Project LSZ: Installing the LS1

Update by Tom Suddard to the Nissan 350Z project car
Sep 27, 2018

After lots of prep, it was finally time to drop our LS1 into our 350Z. Remember, we’re working up at the LOJ Conversions shop, so things moved so fast that we barely remember having time to step back and take pictures between each step!

Since our 350Z started life as an automatic, we decided to use a Tremec Magnum from American Powertrain instead of sourcing a stock 350Z transmission, then using LOJ’s 350Z transmission adapter. And that, unfortunately, meant we needed to break out the hammer. Keeping the Nissan transmission doesn’t require any cutting or welding, but our Tremec needed a dent in the tunnel near the driver’s footwell. Oh well–it only took us a few minutes.

Dent done, we lowered the new drivetrain into the car. And somehow it bolted right in. No drama, no notching or grinding or cutting, nothing. It just bolted right in like a stock drivetrain. We’re pretty sure we have more room in the engine bay than we did when the car had a V6, and the V8 is mounted further back! We did have to break out the saw and enlarge the shifter opening in the tunnel, though–but that’s our cross to bear in exchange for the awesome (and huge) Tremec transmission. Again, keeping the Nissan transmission wouldn’t have required any cutting. We’ll admit to one mistake, here: After installing the transmission, we realized that we’d forgotten to hook up our remote clutch slave cylinder bleeder line. We had to remove the transmission (that can be done with the engine still in the car) and add that later on.

Once the drivetrain was finally bolted into place, we could work on the rest of the swap. We used parts from LOJ’s kit to hook up the car’s heater core, then focused our energies on the accessory drive. Again, LOJ’s kit had that handled. Beautifully-machined adapters are included for everything, so the 350Z alternator, power steering pump and air-conditioning compressor bolted on right in their stock locations. Why not use GM accessories? Besides costing more money than using what’s on the car, GM accessories would need further work to play nicely with the chassis. A Camaro power steering pump, for example, would over-pressurize the Nissan rack, and it’s awesome being able to use the stock alternator wiring and A/C plumbing. LOJ’s accessory drive is designed to use a LS3 Corvette water pump, which we sourced from RockAuto. We could have ordered a stock Corvette harmonic damper, too, but we chose to invest in something better: We ordered an ATI Super Damper and installed it on our 350Z. Why go for the fancy damper? Long story short, there’s a reason every race car seems to have one. Besides being basically bullet-proof, ATI dampers cancel out harmful engine vibrations to help the drivetrain last longer. They’re infinitely customizable, too–ATI even included the correct serpentine pulley on our damper so we’d be able to keep our A/C compressor!

Just like that, we’d successfully LS-swapped our 350Z. Now it was time for the fun part… making it run!

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