$400 Well Spent: LS1 Engine Teardown

May 24, 2016 update to the BMW M3 project car

A clean, shiny engine block was our reward after a night of disassembly.
The seller had taken the heads and accessories off, but included them in a separate box. Maybe they wouldn't fit in his trunk?
It might not look pretty, but our engine was in surprisingly good shape.
We also received a ton of parts in the deal. We haven't checked, but we're pretty sure there's a full engine there.
We didn't even find much oil sludge. Modern engines are amazing feats of engineering.
At the end of the evening, we parked our old parts on the bench. It was time to start ordering new pieces.

Our last update had us in a seller’s field buying a dirt-cheap 1997 BMW M3. The reason? We wanted to build a V8-swapped monster, of course.

This engine is the other half of the puzzle. We picked it up from a forum member for just $400, knowing only that it was supposedly complete, but in pieces. We weren’t willing to chance using an engine that’d been taken apart and stored in a shed without rebuilding it, so we signed up for an engine rebuilding class at our local tech school, Daytona State College. For just $750–about the price of the machine work we’d need–we were signed up to spend two nights each week rebuilding our own engine from start to finish, with full access to all of the tools we’d need to do so.

Step one: Disassembly. As we tore into our LS and started taking measurements, we determined that it had never been rebuilt, and was actually in surprisingly good shape. It’s a 1999 LS1, which means 5.7 liters of sweet American displacement for our dainty German car.

This is going to be a fun project.

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Reader comments:

May 24, 2016 4:01 p.m.

Those aluminum blocks can't be bored more than 0.003" I think. The truck blocks are heavier but can be bored, glad yours doesn't need it! My 6.0L from a van still had visible cross hatch in the top travel of the rings, you are right, marvels of engineering!

May 24, 2016 7:41 p.m.

That is a fantastic idea. 750$ to learn to fish. Instead buying from the fish market everyday. Thanks for the idea.

Cooper_Tired HalfDork
May 24, 2016 9:12 p.m.

Did not know there was such a thing, but what a great concept

tr8todd Dork
May 25, 2016 5:27 a.m.

Learn to fish? Thats like teaching someone how to operate a fishing trawler and then giving them a length of line and a hook and sending him out into the world. Unless they plan to buy a machine shop, where are they going to have access to all those cool machines? Sure they will walk away with some assembly knowledge, but don't most of us on this board already have that. Still looks like a fun way to spend a few evenings.

alfadriver MegaDork
May 25, 2016 6:33 a.m.

Check your local community colleges for classes. We did a lot of work on our challenge car in a class like what Tom did.

Coldsnap Dork
May 25, 2016 9:02 a.m.

I've been trying to check my local college for classes as a way to work / learn on my project but finding nothing.. Maybe I'm just bad at finding it as Raleigh NC has like 1,000 colleges in the surrounding area it seems.

oldeskewltoy UltraDork
May 25, 2016 9:22 a.m.

local classes are good... not saying otherwise.... BUT a shop with over 200 years of collective (6 people) experience is a complete different story

May 25, 2016 9:28 a.m.

In reply to tr8todd:

Let's see you come up with a better analogy.

Wxdude10 Reader
May 25, 2016 10:00 a.m.

In reply to Coldsnap:

You might also want to look for Vocational/Tech schools. Also, community education programs done by local towns/voc-tech schools.

mrwillie Dork
May 25, 2016 4:26 p.m.

The Wake Tech main campus used to have rebuilding classes several years ago. Not sure where you live in Wake County, but check Durham Tech and Johnston Comm College as well.

Will SuperDork
May 25, 2016 5:31 p.m.

Need a new-in-box Fluidampr (F-body style)? I bought one for my Camaro and never used it.

WonkoTheSane HalfDork
May 25, 2016 5:46 p.m.

That's awesome!

It doesn't matter if he'll ever have access to that equipment again, if he ever needs to rebuild another engine (spoiler alert: it's GRM HQ, he will), he'll know the complete process of what it's is happening to it..

Not only that, the writing/reporting will be that much better from a thorough understanding of what is being done.

Money well spent.

novaderrik UltimaDork
May 25, 2016 6:19 p.m.
TiggerWelder wrote: Those aluminum blocks can't be bored more than 0.003" I think. The truck blocks are heavier but can be bored, glad yours doesn't need it! My 6.0L from a van still had visible cross hatch in the top travel of the rings, you are right, marvels of engineering!

Some of the aluminum truck 5.3 blocks can be bored out to the LS1 bore size, which is something like .100" bigger.

Jerry From LA
May 25, 2016 9:56 p.m.

Tom, I'm a bit surprised you haven't done one yet. If you haven't, there's nothing like hearing that first one roar to life for the first time. Don't forget to yell, "IT'S ALIVE!" in your best Boris Karloff imitation.

novaderrik UltimaDork
May 25, 2016 10:35 p.m.

Rebuilding an engine is easy: I did my first one on the greasy floor of my garage when I was 18. Used the coin operated car wash to get everything clean for like $3..

f6sk Reader
May 28, 2016 6:23 p.m.

Many tech schools don't have a pressure testing machine.
Inspect the are around the center head bolts on the intake side and look for cracks...

May 28, 2016 6:51 p.m.

Very cool. I remember the first motor I did an overhaul on, an old Lycoming O-320 that had timed out. Never told the poor bastard why I declined a ride after I hung it off the front of the airplane.

No matter what the outcome its a great skill set to have and teaches you, at the very least, about why being meticulous in close tolerance situations is important. Also why a torque wrench is important unlike what some would have you believe.

Have fun.

May 29, 2016 11:18 a.m.

In reply to GTXVette:

Partly because I'm 6' and was 250lbs and partly because didn't fit real well in the cockpit (One sort of lead to the other.) I was as confident in the engine as I could be as it ran well on the test stand after overhaul.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
May 30, 2016 6:52 a.m.

Was the seller planning to convert it from EFI to SU carbs?

June 5, 2016 8:17 p.m.
alfadriver wrote: Check your local community colleges for classes. We did a lot of work on our challenge car in a class like what Tom did.

If you don't mind me asking, which school was it?

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor, Grassroots Motorsports & Classic Motorsports
June 6, 2016 8:29 a.m.
Ian F wrote: Was the seller planning to convert it from EFI to SU carbs?

No, that's Tim leaving parts in my pile (again).

TimM New Reader
Oct. 8, 2016 3:26 p.m.

Is this project dead or in delay?

TimM New Reader
Nov. 7, 2016 3:53 p.m.


Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
Nov. 7, 2016 4:04 p.m.

Sorry about that, Tim. Been busy around here lately. It's been delayed, but you'll start seeing updates again next week. Long story short: I needed to make more room in the garage before going deeper into the build.

TimM New Reader
Nov. 14, 2016 10:05 p.m.

Tom-thanks for the follow up-I'm surprised...figured it lost interest and dropped off the plate.

Nov. 19, 2016 8:10 a.m.

Excited to see this build continue. Hope to learn me a thing or two... Or eight.

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