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Project Light Speed Part 3 - 49hp LS1 Engine Cam Swap

Got an LS1? Got an itch for more power? A simple cam swap is your answer! GM Performance Parts comes to the plate with their venerable Hot Cam and 49 extra hp for your LS1.

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One of the things that makes the Gen III family of engines so attractive is that they are very simple to work on. This month, we wanted to try just the addition of the GM Performance Parts Hot cam package in conjunction with stock heads and intake to see what kind of power we could make.

While cam swaps on the dyno have always been relatively easy, the LS1 makes it even simpler. With all other small- and big-block engines, you have to yank the intake manifold and then remove the lifters before the cam will come out. The Gen III engines employ a plastic roller-lifter retainer that captures the lifters so you don't have to remove the intake. Just pull the rockers off to unload the lifters, spin the engine around two revolutions, and you're ready to go.

We loaded up our GM Performance Parts LS1, which came from our friends at Scoggin-Dickey Performance Center in Lubbock, Texas, and we began beating on it right away.

Dyno DayOnce we had baselined the LS1 with the stock heads, intake, cam, and 131/44-inch headers, dyno guy Ed Taylor cooled the engine and swapped cams. In addition to the new GM Performance Parts cam (the specs are in the "Lobe Prospecting" sidebar), the Hot cam also comes with a set of LS6 valvesprings to ensure proper valve control at the cam's higher engine speed.

You'll note that the Hot cam's lift is not all that much bigger than the stock LS1 cam. In fact, the lift increase is only slightly more than 0.025 inch. The big difference is in the duration. The Hot cam adds a solid 20 degrees of duration while narrowing the lobe separation angle from 119 to 112 degrees. This combination is significant since it adds a bunch more overlap, which helps mid- to high-rpm breathing. Another reason for the conservative lift increase is to ensure that this is a bolt-in cam. GMPP offers a bigger ASA cam, but it requires deeper valve reliefs be machined in the pistons. The price is a little higher than a typical hydraulic-roller cam for a Gen I small-block, but the cam and spring kit is still affordable at $415 from Scoggin-Dickey.

With the LS1 buttoned back up, Duttweiler's Digilog dyno cranked out some interesting numbers. The longer-duration cam was still able to improve the low- and mid-range torque with a power increase of 20 lb-ft. Oddly, this was followed by a slight torque dip between 4,200 and 4,800 rpm compared to the baseline. Looking at our dyno reports, the fuel flow dropped off slightly in this range since the air/fuel ratio leaned out to around 13.4:1, which isn't terrible but not conducive to best power. This could certainly be adjusted to eliminate that power dip.

Above 4,800 however, the Hot cam package really improved. From 5,200 to 6,200, the torque jumped dramatically, kicking the peak horsepower up to 419, a solid 28 hp gain over the previous peak of 391. At 6,200, the Hot cam also delivered an increase of 49 hp. Even with the slight midrange dip, the average torque gain was 11 lb-ft, while average horsepower also jumped a solid 9. Those are significant gains for a simple cam swap with no other changes to the engine, which still idles very smoothly. While the Hot cam may not pass smog, it is certainly worthy of consideration if you're looking for a mild power increase with very little affect on durability.

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