1 is a really blistering pace for an oil pump on an 8900-rpm engine, but so far, the Dailey unit is handling it. The pump draws three stages of oil out of the ARE dry-sump pan with -12 braided lines and sends it to the Peterson dry-sump oil tank. This system was intended to pull 20 inches of vacuum in the crankcase when the engine is seeing its maximum 30-psi boost--which it did accomplish. Both Briggs and Urban credit the Total Seal piston rings with allowing it to accomplish that feat.
A second Dailey oil pump, this one a single-stage unit, spins at half-crank speed. It pumps pressurized oil from the dry-sump tank through an oil filter via -12 braided steel lines into a fitting on the front of the engine block that taps into the stock oiling system passage. This pump makes about 70 psi at 8900 rpm. Once the oil is inside the engine, Briggs and Urban experimented with rerouting the oil flow in a few key areas. First, to restrict the oil into the heads, the lifter bores are bushed with bronze guides drilled with only a 0.060-inch oiling hole (vs. the nearly 1/2-inch-diameter galley in the block passage). This is because the oil going to the top of the engine is only needed to oil the mating union of the lifter, pushrod, and rocker arm. The valvesprings and other top-end components are lubricated via an oil mist that comes from 0.020-inch holes drilled in an oiling passage in the roof of the cast ARE valve covers. This passage is fed in each valve cover by a -4 braided steel line that taps into the main oil galley at the back of the block.
Also, to make sure there wasn't a problem with the front cam bearing, a -4 braided line was plumbed internally from the back of the block to the crossover passage at the front of the block, which was also opened up with a die grinder. This was done because on some wet-sump engines, W2W has seen the driver-side main galley low on oil pressure. The company feels this is because that galley feeds the main bearings, whereas the passenger-side galley just oils to the lifters and valve train. This added responsibility could sometimes drain off pressurized oil to the point it leaves the driver's side lifters and front cam bearing a little short of pressure. Early dyno testing showed pressure was more than sufficient at this area. So, because of that, the internal -4 line is not being used to pressurize the front galley-but at least they know the oil distribution is pretty impressive throughout this engine!
The third oil pump is the stock gerotor oil pump that spins on the snout of the crankshaft. It is used to evacuate the copious amounts of oil being pumped into the turbo bearings to both cool and lubricate them. Pulling the oil from these bearings is important because it minimizes the amount of oil that might be sucked into the intake tract on the
pressure side of the turbos. This scavenge is something both Briggs and Urban have been interested in trying for a while and have found it makes a dramatic difference in the amount of oil that ends up in the engine.
THE TOP END
The 30-plus psi of boost this engine will operate under would destroy the stock valvetrain components, so major modifications were made to handle the loads. Some of the changes included a 0.650-inch-thick Jesel rocker shaft (compared to the 0.500-inch-thick stock piece) that provides increased valvetrain stability, but also raises the rockers up 0.150-inch. For improved clamping capability, the bolts holding the rocker shaft to the cylinder head were also increased in diameter to 7/16-inch. The rocker bodies are also oversized Jesel billet pieces with the pivot point moved inboard to reduce the force required to open and close the valves. This is another especially important issue on big-boost engines, as closing the intake valve against the 30-psi breeze is very challenging. The rocker adjusters are solid-ball nosed instead of the usual drilled type that allows pressurized oil to pass through them to oil the valve train. The solid adjusters are required to handle the increased loading on the valve train in an area with very limited space to package larger components.AFR's groundbreaking LS1 cylinder heads received copious welding by W2W to increase the diameter of the valvespring pad, move the pushrods holes inboard and weld up the water jacket ports in the deck surface. Then, the ports and chambers were CNC-machined by ET Performance, in Walled Lake, Michigan. ET also installed beryllium seats and added a 15-angle valve job in preparation for the Del West titanium valves.
In an effort to improve deck integrity where the heads and engine block meet, W2W also completely welded up the coolant holes, then drilled the holes to exactly match the coolant passage openings in the copper SCE head gaskets.
HAIRDRYERS AND PLUMBING
Let's be clear-two 80mm Precision Turbo hairdryers on this beast make it all right. At the 8900 rpm, these babies are honking 30 pounds into the intake manifold. That's after the air goes through a Precision Turbo intercooler, dropping 130F degrees and losing a little boost pressure in the process!Yup, the turbos and all the beautiful Dera and Brown-built tubing and mounts are a sight to behold. But more importantly, it all works to make impressive power.
So, the engine has made an incredible number on the dyno and the car has run just as good, which is the icing on the cake for all involved. No, they weren't sure it could be done, but they had a hell of a time dreaming up the idea, overcoming the challenges, and achieving their goals. Not bad for a side project, huh?
The stock Gen III iron truck...
The stock Gen III iron truck block will handle about 1,200 hp, but to handle 1,700-plus, this block was rehoned, filled with Hard Blok, the oiling passages were redirected, and a main cap girdle was added.
The W2W team has found the...
The W2W team has found the main caps "walk" without a "girdle." Blair whittled a girdle from 3/4-incThe stock LS1's oil travels up the back of the engine to the two main lifter galleys. On the iron-block, the transfer passage between the two galleys can limit oil to the passenger side, so W2W's chief engine builder, Billy Briggs, likes to open up this passage (arrows) to minimize restriction.
The W2W team has found the...
The W2W team has found the main caps "walk" without a "girdle." Blair whittled a girdle from 3/4-inch-thick 2024-T351 aluminum plate. How do you make it? "Well, just cut away everything that doesn't look like a main cap girdle for an LS1," says Blair.
A key element to improved...
A key element to improved oil control is bushings to the lifter bores. This reduces the stock 1/2-inch oil feed hole from the main galley down to 0.060-inch.
The top of the engine is drilled...
The top of the engine is drilled and tapped for a special set of 1/2-inch ARP head studs. Copper SCE gaskets seal the heads and block together with a stainless steel wire O-ring.
AFR cylinder heads were heavily...
AFR cylinder heads were heavily welded, then CNC'd by ET Performance. The 1.650-inch K-Motion springs hold Del West Ti valves against beryllium seats that have been fully blended from the 250cc intake port into the 65cc combustion chambers.
The Cam Motion solid roller...
The Cam Motion solid roller keeps everything jumping with around 0.750-lift and 250 duration at 0.050. W2W knows the exact cam specs and aren't about to divulge anything more unless you're buying a 1,700hp LS1 for yourself.
The ARE cast-aluminum oil...
The ARE cast-aluminum oil pan has three pickups being pulled by a three-stage Dailey oil pump at 1:1 crank rpm. A single-stage Dailey pump runs at half crank speed to feed pressurized oil to the engine and turbos while the stock LS1 gerotor oil pump pulls oil back out of the two turbos.
Along with the two external...
Along with the two external oil pumps, the Aeromotive fuel pump, and alternator needed to run off the crankshaft--no easy feat! Fortunately, the LS1 engine is about 3 inches shorter than the original small-block Chevy, so there was room to squeeze multiple Jones-cogged pulleys onto the crankshaft of this beast.
The primary header tubes were...
The primary header tubes were fabricated using 3-inch-radius SPD tubing bends TIG-welded together with a 347 stainless rod at low heat settings. The turbo tubes were fabbed from aluminum.
A GM Performance Parts open-plenum...
A GM Performance Parts open-plenum intake manifold was designed specifically for the Gen III LS1 and handles the big power with no problem. A Wilson adapter guides the air from the 4-inch aluminum tubing towards the intake.
Fabricator Lamborghini and...
Fabricator Lamborghini and Brian Kalkuski were tasked with making some quick and dirty changes to the ARE cast valve covers to provide clearance for the oversized and repositioned rockers just before the engine was fired up on the dyno.
Dera and Brown built the entire...
Dera and Brown built the entire turbo system to go from the car to the dyno with as little change as possible. While this often adds time, having to build specific "dyno-only" equipment invites problems when you really just want to get through testing and onto the track.
Mike Moran's "Caspar" Camaro...
Mike Moran's "Caspar" Camaro has been down the quarter-mile more times than anyone can really remember. While considered worn out for the brutalities of regular competition, it served as a perfect workhorse to attain 6-second LS1 status. And Moran is completely comfortable running at sick speeds in his car.
IT HELPS THE STREET LS1
While you're probably not going to run out and build your own 1,700hp LS1 any time soon, knowing what it takes to build an engine that makes this power and stays together is rewarding. W2W is constantly upgrading LS1, LS2, LS6, and Gen III-powered trucks, so the lessons learned from this project definitely helped them provide more performance to it's customers. The company's complete fabrication shop, engine building center, four-wheel chassis dyno, three engine dynos, machine shop, and other facilities are all in-house. This allows W2W to do just about anything required to improve performance--and now the company can say it helped to take the LS1 to a whole new plateau. The W2W team wanted to extend their gratitude to: Big Stuff III/John Meaney, Precision Turbos, Precision Torque Converters, Superior Radiator, Mike Moran Racing Engines, and the quarter-mile gods for smiling on this effort.
THE WILD 1320
The advantage of using Moran's racing-vet Caspar Camaro and having him drive it became apparent when the car first went down the track. Moran was able to provide clear input and recommend actions to tune the chassis and engine. The car started out using a Bruno torque converter/G-force gearbox transmission they had lying around, and getting the engine up to peak rpm at the starting line to stall the converter was the first challenge. To achieve stall, a 100hp shot of nitrous was robbed off a team member's car and activated at the line. Later, a running change to more aggressive turbo impellers to spool the turbos up faster was made along with installing a looser converter from Precision Torque Converter.
With the engine stalling the converter at the line, getting the EFI calibration in the Big Stuff III controller to work all the way down the track took many more passes. The nature of these runs is what separates the men from the boys in this business-many were absolutely wicked. More often than not, Moran would have to get off the throttle after going seriously sideways near the top end of a run.
Back in the pits, Moran would be matter-of-fact about what changes the car needed and the work usually resulted in the car going faster on the next pass. The guys worked quietly, with few smiles and jokes, but often they could be caught shaking their heads at the sight of seeing both doors from the starting line at over 175 mph.
The record-setting pass has not yet come, due to a miriad of circumstances, none of which has been a lack of horsepower. After 15 more dyno pulls and 20 quarter-mile passes, netting a so-far smooth 7.80/175-mph pass, this team of Detroit hot rodders firmly beleives that a blistering 6-second run is within their reach. We'll follow up later on with the details of how they did.
Good Idea + Hard Work = New Record
The engine you see here wasn't funded by some wealthy enthusiast, it wasn't built for a big corporation to promote a product, and it's not going to make anybody any money racing somewhere. Nope, this engine came to life after a bunch of gearheads decided they could piece together a bunch of parts lying around their shops, buy a few things with chipped-in money, and make whatever else they needed to stuff it into a borrowed, legendary race car to set a new world record.
It all started when Denny Dera, the lead fabricator at Wheel to Wheel Powertrain (W2W), was talking with the other members of the W2W crew about building an LS1-powered vehicle that would run the quarter-mile in 6 seconds--a new world record. While everyone that heard the idea thought it would be great, how to do it was a mystery. Not to be deterred, the more the techies talked, the more the plan came together.
Fastest Street Car racer Mike Moran walked into the W2W shop one day and overheard the crew talking about what they were working on and asked if they could "borrow" a car. Moran delivered his "Caspar" Camaro the next day with its nitrous'd 650-cid Rat still stuffed into the engine bay!
So, what started as an impossible idea turned into a wild adventure, as this volunteer effort consumed many nights, weekends, and even a few "vacation" days where the guys thrashed their hearts out to finish the car and make it run the number.
TWIN-TURBO LS1 DYNO CHART
(60-psi fuel pressure and wastegate had five turns of preload in it)Check out how from 4000 to 5000, and from 5000 to 6000, that power practically doubled every 1000 rpm! Also note that engine was not tested to max racing rpm of 8900, and it'd probably make even more power up there.
|RPM ||TQ ||HP ||VAC ||Boost |
|3000 ||360 ||206 ||19.5 ||1.5 |
|3500 ||385 ||256 ||19.7 ||2.1 |
|4000 ||444 ||338 ||19.9 ||2.9 |
|4500 ||520 ||445 ||19.9 ||4.5 |
|5000 ||636 ||606 ||19.9 ||7.6 |
|5500 ||807 ||845 ||19.9 ||13.1 |
|6000 ||1078 ||1231 ||19.3 ||23.8 |
|6500 ||1174 ||1452 ||18.6 ||27.3 |
|7000 ||1221 ||1627 ||18.4 ||29.1 |
|7500 ||1189 ||1697 ||18.1 ||29.9 |
| || || || || |
|MAX ||1221 ||1697 ||19.9 ||30.2 |
1,700HP TWIN TURBO LS1 Parts List
Iron 6.0 L Truck block (bored to 4.005 mm, a receiver groove 0.008 deep, 0.060 wide added in the deck for a 0.041 inch diameter stainless O-ring, the coolant passages filled with Hard Blok and oiling system reworked)
Air Flow Research heavily welded on by W2W, then CNC'd ports and chambers by ET Performance. Machined with an O-ring groove 0.028 inch deep, 0.038 wide and O-ring installed.
CrankCallies 3.500 inch (shorter than stock to achieve 5.7 L), 2.000 inch diameter rod journals
Oliver 6.125 inch long, billet steel with 0.040 inch diameter 'lube tubes' drilled from rod bearings to pin bore to oil pin/piston bore
Mahle Pro-Series forged 2618 aluminum (which has four more pin boss ribs and a strong material than their PowerPak series) with 0.29 inch dish
Total Seal 0.043" gapless top, 0.43 cast second and 3 mm standard tension oil
Clevite H - mains
Federal Mogul - rods
Wheel to Wheel Powertrain, _ inch thick aluminum machined to fit
Wheel to Wheel Powertrain, 1/4-inch thick aluminum billet machined to fit
ARE cast 3 stage, dry sump
Dailey 3 stage, Dailey 1 stage and factory GM
Dry sump tank
Fram HP remote
GM Performance Parts open plenum aluminum manifold (pn 88958675)
Wilson 105 mm
160 lb/hr Bosch
Aeromotive 'muchomucho' 2700 lb/hr at 100 psi crank drive, running 'jackshaft-style' setup off Dailey single stage pressure oil pump shaft
Two Precision Turbo, 80 mm inlet
3-inch diameter 6061 aluminum 0.065 inch thick inlet from turbo to intercooler, 4 inch diameter 6061 aluminum 0.65 inch thick
SPD stainless exhaust flanges 1 7/8 inch primaries 321 stainless steel, 0.55 inch thick 2 _ inch stainless steel merge collector 3 _ inch 304 stainless steel tubing turbo exhaust
Turbonetics (leftover parts from Moran)
1,800 hp-rated intercooler cut apart and reconfigured to flow bottom to top, 10x8.5x5 inches
Valvetrain ValvesDel West, 2.180/1.600 inch intake/exhaust, 5/16-inch intake and 11/32-inch exhaust stems
K-Motion, 1.650 inch, 350 lb/in seat, 900 lb/in over the nose
Del West Ti
Del West Ti
Jesel 1.7:1 custom-made non-LS1 ball-mount rockers, moved up and out tie bar for better ratio with bigger holdown bolts, solid adjuster nut for strength
Jesel 1/2-inch tapered, cupped top end
Jesel solid roller
Cam Motion, 0.750/0.750 inch lift, 250 degrees duration at 0.050 inch valve lift, gun drilled
Billy Briggs and Denny Dera hand-fabbed using Jones off-the-shelf pulleys, and machining up pulley mount on the harmonic balancer to drive the cogged belts
Meziere electric billet aluminum
Superior Radiator (many 'ballooned' in the quest for a 6 second elapsed time)
ARE cast units with built in oiling system, 'extended' on inside rail to clear hopped-up Jesel rocker system
Head to Block ARP _ inch studs, 4.750 and 7.00 inches long (these were an existing ARP part originally built for a KB aluminum block) Main caps to block W2W custom-ordered these from ARP at 5.400 and 4.700 inches long (10 of each--with the long ones to hold the girdle in place)
ARP standard bolts that come with the Oliver rods
Big Stuff III tuned by Rich Gala
Big Stuff III and nitrous 'helper' system integrated by Greg Santavy
Maximum Engine Speed
8900 rpm (measured off crank wheel installed in stock location on back of crank)
The Guys That Made it Happen (in alphabetical order):
Billy Briggs, Chief Engine Builder
Jim Bell, General Technician
Bill Blair, Machinist
Whitey Brown, Fabricator
Denny Dera, Lead Fabricator
Rich Gala, Engine Controls
Frank Lamborghini, Fabricator
Mike Moran, Driver, car owner
Rick Rasmussen, Fabricator/General Tech
Greg Santavy, General Technician
Kurt Urban, Director of Operations
Brian 'Ham Salad' Walkuski, Engine Builder
About the author
Will Handzel is the author of what has become the defining book on the Gen III LS1 engine family, How to Build Max Power Chevy Gen III LS1 V8s, so he is perfectly suited to talk about this engine. If you want to know more about the LS1 engine, order his book today through www.cartechbooks.com or by calling 800/551-4754.