Colo-rad-o

When the second generation Colorado made its comeback in 2014, we were thrilled to see the mid-sized truck re-enter the market—at least here in the U.S. Naturally, we were also immediately curious what it would take to swap a Gen V V8 into one of them. Fortunately for us, Jared Ochs—the owner and operator of Current Performance Wiring—answered that question and it just so happens to be a lot more straight forward than you would think.

We first spotted Jared’s grey 2015 Chevrolet Colorado roaming the grounds at LS Fest 2016. What really caught our eye was a front mount intercooler peaking out from under the front facia. Naturally, we were intrigued, so we wandered over to see what the truck might be packing. We were shocked when we discovered a Gen V L83, sporting a snail, sitting under the hood.

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The Gen V L83

For those that might not be familiar with the new Gen V family of engines just quite yet, the L83 is the direct-injected 5.3-liter engine that can be found under the hoods of many new full sized GM pick ups. They feature Active Fuel Management and variable valve timing, making them some of the most advanced V8s the General has created to date.

In stock trim they make 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque on pump gas and can make up to 380 horsepower on E85. Not too bad of a starting place when you consider this little 5.3 is making LS6-levels of power in factory trim. But, as you may have already guessed, the guys over at Current Wiring Performance weren’t about to leave this little bullet stock.

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Getting Started

“It started as a company project vehicle,” Jared said. “The whole intention was to see what we could learn by swapping it and then provide those parts and information to customers.”

Jared’s business, Current Performance Wiring, specializes in LS and LT swaps—specifically when they are going into any of GM’s mid-sized trucks, from the S10 all the way up to the second generation Colorado. To them, their 2014 Colorado serves as both test bed and project truck alike.

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“The first iteration of the truck had 680 miles on it when we took the engine out and put in an LS3,” Jared explained. “Once we learned everything we needed to, and had mounts and everything sort of figured out there, that motor came out and then it was a process of deciding what to put back in it. The 5.3 ended up being the choice and then we went ahead and went the extra mile by putting the turbo on it.”

Unlike many of the previous LS-based Gen III and IV truck engines, however, Gen V motors have yet to hit junkyards in any substantial number, so sourcing a new-gen engine isn’t quite as easy as many of its progenitors—at least not yet. Fortunately for Jared, the Gen V engine gods smiled upon him and he found a way to source one without having to resort to a crate engine.

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Going Gen V

“I was looking at an LT1 crate engine and other Gen V motors, but then I had a customer come to me with a 2014 full size truck, it had 280 miles on it, and he had the 5.3 in it and he wanted the 6.2,” Jared said. “So, he bought a 6.2 for it and he traded me the 5.3 for the labor, so that ended up being the engine that went into the Colorado.”

Once the team at Current had the new mill, they set to work pulling out the LS3 to make room for the L83. Since they were already pretty familiar with the LS swap, pulling the engine was a relative breeze, as was getting the new drivetrain in place. Jared tells us that the physical installation of the drivetrain was straightforward and required very little modification.

“It probably took six to eight weeks of work to get the truck back up and running. We had learned so much from the LS3 swap, and the mounts pretty much carried right over, so the biggest hold up on the actual swap was just waiting for other shops to complete other projects on it—like with the turbo kit or the tranmission rebuild,” Jared explained.

The Biggest Hurdle

In fact, Jared tells us that the largest obstacle they had to overcome was not the wiring, fuel system, or physical mounting of the new drivetrain like you would expect—it was actually the suspension. When Current started the project, they envisioned more of a street truck than an off-road animal. This lead them to want to lower the truck substantially to give it a stance more suitable for street and strip duties.

“The only real modification that took a lot of work for the swap was actually lowering the truck as much as we did. We did an axle flip in the rear, so that caused interference with the driveshaft and required us to notch one of the cross members under the truck bed to clear the shaft,” Jared told us. “But the engine and transmission sat right back on the stock mounts—we used a 6L80 transmission instead of the truck’s stock 6L50—but the entire drivetrain just dropped right back in.”

Up front, the bump stops had to be shaved down and Jared opted for a set of coil overs to finish off the truck’s aggressive stance.

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CAN Bus Integration

Surprisingly, the controller in the mid-sized Colorado is identical to the unit in the full size truck, according to Jared. This meant that a simple reflash of the stock computer with a full size truck operating system allowed the original components to operate without a problem.

Jared tells us that a custom engine wiring harness was created for the truck to allow for the swap, but overall the process was much more straightforward than you would think. Not only that, but Current Performance Wiring now offers a wiring harness specifically designed for the swap, meaning they have already done most of the hard work for you.

“With the LS3, even after everything was pretty much as finished as we could get it, there was still just one or two little odd ball codes with the body control module not seeing something that it wanted, and for some reason the transmission temperature wouldn’t read on the cluster,” Jared said. “But once we put this engine in, everything is perfect. Cruise, tap shift, door locks, everything is completely functional. It’s like it left the factory with this motor in it.”

This is due in large part to the truck’s CAN bus compatibility with the Gen V engine. All of the truck’s original systems, including gauge cluster, security systems, and even remote start, work flawlessly in conjunction with the new engine. In fact, just looking at the L83 in the Colorado’s engine bay, you would be hard pressed to find anything that may signify that the mill didn’t come in the truck right from the factory. Many could be easily persuaded that this was just merely a rare factory option—if one felt so inclined.

Getting Boost

One of the only hints that the truck is far from stock is the turbo that sits cleanly nestled in the engine bay. For the turbo kit, Jared turned to LHT Performance to fabricate a custom kit for the truck.

They utilized a twin scroll 68 mm ceramic ball bearing turbo from Garrett for boost duties. A front mount intercooler was custom built by LHT, using the dimensions and core that Jared deemed would be appropriate to fit the trucks stock lower grille opening.

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The snail provides the L83 with a conservative 7 pounds of boost, which is appropriate considering the Gen V engine’s compression ratio is a lofty 11:1 from the factory. Great for direct injection and efficiency, not so great when you want to throw a lot of boost at it.

Nevertheless, even on the conservative boost numbers, the truck still produces almost 450 horsepower at the rear wheels—putting most “cam only” LS cars on notice. And while 450 rwhp is plenty by most standards, Jared wants to see a little bit more out of the engine—and if the previous generation 5.3s are any guide, it should still have plenty on tap.

“I gotta change out the spring on the waste gate and get it back over to the dyno, but we’re gonna bump it up to about 8.5 pounds of boost and probably leave it there since it’s been running 7,” Jared said. “We’re hoping with the extra bump that we can get it to make about 500 to the rear wheels.”

All tuning duties were handled by The Tuning School using HP Tuners software.

Can We Build It?

While we are in no way saying that Jared’s L83 swap was easy, we are definitely intrigued by how well the Gen V mill integrated with the truck. After seeing it in person, we can assure you that this Colorado looks like it rolled off of the GM assembly line with this thing strapped to its chassis.

This got us wondering and we might just have to tackle a Gen V swap into a Colorado of our own in the near future. Stay tuned for a possible build and head over to Current Performance Wiring to see just how painless they can make these kinds of swaps.