Engine swaps are all of the rage these days, with the LS-series family leading the charge at full steam! Now that the GEN-V LT1 and LT4 have been released, it’s only a matter of time until they find their niche within the hobby.
But the staff here at GM EFI is all about thinking outside the box, going after the trends that are different and revolutionary and inspire our readers to carve their own path in the hobby. Anybody can purchase and install a few bolt-ons into their production car, but hot-rodding has always been about building your car as a creation all its own.
Which is why we just put together this list of our five favorite vehicles to swap in not an LS, not a GEN-V, but a 275hp LTG turbocharged 4-cylinder Ecotec! No, we haven’t been eating any paint chips or sniffing model glue (lately), but we do love the idea of a longitudinally mounted turbocharged 4-banger with a snail strapped to it, sending the power to the rear wheels!
Coincidentally, Chevrolet Performance has announced this as a crate engine package (PN 19328837) just last year at SEMA, with an option to order a longitudinally mounted transmission (19328976) to sit behind it. We immediately started cooking up ideas in our heads of what we wanted to swap one of these drivetrains in, and seeing Chevrolet Performance’s own ’60s Nova project on Power Tour just dumped fuel on the fire. Below are our top five picks of what GM EFI Magazine would use as (front engine/rear drive) LTG swap candidates – we would love to hear yours!
1976-1987 Chevy Chevette
Yeah, we understand, this thing was one of the biggest (smallest?) piles in GM’s history of automotive manufacturing. Packing an engine so small and powerless, that its horsepower rating didn’t even come close to eclipsing the 100 mark, there left a lot to be desired in regards to performance.
But if you’ve been to a dragstrip in the last thirty years or so, you more than likely have been seeing these little cars with a small-block or big-block V8s under their hood and the widest tires you could possibly fit under their rear wheel tubs. Dropping this little boosted mill under the hood of this car would be like strapping it into a go-kart. Find one with a wood grain and roof rack like the one above, and you would have a killer sleeper on your hands!
Our favorite small pickup of all time, the S10/S15/Sonoma compact, the world is your oyster in regards to what you can squeeze under the hood. We’ve sent them packing pretty much everything; from 4-bangers, 2.8L V6s, Vortecs, small-blocks, big-blocks, LT1s, LS engines – you name it, it’s been done!
But stuff a tuned, quick-spooling LTG under the hood of a 2WD, regular cab/short bed S10 and have fun picking on trucks twice its size, weight and displacement. They’ll never see you coming…
Go ahead, and throw those stones. But before you do you’ll have to remember a couple of things. First, the base model ’82-86 Camaros and Firebirds left the factory with a 90 hp 4-banger from the factory. And second, the base 2016 Camaro is equipped from its Lansing, Michigan assembly-line with this very same engine.
As we all know, the 2016 Camaro weighs in at about 200-lbs less than the 2015 example it replaces. But imagine that 275 hp engine in a car that weighs another 300-400 pounds less! You’ll be producing GEN-II LT1 power levels from an engine almost 1/3 its displacement and half of its cylinders – in a car that weighs about the same as a modern, fully-equipped Cruze.
1971-1980 GM H-body
There aren’t too many of these left, but we would absolutely love to see a ’70s Vega, Monza or sister H-car with an LTG under the hood. Being equipped with underpowered and underdeveloped 4-cylinder engines from GM, bolting down a turbocharged LTG to the frame rails seems like a natural thing to do!
These cars weighed in far below 3,000 pounds, and would be perfect for such a drivetrain conversion. While we wouldn’t know offhand what would all be involved in making this swap, since we’ve never done it personally, it’s a great way to earn some respect for the old H-body cars. We’d love to find a ’76 Cosworth Vega in this particular case.
1997-2002 Cadillac Catera
Probably the most hated Caddys of all time, apart from the J-body Cimmaron obviously, the Catera actually had a lot going for it. Not only was it front engine/rear wheel drive and built on a very decent chassis (ala’ GTO), it could swallow pretty much any kind of engine you wanted to install in it. We’ve seen more than one LS-swapped Catera in our day, for instance.
Just about anything is better than the 3.2L V6 those cars came standard with during their production, but the LTG would definitely be something totally different. It would be a natural combination too, being as how its modern interpretation relies on the same engine for power!
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.