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Is this a Dream or–is that really my LS7?

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CAC Does the Corvette Engine Building Experience - Page 10 of 10

by Hib Halverson
© September 2012
No use without permission, All Rights Reserved

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Click on the images for expanded views – it's much easier on the eyes. 

Mike and I put the engine onto a transfer cart and moved it to the cold test facility and, once cold test was passed, we rolled the cart next door to the hot balance cell. With engines built at PBC, the end of the line at Bowling Green Assembly is not where they're started for the first time. That takes place in Wixom in the hot balance cell.

No doubt the high point of an Engine Build Experience is when the Guest Builder gets to start his or her engine. At 4:46 PM Eastern Time on 21 February 2012, I took a deep breath, reached up–I paused thinking: this better work because if it doesn't; I'll be eating some serious crow around here–and pressed the "Start Engine" button on the Balance Engineering control unit's touch screen.

The starter cranked...

The big 427 fired and settled into that slightly rough idle characteristic of an LS7

It was beer time.

Click for larger view

Image:  Mark Kelly/GM Powertrain

With the engine in the hot balance cell, the moment of truth. Fortunately, it fired right up.
Click for larger view

Image:  Mark Kelly/GM Powertrain

I appreciated having Mike as my engine building partner. Through working with him, I gained insight to aspects of the LS7 I never would have learned otherwise. Additionally, hand-building a motor in an assembly line environment gave me some different perspectives on engine building which I could apply to my next "home build". Most importantly, however, Mike kept me from screwing up.

Epilogue

A day or so later, I was back at work in California and my engine was on a truck headed south to Bowling Green. The car was built on 6 and 7 March and delivered to Tom Henry Chevrolet on the 26th. My Wife, the Fairest Sandra the Red, and I took delivery at Tom Henry's on 20 April then drove the car back to California the "long way," stopping in Virginia to visit CAC Sponsor, Zip Products, and at the National Corvette Museum's "Bash" event.

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Image:  Emily Carter/GM Communications

A couple of weeks later, at Bowling Green Assembly, my engine was dropped into the chassis of the '12 Z06 my Wife and I had ordered.
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Image:  Tom Henry Chevrolet

A few weeks after that, it arrived at the dealership.
Performance Build Center

GM Powertrain Performance Build Center

by Hib Halverson - © September 2012

The Performance Build Center is a GM Powertrain facility in Wixom, Michigan, about 30 miles northwest of Detroit. The 100,000 sqft. "PBC" is dedicated to assembling high-performance engines for certain limited production cars. The PBC is unique in the GM system because its engines are assembled mostly by hand. It's also unique in that it allows customers to come in and help assemble its products. That program, the "Corvette Engine Build Experience," is an option with ZR1s, Z06es and six-speed manual Grand Sport Coupes.

Full Story:  Performance Build Center

While I was at the Museum, I had a nearby Corvette service shop, Automasters of Bowling Green, change the oil to Red LIne 10W30 and install a fresh oil filter. A couple weeks after the 3598-mile trip home to California, I made a few more mods. I put Red Line lubricants in the transaxle. I added a Green Filter and a set of MSD Super Conductor plug wires. With 3600 miles on my motor, I figured it was broken-in so–it was time for a "road test"

I screwed in a set of colder, Denso IT-22 spark plugs and then, since out west, we can only get 91-octane pump gas and GM calibrates for 93, I spiked the five or so gallons already in the tanks with a couple gallons of Rockett Brand 100-octane unleaded racing gasoline.

Just before sunrise on a Sunday, I was at special spot I know on a four-lane divided highway out in the boonies west of town. I was 60-ft above sea level and the ambient temperature was 52°F–great air! There was no traffic seemingly for miles. I rev'ed the motor, quickly released the clutch and, once I had the tires spinning I dragged the brakes a bit and, then, lifted and came to a stop. That warmed the tires just a tad.

Wheels straight, first gear, Launch Control enabled and floor the throttle. The engine controller held about 4000 rpm. I quickly released the clutch. The ECM balanced throttle opening and wheel spin. I steered a bit as the rear end drifted a little. As soon as the car hooked, the throttle was wide open. Seemingly in an instant, the engine was near its 7100 rpm rev limiter.

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Image:  Author

I stabbed the clutch and flicked the shifter to second. RPM was headed toward the rev limiter, again. Whoa–some ride!

Bang! I got third.

With the throttle WFO, that LS7 was howling as it neared 7000, again. Man, that engine was running hard! I powershifted to fourth and stayed on it until, maybe a mile behind me, with speed well into triple digits, I saw a set of lights round the turn just before my "spot". I backed out of it and squeezed on the brakes until I was back down about 70.

Seems as Mike and I built a freakin' killer motor!

Life is good.

For more information on the "Engine Build Experience" visit the PBC's web site at http://gmpowertrain.com/pbc/ then contact your local Chevrolet dealer and ask about RPO PBC, but don't wait too long as LS7s will be gone at the end of Q1 2013.

Thanks to my pals at the Performance Build Center: Mike Priest, Rob Nichols, Don "eaglei" Henley. Special thanks to Tom Read at GM Powertrain Communications, Mark Kelly at MPK Photo and Meg Conroy at Maritz for assistance in producing this article.

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