Chevy S-10 Engine Swap - V8 Conversion
How To Stuff A Mouse In Your Dime
From the October, 2005 issue of Sport Truck
By Mike Alexander
Photography by Primedia Staff, The Manufacturers
If you want to put a V-8 engine in your s-10, there are plenty of options to consider. The most important step to any engine swap is making a plan. Before you begin the actual swap, make a realistic wish list of your parts on paper. You should consult technical manuals like the Jags That Run (JTR) V-8 Engine Conversion manuals and the sources from Advanced Adapters. Most of your research-and-parts phase can be taken care of online by consulting our Online Source Guide found at the end this article.
Once you have ordered and gathered your parts and have a plan of action drawn up, it's time to map out a timeline. The average time for an engine swap can vary greatly, depending on your schedule, funds, and numerous other factors. From what we found during our research, the conversion time can take as long as two months. Some experienced shops that perform V-8 conversions, day in and day out, boast a 2-to-3-day install. If you are jumping into this project headfirst and performing the swap yourself, you will want to allow plenty of time to work out all of the bugs that can arise as the swap progresses.
Another thing you will want to keep in mind is cost. Like us, many people don't have the funds to build a $10,000 motor and swap it into their sport truck. Since the junkyard is definitely a gearhead's paradise, you will probably want to start there. Some good engines, transmissions, and most of the parts you'll need for such a big project can be easily found hiding at your local parts graveyard. Most yards offer some kind of warranty on motors and transmissions, but you should ask before you buy. If you are frugal and scrounge together all the necessary parts to do the job yourself, you can save hundreds or more. The final price of the swap can go up drastically, depending on the engine, the engine's fuel system (carbureted or fuel injected), and the transmission. If you choose to have a shop perform the swap, that can considerably change the price, as well. The average cost we've found, for a V-8 conversion and all of the parts necessary is between $3,500-7,500.
1.Engines and Transmissions...
1.Engines and Transmissions
There are many available engines out there, ready and willing to be put to the test in your truck. The engine you choose will have to be matched to a transmission that will function properly with the new motor. The most common engines used for these conversions are the 350-cid Chevy small-block and the 302-cid mustang motors. JTR likes to use the '88-'92 Camaro/Firebird 350 TPI motors for most of its smog-legal engine swaps performed on those same-year trucks. JTR recommends the 700-R4 transmission, or if you opt for a manual transmission, the Borg-Warner T-5. These transmissions and the 4L60-E automatic work well with the Chevy V-8 conversions, depending on the horsepower and torque the engine puts out. Depending on your budget, the engine and tranny will be the main chunk of dough spent on your swap, if you are doing the install yourself. Some other creative engine choices out there are the Buick V-8 engines and the Toyota I-Force V-8 engine. If you can afford a brand-new motor, it might be best to have a crate motor built to your specs like the one pictured here.
2.Engine Mounting There are...
There are a number of ways to mount your new motor. Some people choose to use factory mounts and adapt them to work with the V-8 motor mounts, while others build new mounts. To make this swap easy, there are many mounting kits available through the companies in our Online Source Guide, and it is recommended, if you are not an experienced fabricator, use one of these engine mounting options. You can find Stealth Conversion motor mounts at JTR. A few other companies out there offer custom motor mounts such as Advanced Adapters (shown) and Ultimate Customs.
3.Exhaust System The exhaust...
The exhaust system will most likely consist of conversion-specific headers. You can find conversion headers at Summit Racing, Advance Adapters, and many of the other companies listed in the guide. Depending on your headers or exhaust manifolds, the steering might have to be moved over or run through the header. The exhaust will have to be redone as well. The exhaust system will vary greatly, depending on what model and year the truck and engine are, as well as what state you live in for applicable smog laws.
4.Driveline On some trucks,...
On some trucks, such as the Gen I/Gen II S-10 and S-15, the stock driveshaft will slide into the new automatic or manual transmission. The 400/350, 700-R4, and 4L60-E transmissions all use the same spline for the transmission yoke. Depending on where the new motor is mounted, you will have to have the driveshaft lengthened or shortened, corresponding to the amount you move the engine forward or rearward. The stock rearend might be alright for your conversion, depending on how heavy your foot is. If you are going high performance, you will definitely want to look into using a larger differential. The rearend gets the same recommendation from us as the driveshaft; you should beef it up now, while the swap is in progress (Ford 9-inch rearends seem to be the differential and housings of choice).
5.Cooling System Most of the...
Most of the V-8 swaps performed aren't going to use the stock radiator. You are going to need to upgrade to a radiator that has more cooling capacity. For example, the Corvette aluminum radiator that JTR offers is a very popular radiator for the 350ci S-10 swaps. Your core support might take some modifications to make the new radiator fit. You will want to move the radiator as close to the front of the truck as possible without interfering with the grille and headlights. There are two options for cooling fans. If you have enough room for an engine-driven fan, you might want to consider using one. Otherwise, you can go with at least one low-profile electric fan, but if you can fit two, it is highly recommended. The area between the radiator and fan is where the engine definitely seems to fit the tightest so most people prefer to move their engine rearwards. The running temperature of the engine is one of the major concerns of performing an engine swap, so this step is crucial.
6.Fuel Systems The question...
The question on which fuel system you run will depend primarily on applicable laws in your state. If you are planning to have a smog-legal truck after the swap, you will need to keep all of the specified smog equipment that originally came with your donor motor (also available from the junkyard). The engine can also be fuel injected, which in turn means you will need a computer to manage the fuel system and other engine essentials. You can contact Howell Engine Developments, where you'll find the necessary components for fuel injection and wiring applications for most V-8 engines. If you are fortunate enough to live in a state where smog laws don't apply, then carburetion is probably the easier and least expensive of the two, and can easily be tuned for high-performance applications.
7.Electrical Wiring For the...
For the electrical wiring of the new engine, you can attempt to piece together a wiring harness to work with the V-8 motor, or you can go with an aftermarket one. Depending on whether your engine for the swap is carbureted or fuel injected, you may or may not need an engine management computer.It's easier and much cleaner to purchase a new harness from Painless Performance Wiring or Lee's High Tech Trucks. Both of these companies offer complete conversion harnesses, as well as wiring tips and instructions. Having a complete harness made is especially nice, since you can have your harness made to length.
8.Options If your S-10 doesn't...
If your S-10 doesn't already have air conditioning and/or power steering, you might want to check out Vintage Air's compact air-conditioning units. A problem you may run into if your truck is or will be body-dropped is hood clearance. With the bigger motor, it might be time to get a cowl-induction hood for clearance.
9.Now that you have read the...
9.Now that you have read the theory behind this type of conversion, let's check out how it is applied in the garage. One thing to note is that the S-10 (shown) is not stock; a previous shop cut out the entire firewall during the body-drop process. The completely smooth firewall and 22-inch rims already posed enough problems of their own, but Bobby Martins from Sadistic Iron Werks was able to accommodate the new engine and rims by building a new firewall. None of this is necessary with a general engine swap, and depending on engine placement, the firewall might only need minor modifications. To begin the swap, the old engine was removed, along with the transmission and driveshaft. All wiring and connections are unplugged and labeled. Then, the engine mounts can be unbolted and the engine can be plucked out and sold to a junkyard.
10.Since we're building our...
10.Since we're building our own engine mounts, the easiest way to center the engine in the frame is to measure from the inside of the framerails to the center of the crankshaft. The engine should sit at a six-degree angle, tilted rearward.
11a.Once all the measurements...
11a.Once all the measurements of exactly where the engine would need to be mounted were noted, Bobby fabricated a set out of 2x1/4-inch flat stock.
12.Here's a look at the finished...
12.Here's a look at the finished product Bobby fabbed up to hold our Mouse. The mount was completely welded to the frame on all sides. If your frame is still stock, then all you would have to do is bolt up a conversion set-lucky you.
13.The engine side of the...
13.The engine side of the mount was made from a 1/4-inch-thick steel triangle that was traced to match the motor mount holes on the block of our engine, as well as a 1-3/4-inch tubing and two pieces of 3/4-inch tubing, both 0.120-wall. The length of the 1-3/4-inch tubing corresponds with the size of our bushings as well as the width of the motor mount welded to the frame. The length of the 3/4-inch tubing determines how high our engine will sit.
14.After all of the mounts...
14.After all of the mounts were built and welded together, we dropped our mock-up motor back on the frame and bolted up all the mounts to check all of our measurements.
15.We bolted on the Advanced...
15.We bolted on the Advanced Adapters Slick Fit headers to check clearance of the motor mounts. It's close, so we are taking necessary precautions by having the headers and entire exhaust system CermaKromed by Caps Brite Hot Coatings to help protect all of our bushings from heat.
16.Once the mounts were in...
16.Once the mounts were in place, the new motor was bolted to the frame, so we could finish installing the pulleys and accessories (see sidebar).
17.With the motor complete,...
17.With the motor complete, we can now check for any clearance issues at the firewall. Since we are starting from scratch, Bobby began by measuring the height and width of the opening.
18.After taking all the necessary...
18.After taking all the necessary measurements, including the tranny tunnel height, Bobby measured and traced a pattern to the 1/8-inch steel plate that would soon become a new firewall.
19.The easiest way to cut...
19.The easiest way to cut out a shape with a plasma cutter is to make a template using 18-gauge sheetmetal with 7/16-inch nuts welded around the edges.
20.When the template is flipped...
20.When the template is flipped over, it makes it much easier to trace the plasma around it, since it stands off the surface of the metal you are cutting.
21.After the firewall is cut,...
21.After the firewall is cut, it's fitted to the opening, tacked at all corners, and then welded into place.
22.The cooling system was...
22.The cooling system was taken care of with a Summit Racing aluminum radiator kit designed specifically for S-10 engine swaps.
23.Next, we mounted the electric...
23.Next, we mounted the electric fans that came with the radiator.
24.Since we ditched the old...
24.Since we ditched the old fuel system and engine computer and are going with the simpler carbureted fuel system, we decided to use the 18-circuit universal wiring from Painless Performance to make the wiring as clean as the rest of the motor.
25.Yup, it's in there now,...
25.Yup, it's in there now, with all the letters we receive about how to get more power out of an S-10, we thought this is one great answer to the problem.
Not only did we want our motor...
Not only did we want our motor to run but we also wanted it to look the part as well. Billet Specialties Hot Rod Hardware was used to tie up all of our loose ends.
The pulleys are an important...
The pulleys are an important but often overlooked aspect of engines. When strength counts, you want something that can withstand the test of time. Billet Specialties pulleys are machined from 6061-T6 billet aluminum and have incredible balance and strength.
The alternator bracket from...
The alternator bracket from Billet Specialties includes easy to use instructions outlining the steps to installing the bracket and alternator.
We went with this style of...
We went with this style of bracket because it locates the alternator high on the engine and out of the way of any steering components.
ACCEL's Extreme 9000 spark...
ACCEL's Extreme 9000 spark plug wires are used because the headers are a tight fit, and the Extreme series is specifically designed to withstand high temperatures.
Accel Performance Products (a Mr. Gasket Company)
2501 Ludelle St.
500 Shawmut Ave., Dept. SC
Sadistic Iron Werks
California Mini-Truck Dismantlers
4002 State St.
P.O. Box 909