LS-Swapping Our 1996 Caprice With A Kit From BRP Hot Rods

When it comes to LS-swapping any vehicle, having the factory option of a V8 is always a step ahead of the game. But, with the inherent changes between the Gen-II LT and Gen-III LS platforms, there aren’t direct, bolt-in OEM options. Thankfully, LS swaps have become a hobby for many enthusiasts, pushing the envelope of where Chevy’s late-model powerhouse can fit. Companies such as BRP Hot Rods have gone one step further and created a line of components to bridge the generation gap between today’s power and yesterday’s muscle cars and vintage rides.

1996 Caprice LT1 engine

Our Caprice did have a V8, but the old, second-gen LT1 engine couldn’t deliver the goods like a fresh Gen-III or Gen-IV LS engine.

While our Project ODB (Old Dirty B-body) 1996 Caprice had a V8, that tired, second-gen LT1 wasn’t up to the task we had planned for our sleeper Caprice. There are three aspects to every LS swap; making it fit, making it run, and making it reliable. Reliability has been a tenet of the Gen-III/IV LS engines and we don’t plan on doing anything to reduce reliability significantly. So far as making it run, we’ve already addressed the upgrade to a Pro Flo 4+ ECU and harness to allow for tuning and reliability for our intended purpose.

Making everything fit is going to be the biggest hurdle when stuffing an LS engine into our 1996 Caprice. Thankfully, BRP Hot Rods has done all the measuring and machining to make the swap a bolt-in project. BRP Hot Rods specializes in LS and Gen-V LT conversions for a variety of vehicles ranging from Tri-Five Chevrolets and early Impalas to F-bodies, G-bodies, Corvettes, trucks, and many other applications. The company has engine swap kits and installation guides for both LS and Gen-V LT-based engines on its website.

BRP Hot Rods LS swap kit for our '96 Caprice

BRP Hot Rods have put together combinations to LS-swap a variety of cars and trucks. We assembled a kit for our 1996 Caprice from the kit configurator on the company’s website.

We asked Jeff Georges, an engineer at BRP Hot Rods about the differences when swapping a Gen-V engine over the much more popular Gen-III and Gen-IV LS variants. “The process of swapping an LT engine into a vehicle is very similar to swapping an LS engine,” he says. Jeff explained that there are some differences between the two engines’ fuel and cooling systems, but for the most part, with the BRP swap kits, the Gen-V LT1 bolts in just like an LS engine.

The process of swapping a Gen-V LT engine into a vehicle is very similar to swapping an LS engine. – Jeff Georges, Engineer at BRP Hot Rods

“Talking with our customers, the biggest concern we hear is about the fuel system,” Georges explains. “Many are concerned with incorporating the LT1’s OE-style fuel pump and controller into a muscle car fuel tank. We suggest running one of our fuel tanks with a 400LPH fuel pump, an adjustable fuel pressure regulator, and setting the fuel pressure to 72 psi. This simplifies the swap tremendously.”

With a few clicks, we tailored an LS-based swap kit for our Caprice with the 1991-’96 B-body conversion kit, a 4L80E transmission crossmember, A Moroso oil pan, 1-7/8 inch, ceramic-coated long-tube headers, a DeWitt’s radiator (with dual SPAL electric fans), and new coil brackets which reposition the rear coils for better fitment against the Caprice’s firewall.

Swapping A Second-Gen LT1 For An LS

To make room for the new LS-based engine, we needed to extricate the second-generation LT1. This feat proved more difficult than we thought due to layers of wiring, a rusty factory exhaust, and rusty bolts. It took a few hours to remove the engine and transmission. And, in the process, the brittle, factory plastic fuel system didn’t care for our change of plans, so we’ll need to address a new fuel system as well. We weren’t sure the original fuel line would supply enough fuel for the power we plan to make, so this upgrade is something you should consider as part of the package.

The best time to swap a camshaft is when the engine is on the engine stand (left). We also upgraded the timing chain (right) to ensure our new cam kept perfect time with the crankshaft.

With the engine out of the way, we grabbed our 5.3-liter LS and prepped it, giving it a DIY refresh with a dingleball hone and new bearings. We then upgraded it with a Howard’s Torque Monster cam and an Eddie Motorsports accessory drive. We also bolted on the BRP oil pan and engine mounts. The BRP kit also includes the mounts for the B-body’s frame. These were a little tricky, as you had to hold your mouth just right to get the bolts in their respective holes. With everything bolted on the engine, we dropped it in the car with zero issues. Everything lined right up.

Moroso fabricated the oil pan supplied by BRP Hot Rods which comes with all the necessary fasteners, a pickup tube (left and center), and the oil filter adapter (right).

With the engine snuggled down in the engine bay, we turned our attention to the TCI Automotive-built 4L80E transmission. We have big plans for our 1996 Caprice and the original 4L60E has no part in them. This 4L80E is much stronger — able to handle up to 750 horsepower — and features a 3,500-rpm-stall converter and a full-manual valve body. The transmission cleans up the underside of our Caprice’s LS swap, but there’s more than meets the eye with a TCI transmission. The staff at TCI work a lot of magic inside the transmission case to make their transmissions last behind some of the most powerful engines today. We’ll cover the voodoo that they do in another story.

TCI has everything necessary to complete the installation of the 4L80E transmission. We're using an auxiliary cooler (left) to keep the TCI Max Shift fluid (center) cool. The BRP Hot Rods transmission crossmember (right) features several holes to allow mounting in a variety of applications.

We opted for TCI’s Outlaw shifter to help us row our own while driving. A full-manual valve body might be a bit much if your LS swap is going to be a daily driver. We’ve used full-manual transmissions on the street before and know (and accept) the level of commitment it entails.

With the transmission secured to the engine, the BRP Hot Rods adjustable transmission crossmember made short work of hanging the rear of the transmission. It’s a unique design as it has multiple holes that allow you to slide the cross member forward and back depending on the transmission used. We set it up for our TCI 4L80E and then bolted everything down.

Finishing Our LS Swap’s Cooling, Exhaust, And Wiring

Everything for our LS swap in our ’96 Caprice bolted right up, thanks to the BRP Hot Rods kit we ordered. Now it was time to finish off the installation with the necessary cooling, exhaust, and electrical components to allow our 5.3L engine to live a long, happy life under the hood of Project ODB.

We removed the oil-soaked, original motor mounts (left) from the Caprice's frame. The new mounts (center) feature urethane bushings and align the new engine perfectly with the new mounts on the engine (right).

The headers supplied by BRP Hot Rods are a work of art. They feature a flat collector, which allows for maximum ground clearance under the vehicle. They also have 1-7/8 inch primary tubes and are ceramic-coated for long life. BRP sent all the necessary mounting hardware and the slip-fit collectors will mount up to our exhaust perfectly.

You can see how the new headers allow for ground clearance with their flat collectors (left). The new Pypes exhaust (right) needed a bit of modification to allow for the LS engine, but otherwise fit under the car perfectly.

We opted for a Pypes Performance Exhaust made of 2-1/2 inch stainless steel, which features an X-pipe and Race Pro mufflers. We had to redo one leg of the exhaust from the driver’s side header to the X-pipe because this system is for the factory Gen-II LT1 and not an LS swap. This was an easy fix, as we simply mirrored the passenger-side pipe. The rest of the exhaust system fits as designed and feeds all the fumes to the back of the car, clearing the rear axle without effort.

For cooling, we ordered BRP Hot Rods’ radiator and fan assembly. The aluminum radiator is manufactured by DeWitt’s, a trusted name with a long history of direct-fit radiators. Two SPAL electric fans will keep the necessary airflow whenever necessary and the BRP kit allows easy mounting and wiring of the entire cooling system.

Rather than deal with the rat's nest of the old harness (left), we opted for Edelbrock's Pro Flo 4+ ECU and harness (center). With the new ECU installed, we simply ran the harnesses according to the instruction manual (right).

As mentioned, we’ll be using the Edelbrock Pro Flo 4+ ECU to operate our LS engine. The Pro Flow 4+ is super simple to wire up and offers a module that will run the fans, making it a plug-and-play ECU on every front.

The new radiator features dual cooling fans (left). These SPAL fans (right) are designed to move a lot of air and their reliability is legendary.

In the midst of all of this commotion, we snapped the factory plastic fuel line, which forced us to address the fuel system. This made for a “Significant Opportunity for Improvement” since we plan on much more power than the factory fuel system was designed to feed. To remedy this issue, we hit up DeatschWerks for fuel lines, a regulator, and fittings to run a new fuel line from the tank to the engine. There’s also now a DW400 in-tank pump to supply enough fuel to the engine under spirited driving.

Rather than try and reuse the factory fuel system (left), we opted to update our fuel supply with new DeatschWerks lines and fittings (center). The entire fuel system was upgraded from the DW400 in-tank fuel pump to the fuel rails atop the FAST 105mm intake (right).

We double-checked all the connections, plumbing, and harnesses to make sure we didn’t overlook anything during the installation. Then, with everything buttoned up, we fired up the car. Overall, it took 4-1/2 days to do the entire installation. A huge amount of credit goes to the BRP Hot Rods kit that we ordered. Everything bolted on the car as it should and we didn’t have to modify anything, except for the exhaust, which we knew going in, since it was intended for the factory LT1 engine.

LS in a 1996 Caprice

Once everything was buttoned up, our LS engine fired immediately and idled perfectly. We’ll be putting a few miles on the engine and then doing some upgrades, as evidenced by the solenoids on the intake. Things are just starting to get fun!

Had we needed to fabricate new mounts and figure out how to make everything fit, it would have taken us much longer to complete the project. The fact it only took a few days is great news for us (and the owner of the lift we borrowed) and makes a kit from BRP Hot Rods a great value for someone doing an LS swap. BRP offers parts for LS swaps for a ton of other cars, including fuel systems, hoses, accessory drives, and wiring harnesses. Check out the company’s website for your application and get that LS-powered ride out on the road! You’ll be glad you did!

Article Sources

More Sources

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
Read My Articles