Let’s face it, people from all over are still chanting “LS THE WORLD!” For good reason too – they’re affordable, accessible, and they can hold up to loads of punishment, making them ideal for all types of automotive enthusiasts.
In it’s many variations, GM’s venerable LS powerplant, has garnered a following not seen since the original small-block Chevy. Swapped into everything from Miata’s to first-gen Camaro’s, and everything in between, the LS craze shows no signs of slowing down. We are even starting to see GM’s newer LT-based powerplant swaps becoming a popular trend in hot rodding. If you have seen any of those between the frame-rails of a classic ride, it might make you look at the LS and think it looks – well, old.
The point of all this is, we’ve had an ongoing project for some time now in the form of a 1968 Pontiac Firebird 400. If you have been following our social media via Facebook, you will recognize the car, and the 5.7-Liter LS1 that calls the Pontiac’s engine bay, home. Well, we wanted to change things up a bit in the underhood looks department for a while now, by getting rid of some of the outdated stock parts. So, we reached out to the experts at Proform to give the LS1 a bit of a makeover.
The LS swap was originally performed back in 2011. The build included the teardown and rebuild of a stock LS1 – we sourced the powerplant from a wrecked 2002 Camaro Z28. At the time, LS swaps were a thing, but they weren’t yet, THE thing. Since it was relatively new, at least to us, we thought the modern engine looked great and was an unexpected surprise when we popped the hood.
Years later, with everyone and their mother swapping an LS into their rides, we came to look at the engine bay of the Firebird and felt it looked dated. Sure, the LS6 intake manifold performed well, and everything under the hood was functional, but it just looked, for lack of a better word, blah. The ugly, stock valve covers in their smudged, gray aluminum, and lack of shiny bits were something that honestly bothered us.
When the motor was rebuilt, we went with some really nice PRC heads from Texas Speed and Performance, forged rotating assembly, and other high-dollar items like the Stainless Works headers and exhaust. Point being – having stock valve covers bolted to some serious heads, is a travesty – in retrospect.
Seriously, we can’t be the only ones who looks at classic engines with reverence because of the gorgeous form following unparalleled (for the time) performance. Think of your favorite chromed-out Big Block – it’s a pretty striking image. We we’re looking for that same feeling when staring down into the engine bay of the Firebird. The stock look just wasn’t cutting it.
It probably had something to do with the fact that most of these LS engines have come from cars that were engineered to hide their parts under plastic shrouds. When most people swap these into their rides, they ditch those plastic parts, leaving the install looking unfinished.
As is often the case, our LS1 no longer had the plastic covers that go over the coils, and unlike the truck motors, the intake manifold had no “Vortec” cover. So, we set out to start a “renovation” of sorts under the hood. Our goal was to spice things up, and make the engine bay a place we could spend time with a slack-jawed gaze of admiration – not a look of disappointment.
The first step in this process was to get rid of the stock valve covers. We chose to swap them out for something with a little more flash. Aside from keeping oil where it belongs, the stock valve covers serve the function of holding onto the two rows of ignition coils. Relocating those coils was necessary in cleaning up the overall look.
Luckily for us, Proform makes a kit that handles all-of-the-above. We spoke with Ryan Salata of Proform, who brought us up to speed on some of the features and benefits offered by its kit. “Not only does our kit make your engine look a lot better, but our slant-edge, aluminum valve covers offer the benefit of being taller to accommodate a variety of valvetrain applications. These valve covers are available in six different styles, which include raised and recessed emblems. Unique mounting studs, and oil restricting baffles are included. Threaded mounting holes for the optional Integrated Ignition Coil Bracket are also included, and the passenger-side valve cover has an oil filler hole in the stock location.”
We opted for the plain, polished version along with the integrated coil bracket (P/N: 141-266, 69520). If someone wanted to use the valve covers without the brackets, though, that is also an option. In fact, it would be perfect for someone looking to hide their ignition coils and give their LS a more classic look.
Follow along as we show you how our installation of the new valve covers, and coil relocation brackets went.
The installation was fairly straight forward. We took our time, and made sure we had all the right parts before starting. Proform even includes the part number for the MSD spark plug wires they recommend, on their website. All told, we’d call this about a 3-4 beer job.
One thing that should be noted is the fact that this kit necessitates the use of an aftermarket fuel rail system. For our stock fuel rail with the crossover in the center, the fuel inlet runs into the coil relocation bracket. We already had plans on swapping out our intake manifold and fuel rails, so this wasn’t an issue for us.
To find out more about everything Proform has to offer, check out their website, here. Keep an eye out for the next article in this series, where we swap out the LS6 Intake manifold, throttle body, and factory fuel rails.