1966 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray: LS What?
June 3, 2015
Eventually, somebody says it. You're standing around an old car and the conversation turns to its engine, as it always does. Then it comes out.
Bro, put an LS in it. Bro, resto-mod. Bro, pro-touring. Bro, LS swap.
Engine swaps are cool and all, but don't think that dropping a modern V8 into our long-term 1966 Corvette would make it better.
After driving our new old Stingray as my sole transportation over a long weekend, I can categorically state that swapping its engine out for an LS-whatever would be an exercise in solving a problem that doesn't exist.
You could argue that the newer engine would be cleaner, more efficient, more powerful and less service-needy, and you'd be right on all counts. But it wouldn't necessarily make the car better.
This isn't a car you'd drive frequently enough or ignore long enough for improved fuel economy or extended service intervals to pencil out. As for power, the wee original 327 cubic-inch V8 provides more than enough motivation. This car moves out smartly with its 300 horsepower (when new). It's as quick as it needs to be for street use, given the period sophistication of its chassis and bias-ply tires. More power would only sooner overtax its suspension and brakes. Furthermore, this engine blats out its uncatalyzed, unmuffled exhaust authoritatively, punching your ear holes harder than its displacement suggests.
The throttle response is immediate and linear in a way that modern drive-by-wire throttle-equipped cars are not, and it catches easily when cranking from cold. I've got to hand it to the guy that set up the carb on this car.
No, this original engine serves the '66 Vette just fine, thanks. Sometimes an engine swap can be justified. But not here.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor