You put a V8 in what?!

by | Tuesday, July 9, 2013 | 0 comment(s)

I’ll be completely honest here. I was with you on this at one time. I still remember the night I received a phone call from my buddy Jason (co-owner of Import Muscle). The conversation went something like this…

Jason: “Hey man, what are you doing next weekend?”
Me: “I don’t know… why?”
Jason: “We need to drive to Oklahoma City.”
Me: “Ummm… OK. Why?”
Jason: “I’m buying an S2000.”
Me: “You already own an S2000.”
Jason: “Yep. I just bought another one.”
Me: “Why do you need 2?”
Jason: “Cause we are going to put an LS1 in this one.”
Me: “You gotta be F%*&ing kidding me!”

Turns out he wasn’t kidding. After a 48 hours whirlwind weekend, we had towed a decrepit shell of an S2000 back to Atlanta. Neither Jason nor I were strangers to wrenching on vehicles extensively, but this was a project of a whole new dimension.

It didn’t take long to realize the LS1 and the S2000 were practically made for each other.

We love cars of all types, but for years we focused mostly on Asian imports. Hondas in particular. Hands down, the jewel of the Honda sports car world has always been limited to two… the NSX and the S2000. With their perfectly balanced chassis and constantly lowering price, the S2000 is a relative car guy bargain. BUT… as anyone who owns the S2000 will agree, Honda certainly could have given these cars more power. We aren’t saying the S2000 is slow, mind you. Let’s just say power isn’t one of its strengths. In fact, it’s probably one of its only weaknesses.

Enter the turbo, supercharger and/or motor re-build

Want more power in your S2000? No problem. Boost is always a quick and easy solution. Well… maybe not so easy. Aside from the investment of the turbo/supercharger kit, don’t forget an engine management system, larger injectors, fuel pump, upgraded clutch and extensive tuning just to name a few of the items. And let’s face it, eventually no matter what anyone might tell you… a motor rebuild will be in your future. It’s inevitable. Trust me. Many, many others before you have been there. The F20C/F22C are amazing motors, but being known for handling anything but mild boost they are not.

With all of the above in mind, let’s talk about cost for a minute. For this example, we will use a typical turbo kit, although as mentioned above there are supercharger options as well that would net similar costs.

Typical S2000 Turbo Kit: $5,000
Fuel Injectors: $400
Fuel Pump: $150
Engine Management: $1400
New Clutch/Pressure Plate: $800
Tuning: $240 ($80/hour x3)
Estimated Price: $7,990
Estimated Power: 330hp / 240ft lbs

Not bad, right? That’s a ton more power. Guaranteed to create a fun drive at the track, or on the way to work. But for almost $8,000? I think we can do better than that.

Enter the LS1/2/3/6 swap

The LS1 one debuted in 1997 with the all new C5 Corvette. In 1998, it was added to the Camaro/Firebird family and was also included in the 2004 Pontiac GTO just to name a few examples. Based on the Chevrolet 5.7L V8 engine, this high performance version of the motor added many features to the age old design most notably the upgrade of an aluminum block making it extremely lightweight for its size. Varying in power from 305hp – 350hp the differences in this motor are relatively minor.

In early 2001, GM launched the 385-405hp LS6 powering both the C5 Corvette Z06 and the 2004-05 Cadillac CTS-V. Still the same 5.7L displacement motor with some added high performance internals. And good news… aside these minor details internally, all external mounting and peripherals stay virtually identical to the LS1. But it keeps getting better.

In 2005, GM launched the LS2. A bored and stroked version of the LS1 netting 6.0L of displacement and roughly 400hp. This motor was found in the new for 2005 C6 Corvette, 2005+ Pontiac GTO, 2005-06 Cadillac CTS-V, 2006-09 Trailblazer SS… well you get the idea. Again, externally this motor stays nearly identical to the original motor it replaced, the LS1.

But wait… don’t forget the largest of the all, the LS3. By again boring and stroking the LS2, the LS3 moves to 6.2L of displacement and a whopping 430hp. This motor can be found in the 2008+ Corvette, the 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP and the 2010+ Camaro SS. Yet again, nearly identical in most aspects to the LS1 on the outside. Mouth watering yet?

So pick your poison from the above list. Obviously since the LS1 is older and considerably more common, it will also be the least expensive and easiest to find. The truth is no matter which motor you select you almost can’t go wrong.

Concerned about reliability? Don’t be. The LSx family of motors have proven themselves for many years. A well taken care of low 100k mile motor should be considered young and very attractive candidate for this swap.

I know what you are thinking now. What about weight? The S2000 is one of the best balanced cars on the planet. Putting a big heavy V8 motor will screw that up, won’t it? Talk about plowing into a corner.

Nope. WRONG. Let’s make it simple…

Honda F20c/F22c1 Motor Weight (w/accessories): 326lbs
GM LS1/2/3/6 Motor Weight (w/accessories): 385lbs +/-

Yep. It doesn’t take a genius to figure 59lbs isn’t a dramatic difference. And don’t forget, if you are adding a turbo/supercharger kit to your stock motor you have probably just added another 20-25lbs to the car. Obviously this closes the above gap even further.

Let’s get back to the math of the swap. In our example, we will use the typical going rate for an LS1 and T56 manual transmission on eBay. Oh… and BONUS! Don’t forget you can sell your F20c/F22c1 with transmission and recover some of your costs. Can’t do that with a turbo/supercharger kit, can you?

LS1 and T56 Manual Transmission: $3,500 +/- (as of 2/12)
Driveshaft: $100
Fuel Pump: $150
Other: $1,000 (Driveshaft modification, Clutch Master Cylinder, Misc parts)
Import Muscle Swap Kit: $1450 (w/speed sensor)
Sell your F20c: -$2,500
Estimated Price: $3,700
Estimated Power: 320hp (+/-) / 300ft lbs (+/-)

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. We are talking nearly $4,000 less for roughly the same amount of power and MORE torque. And don’t forget, the LSx performance market is nearly endless. Adding another 100hp for less than the remaining dough is easily possible.

Horsepower, massive torque, near identical weight balance and don’t forget that wonderful V8 rumble. It’s guaranteed to scare off the guy next to you at your local stop light.

So whether you are looking to add more power or simply replacing your blown F20/F22 completing this swap is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and re-new your love for one of Honda’s best vehicles.


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