is Kit Car Magazine saying about the Rodster® Street Rod?
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versions of the articles and photos of
the buildup process, click on the magazine pages.)
Add Heat To A Blazer
Swapping an LT-1 into an S-10-based Rodster is a big and rewarding
Text and photos by Harold Pace
S-10 Blazers and pickup trucks
have recently been discovered by the kit car industry as ideal donor
cars for kit-rod applications. The Master Street Rod ("Masterpiece,"
Jan. 2000) and the Rodster ("Highly Flammable," May '99) are
both based on this affordable and reasonably modifiable platform. But
like the Fiero, a new suit of racy clothes suddenly makes the four-and
six-banger mills seem a trifle lackluster. What the S-10 needs is a
muscular V-8 transplant, and there are several ways to do this.
Installing a 305-inch or
350-inch Chevy is a tried-and-true swap that has been accomplished many
times. There are even several books on the subject published by JTR
Publishing, including Chevrolet S-10 Truck V-8 Conversion Manual
and Chevrolet TPI and TBI Engine Swapping. Motor mounts and
other parts for this swap are sold by Stealth Conversions.
as nice as the regular Mouse motors are, the King of the late-model
Mice is the LT-1. This 285-310hp powerhouse is the hottest of the pushrod
Chevys that can pass even the tough California smog checks. How much
harder can it be to install than any other Chevy? To find out, we visited
Scott Ponton at Advanced Automotive Resources in Dallas, Texas. His
customer Ernie Colaizzi had recently purchased the Santini-flamed Rodster
that we featured on the cover of our May '99 issue. He was sold on the
fantastic looks, but the anemic four-cylinder puffer had to go. Colaizzi
is a musclecar type of guy with a stable of hot cars, and he wanted
his first kit car to have to punch to back up the great looks.
Ponton was the man for the job, as he had previously swapped three other
LT-1s into unsuspecting S-10s. First, they established some ground rules.
wanted a daily driver, not a show queen. This left out billet valve
covers, super detailing, and modifications that detracted from practicality.
In Texas, this also meant air conditioning and power accessories that
really work. And although Ponton had performed similar swaps before,
both parties realized that every swap is different and potentially an
expensive enterprise, particularly in the age of electronic engine management
systems. Ponton estimates a similar job would run about $6,000 in labor
alone (100-120) hours) plus about $3,000 for the engine and tranny,
and roughly $1,500 in miscellaneous parts.
1. Ponton starts by removing
everything he doesn't need from the Rodster. This includes the running
gear, exhaust system, cooling system, and the wiring harness from the
firewall forward. Although parts of the wiring will be used later, removing
them now prevents crushing or damaging them as the new mill is slipped
in place. Prior to removing the original engine, Ponton says it is mandatory
to measure the transmission inclination by placing an angle gauge on
the output shaft. Matching this angle with the new engine is critical.
2. Standard V-6 motor mounts
are installed in stock locations.
3. The transmission mount
hole is elongated by half an inch back to give extra room for fine-tuning
the location of the new running gear.
4. This LT-1 is from a Camaro,
as Ponton says they are both cheaper and easier to install into the
S-10 than the Corvette variation due to their more compact layout. The
engine is hung from a hoist and lowered into position. The transmission
bolts to its standard mount at the rear so a stock driveshaft can be
used. The engine is then raised until the inclination matches the original
engine. The new engine must also be straight in the chassis and parallel
to the differential pinion shaft. Any misalignment will spell driveline
problems down the road.
5. Look for potential clearance
problems. The LT-1 is a completely different package from a regular
350, and everything from the water outlets to the A/C compressor location
is different. Ponton marks an interference point between the compressor
and the frame that will need to be cut out. To allow for movement you'll
need half an inch minimum clearance between components attached to the
engine and ones attached to the frame.
6. Once everything is marked,
remove the engine and make your changes. The offending area is removed
with a plasma cutter, a torch, or a drill and saw. Save the piece you
cut out. The old piece is reversed and welded back in. Use scrap metal
to fill in voids.
7. New fuel lines must be
bent to match the S-10 outlets on the frame to the LT-1 fuel-intake
lines. This is a lot easier to do with the engine out of the car.
8. The LT-1 is just different
enough from a regular 350 TPI or TBI to render Stealth motor mounts
unusable in stock form. Ponto fabricates his own from 5/16-inch-thick
steel or modifies the Stealth ones after carefully blocking the engine
into its final position. Here you can see where the ears on the Stealth
mounts have been shortened and rewelded. Also note cutout on the mount
to clear the sending unit. Mounts bolt to stock isolators -- don't even
think about mounting the engine solid. Use wood or metal wedges to dummy
the engine into final position, then make mounts and weld them up. Bolt
mounts into place and double-check the centering and inclination.
9. Ponton recommends Hedman
headers made for the S-10/LT-1 swap (PN 69520). These will wind around
the steering column and exit under the car. Check your headers and manifolds
carefully for smooth sealing surfaces before installation. Here, LT-1
air-pump tubes have been welded to the headers before installation.
10. An exhaust crossover
tube is fabricated from 2 1/2 inch-diameter tubing which opens up to
3 inches and feeds back to the high-flow cat and Flowmaster muffler
with stainless steel tip. Make sure the exhaust system is at least half
an inch from all metal surfaces, with hoses and lines routed even farther
away or protected from heat by shields. Stock exhaust hangers are used.
11. While still underneath
we see where Ponton added an ACCEL (street model) electric fuel pump
to the bottom of the car. It's spliced in where the factory had installed
a rubber isolation fitting, and the main fuel line must be shortened
and reflared. The carbon canister has been mounted next to it; this
is normally located under the hood, but we need all the room in there
we can get!
12. The standard radiator
is used, but must also be modified. Note the extra nipple added to the
bottom for the LT-1 oil cooler. Another nipple is added on top for the
LT-1 reverse-cooling system. This is plumbed to an outlet on the throttle
body. The bottom radiator hose outlet has a 135-degree fitting brazed
on for clearance and to aim at the relocated hose.
13. The Rodster already has
a remote filler for the radiator, and this is angled to the side. The
air-filter system must be angled as well and relocated. Radiator hoses
were pieced together from bends purchased at an auto parts store. Dummy
up what you need and take it to the store with you. The standard Rodster
pulling-type electric fan was retained but moved over to gain clearance
for the air pump.
14. A Perma-Cool slimline
pusher fan was added to the other side for more cooling. There isn't
a way to install an engine-driven fan on the LT-1. The air-conditioning
system requires a lot of work. A 19x12-inch dual-pass condenser was
custom-built by a radiator shop and attached with fabricated brackets.
Custom hoses were made up by North Texas Hose. Mock up your hoses with
old fittings and hose for trial fitting.
15. The A/C compressor manifold
is off the Camaro, but must be modified for clearance on the Rodster.
The suction-side line is cut flush off the back of the body, capped,
and welded shut. Cut the suction-side line off the S-10 system close
to the fitting. Drill a 5/8-inch hole in the top side of the Camaro
manifold and weld the S-10 line in place. Make sure the line clears
the exhaust system. The power steering must be worked on as well (we
warned you that swaps are not simple). The metal tube on the Camaro
pump must be bent to clear the steering and headers, with new lines
made up to connect the pump to the steering. Be sure to have this done
by a professional -- line pressures are 1,000 to 3,000 psi, and leaks
can be deadly.
16. Combining electrical
systems makes the rest of the swap look easy. Ponton says to start with
the factory harnesses for the LT-1 and the S-10, and buy the factory
manuals, not aftermarket versions. Study the wiring diagrams thoroughly.
Then lay the LT-1 harness in the engine compartment and use an ohmmeter
to track each wire until you know what they all do. Reconnect the appropriate
wires to their counterpart in the S-10 system. Then identify the systems
supported by the LT-1 PCM electrical system that you won't be using
on your kit. For instance, your S-10 may not have ABS or traction control.
Find the wiring and sensors that control these features and either ground
or isolate them, depending on their function. Unfortunately, the way
this is done varies with the model of your S-10 and LT-1 engine, so
we can only offer some guidelines. If electrical systems are not your
strong suit you may want to bring in an expert for this phase or be
prepared to spend a lot of time learning and experimenting. Here we
see the PCM where it has been mounted on the inner fender panel.
17. You may also need to
add an auxiliary fuse box, as the LT-1 needs more fuses than the S-10.
Count on the added fuses to carry the power to each bank of injectors,
the extra fuel pump, and relays for the EGR and other accessories. You'll
also need to recalibrate the tachometer circuit board by replacing the
18. The completed engine
compartment shows relocated windshield-washer and overflow reservoirs
and the fabricated air cleaner. This was made from 3-inch ducting hose
and a 3-inch K&N filter. Mounting it to the side keeps it away from
hot radiator air.
19. Tight fit! Fan, condenser,
and radiator are neatly packed in front of the Rodster. Now that the
Rodster has the brawn to back up those classic looks, we're ready to
take it for a spin. Colaizzi is thrilled with his new steed, although
some changes have been made. The stock tires were inadequate so BFG
drag radials were added to put the power down. And the front shocks
are in for an update as well. For Colaizzi, this project still has a
way to go: "It's too much power for most people, but I'm putting
nitrous on next week." We'll keep you informed as to how this terror
11309 Emerald, Suite B
Dallas, TX 75229
128 Center St., Unit B
El Segundo, CA 90245
P.O. Box 66
Livermore, CA 94551
P.O. Box 11411
Pleasanton, CA 94588