MENU

How To Swap An LT-Based Engine Into Any Car

Author: Bradley Iger | 12/08/2020 < Back to Motor Life Home

With millions of LT-based power plants on the road and under the hoods of production vehicles, and plenty more making their way to builders as crate engines, the LT revolution is well underway. It’s not hard to understand why: GM’s latest and greatest small-blocks build on the potent foundation that was first introduced by the LS1 way back in 1995 while bringing a host of new high-tech tricks that raise the bar for durability, efficiency, and performance.


Although the LT platform’s modern technology necessitates an extra step or two in the swap process to get it to play nice with vehicles that were never designed for Gen V motivation, Holley has gone to great lengths to make these swaps as hassle-free as possible.


“A lot of aftermarket companies are starting to come on board to support the Gen V, and we want to lead that charge, much like what we’ve done with the LS,” says Holley’s Logan Duvall. “We feel like the more products we can offer to support and simplify the process, the more it will help to bolster the LT’s popularity. These engines are more plentiful now than they were a few years ago, and meanwhile some of the LS stuff is starting to get a bit more scarce. Heading down the scrap yard and finding a 6.0-liter is becoming a lot harder to do than it once was, and meanwhile the LT stuff is popping up more and more.”


Chevrolet C10 with LT swap

Now that General Motors’ fifth generation small-block has been in production for the better part of a decade, enthusiasts have the aftermarket support they need to put these direct injected V8s into just about anything.


But in order to get that LT4 humming in the engine bay of your C10 pickup or second-gen Nova, you’re going to need a few things. Here we’ll take a closer look at hardware that Holley and its sister brands offer to make the transplant as seamless as possible.


Terminator X Brings Proven Powertrain Management Tech To Gen V Engines


First launched in 2019 for the LS platform, Holley quickly set to work expanding the Terminator X lineup to support small-block Ford, Gen III Hemis, and the Coyote DOHC 5.0-liter.


Their latest offering makes the jump to the LT platform to bring those tuning and engine control benefits to those who’re stepping up to a Gen V mill. As with past iterations of the Terminator X, this kit is designed to give builders everything they need and nothing they don’t, in turn keeping the setup simple and the expense low. “This basically takes the idea of a Dominator system and brings it to the guys building street machines or maybe hitting the track on the weekends,” Duvall explains. “Those applications might not need all the extra inputs, outputs, the additional wideband sensor, and other extras found on the Dominator systems, but they do need that core functionality. The Terminator X kind of simplifies things so enthusiasts can get the benefits of these powertrain management systems without breaking the bank.”


Terminator X Max for Chevrolet LT

For those that require some of those Dominator-style features with their Gen V power plant, Holley also offers the Terminator X Max, which includes all of the same goodies as the standard Terminator X while adding functionality like drive-by-wire support and transmission control.


The Terminator X boasts features like real-time fuel learning, an integrated 1bar MAP sensor, and four programmable inputs and outputs, which can be used for boost controllers, trans brakes, electric fans, progressive nitrous control, and a whole lot more.


“We really focused on making the install a breeze – there’s only a few wires to hook up, and for the most part it’s all plug-and-play,” Duvall tells us. “Simplifying the tuning process was the main goal here – it’s much more user-friendly than a GM system with HP Tuners. And having the option to add on things like port injection with this system provides room for your build to evolve.”


TerminatorX Wizard

After providing some basic power plant specs, the Terminator X will create a baseline calibration for your engine combination to get you on your way.


Setting a baseline tune is a no-brainer as well – fire up the setup wizard on the hand held’s touchscreen, answer a few questions, and away you go. “It’ll ask for engine displacement, cam specs and things like that, and the system will put you in the pre-installed MAP settings that it determines to be the closest to your combination,” he says. “Just using that wizard will get you to a pretty good point to start off from.” And for those looking to dial it in a step further, all it takes is the USB to CAN adapter, a laptop, and the Terminator X software to start digging into the nitty-gritty.


Holley GDI Control Module

Duvall notes that while swapping in an LT-based engine is pretty similar to the process you’d go through with the LS platform, builders should keep in mind that a direct injection control module (included with all Terminator X kits) will be part of the mix with the Gen V stuff.


LT Swap Hardware


Before we get to tuning, we’re going to need a few things in order to get an LT to cooperate with an engine bay that was never designed for it.


First off: engine mounts. When it comes to LT swaps, Hooker Blackheart has the bases covered with a clamshell-style piece that’s both heavy duty and cleverly designed.


Hooker clamshell engine mount

The 11-gauge steel used to make Hooker Blackheart clamshell engine mounts is more than 50% thicker than common aftermarket mounts.


Compatible with Hooker BlackHeart polyurethane inserts, these mounts take a lot of the guesswork out of the process by locating the engine for maximum compatibility with other swap components. “The geometry is changed so that, when you bolt that clamshell to your LT, it puts the engine in the exact same spot where it would be if it was an LS block with the LS clamshell mount,” Duvall tells us. “And since the engine is in the same spot as an LS, it also puts flange and the collector outlets in the same spot, so any of the LS exhaust systems will bolt right into the LT stuff, too.”


Front accessory drive kits should be on any LT swap parts list as well, and Holley’s mid-mount accessory system for LT engines offers a clean look with plenty of clearance. “The alternator, AC compressor and power steering pump all bolt to the water pump housing,” says Duvall. “It brings everything really nice and tight to the engine block.”


Holley LT cast oil pan

If you’re using the aforementioned clamshell mounts, Holley’s LT retrofit oil pan will also provide the K-member clearance you’ll need.


While Holley’s LS exhaust systems will be compatible with your LT swap – provided you’re using those clamshell engine mounts we mentioned above – you’re still going to need a way to hook up to them. And whether you’re planning for long tubes or manifolds, Hooker has you covered on this front as well. “We have LT swap headers for several applications in 1 and 3/4-inch, 1 and 7/8-inch, and two-inch diameters that will bolt directly to our LS exhaust systems,” Duvall points out. “And we now also have LT swap manifolds that are designed to hug close to the engine so they fit into a wide variety of applications.”


A transmission crossmember will be part of the deal as well. Here Hooker has taken steps to not only ensure packaging compatibility, but also to ensure the driveline stays happy down the road. “These pretty much just bolt in – no drilling holes or anything like that,” says Duvall. “And they’re specifically designed to provide the best driveshaft and u-joint angles possible to prevent any vibrations and that sort of thing.”


And of course don’t forget about your fuel system – snag one of Holley’s in-tank retrofit fuel modules to get the fuel pressure you need and a good signal to your fuel gauge.


While it might take more than a couple of engine mounts and a case of beer to get an LT under the command of a vehicle designed more than half a century prior, the collection of products that Holley has developed for LT swap projects is designed to do the transplant as straight-forward and painless as possible. So what’re you waiting for? That LT isn’t going to swap itself!

Featured Products
     X  Sloppy Mechanics Sweepstakes
     X  Sloppy Mechanics Sweepstakes