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Chevrolet 5.3L LS Budget Engine Build - 644HP Junkyard 5.3L

Buy A Budget LS Engine, Add A Cam, Carburetor, Headers, And-Oh Yeah-A Procharger Centrifugal Blower, Mix 'Em Together To Build A...

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It's a recurring theme from which we just can't seem to escape. We discovered an iron 5.3L truck engine on Craigslist for $300, handed the owner three bones, tossed the greasy long-block in the back of our trusty GMC pickup truck, and headed for the barn. The plan was to slip a cam in it and see what would happen when we bolted on a ProCharger P1SC self-contained centrifugal supercharger. Self-contained means you don't have to punch an oil return hole in the pan to make this blower work. It also means we had little self-control when it came to bolting that blower to the unsuspecting little 5.3L truck motor. The opportunity was more than we could resist.

You may recall we've done this before-twice. The first time ("Make 600 HP on Pump Gas," Dec. '07), we pounced on a junkyard Ford 5.0L motor. With a set of RHS heads, a Comp hydraulic roller, an Edelbrock intake, and a blow-through Holley, the ProCharger huffed and puffed to 605 hp at 6,200 rpm. We were so jazzed by the P1SC's performance that we tried again with a 350ci small-block Chevy ("A Boat Anchor into a 611HP Screamer," Feb. '09) that made 611 hp at 6,000 rpm. We decided to pull off the hat trick with a 'tweener 5.3L (325ci) LS engine. That's when our good idea turned a little sideways. After The Supercharger Store sent us the kit, we discovered the cheapie iron block 5.3L motor was missing a couple of essential mount bosses for the accessory drive. By the time we realized this, we had no time to make a new mounting bracket (see the "When in Doubt, Adapt"). So we punted and used an aluminum block 5.3L motor instead. The mount is actually for the power steering pump (or idler if the pump is not used). The supercharger uses a completely separate eight-rib drivebelt. ProCharger has promised a kit to accommodate the iron block soon after you read this. Our test is still valid since there's no difference between an iron and an aluminum 5.3L. In spite of all this drama, we did make 644 hp . That made the sacrifices a little easier to take, don't you think?


Comp Cams, intake 269 219 0.607 112
269LrHR12, exhaust 277 227 0.614

The ProCharger LSx Serpentine System
We obtained our ProCharger system through our pals at The Supercharger Store, and the kit includes a system that relocates the alternator and power steering pump to create enough room for the supercharger. The beauty of this design is that it does not rely on the narrow, six-rib, stock serpentine belt package. ProCharger instead adds a separate blower pulley to the crank-necessitating a swap to an ATI harmonic balancer-that spins an eight-rib belt wholly for the supercharger. This does add length to the overall engine package, but ProCharger says the company has already fit these blower packages in early Chevelles.

Water Injection
The big issue with making boost is that it also adds heat. The one-two punch of heat and added cylinder pressure makes it very difficult for pump gas to control detonation. One solution is to inject a measured amount of water into the inlet system when the engine is under boost. The secret is called latent heat of vaporization. The simple side of this concept is that during the conversion of a liquid to a gas, heat is absorbed, which lowers the inlet air temperature. This is the same concept your body utilizes to regulate excess heat by using sweat to pull heat away from your skin. In your engine, the injected water cools the air and makes it denser (a greater amount of oxygen in a given space). The water doesn't put out the flame, as is the common misconception. Instead, the small amount of injected water reduces the peak cylinder pressures that contribute to detonation.

The two keys to water injection are to use as little as necessary and to inject the water in very fine droplets to allow them to more easily vaporize. This is exactly the design for The Supercharger Store's water injection system. While is not inexpensive, that is mainly due to the high-pressure pump and engineered injector nozzle that are required to help vaporize the water. For blow-through centrifugal superchargers, The Supercharger Store mounts the nozzle upstream of the supercharger inlet to take maximum advantage of the water's inherent cooling abilities. We didn't get a chance to try the water injection on our engine, but we can tell you that it does work. Bob and Terry Woods at the Supercharger Store currently have a ProCharger D1SC blower on a 318ci Mopar engine that has made 663 hp at 6,000 rpm with 91-octane pump gas and water injection at 16 psi and 30 degrees of total timing. The package is in a '73 Plymouth Scamp that runs 12.55 at 118 mph and gets 16 mpg on the highway. Before you replicate this tuneup, be aware that the Supercharger Store is at 4,200 feet. If you're closer to sea level, plan on using less timing and boost.

Testing, Evaluations, and Conclusions
We knew from previous experience with this P1SC supercharger that we could see a 50 percent power increase. We also hoped we could pull 400 hp out of the stock 5.3L motor, which we also achieved. After determining that belt slip was causing our boost drop-off at higher engine speeds, we tightened the snot out of the drivebelt. The first pull after that generated well over 600 hp. Yeehaw! In fact, we had to install a larger 4.15 pulley on the supercharger to keep the boost level below 15 psi to protect the factory cast pistons. We added four jet sizes to both the primary and secondary to ensure a safe air/fuel ratio and used MSD's software to program the ignition curve to no more than 22 degrees of ignition timing. Westech's Steve Brulé also pulled out 2 degrees of timing between 4,000 and 5,500 rpm, where maximum torque occurs, to again keep us out of detonation. With that tune-up, the engine pulled out 644 hp at 6,500 along with a best torque of 546 lb-ft at 5,900 rpm.

Centrifugal superchargers generally don't add dramatic torque at lower engine speeds, as was evident with this engine as well. Because our engine is only 325 ci, it doesn't make a ton of torque at lower engine speeds. In our case, it took until 4,700 rpm to make more than 500 lb-ft of torque, but considering we're talking about a 325ci engine with stock heads, a torque output of 1.68 lb-ft per cubic inch isn't bad. Our cast-piston short-block limited the safe boost to 12 psi and total ignition timing to a mere 22 degrees to ensure the engine would not experience detonation. The combination of detonation/preignition with cast pistons is a recipe for disaster, so we were conservative even with 100-octane Rockett unleaded fuel. We ran out of time to try a pump gas combination, but 18 degrees of timing with around 8 to 9 psi of boost would probably be safe and still make 590 hp. We'd suggest adding water injection to this combination just to be safe (see sidebar).

Test 1|
This was the normally aspirated baseline using a nearly stock long-block. The only real changes were the Comp hydraulic roller camshaft and matching valve-springs. We also added a Victor Jr. single-plane intake manifold, a Holley 750 carburetor, and a set of 13/4 to 17/8 stepped headers.

Test 2
This was the test for all the horsepower marbles. Using 100-octane unleaded race gas, the only addition was to hook up the ProCharger P1SC supercharger and a Quick Fuel blow-through 650-cfm carburetor. As you can see from the numbers, this was a huge improvement in power.

3,500 359 239 428 285 4.2 69 46
3,700 348 245 428 301 4.8 80 56
3,900 356 264 441 327 5.5 85 63
4,100 359 280 465 363 5.9 106 83
4,300 360 295 482 395 6.3 122 100
4,500 362 310 493 423 6.9 131 113
4,700 363 325 504 451 7.4 141 126
4,900 370 345 515 480 7.9 145 135
5,100 376 365 528 512 8.4 152 147
5,300 379 382 530 535 8.9 151 153
5,500 377 395 538 563 9.5 161 168
5,700 374 405 545 591 9.9 171 186
5,900 366 412 546 614 10.7 180 202
6,100 356 414 541 629 11.1 185 215
6,300 344 412 531 637 11.5 187 225
6,500 -
520 644 11.9 - -
Peak 379 414 546 644 11.9 187 225
Average 363.7 339.8 503.2 485.2 8.2 139.5 145.4
Averages were taken from the entire dyno pull every 100 rpm, while our chart shows only the odd rpm points.

When in Doubt, Adapt
After converting over to our aluminum block 5.3L motor to do the testing, we spoke with the ProCharger people and they told us they are working on a kit that will adapt the power steering mount to an iron LS block that is missing that one essential bolt boss. We came up with what might be a workable solution. In the accompanying photo, arrow 1 points to the one threaded boss that is common between the iron and aluminum blocks. Arrow 2 points to a threaded boss on the aluminum block that is on the iron block but must be drilled and tapped. Arrow 3 points to the boss on the aluminum engines that is missing on the iron block. If we made a 1/2-inch-thick aluminum plate that bolted to an iron block using bolt bosses 1 and 2, we could drill and tap the plate for boss 3 and merely shorten the aluminum spacers by 1/2 inch and mount the adapter to the iron block. That would allow us to use a cheap, iron 5.3L motor with the Procharger blower.

Used 5.3L iron-block long-block N/A Craigslist $300.00
Quick Fuel blow-through 650 SS-650-BAN Quick Fuel 693.00
Fel-Pro head gasket 9292PT Rock Auto 14.71 (2)
Posi-Lock three-jaw puller 104 Sears/Craftsman 79.95*
ProCharger LS P1SC kit 1LS100-P1SC Supercharger Store 3,696.00
Water-injection system Stage 1 Supercharger Store 790.00*
Comp 269Lr hydraulic roller 54-456-11 Summit Racing 396.95
Comp LS-X timing set 7106 Summit Racing 126.95
Comp beehive valvesprings 26918-16 Summit Racing 187.95
Comp hydraulic roller lifters 875-16 Summit Racing 219.95*
Comp Hi-Tech pushrods 7955-16 Summit Racing 134.95
ATI balancer 918853 Summit Racing 477.42
ATI crank pin kit, LS1 918993 Summit Racing 117.60*
Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake 29087 Summit Racing 269.75
Fel-Pro intake gasket 13123 Summit Racing 25.88
MSD 6LS ignition controller 6010 Summit Racing 309.95
MSD LS1 plug wires, black 32823 Summit Racing 65.95
ARP head bolt set 134-3609 Summit Racing 152.95
ARP intake bolt set 430-2001 Summit Racing 47.95*
ARP crank bolt 234-2503 Summit Racing 28.95*
Autolite race plugs (8) AR474 Summit Racing 21.52
Grand total $6,888.64
*Options not included in the Grand Total

Edelbrock (Carbs)
14801 W. 114th Terrace
KS  66215
El Paso
ATI Performance Products
6747 Whitestone Road
MD  21207
Automotive Racing Products
1863 Eastman Avenue
CA  93003
Rock Auto
6680 Odana Road
WI  53719
Comp Cams
3406 Democrat Road
TN  38118
Federal-Mogul Corporation
26555 Northwestern Hwy.
MI  48033
Quick Fuel Technology
129 Dishman Lane
Bowling Green
KY  42101
The Supercharger Store
314 W Highway 82
Huachuca City
AZ  85616
39 Old Ridgebury Road
CT  06810
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Cathy Hall
Cathy Hall

It really doesn't matter what engine you build as long as the mechanic knows what their doing and I think the mechanics at fast are the best. Way to go Travis and the crew!!!

Age Cobra
Age Cobra

You don't a lot of cubes and the best big block are Fords and ChryCos.I never pit Aerican Muscle over each other anymore.It is Muscle vs imports.

James Hayward
James Hayward

Buicks arent high winders but pull like freight trains.......ive got a 70 buick gsx, 455, stage 1, 4spd , all original, and runs like a raped ape...........

Peter Papaleo
Peter Papaleo

No find three so when the first two blow up you have a third spare

Peter Papaleo
Peter Papaleo

Umm I didn't think the 5.3&4.8 were ls engines. Aren't they Vortec truck engines?

Craig Serrano
Craig Serrano

I'd go 4.8L with a turbo, if these guys can tune them and squeeze 6-700hp out of a stock bottom end, cam, and a pair of heads, and get 30mpg. Why would you need anything more on the street? Other than more's never enough:)

Bob Strongarms
Bob Strongarms

LS = easy HP in a compact & lightweight package. No need for a big block anymore unless you really want to run one.

Branden Knives Ross
Branden Knives Ross

as sweet as the buick 455 is, the block simply cannot sustain much more than 600 horse, not that you need much more than that

Christopher Spielvogel
Christopher Spielvogel

its easy! big turbo on jy LSx motor and start stacking up spares bcuause they pop like poprocks.

Michael Palombo
Michael Palombo

LM7, 5.3L stroker engine from the chevy trailblazer- can be boosted up to 1000hp! On stock internals!

Ted David Burrell
Ted David Burrell

Love the mix of new and old. Too bad this one appears to be coil-on-plug powered. Those aluminum heads must be worth their weight in gold!

Ken Dennis
Ken Dennis

woodstock woody...step 2 take ford motor in for scrap beg for gm back take ford scrap money get a coffee and get back to building

Teahartea Vatara
Teahartea Vatara

TÉMOIGNAGE: Si vous voulez faire un prêt entre particulier merci prendre contacte ( ) avec cet Mr Philippe qui m'a rendu le sourire aux lèvres. J'ai plusieurs collègues qui ont aussi reçus des prêts à son niveau sans problèmes au lieu de vous faire avoir par des individus mal intentionnés qui prennent pour travaillent à escroqué les innocents et je publie ce message parce qu'elle m'a fait du bien avec ce prêt et ne vous découragés pas parce que moi je me suis fait avoir mais j'ai rencontré cet monsieur honnête et Généreux alors prenez contacte avec lui: voici son Email: Merci de faire comme moi et envoyer votre demande pour obtenir votre prêt en 48 heures au plus. MERCI DE PARTAGER CETTE INFORMATION POUR AIDER NOS FRÈRE NOS AMIS ET AUTRES.

Gene Stribling
Gene Stribling

we don't like them if we got one for free and all the parts for it we say no

Doug Nelson
Doug Nelson

Im doing a 5.3 in my 76 nova. Help me go low buck... Please. Like under $1000.

Don Morris
Don Morris

You can make over a 1000 hp on a small block

Matt Pound
Matt Pound

$4,000 you can have 800whp all day with a 5.3

Scott Petty
Scott Petty

I don't consider $7,000 a budget build. I could have an inline 6 with more power for the same cash.

Scott Petty
Scott Petty

nevermind. Budget build = $7,000. lmao.

Dennis Jones
Dennis Jones

LQ4 with Twin Turbos that is my dream engine

Michel Loup
Michel Loup

or pontiac sd 421 dual 4bbl 488 hp stock

Michel Loup
Michel Loup

302 dz best smal block or 454 best big block

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