Back in 2015 Chris Muzio at Danzio Performance in Lake Elsinore, CA had just gotten his hands on a Gen 5 LT1 crate engine from Chevrolet Performance, and was keen to make some baseline pulls. If you recall, the 6.2-liter powerplant far out paced it’s advertised output numbers of 460 horsepower and 465 lb-ft. of torque.
In fact the modest numbers were blown away once Muzio completed his testing, yielding a stout 531 horsepower, and 525 lb-ft. Why did GM underrate? Well there’s lots of speculation as to why OEMs might undervalue their crate engines but that’s yesterdays argument. Now, one year later Muzio is looking forward — and plans to push the potential of the new LT1 further than has been done before.
Prolific builder Katech did just this recently, with their 700 horsepower 427 LT1. Thanks to considerable machine work to the block to accommodate the overbore, and CNC-porting to the heads to keep up in the flow department. Other improvements included a cam profile originally for the C5.R race program, and a selection of other exotic parts.
Danzio Performance totes themselves as an authority when it comes to direct injection platforms, with enthusiasm for the LT1 rekindled Danzio aims to eclipse the Katech achievement with their own package. Are the crate-engine horsepower wars here?
“My whole plan with this engine from the start has been to run it stock to baseline it, and do modifications incrementally to see the response compared to the baseline,” Muzio explained. “Now we’re going to pull it apart and stroke the engine and make it a 427, Katech already ran one and I’m going to try and beat their 700 horsepower. We will use Darton sleeves, we’re going to do all the head work ourselves, we’ll change the cam to a custom grind.”
Today’s dyno session followed the exploratory testing that Muzio mentioned. A simple cam swap rather than a shotgun approach to hot-rodding would show the individual gains from a singular mod. “Instead of doing a custom grind like we normally do, we took one of COMP‘s off-the-shelf grinds (the largest one they offer),” Muzio told us. This way when a customer looking to do a simple mod themselves comes along, Danzio can give them good data on what sorts of results to expect.
When we overlay the dyno results of the bone-stock baseline and the new cam-only swap we see a relatively predictable outcome. “It lost 20 lb-ft of torque down low and gained 20 on top, in terms of horsepower it lost 10-15 down low, but gained 40 horsepower on top. It went from being 531 to 580 horsepower,” Muzio assessed.
The electronics used to control all in-house Danzio projects are naturally from Life Racing, and with this light testing on the docket for today some platform training was in order. Jason English of Life Racing came all the way across the ponk from the U.K. to conduct some platform training — a service available to prospective dealers and users of the software and hardware.
“This is my sixth year now with Life Racing, I was a freelance calibrater for a few years whilst completing my degree, I haven’t looked back since,” English recalled. Traveling around the world to tune and setup systems to run exotic powerplants of all sorts has to be a demanding but rewarding job.
“We’ve got a quite a wide range of customers ranging from Chris’ off-road stuff, to our LMP1 program, American Lemans Series, Grand-Am, World Endurance Championship, all the Radical Sportscars, all the M-Sport rally cars, TCR Series, Formula Fords. It gives us quite a bit of experience because we’re not doing the same thing every day,” English boasted.
“Engine builders, race teams, engineering companies, we do it around the globe. My main role is to advise on the correct equipment that they need, and then help set up and calibrations to get them going,” English continued.
The training program takes racers and dealers from the very beginning and empowers them to best utilize the resources Life Racing products offer. “It’s basically from fundamentals to setting up the engine for configuration purposes, setting up the data-logging system, all the way through how to tune each table and make informed engine decisions as opposed to just guessing,” English concluded. “Eventually I’d like to off more training for dealers in the U.S,” Muzio added.
Refocussing our attention back onto the test mule aspiring to dethrone the competition, Muzio informed us of some of the challenges he expects to face, first of which is the integration (or lack thereof) of the variable valve timing (VVT) system. Because the LT1 was engineered to optimize both low-end and top-end performance the VVT system makes valvetrain adjustments dynamically.
When introducing a variable like a high lift and duration aftermarket camshaft, it is possible to have interference issues between the valve and piston face. Muzio alluded to this problem with today’s cam swap, the solution being a limited application of the VVT system. Trying to recover lost bottom end is of course desirable, but in the end Muzio is unsure whether he will fully disable the VVT or retain it in the final build.
Upon completion of this devastating direct injection engine, it will be neatly packaged in an ultra light-weight sand rail. Can you say wheel-stand? “This engine is going to go into a sand car for testing purposes. The customer bought it understanding that we were ultimately going to develop it for a class 1 car, that package went on the back burner and this is the next phase of it,” Muzio concluded.
Stay tuned as we follow up with Danzio Performance for part three of this LT1 endeavor, and find out if Katech’s record stands or is smashed. Will the electronics make all the difference, or will the value of CNC porting out shine in-house by-hand craftsmanship?