Much like how a bowl of leafy greens is just a carrier for decadent blue cheese dressing, a car is just a place to house a delicious engine. After all, even a Camaro with the most badass suspension ever devised is nothing but yard art without a stellar mill under the hood to put it in motion.

When we picked up our ’01 Z28 project car it was a lot like that bowl of lettuce: clean and healthy, but a bit boring. To dress it up, we tackled the brakes along with the suspension, and we even spiced up the 120,000-mile LS1 with some better flowing heads and a healthier cam. That’s where we hit a roadblock. You see, old cars are easy to upgrade, but “new” cars like our ’01 have to bow to the smog police alter, so our LS1 was pretty close to being at max potential here in emissions-strict California. It was also starting to seep oil, and we noticed a bit more smoke exiting the tailpipes when we got on it.

Now, we could have just pulled the LS1 and done a rebuild, but where’s the challenge in that? Plus, it wouldn’t bring anything to the party power wise. Instead, our gray matter started to ponder what would be involved in putting a new Gen IV LS3 crate engine under the hood. Sure, the general architecture is the same as the Gen III LS1, but in the last decade GM has engineered a few critical internal changes and made a hobby of moving around sensors. After a phone call to Chevrolet Performance, a shiny new LS3 crate engine was sitting in our shop. Besides being half a liter bigger (that’s an extra 30 cubes for the metric challenged), the LS3 features a much roomier intake tract and freer-flowing heads. It’s just an all-around better engine.

Thanks to the aftermarket, you can swap in an LS3 with a minimum of pain or extra cost. After buying all the new parts and selling off the old stuff, the cost for this swap ended up coming in at just over five grand (not counting the dyno tuning). The good news is that all the swap tricks work with a used, pull-out engine as well, but we like the reliability a new engine gives us.

To make the swap happen, we hit up our friends over at Don Lee Auto in Rancho Cucamonga, California, since they had an empty lift and a killer set of tools. Plus, they’re pretty damn fast at dropping LS engines out of F-bodies.

SOURCE
Automotive Racing Products
1863 Eastman Avenue
Ventura
CA  93003
800-826-3045
http://www.arp-bolts.com
HP Tuners
725 Hasting Ln
Buffalo Grove
IL  60089
www.hptuners.com
Competition Cams (Comp Cams)
3406 Democrat Road
Memphis
TN  38118
800-999-0853
www.compcams.com
Granatelli Motor Sports
1000 Yarnell Place
Oxnard
CA  93033
805-486-6644
www.granatellimotorsports.com
Summit Racing
Akron
OH
800-230-3030
330-630-0240
www.summitracing.com/
Holley
1801 Russellville Road
Bowling Green
KY  42101
270-781-9741
www.holley.com
GM Performance Parts
P.O. Box 33170
Detroit
MI  48232
800-577-6888
www.gmperformanceparts.com
Lingenfelter Performance Engineering
Decatur
IN
260-724-2552
www.lingenfelter.com
Improved Racing
12472 Lake Underhill Rd
Suite 434
Orlando
FL  32828
407-489-5660
www.improvedracing.com
Mike Norris Motorsports
407-616-2518
www.mikenorrismotorsports.com