Engine technology has advanced considerably over the last half century. We’ve gone from simple, mechanically controlled Otto cycle pushrod engines with one intake valve, one exhaust valve, and one camshaft to complicated engines that can vary every aspect of their function with the kind of precision that would have been limited to supercomputers from the 1960s. The bleeding edge of internal combustion technology is currently found in the hypercar trifecta – the Porsche 918, McLaren P1, and Ferrari LaFerrari – all of which have high-strung, race-bred engines in conjunction with electric motors that make them effectively the highest-performing hybrid engines in the world. However, a much more pedestrian nameplate known as the Corvette has soldiered on for 60 years with nothing but a lowly pushrod V8 between the front wheels. It has consistently been the hallmark of an “affordable supercar” that could punch above its weight (and price) class with ease. Much has been written about how the Corvette has been refined. Much like the engine, the interior, transmission, suspension, and control mechanisms have often relied on seemingly outdated technologies to save weight and keep costs down, yet keep the central premise of the car untouched – supercar speed at a sports car price.
The seventh generation of the Corvette has been on the market for a couple years now, along with a new V8 engine series labeled LT. It brings new mass-market tech like direct injection, formerly the purview of diesel engines. However, I will focus on the venerable LS series of engines, which ran for well over two decades. I will be answering several questions about their construction, development, and use in custom street and racing applications. How does the pushrod Chevrolet LS engine family continue to be a constantly evolving platform? How is material choice for engine components affected by the purpose of the engine? What are all the parts and labor that go into building and testing a custom top-of-the-line LSx-platform engine that can do double duty on the street and the racetrack? These are all well-worn questions, but I want to answer them in my own way because I dream of doing this myself.