LS Swap to Early GTO - MY OPINION - Pontiac GTO Forum
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post #1 of 245 (permalink) Old 07-03-2014, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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LS Swap to Early GTO - MY OPINION

This is my opinion, and just my opinion, in response to those who have done or are thinking of doing the modern day Chevy LS series small block engine swap into the first generation GTO "A-Body." Being 55 years of age, I did not experience the "muscle car era" as it unfolded, but rather, reaped the benifits following that era in the late 1970's and early 1980's when these cars were somewhat worn out and abused, gas prices were going up, and they sold for cheap if they had not already been scrapped out. Pontiacs, and later the GTO, was my car of choice.
The hi-performance car was not invented by Pontiac nor its engineers as they have always been around. When the first GTO was introduced as an option on the Lemans, it was innovative. But this innovation was more about creating a meaning for the GTO than the GTO itself. It was the advertising and marketing genius of Jim Wangers who took his vision of a "super car" and created that meaning. It was then Pontiac chief engineer John DeLorean who turned out the GTO based on a concept with no guarantees that this concept was going to work in practice.
The first 1964 GTO was built around the horsepower and torque of the Pontiac 389 engine. The engineers knew that this casting had the potential to be enlarged to 400, 421, 428, and 455 cubic inches. This engine, with its assorted horsepower and torque ratings was the GTO. Even those who were not GTO savvy knew enough to ask, 389 or 400?
The GTO was an icon of the muscle car era that needed no introduction as it brought to mind the vivid image of horsepower & speed. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words and with the sight of a GTO, there were not only words, but also, an excitement of the senses as you listened to the rumble of the dual exhaust either at idle or rowing through the gears.
Being fortunate enough to own several GTO's and other Pontiac cars of that era, it was all about horsepower and the Pontiac engine under the hood. The factory engine on the street really did not need a lot of tweaking as there was never any problems putting down rubber or taking on a would be challenger in his Chevelle, Ford, Mopar, or AMC. One might simply fine tune the engine or add a tri-power, a Torker intake, a Holley carb, Mallory dual points, or headers to root out a few more horsepower without going into the engine. These add-ons seemed to work if one was so inclined. Money back then was as tight as it is today and parts that were seemingly cheap by todays standards were expensive. So the factory engine with all its factory horsepower and torque made the GTO desirable when matched against the more readily available small blocks installed in the "other" makes. Big blocks were not all that common with the exception of the Road Runners or Chargers and their 383's.
Fast forward to today and we have seen the recent introduction of the second generation Holden GTO and its corporate small block Chevy LS series engines. Once again, the image of the GTO is built around the engine, but the first generation GTO with its legendary Pontiac manufactured engine is not the same as the second generation GTO and its Chevy engine. It is the old apples and oranges comparison when viewing the old GTO with the new GTO......only the name is the same.
As of late, the term "resto-mod" seems to have incorporated the approval of installing the later model LS Chevy small block engines into the engine bay of the earlier GTO. This is where I draw the line. I just want to snatch those GTO keys out of your hands, and tell you that you're just not yet responsible enough to own that GTO. There is a reverence unspoken that simply "is" and words cannot express. Either you get it, or you don't. Maybe its simply because I was there, because I lived through that tail-end of the muscle car era.
As stated earlier, the GTO was built around the performance of the Pontiac engine. Chevy engines were installed in Canadian built Pontiacs and were given a completely different name, Beaumont. If you want to install an LS engine in your GTO, then buy a Canadian Beaumont. Unbelievably, I am even ok with the LS swap in a Lemans or Tempest, but not a GTO. Would you install the Chevy LS engine in a Boss Mustang, Hemi Cuda, Buick GSX, Olds 442, or AMX? Install one in a Road Runner and pop the hood at a car show and let's see what kind of reactions you get. The only reason anyone thinks it is cool is because they would not know the difference between a Model A engine and a Pontiac engine anyway. They simply think that all the chrome, polished aluminum, braided steel lines, and multi-colored do-dads is what its all about. But those of us who know our Pontiacs, shudder with agony and outstretch our arms to the heavens and shout out "why?"
I don't have a problem when it comes to body modifications, brake and suspension upgrades, transmission swaps, 18" rims, or interior changes. I'm even good with modifying the Pontiac engine anyway you like, old school or with contemporary electronics and fuel injection.......but a GTO has to have a Pontiac block using factory or aftermarket fitted Pontiac parts -no exceptions.
So if you ask me what I think of the Chevy LS small block swap in a first generation GTO, you will probably watch my nostrils flare out, my face contort and redden, my body twitch, and hear the soliloquy of a few choice words escape my vocal chords that will inevitably let you know of my disapproval. And you won't hear me weenie out and say, "well its your car and you can build it any way you want." If it's a muscle car era GTO, it's gotta be Pontiac powered..........or just give me the keys. Pontiac built excitement, not Chevy powered muscle car era GTO's.
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post #2 of 245 (permalink) Old 07-04-2014, 07:53 AM
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If you have a 64-74 GTO that is numbers matching or restored back to spec with the correct engine, I would agree.
Technically the LSx motors are GM not Chevy. These motors will fit a GTO, Camaro, G8 or Corvette and produce the same power/torque with only minor differences.
I see a lot of first gen goats being redone into pro touring and resto mod because it is cheaper to do and more dependable. Don't get me wrong, I love first gen power plants and that "old school" muscle. It all depends on the condition of the car when purchased and the plan to put it on the road.

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post #3 of 245 (permalink) Old 07-04-2014, 03:15 PM
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Jim I agree wholeheartedly with 99% of what you said there. Except the part about putting an ls in a LeMans or Tempest. Pontiac is Pontiac ... Firebird or Grand Prix or LeMans or Bonne ... They all deserve the heart of a poncho. I will also take to task the belief that a classic drivetrain "all Pontiac" can't be reliable or or isn't reliable simply because newer tech is easier. A well maintained Pontiac engine will run for 100 thousand miles without incident. More if let it. The availability of foreign model cars got this country into a very lazy mindset. Drive it and dispose of it is a lot easier than owning loving and respecting your ride. Pontiac is about an emotional connection to your car. A connection to the road. Its a member of the family and part of the event, the vacation, the weekend cruise, the movie night, what have you. I have owned an ls gto, and no it ain't the same. It's a nice sporty comfortable car. But its not a goat. So Jim I stand with you against anyone who thinks a Chevy sb or ls or anything other than a poncho belonging under the hood of a classic Pontiac.

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1969 Custom-S Project car

1971 GTO 455 in process of rebuild TH400 NEED A NEW REAREND!!!
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post #4 of 245 (permalink) Old 07-04-2014, 09:26 PM
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Opinions -every ones got em
heres mine
Pontiac+LSx=awesome ride
also I hate red cars, nothing personal to anyone who likes that color, just my opinion.
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post #5 of 245 (permalink) Old 07-05-2014, 07:48 AM
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I have always felt that the whole point of the hot rod culture was to put a more modern drive train into an older car. I am only 38 so I am much younger than most that own these classic era Pontiacs, but I have always loved the hot rod scene. Back in the day you would buy an old model T and swap in a flat head V8 and have instant hot rod. The resto mods that are being built today are based on the same idea and I personally love seeing them. One of the coolest cars I have seen at a local cruise night was a 37 Plymouth with a in-line six turbo engine out of a Datsun. You can't tell me that isn't cool. I look at the LS swaps the same way. The only thing I can't figure out is why someone would go through the hassle of doing such a swap and then run a carb. To me it defeats the purpose.

I don't think that the typical LS swap is done on an all matching high dollar GTO (or Chevelle SS, or 442, or GS, etc). I think it's typically done as part of a restoration on a car of questionable pedigree or a clone project. To me, no harm no foul. Build what you want. I think what the older crowd doesn't get is these resto mods (and to a greater extent the tuner cars) are what will keep the car culture alive into the future.

So crustysack, love your LS swap, don't agree with you about red cars. My car was originally green so I look at the red as a vast improvement!
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post #6 of 245 (permalink) Old 07-05-2014, 12:06 PM
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Thats the point about my opinion on color- no one has to agree with me. I dont get a contorted face or flare my nostrils when any red car goes by- I just dont like the color- dont really like cats either,or brussel sprouts , or sweet potatoes ,or Justin Bieber but I know a lot of people who do and I dont hate on them because they like other things than me.

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post #7 of 245 (permalink) Old 07-05-2014, 12:26 PM Thread Starter
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I get it. Key word is "cheap." The LS series small block is an extension of the Chevy small block and if you want to somehow tie the word "corporate GM engine" to it and believe it isn't a Chevy......that's OK. The Pontiac division made heads to slap on a big block Chevy that had "Pontiac" logo on them and this somehow made it a Pontiac engine. If you want to believe your Big Block Chevy is a Pontiac with the addition of these heads.....then you are too young to appreciate or know what a true Pontiac engine is all about -but you can if you keep with the factory Pontiac engine family. The "Pontiac" Solstice used an Opel engine. I don't consider that much in line with a Pontiac product.

The term "hot rod" is generally referred to those modified cars of the 1950's and earlier, with most being of the 1920-1940's body styles. The aim was of course to increase speed and performance through engine hop-up goodies or larger more powerful engines that replaced the low powered stock drivetrains -and body mods. Auto manufacturers jumped on the band wagon in the mid-fifties by adding performance goodies to the engines like dual quads(Chevy,Caddy,Packard,Pontiac), tri-power(Pontiac,Caddy,Olds), fuel injection(Chevy,Pontiac), and superchargers (Studebaker-remember those?). This was the beginning of the high-performance factory "hot-rod." I don't classify what is termed a "muscle car" as a "hot-rod" even if you stick some other engine in it -it will always be a "muscle car" as it represents a time/niche in history when such powerful and aggressive cars were cranked right off the production line. To defend your position and reclassify a GTO "muscle car" as a "hot-rod" or slip in that ever current "resto-mod" term because one installed a Chevy LS engine into it would be like taking a 1937 Harley Davidson and restoring it with a Yamaha engine because it was cheaper, more reliable, far more faster, and parts are available. That poor Harley would never be a "hot-rod" or "resto-mod" no matter how convinced you were. That classic Harley would simply be ruined.

Yes, to build a Pontiac engine can indeed be pricey IF you want to make horsepower far above the factory numbers, but then again, have you ever had the experience of hammering on a 360HP 400CI 4-speed GTO? Have you ever heard the deep drone of the big secondaries popping open on a Q-jet that had an open element air cleaner or the factory top lid reversed? (best done in a nice long tunnel for effect!) Have you ever experienced dropping that His&Hers automatic stick into the manual quadrant and going through the gears to hear that chirp of tire rubber as the TH-400 snapped from first to second on your command? Try running around town with the hood removed so all can see those "this Pontiac mean business" shiny chrome air cleaners on your tri-power and those chrome valve covers. The factory GTO engine IS fast.

Now once you feel that the factory 350-360HP isn't enough and you get swept into the dream that somehow you won't be satisfied with those numbers and you need at least 450-550HP, then your budget will begin to soar out of sight. Now we are talking expensive and I would venture to say that even producing those HP numbers from a Chevy small block would also be just as pricey. So now when I begin to look at the apples and oranges comparison, the factory Pontiac engine installation doesn't look so unreasonable.

I fear that some would think taking the supercharged straight-eight out of a Duesenburg and swapping in an LS small block would be cool.
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post #8 of 245 (permalink) Old 07-05-2014, 12:55 PM
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My two cents. I have a resto/mod. Or half way done with one depends on how you see it. I dropped a 428 and I have the fuel injection kit to swap out. Thought long and hard about what motor to put in. And still might pull the trigger on a supercharged lsx my buddy has. It's a tough call but I understand your point about pontiac power pontiac car. That's why I stayed with the 428. I didn't put a 455 in because one model year from mine came with the 455. I am 33 I grew up in mid Michigan when they closed most the gm plants down. Like many families we struggled so I watched my dad swap motors in his chevell uncle scrap his gto. My gto to me is what my family worked for what they built. As long as your keeping it American muscle swap it tear it down build it up. We may disagree but the car and era is still alive
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post #9 of 245 (permalink) Old 07-05-2014, 01:14 PM
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OK.....everybody on this forum knows I like to foist my here goes: Jim, I am 2 years your junior, and grew up during the same era. I remember these cars when they were new, and still have the Hot Rod magazine I bought in third grade that introduced the "HOT '70 models. My first ride in a performance Pontiac was terrifying, and it made an impression on me. On my second ride in a high performance Pontiac (66 GTO 4 speed), I ended up driving that car home as its new owner. Ask anybody our age or older, like Bear, what the seminal moment was, and we'll have a story. Bear's first GTO experience is located on line somewhere, and is a must read. Point is, these are OUR memories when WE came of age.....when there were no LS engines, computers, cell phones, etc. We are from a different era, and we want to feel that era when we drive our Pontiacs. I know I feel like a kid every time I get behind the wheel and bang gears. I get the same noise, smells, and brutal torque that only a Pontiac can deliver. That's my thing. My preference. I agree with 99.9 % of what you say. The thing is, there are a lot of sharp YOUNG guys in their 20's-40's who grew up in a different era. They have no first memories of a tripower wailing on a dark back road. They are buying affordable rollers, and customizing them to their interpretation. Some of them do fantastic work. Again, not my 'thing', but man, look at Crusty's ride. Pretty darn stunning. I too think a hot rod is primarily a pre war car warmed up a bit. Not a muscle car. A muscle car is a muscle car, going back to at least 1936, when Buick put the large Roadmaster engine into the light Special body and called it a Century. I like either original, or 'Day Two' musclecars, and I like the kind of hot rods I saw as a kid, and still see here in the central valley: tuck and roll naugahide interiors, period steering wheels, nailhead Buick, Olds, or Flathead power, and NO BILLET or BOYD anything. Old school stuff. Because I'm and old school guy. I get it. To me, putting an LS in a Pontiac is like putting a Kawasaki Z1 engine in a '47 Harley. The whole context of the machine is changed. Entirely. Some folks like that, though. They like the performance. I am more of a romantic, and prefer the rumble, the nostalgia, and the feeling that only a Pontiac engine can provide.
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post #10 of 245 (permalink) Old 07-08-2014, 11:07 AM
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I'm 25 years old and I wouldn't dare drop anything into my 70 GTO current restoration project other than good old fashioned Poncho Power. I think people who say the LS engine is more reliable don't know how to properly tune and tweak a carbureted engine. Quadrajets when set up correctly are as close to fuel injection reliability as you can get, and with simple bolt on applications like HEI, any old-school Pontiac engine should be more than reliable. Granted, I also believe everyone should build their car however they want, but if you pop the hood and I see anything but a beautiful blue Pontiac block, I've just lost 100% interest in your car. Have fun with it, but I could care less anymore.

"You Gotta Have Fun When You're Little!!"
-Dick Schindler

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