Boosted On A Budget: First Gen CTS-V Gets LSA-Sourced Supercharger

At the turn of the century, Cadillac was ready to reinvent itself. Having cultivated a reputation for producing posh, elegant cruisers since its inception in 1902, the luxury sedan market was evolving rapidly. By the end of the 20th century, European brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz were offering potent performance machines from the M division and AMG, respectively. These models boasted not only luxury, but thrilling driving dynamics as well.

Eager to lure younger, more performance-minded customers to the brand, Cadillac began developing the V-Series as the American counterpoint to those performance-tuned Autobahn stormers. With a healthy parts bin from GM’s Corvette program, Cadillac also had plenty of potent hardware to get the ball rolling.

The first V-Series model out of the gate would be the first generation CTS-V. Initially packing GM’s 5.7-liter LS6 V8 when it debuted in 2004, by 2006 the model would move to the larger displacement, 6.0-liter LS2 V8. Outfitted with Brembo brakes, performance-tuned suspension, and the six-speed manual gearbox from the C5 Corvette Z06, the 400 horsepower Caddy proved to be quite a tasty package for those who wanted a Vette-like driving experience, but needed a semblance of practicality.

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When Russo made the tough decision to part ways with his C6 Corvette, he made the sensible move and replaced it with a family-friendly first generation Cadillac CTS-V. This CTS-V is ostensibly a four-door Corvette, borrowing both its motor and gearbox from the C5 Z06, and offering improved handling by way of a beefed up suspension, bigger brakes, and high performance rubber. While the CTS-V is certainly more entertaining to pilot than a garden variety CTS of the same vintage, like any enthusiast, Russo wanted more.

And that’s exactly what drew Ryan Russo to this clean, low mileage example. “I purchased my 2006 CTS-V in Sept 2015, after selling my 2005 C6 Corvette,” he explained. “The change only made sense, based on having three other people in our household.”

The car was totally stock when Russo took ownership. For the first few months he kept the formula pretty simple, sticking largely to basic aesthetic upgrades, but the urge to bump up the performance proved too strong to resist.

A Plan Is Hatched

“It all started in January of 2016, when I made a ‘CTS-V mods’ note on my phone – consisting of long-tube headers, a FAST 102 LSX-R intake manifold with Nick Williams 102 mm throttle body and a MagnaFlow cat-back exhaust system,” he recalled. “This small list of goodies was expected to run in the neighborhood of $3,400-3,600.”

But his project took a sudden change in direction when he got the idea to fire up eBay and search for LSA superchargers. “The results blew me away in the fact that the blowers were so affordable ($700-1,00) and readily available.” But Russo also knew this wasn’t a simple bolt-on proposition. “Knowing the head port differences between the cathedral port LS2 and the rectangular port LS3, I was convinced that someone in the fabrication world was smarter than me and had already come up with a solution to this obstacle.”

Russo initially had a more conventional upgrade path in store for the CTS-V. But when he got the idea to start researching around online for LSA superchargers, their affordability started to shift Russo's game plan. However, it wasn't until he confirmed the existence of an affordable .500-inch 6061 LS2 to LSA adapter (which would make the LS2's cathedral port heads work with the LSA supercharger, which was design for the rectangular port LS3) that he decided to change course and pursue an LSA supercharger retrofit.

Sure enough, another visit to eBay yielded a sub-$200 solution in a .500-inch 6061 LS2 to LSA adapter, effectively sealing the deal for Russo’s project direction. “I naively set a budget of $5,000 for the project, not really knowing what all I was about to get into,” he mused. “I purchased the used blower, upgraded Delrin isolator, the adapters and spacers I’d need, and a ZL1 intercooler lid. Then I started scouring the internet for first generation CTS-V LSA builds only to find… well, not much of anything.”

Full Steam Ahead

I naively set a budget of $5,000 for the project, not really knowing what all I was about to get into. I purchased the used blower, upgraded Delrin isolator, the adapters and spacers I’d need, and a ZL1 intercooler lid. Then I started scouring the internet for LSA V1 builds only to find… well, not much of anything. – Ryan Russo

Russo’s next steps turned his attention to the serpentine setup he’d need, which led him to LSX Concepts’ LSA/ZL1 Supercharger Accessory Drive kit (a call would confirm that the Corvette spacing kit would be the right part for the application). He also found out he’d need the water pump and crank pulley for a 2013 CTS-V/ZL1 to make the kit work.

Once he received the parts, he began the teardown process and testing fitting. “This is where I knew I would have a problem using the ZL1 lid,” Russo explained. “But I pushed forward, ignoring that obstacle until it would stop progress.”

After installing the new crank pulley, water pump and LSX kit, Russo discovered the next area he’d need to focus on – the cooling system. “There was no way to use the factory radiator fans and shroud,” he says. “I tried to trim it to fit in more ways than one.” He decided to source some low profile cooling fans and wired those into the factory harness to keep everything functioning as stock.

Next he needed to find a radiator hose that would connect from the OEM upper radiator port to the new water pump inlet. “I scoured through all the radiator hoses AutoZone had and ended up with a Dayco (PN 72127) and trimmed it to fit,” he explained. “I could’ve made it easier on myself by grabbing an adjustable/universal hose off eBay, but the budget drove the path.”

A water pump sourced from a second generation CTS-V (top left), along with an LSX Concepts’ LSA/ZL1 Supercharger Accessory Drive kit (lower left) and a set of low-profile aftermarket fans were required to make everything fit. Russo also replaced the stock upper radiator hose with a Dayco hose (lower right, PN 72127) due to the additional distance required, though he admits that a more costly universal/adjustable hose would likely work just as well and require less parts store hunting.

With the cooling system sorted, it was time to figure out the heat exchanger situation. “I knew I wanted the heat exchanger to fit within the lower front bumper grille, so I started by taking some general measurements,” Russo says. “Then I searched online for a heat exchanger with the same measurements, and to my surprise a company called ZZperformance offers a dual pass exchanger to the near exact size specifications I needed.”

He also selected a factory-type Bosch intercooler pump (PN 0392022002) for the job, as well as an OEM heat exchanger filler reservoir for a second generation CTS-V (GM PN 25884797). “I mounted the heat exchanger pump up front near the location of the driver radiator fan and the underside of where the factory air box sat. I grounded it to the frame, bolted the pump bracket to the sheet metal and wired it to a fuse tap pigtail. It’s installed into the O2 sensor port in the fuse box, which will initiate the pump when the car is in accessory mode.” Russo then simply tucked the wiring up under the top rail of the radiator and drilled a small hole in the fuse box to keep things neat and tidy.

Bolstering the fuel system was next. Russo sourced an OEM second generation CTS-V/ZL1 fuel rail from eBay along with some SmartFire injectors and a Deatschwerks DW300 fuel pump, the latter of which is a direct fit for the car’s in-tank pump. Russo also had to fabricate a fuel line extension since the second generation CTS-V rail inlet was much further forward than the factory LS2 setup, which was accomplished with some simple braided fuel lines and AN fittings.

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The second generation CTS-V supercharger lid also required trimming a half-moon shape in the underside of the wiper panel to accommodate the rear-facing coolant inlets. Coolant hose adaptors ¾ inch to ½ inch were required so Russo could connect the ¾-inch coolant hose to the ½-inch lid inlets.

Russo explained that when looking at clearance, he knew he would need to cut the hood to make everything fit. But after realizing the true extent required to make the ZL1 supercharger lid work, he opted to swap it out for a second generation CTS-V supercharger lid instead. “Once I got the new lid installed and took some initial measurements, I pulled the hood and got to cutting,” he recalls. “Yeah, I could’ve sourced a new hood, but budget was king.”

"There were several rounds of cutting, as I had to clear the initial lid area, then the air intake tube area, etc," Russo recalled of the hood modifications. He says he took some measurements, visualized how he wanted the final product to look and then hopped online to order a bolt-on cowl. After nabbing a fiberglass unit for roughly $100, he made a cardboard template and then moved on to the install. Russo points out that in this particular application, the OEM strut bar won't fit, but a second generation CTS-V piece will, provided you're using LS3 cylinder heads, due to how high the blower sits on top of the motor.

LSA Supercharger Retrofit Parts List

  • LSA Blower (used) – $765.00
  • OEM V2 intercooler lid – $350.00
  • Coolant pump, pigtail and mount (new) – $120.00
  • Port adapters (new) – $180.00
  • Spark plugs (new) – OEM LSA – $55.00
  • Deatschwerks pump kit (new) – $ 135.00
  • Blower belt (new) – $60.00
  • LSX LSA belt tensioner kit (new) – $279.00
  • 2013 ZL1 water pump (new) – $180.00
  • 2013 ZL1 crank pulley (new) – $170.00
  • Blower isolator upgrade (new) – $30.00
  • OEM ZL1/V2 fuel rail (new) – $350.00
  • New engine mounts – $ 62.00
  • LS Headers (new) – $600.00
  • Exhaust parts (Borla proXS mufflers, X-pipe & 3.5-inch tips) – $250.00
  • Heat exchanger/intercooling system (new) – $265.00
  • Taylor 8mm plug wires (new) – $45.00
  • Bolt-on hood cowl – $100.00
  • CIA cone filter (new) – $29.00
  • ECM tuning (mail-in local finesse tune) – $500.00
  • Misc hoses, fuses, electrical wiring, coolant, intake tubes, bolts, etc. – $150.00
  • Valve cover breather (new) – $35.00

       Total: $4,710

Before buttoning everything up, Russo also happened across a few small tweaks he could make that would have a significant impact on the supercharger’s performance. “I did some research and happened across a performance shop by the name of FasterProms. I was looking through their website one day and found that they were offering blower spacers, which offered significant performance gains in keeping the blower off the heads and thus reducing blower heat soak,” Russo says. “They also offered a valley cover heat mat, and the combination was said to offer significantly reduced intake air temperatures. I figured my adapters, being .500-inch thick, should technically offer the same benefits when used with that heat mat, so I purchased a piece of heat mat and cut it to fit.”

With the blower on, the retrofit was nearing the home stretch and wiring was becoming the new focus. “I decided to do some wiring modifications while my ECM was sent off for a mail order tune at PCM of NC,” Russo explained. “I started the wiring cleanup by breaking open the factory wiring to give me length where I needed it to run to all the new sensors. I grabbed an LS IAT pigtail off eBay, which was installed by splicing into the factory MAF sensor and wiring to the two tan wires (black to tan and red to tan). I also got a GM EFI MAP sensor adapter so that I could plug my LS2 into the LS3 style MAP sensor. This didn’t involve cutting or splicing, just two plugs – my kind of simple.”

Ensuring that the air coming into the motor is as cool as possible is of paramount importance in a supercharged setup, so Russo's efforts to properly shield the cold air intake from the engine bay's heat was time well spent. Russo was able to use the stock air intake elbow, which only needed a 45 degree turn on the valve breather bung to work within the confines of the new supercharged layout under hood. A high-flow conical filter completes the setup. Russo fabricated the cold intake heat shield using some 1/8-inch aluminum sheet, getting the dimensions required and creating a cardboard template before digging into that piece of aluminum.

Dialing In Results

With the help of Jeff Setzer – a tuner in the Oklahoma City area who Russo says came highly recommended – over the course of two tuning sessions and a swap to a set of LSA injectors to feed enough fuel into the system, Russo found the results he was looking for: 460 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque at the rear wheels.

Russo decided to ditch the restrictive stock exhaust manifold setup and replace it with a set of Becker Performance long-tube headers, along with resonators procured online. An eBay-sourced universal x-pipe is mated to a set of Borla ProXS mufflers. "It gave me the best sounding exhaust, in my opinion," he says. "The car will cruise quiet at low RPM and offer a raspy roar when you put your foot in it."

“Man was it a giant leap in performance,” Russo says. “I started the project at the beginning of June 2016 and finished the last week of September 2016. I did a little here and a little there, with a lot of reading and learning along the way as I had never attempted a project on this scale before.”

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Russo recently ditched the small hood scoop in favor of an add on cowl.

Like most projects, Russo says his is still a work in progress, though the current results speak for themselves. He says he hopes to add an LS9 cam and a Metco 2.4-inch blower pulley later this year, and perhaps LS3 heads and strengthened drivetrain components further down the line. Something tells us that “CTS-V mods” note on his phone isn't getting shorter any time soon.

Russo says that after selling off some LS2 parts online he actually came in under budget, paving the way for more performance mods in the CTS-V’s not-so-distant future. For 2017 he’s already looking into an LS9 camshaft swap, along with Metco 2.4 blower pulley. Further down the line, LS3 heads, clutch and rearend upgrades, and some aesthetic tweaks could be in the mix as well. “All will be DIY garage upgrades of course,” Russo tells us.

We’re looking forward to seeing how far Russo can push this first generation V-Series Caddy. Be sure to also check out the YouTube page dedicated to this boosted first-generation CTS-V for more information on Russo’s ambitious DIY build. And, in case you want something similar but don’t want to invest the time figuring it our yourself, Russo and his brother recently started their own shop that they’re calling Hillbilly Motor Company.

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About the author

Bradley Iger

Lover of noisy cars, noisy music, and noisy bulldogs, Brad can often be found flogging something expensive along the twisting tarmac of the Angeles Forest.
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