Got a Fox-body Mustang? 240Z? ‘54 Mercedes? You’ll need to go ahead and LS-swap it. You can’t swing a melting ice cream cone at a car show without dripping it on at least a dozen LS engines. With these swaps becoming so popular, I began to wonder if the saying “Cheap, fast, and reliable—choose two” had finally met its match. I decided to LS-swap my own car to find out just what it takes mechanically and financially, and I review what the LS swap cost was for my ’64 Impala and how to budget your own with this post.
Deciding to LS-Swap My ’64 Impala
My 1964 Impala convertible is a car that I have had since 1997, and I drove it for the first time around 2014. Needless to say, it’s been my project for a while. The car came from the factory with a straight-six engine that I could always rely on to run like complete garbage. The carburetor was the reason the engine always ran so terribly, and also the reason why I wholeheartedly believe that all carburetors belong in an airtight container at the bottom of the ocean. The only thing that this carburetor did well was inhale the happiness from my soul and burn it within each of the six cylinders.
After years of trying to love my straight-six, I smartened up and decided to find a better engine—one that actually made me happy when I fired it up; one that was a little wild and fun; and one that wouldn’t unexpectedly get weird on me. I basically wanted the maple frosted donut of the engine world. That underdog maple donut, a little offbeat and not for everyone, that you have to respect because it’s a smart choice. Anyone that has ever experienced the maple frosting knows it’s always the right decision if you’re playing the long game. So the solution to my engine problem was obvious; I just had to LS-swap it.
My coworker here at 1A Auto happened to have a super low mileage 6.0L LS engine (LQ9) with new 6.2L (L92) heads sitting on it, and a variety of other fancy bits to go with it. After months of offensively low offers from my end, I eventually forked over the cash and bought it from him. This was the first major step into #ThatLSSwapLife for me, and I was thrilled to be doing it. From that point on, I began gathering all the things that I needed to properly swap my car to be a Muncie M21 4-speed shifted, fuel injected 6.0L V8.
LS Swap Cost: Budget Build Chart
I sold one of my other project vehicles to fund these Impala updates, and I tracked everything I bought throughout the entire build. Some items on my list were completely unnecessary for a simple LS-swap (see: shiny alternator bracket), and other items were mistakes that I made (see: fuel line mistake). That is why I have also included the two columns on the right for my estimates on a “budget build”.
|Parts I Bought||What I Paid||Budget Build Items||Budget Build est. Prices|
|6.0L LQ9 Engine||$1,500.00||Junkyard 4.8L 5.3 LS Take-out||$450.00|
|Bellhousing (BHCV-10004)||$267.20||Auto Trans from Craigslist (TH350/TH400/4L60E)||$200.00|
|C5 exhaust manifolds||$50.00||Used exhaust manifolds||$50.00|
|7″ Brake booster||$54.49|
|V-band clamps (three) 3″||$57.56||V-band clamps (three) 3″||$57.56|
|V-band clamps (two) 4″||$76.00||Weld the majority of the exhaust||Free (bribe a friend?)|
|Clutch pivot ball||$9.95||Automatic transmission mount||(Modify yours)|
|Clutch (11″ clutch with 1 1/8″ 10 spline)||$200.00|
|Bellhousing bolts||$17.95||Bellhousing bolts||$17.95|
|ARP Flywheel Bolts||$31.89||ARP Flexplate bolts||$31.89|
|Weld in bungs||$30.19|
|Weld in bung caps||$29.38|
|Fuel pump & regulator kit||$169.99||Fuel pump & regulator kit||$169.99|
|Fuel tank||$93.95||Draw fuel from the existing sending unit||Free|
|3/8″ Sending unit||$43.95|
|Engine mounts||$12.13||Engine mounts||$12.13|
|Aluminum Radiator||$179.99||Junkyard Radiator||$75.00|
|Rad hose upper||$15.29||Rad hose upper||$15.29|
|Rad hose lower||$11.19||Rad hose lower||$11.19|
|Radiator fan||$27.58||Radiator fan||$27.58|
|Oil + Filter||$25.00||Oil + Filter||$25.00|
|Alternator bracket||$159.99||Reuse truck alternator bracket||Free|
|Fuel hoses mistake||$94.00|
|Fuel hoses mistake fix||$65.00||Reuse fuel lines on vehicle||Free|
|Exhaust Hangers||$19.70||Exhaust Hangers||$19.70|
|Straight 4″ Exhaust pipe||$165.86||Straight 4″ Exhaust pipe||$165.86|
|Mandrel bent 4″ exhaust pipe||$89.00||Mandrel bent 4″ exhaust pipe||$89.00|
|Dynomax 24217 Muffler 4″||$52.83||Straight pipe it||Free|
|Harmonic Balancer Bolt||$9.99||Harmonic Balancer Bolt||$9.99|
|Harmonic Balancer Installer Tool||$14.99||Harmonic Balancer Installer Tool||$14.99|
|OBDII pigtail||$7.95||OBDII pigtail||$7.95|
|Gauges?||???||Junkyard air intake parts||$15.00|
Now, you’ll see I spent nearly $4,000. Yikes! This is why you should never, ever, ever add up your receipts when building a cool car. You will also notice that the “budget build” was less than half of my total. The biggest reason for this is because the 4.8L, 5.3L, and automatic transmission options are a HUGE savings over the 6.0L / manual transmission option. Those engines and auto transmissions are more plentiful and just plain easier to swap into a car. I also could have grabbed a lot of these parts used from a junkyard for far less money than I did. That being said, this shows you how all of these little items add up fast with any kind of engine swap, not just the LS variety. I definitely didn’t expect to spend nearly $4,000 on this engine swap, but somehow I managed to do so.
In the grand scheme of engine swaps, horsepower per dollar spent, and overall happiness from having fuel injection, both are actually a pretty great deal. The 6.0L manual is exactly what I want in my Impala, and building a big block Chevy with the same power would easily put me in a similar price range. For the LS swap “budget build”, the combination of parts may not be perfect, but it will be totally functional and reliable. Once the drivetrain is up and running, you can pick away at the small stuff as you enjoy the vehicle. Maybe throw a cam and valve springs at it, or add in some tuning and a turbo. Cheap, fast, and reliable—I’m calling this a SUCCESS!
Got an LS V8 Swap? Tell us about it in the comments!
Written by Jeremy Nutt.