Project Swinger Update: Installing the LSA And Tremec 5-Speed

It’s pretty obvious “Swinger” is heading out as a heavy hitter. If you’ve been following along, you’ll know we pulled out all the stops with this particular build here at powerTV. We’ve left nothing to chance, taking our time to nurture this particular ’71 Nova from the disco-era; stuffing it full of the industry’s best.

This isn’t a rags-to-riches story, it’s a true-to-life testament of how some time, effort, and the availability of the aftermarket in top-notch,  bolt-on goodies can transform your project car into a modern runner.

It’s been a long time coming, and finally with the paint smoothed and finished, Sean Goude, our resident tech-genius could begin the laborious task of fitting Swinger with the entire powertrain setup, exhaust, and driveshaft.

Goude’s even been able to fit the engine’s computer and wiring harness, too. With it all set in it’s final place for good, we had a chance to snap some shots, explain what’s been happening, and bring you our latest project update on Swinger.

The Recap

As we’ve covered previously, Swingers relying on a modern-day mill by way of an LSA, which we sourced through GM’s fantastic all-out digital parts catalog online. If that LSA name sounds familiar, you’ll find it under the hood of any CTS-V Cadillac. It too churns out 556 crank horsepower and 551 ft-lb. of twist.

We’re going for an aggressive street-hauler relying on modern power, a stick, big tires, wheels, brakes, and a superb and strictly enforced suspension regime from RideTech. We’re getting ready to sweep the streets, head to the track for some hard cornering, triple-digit passes on the straight a ways, and some crazy foot work through the cones during autocross events at our local Goodguys events. You down or what?

It's been a long time coming, but we're finally ready to button up Swinger's drivetrain.

Kissed By A Freight Train

Of course, what makes this powerplant so exclusive is it’s topped with GM’s all inclusive roots-type supercharger system. We’ve already detailed the package, here in a previous update.

In short, GM’s LSA isn’t confined to space restrictions and uses a single-unit heat exchanger, unlike the LS9, which uses a dual heat exchanger. For $12,000, GM’s LSA crate engine is money well spent.

This package benefits from GM’s Gen IV 376ci. small-block sporting a 4.06-inch bore and 3.42 inches of stroke. This isn’t your traditional small-block here, modern refinements, lighter internal rotating weight, and LS architecture allows this slightly bigger bore, and shorter throw small-block to rev happily towards 6,600rpm.

Add in a set of hypereutectic aluminum pistons with integrated piston cooling oil jets, a conventional wet sump oil system, and hydraulic roller ‘stick bumping out 0.480-inch intake/exhaust lift and it’s easy to see how this unique package is no joke. Up top, a set of aluminum L92 style port cylinder heads keep compression at a boost-friendly 9.1:1. This means 91 pump gas makes it a daily driver, and a potent street thug.

We've see the popularity of Ls-powered muscle cars grow. You see one, you've seen them all, right? Not. It's not very often you see an LSA-powered Nova. This one's unique in every way, including it's Tremec TKO 600. We can't wait to complete the remainder of the wiring and plumbing before we get this baby fired.

While we aren’t ready to give the key a twist just yet, don’t worry we’ll make sure we continue with the remainder of the build. At that time, we’ll make sure to bring some life into this astounding LSA package. Naturally, getting it all to fit turned out to be a larger task than first anticipated. The Nova’s X-body utilizes a front and rear subframe, which means space is tight and scarce.

The BRP engine mounts are a perfect fit to cradling our new LSA engine. Notice also the heat-wrapped wiring, which comes in the LSA Crate Engine Control System.

Getting It All To Fit: Mounting and Wiring

Thankfully, the aftermarket is fresh with BRP Hot Rods’ LS Swap Kit. It was our saving grace and allowed us all of which we needed: Engine brackets, frame mounts, transmission mount, and all the necessary hardware to get our LSA into the Nova.

The BRP engine mounts allow our LS to bolt to the Nova just like any other small block Chevy, and they put the engine down deep between the framerails. We’ll not only benefit from a lower center of gravity but have the advantage of keeping our factory hood. Additionally, each mount is finished in a durable coating to give us years of protection and service. They were easy to mount, too, and only required some bolts and they were isntalled for final.

LSA Crate Engine Control System

While wiring may not be your forte, GM packs a punch with their complete wiring harness (PN 19258209), which is included with late-model crate engines that require it.

This control system is a stand alone, fully-integrated kit designed to run our GM Performance Parts LSA Series crate engine. In all honesty, this entire wiring kit is what makes the LSA possible at all. Aside from some specialized wire connectors, included in the kit are everything you’ll need to wire up the new power.

The LSA Crate Engine Control System includes the engine control module (flashed with the appropriate calibration), engine harness, fly-by-wire accelerator pedal assembly, MAF sensor, two O2 sensors, and fuse box are also all included. Goude went ahead and mounted the LSA fuse box on the passenger side fender well. This will give us great access to the box and keeps it safely out of harms way.

Pre-install Checklist:

  • Ensure all intended engine/vehicle side connections are made before connecting ignition or battery power to the system.
  • Ensure the wiring harness is secured as required, and that the routing avoids locations which can potentially damage the wiring.
  • Ensure all engine and wiring harness grounds are clean and secure with a minimum 3/4-inch braided strap from the engine to the vehicle chassis.
  • Ensure the MAF sensor is orientated correctly in the induction using the arrow, which is located on the sensor indicating correct flow direction.
  • Ensure the fuel pressure is capable of 600kPa (87psi) with the engine running. The pressure regulator must be vacuum referenced.

Easy-to-use terminals make connections to the control panel a breeze.

Don't be frightened. While this loom of wiring may seem like a daunting task, we assure you it's quite simple. GM's done a lot of the hard work here and made sure to label all of the connectors for you. This makes the install onto the injectors, and sensors quite painless. Just snap them in and forget it. If that fuse box looks familiar, that's because its pulled from the GM parts bin. This gives our '71 Nova a super-modern look and with the fuses at close range, we can troubleshoot or diagnose any issues with ease.

No Slush Boxes Allowed

For Swinger, nothing would suffice other than a modern transmission to accompany such a high-tech engine combination. For that, we relied on Keisler and their Perfect Fit Kit while using the their Tremec TKO 600. We detailed the kit in a past review, here. However, to get you up to speed, Keisler has designed an all inclusive package that contains everything you need, and everything you don’t.

Our RetroLSX oil pan allowed us to use the new Steeroids rack system. The best part, our new pan also allows us, despite its shallow depth, to maintain a full 5 quart fill capacity. Additionally, slosh is controlled with baffling and will keep our oil pump submerged in the slick stuff, even through the cones.

Let’s face it, downtime can kill any project car. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months. That’s just the game you deal with when piecing together your automotive-Picasso. Keiseler realized there’s a lot of wasted time sourcing various components for transmission and engine swaps. They hit it head on with their all-in-one kits, which come with just about all you’ll need to get your brand new Tremec TKO 600 installed and in the car. It even comes with the tunnel template and sheet metal cover plate!

Keisler Engineering Perfect Fit Kit Contents:

  • Transmission – Tremec TKO 600
  • Bell Housing – Keisler Tremec/LS-specific
  • Cross Member – Keisler Boxed Cross Member, Nova/Tremec TKO-specific
  • Shift Kit – Keisler-modified Tremec Shift Kit
  • Shifter – Keisler Ball and Stick
  • Flywheel – Keisler LS Flywheel
  • Clutch Kit – Hydraulic Clutch with Keisler Pedals and Pads and Wilwood Master Cylinder with Remote Reservoir
  • Driveshaft – Custom length Keisler Aluminum
  • Misc. Parts – Keisler Transmission Tunnel Template and Sheet Medal Cover Plate

Keisler's transmission crossemember allows for large, 3-inch exhuast.

Don’t Get Shafted

Keisler continued with their effort in making their kits a perfect fit. For securing the transmission to the car, Keisler came up with their own crossmember to make it a bolt-in job.

The crossmember mimics the OE piece when it comes to bolting up to the frame, however, designed for use with the TKO transmission. The boxed steel crossmember is crafted to leave plenty of room for a large three-inch exhaust, too.

The final major component is the driveshaft. Made from lightweight high strength steel, Keisler’s shaft comes already welded up and computer balanced, with solid sealed U-joints and a Spicer slip yoke. It’s the one component in the kit you won’t find included in the box, though.

Since there’s a plethora of options available as far as rearend choices, options, and body types, Keilser won’t send the driveshaft until they’ve received your exact driveshaft measurements to allow a perfect fit. Once Goude had everything mocked up and fitted, we went ahead and made some final measurements for our new driveshaft. Once the measurements were completed, we sent the specs into Keisler, which comes cut, balanced, and ready to bolt into the car…

Stay tuned, we’ve still got to wire up the fly-by-wire pedal system, and manage some of the other additional wiring with plumbing before we can start Swinger.

Article Sources

About the author

Sean Haggai

The former Associate Editor of Chevy High Performance, joins publication Chevy Hardcore, Sean is a true blue Bow Tie guy and a core do-it-yourself technician. If it doesn't run a "mouse motor" or a big rat between fenders, Sean ain't interested.
Read My Articles

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