How to Create More Power With Your LS Crate Engine

Drag Racing 101 Crate Engine

An LS crate engine is already a powerful powerplant; however, like Tim Taylor, we’re always looking for ways to make more power in our rides. Whether we’ve got a little subcompact with a four-banger, or a road bound passenger liner, we’re always looking to eke out those last few horsepower. If you’ve got an LS crate engine either installed or waiting to be installed and you want to massage it a little to get a few more ponies, you’ve come to the right place. How much extra power you can get will depend on two main factors: which engine you have and how much you’re willing to do and spend.

Special Order

Most people aren’t aware that they can buy GM crate engines, including the LS Series engines, special ordered. Sure, you can go out and buy one completely pre-built (mostly completely pre-built) like GM part number 19244096, an LS327 with one horsepower per cubic inch. This is a complete engine with an intake manifold minus the carburetor.

You could also go to a third party site, such as Jeg’s or Edelbrock and order one off the shelf. However, Edelbrock also offers DIY (Do It Yourself) crate engine kits. This allows the buyer to peruse a catalog of available parts and order what they want. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that you can order Melling rings and oil pump, Weiand intake, Holley carb, Fel-Pro gaskets, and TRW/Moog internals. What it means is that you can choose between a few different kits that are available to more closely suit your needs. These kits are great for people like me that enjoy assembling their own engines.

Add a Turbo or Supercharger to Your LS Crate Engine

Turbocharging and supercharging are ways of forcing more air into the combustion chamber. Both are excellent ways to stuff more air into the engine and make more power. Back in my day, superchargers were known as “blowers” though, and they were pretty big. Today, they’re small enough to fit under most hoods without having to modify the hood much, if at all. Both versions are belt-driven and start increasing boost as soon as you stomp the accelerator.

Turbochargers are, in my opinion, a little easier to work with. They use exhaust gasses to turn the impellers that stuff air through the intake and into the combustion chamber. The only problem is what is known as “turbo lag.” Technology has gotten to the point where lag is minimal, but it’s still there. This is because the engine needs to get up to speed before enough exhaust is hitting the turbo impeller to get it to full speed. The supercharger starts making boost as soon as you hit the gas and the boost increases (to a point) as the engine speed increases.

Let It Breathe

An engine that can’t breathe can’t produce power. Whether or not you plan on having a turbocharger or supercharger, you’re still going to need something that allows the engine to breathe better than stock exhaust manifolds or even stock headers. I’m an old guy, so I prefer old-school products like Hooker, Hedman, and Blackjack. However, a quick perusal of a catalog such as Jeg’s shows that there are far more options to the drag racer and street king these days. Headers can be a pain to install, so many of the newer offerings come with the port pipes installed to the flange, but the individual pipes and collector still need to be welded. This allows you to fit them much easier. I can remember more than one exhaust bolt that had to be removed and tapped because the angle was a pain to get to.

Going with a Carb? Make Sure It’s Big Enough to Do the Trick

Hot Rodding purists tend to raise their noses when the topic of fuel injection comes up. For purists, an engine bay without a carb just looks empty. Going with a carb gives you more control over how much air and fuel enter the intake and combustion chamber. They’re also easier to install. Even better, to me, is that you don’t need a computer to manage it, just your ears and nose. Also, since they have jets that can be changed quite easily, it isn’t terribly difficult to “switch” from a street machine to a strip burner. If you’re still up in the air about your induction system, check this out.

What Else Can You Do to Bump Up the Power?

First off, get rid of the stock ignition system, no matter what it is. It’s not going to deliver the heat you need to generate max power. For milder applications, go with something like an Accel ignition system. If you’re going for monster power, you’re going to want MSD. Both companies sell ignition systems that give you fairly precise control over the spark curve, even while driving. This makes fine tuning the engine much easier.

These are pretty much all that can be done to an LS crate engine to make it create more power without digging into the guts of the engine itself. From what I’ve heard, that’s one of the main reasons people buy crate engines—not having to dig into the internals. Hey, whatever floats your boat; I prefer to get my hands dirty and put everything together myself. However, looking over the various pages listing GM Performance Crate Engines, I can tell that that’s not really necessary anymore as they offer a huge selection of sizes and outputs and you can, with a little work, tailor your engine to your needs and desires. See ya on the track, friends!


So You Want to Be A Drag Racer: Buying, Building, Wrenching and Racing

The allure of the drag strip is easy to understand – a place where  it takes less than 10 seconds to make a stand, prove your skill, speed, and nerve.  But the road to the races can be intimidating.  The Burnout wants to make that road a lot smoother for aspiring racers, whether it’s through building a new car, modding a used one, or taking that ride all the way up to the burnout box and beyond.  This series is a work in progress, an ever expanding comprehensive guide to all the things that take drag racing from concept to reality.

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About Mike Aguilar 388 Articles
Mike's love of cars began in the early 1970's when his father started taking him to his Chevron service station. He's done pretty much everything in the automotive aftermarket from gas station island attendant, parts counter, mechanic, and new and used sales. Mike also has experience in the amateur ranks of many of racing's sanctioning bodies.

5 Comments on How to Create More Power With Your LS Crate Engine

  1. The engine shown is “just” 20-some years old. Makes me wonder if whoever chose this picture (hopefully not the writer) knows anything about engines. Then again, the article is very generic and just about any engine from the past 20 years can be replaced in the write-up. Same article was possibly written about the EFI 5.0 Ford and the TPI 5.7…

    If the writer had any knowledge of these great modern powerplants, they would see that many turbocharged LS engines with 4 digit horsepower numbers, are in fact, using the stock ignition. The ECM is reprogramed but the hard parts are stock. I suppose that the writer would consider 1,000 horsepower less than “mild”.

    Just another example of people who are just after a quick buck (and some goodies from Jeg’s) and not caring about their job, including the editor of this waste of time…
    The fun part that won’t be a waste of my time will be when someone comments on how did someone put a LS3 intake on a 6.4 Hemi.

    • I get nothing from any supplier, Kevin. I’m aware that there are turbocharged LS engines making 1000 HP using the stock ignition. There’s an article I wrote here, actually 2 come to think of it, about that.

      I’m just a fan of not using the stock ignition. Never have been. I personally that not only do aftermarket ignitions look better, which is important to many, but they are more adjustable than stock ignitions. Plus, I can swap out the rev limiter on my MSD unit. Can you do that on your Delco box in 5 seconds?

      As for you other question about the carb, it’s called “jetting” and the metering blocks. You can also up the power pump as well, but that only helps when you mash the throttle.

  2. Can anyone explain to me how a “carb gives me more control over how much air and fuel enters the intake and combustion chamber” at any given millisecond, at any temperature, at any altitude while (let’s say) driving from Las Vegas, across the Rocky Mountains on the way to Bandimere Speedway without stopping to make adjustments?
    For those of you researching how to make horsepower, you already started the first crucial step, RESEARCH. Find out from others what works and what would be a waste of money for what YOUR plans are. There are forums out there that can teach you a lot.
    For example, would you rather have 1,000 HP that isn’t very streetable and you have to adjust the carb every week, or 600 HP that drives like stock yet will actually run a quicker ET at the track since it can also apply that power to the ground?
    And don’t believe that whatever is on the internet is true, even though you can trust me as I am a French model…

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