Engine Tear-Down Reveals What Makes The Chevy LS7 Crate Engine So Special


Summary

  • The LS7 is a powerhouse known for its massive displacement, making it one of the most powerful naturally aspirated engines available.
  • Built for high performance, the LS7 was hand-built with titanium and cast aluminum components for durability and strength on the track.
  • This iconic engine can be found not only in the Corvette Z06 but also in the Camaro Z/28, showcasing the versatility and impact of the LS family.



While the LS engine has become synonymous with the neighbor that insists on revving his engine at 7 in the morning, its history and how it became a true icon in the industry is nothing short of gearhead destiny. Through generations and many, many variants, the small-block recipe Chevy employed to bring forth the LS moniker has proven time and time again that, in some cases, less is more. Keep it simple, and the horses will run!

Among the most notable of the small-block V-8 family is the LS7. Purpose-built for high performance, the LS7 boasts the biggest displacement numbers in the entire LS family. It’s also among the most powerful naturally aspirated engines on the planet.

Most commonly found in the C6 Corvette, the recognizable red engine cover with bold black lettering gives off a menacing aura before the engine even turns over. Though the LS7 is an incredibly powerful mill, GM also offers a more ridiculous variant in the form of a crate engine available online. All that’s to say that, no, this isn’t just another LS swap.


In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from various manufacturer websites and other authoritative sources, including GM, Chevrolet, and LSX.com.

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The LS7 First Broke Headlines In The Now Legendary C6 Vette Z06


The Corvette is a model that has benefited from the ongoing success of the small-block LS design since the inception of the program, seeing as the LS engine made its debut in the 1997 C5 Corvette. Since then, the Corvette and the LS engine have been intertwined in the performance history books, with one always accompanied by the other. Though this would eventually change in the future, the pinnacle of this successful pairing, well, in the naturally aspirated sense, has to be the largest of the LS family, the mighty 7.0-liter LS7 V-8.

C6 Corvette Z06 (LS7) Specs

Engine

7.0L Gen IV LS7 V-8 Small Block

Horsepower

505 @ 6,800 RPM

Torque

470 Lb.-Ft. @ 4,800 RPM

Displacement

427.6 Cu.-In.

Bore x Stroke

104.8 x 101.6

0-60 MPH

3.8 Seconds

Top Speed

198 MPH

Transmission

TREMEC T-56 Six-speed manual


(Source: GM Heritage, Chevrolet)

In the C6 Z06, the LS7 produces a healthy 505 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. This was more than enough to allow the C6 Z06 to absolutely act up on and off the track, striking fear into many would-be racers and dominating circuits around the world. This would last the entirety of the C6 generation, only coming to a close with the C7 Corvette’s introduction to the LT1.

What Made The LS7 So Dominant?

2006 Corvette C6 Z06 Engine
Mecum


Chevrolet made improvements on the small-block V-8 formula by simply upping the quality and refinement in its production and ensuring that every LS7 engine that rolled off the line was at its peak. This meant that each LS7 engine was hand-built by a single engineer at GM’s smaller Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan. Titanium and cast aluminum were used in the construction of the LS7, making it stronger and lighter than before, with pressed-in steel cylinder liners to accommodate the larger 4.125-inch bore diameter. More displacement and tougher engine components made for an extremely brawny engine that could handle the rigors of high performance without complaining.

LS7 Engine Material

  • Cast aluminum engine block
  • Cast aluminum cylinder heads
  • Forged 4140 steel crankshaft
  • Hollow steel camshaft
  • Titanium connecting rods
  • Composite intake manifold

The LS7 was designed and built to perform exceptionally well in racing conditions. In fact, it was modeled after the C5-R Le Mans Corvette racing engine. A race-style dry sump oil system ensured the engine could maintain adequate oil pressure during high-load cornering. Racing-derived cylinder heads, an advanced electronic throttle control (ETC), and a high-flow intake manifold aided the engine’s power articulation smoothly, allowing the LS7’s indomitable power to be delivered uninterrupted and without fear of catastrophic failure.


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The LS7 427 and 570 Crate Engines

This pair of naturally aspirated small-block V-8s are available for purchase if you’re looking to build a rocket ship to Mars. While the LS7 found in the Corvette and Camaro are plenty beefy, pushing over 500 horses through each of the sports cars, GM couldn’t help but tweak the versatile V-8 one more time. This resulted in the LS7 427 and LS7 570 crate engines, each cranking out a minimum of 570 horses and 540 pound-feet of torque. To illustrate, that’s 65 horses and 70 pound-feet more than the C6 Corvette Z06 produces.

Using parts from the fifth-gen Camaro Z/28, including the exhaust manifold and manual transmission flywheel, as well as a wet sump oil system, GM touted the pair of crate LS7s as stronger and easier to install than the original LS7. Other standout features include a new high-lift camshaft designed specifically for this purpose, titanium intake valves, and sodium-filled exhaust valves.


Other Chevy Sports Cars To Pack The LS7 From The Factory Floor

2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 engine
Chevrolet

While the Corvette Z06 may be the most notable recipient of the 7.0-liter LS7, it wasn’t the only one. The fifth-gen Chevy Camaro Z/28 also featured the 7.0-liter beast. It produced the same 505 horses as it did in the Vette. However, it pushed out a tad more torque, at 481 pound-feet to the C6 Z06’s 471 pound-feet.

Camaro Z/28 Z06 (LS7) Specs

Engine

7.0L Gen IV LS7 V-8 Small Block

Horsepower

505 @ 6,100 RPM

Torque

481 Lb.-Ft. @ 4,800 RPM

Displacement

427.6 Cu.-In.

Bore x Stroke

104.8 x 101.6

0-60 MPH

4.4 Seconds

Top Speed

172 MPH

Transmission

TREMEC MM6-TR6060 Six-speed manual


(Source: Chevrolet, Car And Driver: Road Test)

The third, and final, model to pack the LS7 from the factory was the C6 Corvette 427 convertible. While this is a Vette of the same generation as the C6 Z06, it deserves its own entry, as it produced over 500 horses as well. Little can be said negatively about the LS and Corvette lineage, especially considering the cultural impact and mainstream interest they have garnered for GM up until the very last generation.

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A Brief History Of The LS Small-Block V-8

A parked 1997 Chevrolet C5 Corvette
Mecum


During the renaissance of automobiles, better known as the rising emission standards, many engineers were tasked with designing engines that both performed well while lowering emissions and raising fuel economy. GM put this task in the hands of real gearheads, including Ed Koerner, Alan Hayman, Ron Sperry, Jim Mazzola, and more, when refining the small block for the Corvette. These car guys did what car guys do best, make things go fast.

Expert design and vehicle engineering experience proved to be a home run, as the small-block V-8 eventually made the title “LS” a mainstream fad. The peppy LS V-8 was so successful, it found its way into nearly every branch under General Motors’ umbrella, including Buick, GMC, and Pontiac. Even Hummer and Isuzu got in the LS action. This influx served a demand for smaller, more efficient performance engines.

Why The LS Small-Block Succeeded

LS427/570 LS7
Mecum


The fourth-gen LS engine family included multiple displacement variants, including the 5.3-liter LS4 and the supercharged 6.2-liter LS9. All of which were built upon the Chevy small-block’s incredibly versatile platform. This well-engineered platform allowed the fourth-gen, as well as the previous three generations of LS engines, to transcend time and space via interchangeable and pan-compatible components.

This compatibility was thanks to simple design and what some call “old school” V-8 engineering. What that eludes to is the push-rod-style engine, which is viewed by many to be an outdated system when compared to the widely used overhead cam system. The push-rod system allowed the LS to operate at a high capacity while minimizing engine size. The lack of complexity and moving parts in the old-school push-rod design simplified the engine mechanics and made the LS engine the blue-collar, everyday enthusiast’s go-to engine swap.


Modern Day LS Impact

2009 Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR-1 LS9 engine
Chevrolet

Nowadays, LS engines are abundant and relatively cheap, considering many crate engines can easily exceed $10,000. Due to the abundance, versatile design, and simplicity of the mass-produced LS V-8, they have become a very popular choice for budget-friendly upgrades and easy-to-source components. This has led to the rather common LS upgrade becoming a slightly overused term when talking about upgrading, as everyone has an LS-swap in their garage.

Though some consider the LS V-8 a dime-a-dozen in terms of uniqueness, real enthusiasts know that, when it comes time to race, their LS-swapped sleeper will seal the deal. The sleeper car culture is a goldmine of LS-swapped dragsters and street cars, masquerading 500+ horsepower beasts as unsuspecting sedans. The LS has even found a home in tuner culture.


LS engines have popped up in the unlikeliest of places. Honda, Mazda, and Porsche have all received an LS-swap at the hands of custom shops and weekend racers. This definitely makes for some interesting creations. Not to mention, the compatibility of the small-block V-8, as well as its small stature, make it a prime candidate for nearly any car project under the sun. There are even LS-swapped drifters that will attest to the small-block V-8’s adaptability in multiple racing disciplines. Simply put, there are few key pieces of automotive history that will have such an impact as Chevrolet, and GM’s, small-block takeover, a takeover that would last two decades.



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