*photography by: the author
Converting a junkyard L92 into an LS3 on the cheap and dirty
If you’ve got LS3 envy but lack the budget to buy a crate or salvage one to stuff under your hood, there’s a more budget-friendly alternative out there most people don’t know about. While the Corvette, Camaro, Pontiac G8, and the Caprice got the unadulterated version of the LS3, several models of trucks and SUVs received the L92/L94/L9H code 6.2L V-8.
When the LS series first debuted in 1997 model Corvettes and 1998 model F-bodies, they heralded the beginning of a new era of small-block performance. But it wasn’t until the series started leaving the factory under the hoods of the millions of trucks GM built that engines became truly affordable for swaps into various GM vehicles (along with more than a few brand X models, too) and even someone on a tight budget could experience the benefit of LS power. Now with the LS3 becoming the benchmark for out of the box power, the truck line once again provides a more budget-friendly way to get serious LS displacement and power without breaking the bank.
The L92/L94/L9H uses the same block and rectangular port heads as the LS3, but on top it utilizes a rectangular port version of the “Big Ugly 2” truck intake. Internally the L92/L94/L9H uses a different camshaft that is drilled to provide oil flow to a hydraulically operated cam phaser mounted onto the L92/L94/L9H specific cam gear, also requiring the use of a unique timing cover. The L92/L94/L9H also features pistons with slightly lower (and we do mean slightly) compression due to cast in valve reliefs for the variable valve timing.
While a salvage LS3 can cost in the neighborhood of five to six thousand dollars, L92/L94/L9H s can usually be had for around $2500. That’s less than half the price for essentially the same engine. And converting an L92 to LS3 specs is easy and cheap, for around $500 depending on what intake you’re going to use.
We had everything converted on the engine in less than a day, and another day reinstalling the engine. Bolted to AntiVenom Performance’s Dynojet chassis dyno, our converted L92 pumped out 414 horsepower to the rear wheels. From experience, we’ve seen stock LS3s turning manual transmissions make anywhere from 350-375 at the wheels.
So, the bottom line, when all costs are figured in, you can get LS3 power and potential, without the purchase price of an actual LS3, thanks to the hidden gem of the L92/L94/L9H hiding under the hoods of trucks and SUVs all around us.
Patrick Hill has grown up around the automotive aftermarket, and carries a lifelong passion for performance, racing and automotive nostalgia that spans from the Tri-Five era to the current modern performance market.