How to Build and Modify GM LS-Series Engines
by Joseph Potak
Publisher: Motorbooks 2009
In the late-'90s, when I began covering the LS1 engine and it's truck engine siblings for magazines, there were no good technical books, other than Factory Service Manuals, on these engines. What a difference a decade makes. Today, there are many books on the Gen 3/4 engines, most good and some bad.
This book, How to Build and Modify GM LS-Series Engines is one of the good ones...in spite of one of its little problems being the title itself. This book, by Texas Speed and Performance technician and ls1tech.com moderator, Joseph Potak, is really about how to properly assemble a high-performance street or racing Gen 3/4 engine. Content on modifications is pretty limited to engine hard parts and there's little or nothing on camshaft choices, headers, superchargers, nitrous oxide systems or other parts with which you'd modify an LS-series engine. This "problem" really isn't much of an issueâ€“I look at it more as a typographical error in the title than anything elseâ€“because this book is a useful reference to anyone, especially DIY's, who are blueprinting and assembling a high-performance Gen 3/4 engine.
The book covers short block parts identification, machine work, short block assembly and upper end assembly and it does it with more detail than other books on the Gen 3s and 4s which I've reviewed. That is a good thing because the Gen 3/4 engine builders in the hobby are hungry for information. This book feeds that appetite.
On the modification front, there is useful information on aftermarket crankshafts, connecting rods, pistons and cylinder heads but, again, the information is limited and that limiting is a good thing. It allows the depth to which Potak goes in covering machine work and assembly.
Another aspect of this book which makes it a good readâ€“or maybe I should say: a good lookâ€“is its photography. Imagery is important in a how-to book such as this. How to Build and Modify GM LS-Series Engines abounds with large photos which are well lit and show clear details of what's covered in the text.
The book does have a few quirks, such as slang terminology. Use of the hobby's general term "power adder" is common. They're not "power adders." They are "superchargers", "turbochargers" or "nitrous oxide injection systems". The strange phrase "oil journal clearance" is used for main an rod "bearing clearance"â€“what's an "oil journal, anyway? The word "larger" is used in discussions of camshaft profiles but more aggressive cams are not "larger". They may have longer durations and higher lifts but the cams are the same size.
The book also suffers a little because of its design. Apparently, to the book's Art Director, trendy looking pages trump the need to supply good content to readers. While the photos in this book are quite good and a cut above some books on the same subject from Motorbooks' competitors, many pages are designed with images on the left and, on the right, captions, set in teeny-tiny type, afloat on expansive white spaces. The captions are hard to read and the white space is a waste. Sheesh. Fill that space with more information on Gen 3/4 engines!
Executive summary: yeah, the book as a few design problems and a slightly misleading title but the meat and potatoes of How to Build and Modify GM LS-Series Engines is good stuff. This book now has a spot on my Gen 3/4 bookshelf.