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Updated by John Huh on Nov 08, 2018
Headline for Ten Worst LT1 Swap Mistakes
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John Huh John Huh
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Ten Worst LT1 Swap Mistakes

The art of swapping in a different engine into your favorite chassis of choice is a form of modification that's been around as long as the car has. Today's engine of choice happens to be the LS1, which is the new age Chevy small block that's spawned the new generation of Corvettes and Camaros. When you are in favor of swapping in an engine rather than rebuild it, the cost can be highly prohibitive. Finding a budget LS1 engine swap or a transmission you want to use can be difficult at times and very expensive.

So if you want a cheap alternative to the LS1, the LT1 is a great choice for any rear wheel drive chassis. It's also known as the GM TPI engine, and is easily found in many of the earlier Firebirds and Camaros. The LT1 is an excellent V8 engine swap choice that can be found for well under 700 dollars. The problem is however is when people locate the Corvette LT1, which can lead to a ton of problems when you try to swap it into your car.

1

ECU Electronics

ECU Electronics

When you are sourcing your V8 swap harness, you would be wise to stay away from the Corvette version which has a lot of external wiring that's not required. Further, the 1985-1989 Chevy Corvette is far too short and must be extended unless your chassis has room for the ECU to be mounted within the engine bay. The Corvette from 1990-1991 has the ECM mounted in the engine bay, and like the 85+ lacks the proper length for any TPI engine swap or V8 swap work properly.

2

Power Steering

Power Steering

If you are using a Vette power steering pump, you will need a custom hose to make it work in your application. If you are swapping a LT1 into a Jaguar or a Nissan 240SX, this power steering hose will need to be able to handle the high pressure of the pump.

3

Coolant Surge Tank

Coolant Surge Tank

The TPI small block engine found in the 1990-1992 Corvette features a cooling system that uses a "high-fill" surge tank in addition to a coolant recovery tank. No matter what you are swapping this into, you will require specialized lines that allow your cooling system blow off steam and recover coolant.

4

AC Compressor

AC Compressor

Who says you can't swap a V8 and have air conditioning at the same time? The LT1 is a great small block for amenities and depending on your chassis can be modified to deliver ice cold air conditioning. However if you are putting your own LT1 swap together, steer clear of the Corvette air conditioning compressor. The LT1 air conditioning compressor lacks a proper a high pressure cut-out switch, so if your chassis requires one which is most likely the case, you will need a manual switch installed into the high pressure hose.

Really there's no reason you should resort to this tactic, simply locate a LT1 Camaro/Firebird engines have the high-pressure cut-out switch mounted on the compressor to make your life easy.

5

Emissions

Emissions

Legalizing your engine swap isn't common for LT1 engine swaps, but hey anything possible. Maybe your chassis is truly older but yet does not qualify to be smog exempt, or maybe you want to do your part to protect the environment and minimize your carbon footprint.

Corvette LT1 harnesses lack the proper connections for your smog equipment and charcoal canister. This is just a ton of work for no good reason, instead opt for a Camaro/Firebird TPI harness to make your engine swap project easier.

6

Cooling Fans

Cooling Fans

When planning your V8 swap, one of the essentials is to upgrade your cooling capacity through an upgraded radiator or cooling fans. There's plenty of bolt on applications to make your LT1 engine swap smooth. The problem is if your wiring harness is from a Corvette, you will not have the proper connections to the engine cooling fans or the associated relays.

Again, go with a LT1 or TPI Camaro/Firebird engine harness for the wiring to the electric cooling fans and relays to keep your LT1 reliable.

7

Cold Start Valve

Cold Start Valve

If you are swapping in a 1985-1988 TPI engine into your chassis, you will need to be aware of the cold start valve. If you are stuck using a Vette harness you won't have the proper connections to this valve, making cold starts difficult to say the least. To make your life easier go with a wiring harness from a previous generation Camaro/Firebird engine harness.

8

Overdrive

Overdrive

Transmissions from a 1986-1989 Corvette required a switch on the shift linkage to enable the overdrive position for the transmission ECU. Ditch your automatic transmission or simply go with a TPI replacement to avoid this issue. If you are pumping some serious ponies through your LT1, check the Nissan 350Z transmission known as the CD009 for a transmission that can outperform the GEN III Tremec.

9

Header issues

Header issues

Depending on your chassis, the Corvette exhaust headers are significantly different than the Camaro. Assuming you are working on a vehicle with LHD, the TPI header can often run into your steering column.
Go with an aftermarket header system to avoid this problem in your V8 engine swap.

10

Power up

Power up

The LT1 swap harnesses from a Corvette will not have the proper alternator connections for your charging system worked into it. This can be easily remedied by using a custom wiring solution or just getting a Camaro harness.