Ask our Experts, we're here to help!
Changing the looks of an LS engine is easy and the possibilities are endless. We are building a 1923 Ford T-Bucket with a modern GM LS engine, but we didn’t want the modern LS engine look - at least, not the full modern look. A clash of modern and classic is the goal for this engine.
This junkyard-sourced 5.3L LM7 looks pretty much as you'd expect it to...okay, maybe better after a good cleaning. But this visually won't work in a T-bucket.
The starting point for this build is a junkyard-sourced 5.3L LM7 engine. This engine had been abused like many, with more than one oil leak. Our first order of business was to strip it down, scrub it clean, and paint it to give us a great starting point.
At this point we did test fit the engine into the T-Bucket and saw the stock truck pan hit the ground. This is a low-slung car, sure, but touching the ground isn’t going to work! Our first order of business was to install Holley’s 302-2 oil pan. This oil pan is cast aluminum like the factory one, but provides extra ground clearance with a shallower sump area. The 302-2 pan is shallower towards the front for steering linkage clearance.
Can I make my LS engine look like a classic V8?
To make sure we had plenty of space between the oil pan and the road surface, Holley's LS Oil Pan with additional front clearance (302-2) was selected.
Our first step was to prep the new oil pan. This requires us to install the baffle inside the sump area, which is just four bolts. We also installed the oil bypass, which is two bolts and the provided gasket. Lastly, we installed the drain plug and the oil filter mount. Originally we ordered this plain, but we ended up changing our plans and painted this one black. However you can order the pan black straight from Holley (p/n 302-2BK).
After flipping the engine over, we removed the factory oil pan. All the bolts are 10mm and can be reused, although Holley’s Mr. Gasket line of products does have new bolts if you need or want new ones. In our case we are just going to scrub the factory ones clean and reuse them.
To remove the oil pump pickup tube, you need to remove two 13mm nuts that hold the tube down along the main bearings, and the one Allen bolt that holds the tube to the oil pump at the base of the tube.
The next step is to remove the oil pick-up tube. An Allen bolt holds it to the oil pump, while two 13mm nuts hold it to the main bearing bolts. There might be a little bit of resistance where the tube goes into the oil pump as there is an O-ring there. On this engine it was pretty loose, which is unusual. Generally if there is slop there you will have oil pressure issues, but we didn’t with this engine.
Before we went to install the new pan, we had to install the new oil pick-up tube that comes with the kit. Because of the decreased depth of the pan (especially in the front) this requires trimming the windage tray. Also note that the maximum stroke can not be greater than 3.62” or your rods will hit the pan.
After test fitting the pick-up tube and pan, we trimmed away the front section of the windage tray and added a notch at the side to allow room for the pick-up tube. Trimming does require you to remove the windage tray from the engine as you don’t want metal shaving inside the engine block. This was done using the same 13mm nuts that held the factory pick-up tube on.
What oil pan should I use for my LS engine swap?
Due to the decreased depth of the pan and the shape of the new oil pickup tube, we had to trim the windage tray to make everything fit properly. After removing the windage tray from the engine, we trimmed off a forward section of the tray and notched it to make room for the new oil pickup tube.
With the test fitting complete, we bolted down the trimmed windage tray. Next was to install the pick-up tube. This is one of the most critical parts of this installation...a pinched, cut, or poorly fitted O-ring on the pick-up tube can result in low oil pressure. We dipped the O-ring in engine oil, then slid it onto the pick-up tube. Then we carefully slid the pick-up tube into the oil pump, and pushed down by hand and gently rocking back and forth to get it to seat properly.
The Holley pick-up tube uses two Allen head bolts, unlike the factory one that only uses one. We installed both bolts and took up the slack in the pick-up tube. Then we slowly snugged down the pick up tube, going from side to side over and over again to ensure the pick-up tube isn’t bound or pinching the O-ring. After that we installed the single 13mm nut that secures the rear of the pick-up tube.
Be exceptionally careful when installing the oil pickup tube. Make sure to not pinch the O-ring during installation.
The Holley 302-2 pan does use a factory oil pan gasket and in fact, you can reuse your factory one if it’s in good condition and not leaking. We decided to install a new one since this engine had leaks all over. Before installing the new oil pan gasket though, you need to clean the areas where the front timing chain cover and the rear cover mate against the block. We used brake cleaner and a paper towel to ensure these areas were spotless. Then we added quick dab of Mr. Gasket Silicone Gasket Maker at each corner to ensure no leaks.
After setting the oil pan down, we started all the oil pan bolts by hand. This ensures everything is lined up. Then we started in the middle of the pan and worked our way out running them down and slightly snugging them up. After that we torqued them to 18 lb-ft and we were done with this oil pan installation!
Don't forget to dab a little bit of gasket sealer at the forward ends of the pan to prevent leaks.
We decided, after we ordered our oil pan, that we wanted it black. We painted ours, but if you like the black finish, you can order it directly from Holley (as part number 302-2BK).
Holley's Two-Piece Valve Covers for LS engines will cover your coil packs and leave the outer appearance of your engine looking nice and traditional.
By far one of the biggest gripes people have against LS engines are the coils sitting on the valve covers. There’s a bunch of different options here from our LS Valve Covers (p/n 241-88) that allow you to bolt the coil directly to the valve cover which cleans things up, or even remote mounting the coils. As we had mentioned though we wanted a mix of modern and old school on this engine, so we opted for a set of Part# 241-172 Holley 2-Piece Vintage Series Valve Covers.
These valve covers have a satin black finish, with polished fins along the top and a classic Holley logo right in the middle. They have a classic feel to them yet are clean and modern at the same time. These also retain the coils on the valve cover but have an additional cover that hides the coils and wiring nicely.
The first step of installation on the new valve covers is, naturally, going to be removing the old valve covers. However, don't just rip them off and throw everything away! You can reuse the valve cover gasket, and you do need to reuse the valve cover bolts along with the spark plug wires. You can also reuse the coils and the coil pack wiring.
Removing the original valve covers is an easy task. 10mm bolts hold the coil bracket to the valve cover. You’ll need to first unclip the coil pack harness and the spark plug wires before removing the coil bracket from the valve cover. Next you’ll unbolt the valve cover with the four bolts that go down the middle. Then simply lift the cover off and you’re halfway done!
Removing the stock valve covers is easy enough. Disconnect the coil leads and spark plug wires, then remove the 10mm bolts holding the coil bracket to the valve cover. Then remove the four bolts in the middle of the valve cover and lift off! Don't forget to retain the eight valve cover bolts, you will need them for the installation.
As we mentioned, you can reuse the factory seals, but we opted to buy new ones to fix the leaks this engine had. We started by popping new seals around the valve cover bolts after removing them from the factory valve covers. Next, we had to install new valve cover gaskets. One pro-tip here: take the valve cover gaskets and put them in the freezer for an hour or two. This will help to shrink the gasket just enough to make installation easier. When warm sometimes they end up being a bit too long and can be hard to install.
With the new seals and gaskets installed, we simply set the valve covers on the heads, and started the bolts by hand. Starting with the inside bolts we torqued them down the 106 in-lb or 9 lb-ft.
After putting new oil seals onto the bolts, we secured the new valve cover (the "base') to the engine, torqueing the bolts down to 106 in-lb (9 ft-lb). Note the oil fill cap points...if you need to add oil, do it now before you put the "top" on!
There are two different coil mounting options depending on which coils you have. These valve covers will only work with Gen I (LS1) or Gen V (LS2, LS3, LS4, LS7, LS9) style coils. If you have truck coils like our motor originally did, you’ll have to buy new coils. We opted for the Gen 1 (LS1) style coils and Holley provides the correct spacers for either coil style along with new mounting bolts.
Before mounting the coils, you will need to screw in the low-profile oil fill caps on each valve cover. This does mean if you have to add oil you’ll need to pop off the outer cover and pop off one coil to access it. This task only takes a minute or two though and the flip side is a much cleaner installation.
Next, we installed our LS1-style ignition coils. Once these are installed, we'd recommend running the coil pack harness.
At this point we have all the coils mounted to the top of the Holley valve cover. Now is a good time to run the coil pack harness, and the outer cover does have a slot to allow this to pass through. We are a ways off from wiring the T-bucket, though, so we are going to skip this step for right now.
The outer cover mounts snugly on the valve cover, then is secured in place with four provided bolts and rubber washers. After installing these outer covers we clipped the spark plug wires into place and that was it!
These valve covers look amazing and hide the coils! No extending the coil pack harness and custom making spark plug wires. The valve covers can support up to a .750” lift cam with stock style rocker arms. Also these are only fractionally taller overall that the factory valve covers with the coils installed.
There are provisions for the spark plug wires to connect to the coil leads, as well as for the coil harness wire leads to pass through to connect to the coil.
Once finished, the Two-Piece Valve Covers give the LM7 a traditional look, complete with the finned valve cover appearance that will look more at-home in-between the rails of our T-bucket build.