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A Quick Guide to Swapping an LS into a Third-Gen

LS swap third gen Camaro

photos by: Patrick Hill

Taking a Quick Look at What it Takes to Swap an Iron Block LS into a Third-Gen Camaro

As an LS-swapped third-gen owner myself, I can tell you that dropping a GEN-III or -IV V8 into an ’82-92 Camaro or Firebird isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it sure makes the effort worth it. When these cars were new, they offered the performance enthusiast just about everything you’ve wanted; handling, braking capabilities, looks and plenty of style — at least for an ’80s car. What they lacked, however, is actual performance.

You could argue that there were a few exceptions, like the ’89 Turbo Trans Am and ’91-92 Firehawk, and that performance steadily improved throughout its eleven year model run, but overall, it could have been better. Take it from someone who owns an ’84 Trans Am, that left the factory with an LG4. Or even like our subject car in this story, that started out in life as a TBI 305-powered Camaro.

Being a former Super Chevy project car, it sported a ton of bolt-ons and an aftermarket EFI system on a traditional small-block, but it always had drivability and reliability issues. Unfortunately life happened, and the then owner ultimately sold it, but it has since found its way into the shop of AntiVenom Performance for a budget LS swap.

LS swap third gen CamaroUtilizing an LQ4 pullout from a junkyard Silverado, it has been lightly massaged with a Chevrolet Performance LS9 camshaft, LS3 intake and LS3 heads. An off-brand 90mm throttle body also sits in place for improved induction duties, with a Scoggin-Dickey throttle body cable bracket in charge of opening the throttle blade.

For increased exhaust flow and proper fitment (after all, LS engines were never offered in third-gens), the crew at AntiVenom utilized a set of Hawks Motorsports long-tube headers and Y-pipe, paired with a Holley Performance true-dual exhaust system. Fitment wasn’t an issue, but we would recommend an experienced technician for all exhaust installation work. If you’re a first-timer, you could find it rather stressful and tiring if you’ve never done it before or don’t have access to a lift, especially.

The factory cooling system just won’t work, either. Partly because the nearly 30-year old radiator and cooling fan isn’t quite up to the task at hand, but mostly because the OEM radiator’s goosenecks don’t exactly work with the the LS’s thermostat and water pump locations. Thankfully, our friends at Flex-a-Lite offer a solution for our LS-awapped cooling needs.

We also wanted to upgrade the suspension, as well as reinforce the chassis and subframe from what it was equipped with from the factory. So we turned to BMR Suspension, who happens to be local to AntiVenom and they recommended a tubular K-member, torque arm, Panhard bar and sway bars. It’s a similar formula that we decided to go with for Project Redrum, and we’ll delve in much further detail on that when the time comes.

LS swap third gen Camaro

Wanting to get started before we could even arrive, Greg had already pulled the small-block and the factory subframe. Truthfully, there wasn’t much to look at, anyway. If you look closely, you can see the Flex-a-Lite radiator that will be cooling our late third-gen Camaro.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

Flex-a-Lite PN: 56400 is a direct-fit radiator for ’82-92 Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebirds, that utilizes stock-location mounting points and mounting brackets that hold the Flex-a-Lite radiator in place in the OEM pointing positions. It provides 3,000 CFM of airflow for excellent cooling capabilities, and also features side tank technology with “T” channels that offer 130% better heat transfer, with a durable mounting system for the radiator, electric fan and optional oil cooler or expansion tank. The dual 1-inch all-aluminum radiator core is hand welded in the U.S. to the Flex-a-fit sidetanks. This radiator comes with dual 12 1/8 inch X-Treme S-Blade electric fans with Variable Speed Controller. We” beinstalling the complete kit, which includes the dual-electric fan kit, and is available from Flex-a-Lite under part number 56484.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

Despite being a factory TPI car, and with several customizable ways to assemble a cold-air induction system, the car’s new owner insisted ion using an OEM twin-inlet induction system for a more factory look. Kudos to him, but there were two issues with that; there were clearance issues with the radiator that made us modify the airbox slightly, and the OEM intake system is fairly restrictive and not quite up to the task of flowing air into an LS-seires engine. If you’re building one of these cars, we’d skip it entirely.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

Much like the 4th-gen F-body cars, it’s easier to install the engine/K-member together, from the bottom. It also made things easier to mount the lower A-arms to the K-member, for a more drop-in (or lift in, rather) installment. Greg also bolted the headers to the engine prior to securing the engine in place, to help elevate any potential struggle with fitment.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

Coupled with Grade-8 zinc coated hardware, the Dirty Dingo engine mount brackets (PN-3550C) are made from laser-cut, .250 thick 1050 High Carbon cold rolled steel. They are slotted for adjustment with engine placement in the engine compartment. These mounts will allow you to move the engine from the original bell housing position up to 2 1/2 inches forward, and up to 1/2 inch rearward. When torqued in place they do not allow the engine to move, even under high horsepower applications. Precision CNC press brake folded with large radius die to reduce stress on the bend. These conversion mounts are designed to be used with the factory rubber clam shell style mounts on your original frame.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

We initially were going to rely on the stock K-memnber, but ultimately decided upon going with a BMR K-member, per the Camaro owner’s request. However, they will work for either K-member for our third-gen Camaro. Luckily, Dirty Dingo offers an array of mounts and brackets for basically any vehicle you can think too swap an LS engine into, including dune buggies!

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

Our mounting hardware brackets were also sourced form Dirty Dingo, and we implemented their billet accessory brackets for the AntiVenom Camaro project. They’ve also included the track-style alternator, Sanden 508 A/C compressor and a remote location power steering pump reservoir. The design of the brackets were specced in to C5 Corvette dimensions and specifications, for optimum spacing and clearance.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

Dirty Dingo’s billet aluminum air conditioning bracket is designed for mounting the Sanden 508 A/C compressor on the passenger side of Corvette, G8, CTS-V Gen 3 and Gen 4 LS engines — and in our case, an LS swapped ’92 Camaro. They’re CNC-machined from 1/2-inch thick 6061-T6 aircraft billet aluminum on a precision vertical CNC milling center. This bracket is completely CNC machined on both sides. Comes complete with precision CNC lathe machined 6060-T6 1″ thick billet aluminum spacers. Includes grade 8 silver zinc coated socket head allen bolts and stainless steel washers. Includes new Gates idler pulley and Gates monster spring loaded belt tensioner. Places the A/C compressor in line with the factory serpentine belt drive system. If your engine has VVT (Variable Valve Timing) Dirty Dingo manufacturers a different kit for those applications as well.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

When it came time for our ECM/wiring harnesss needs, our friends at PSI Conversion came to the rescue with their custom-tailored harness for our ’92 F-body. Designed specifically for an 6.0-liter LS-swapped Camaro, it came equipped with EV1 injector connectors, A/C recognition, drive-by-cable cruise control capability and 4L60E connection. This harness was also put together with the 5-pin Vortec MAF sensor in mind, so there wasn’t any cutting/splicing the wires at all when it came time for installation. It was direct plug and play. The ECU also come from PSI, and arrived at AntiVeniom unlocked, and tune-friendly.

 

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

With the tubular BMR K-member bolted in, you can see how much extra room the there will be to work on the Camaro. Not only that, but the BMR K-member will provide a 30-lb weight reduction when paired with the lower A-arms. The Hawks Motorsports long-tube headers offer plenty of clearance, impressive exhaust flow and even a little bling to our Purple People Eater. The headers are designed specifically for LS-swapped third-gen F-body cars, unlike some universal kits that are on the market, that can provide some fitment issues.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

Coil-over shocks, as well as BMR’s tubular lower A-rms will help make this car handle substantially better than it otherwise could have with the OEM hardware, while at the same time, eliminating some unnecessary off of the front end.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

A Hawks Motorsports cross member holds the 4L60E in place, providing plenty of room for the long-tube headers to route passed without obstruction.It also features mounting holes that will allow us to run the BMR adjustable torque arm.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

We ditched the factory torque arm for an adjustable unit from BMR. You’ll also note the aluminum F-body driveshaft that runs from the 4L60E transmission to the Ford 8.8 rearend.

 

LS swap third gen Camaro

Put back, the Camaro is equipped with BMR rear lower control arms, adjustable Panhard bar and boxed weld-in subframe connectors. It also sports a Stainless Works exhaust system from an earlier iteration.

 

If you’re building an LS-swapped third-generation F-body, or plan to, stay tuned for the full series on Project Redrum, or read about it here. We’ll also be following up with this car at a later date, for the results of driving characteristics, dyno numbers and performance figures. Until next time!

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  1. W.C. 25 July, 2017 at 22:02 Reply

    This is nice! And nice to think about since I have a 99 Trans Am and a 91 z28. Can you get the total $$$ for this swap? Thanks

    • Rick Seitz 4 August, 2020 at 18:59 Reply

      Pricing fluctuates over time. The article was written nearly five years ago. Having someone constantly diving into the same article every so often just to update prices is a bit cumbersome. The good news it, all of the parts are listed and linked back, so you can easily click on them to see what the current street price is.

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