The next part of my LS engine series is the budget truck build. The truck engines are very similar to their car counterparts but may feature iron blocks. This is a disadvantage when it comes to weight but and advantage when it comes to strength. Since GM is now well into the LT/Ecotec series engines the LS has completed its development cycle and there are many combinations available.
You can go out and buy a crate motor from GM Performance or one of the aftermarket builders but there is a satisfaction and value to putting your own motor together. The easiest and cheapest truck motor to find is the 5.3L iron block but in this article we will focus on the 6.0L as it provides a better starting base for the money.
The engine of choice for our combo today is the LQ4 6.0L. This can be found in many GM vans and trucks. The LQ4 we are looking for is from the 2003 and up models as it is a bit better built than the early models. Looking at local junkyards I see a few complete LQ4 motors with around 130-140k miles in the $600 range.
Our next steps will be to get find some heads and the Gen IV L92 are a great bet. These heads come on the newer Gen IV pickups and have large runner and valves. Looking around, I see a good used set selling for $375 and a brand new set selling for $720.
Once you have the heads settled, you will need to grab a L92 or LS3 intake and a L92 style throttle body as the ports on the Gen IV heads are different. Those can be found for about $350 for the set in used condition or going over a $1000 if you want a performance set.
To top of all of these mods, you want to get a nice cam. There are many choices out there but something that is usually cheaply available is the GM hotcam. They usually come with some crate engines and are quickly exchanged for better counterparts so they can be found for as little as $50.
Of course, you will need the required gaskets and seals to put the engine together and to modify the harness for your application. Considering all of these factors, I would recommend the following setup for a truck style engine.
Used LQ4 Motor $300
Used L92 Heads $375
Used Intake and TB $350
GM Hotcam $50
Misc Gaskets, etc $200
This combo will cost you arouns $1300 as a rough estimate and will net you a nice streetable ride. With proper tuning and assembly you can expect to be in the 475-500hp range and to make around 450 ft-lbs of torque.