Two Hands, One Engine

It's Not Everyday that 638 HP Materializes in your hands. But for General Motors Corp., the human element is an integral part of the '09 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, the fastest, most-powerful and most-expensive vehicle in GM's history. When the car goes on sale this fall at a starting point of $103,300, the ZR1's supercharged LS9 6.2L V-8 will launch it to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.4 seconds. GM says the

Mike Sutton

August 1, 2008

2 Min Read
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It's Not Everyday that 638 HP Materializes in your hands.

But for General Motors Corp., the human element is an integral part of the '09 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, the fastest, most-powerful and most-expensive vehicle in GM's history.

When the car goes on sale this fall at a starting point of $103,300, the ZR1's supercharged LS9 6.2L V-8 will launch it to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.4 seconds.

GM says the ZR1 can reach a top speed of 205 mph (330 km/h), yet its 14/20-mpg (16.8-11.8 L/100 km) city/highway rating allows it to lead the 600-hp field in fuel economy.

SAE-certified with 638 hp and 604 lb.-ft. (819 Nm) of torque, the LS9 is no ordinary piece of hardware.

But to understand what goes into this 530-lb. (240-kg) block of metal, the auto maker recently invited several members of the media to help assemble production LS9s at GM Powertrain's Performance Build Center (PBC) in Wixom, MI.

PBC began in 2005 and assembles the low-volume LS9 and 7.0L LS7 V-8 found in the Corvette Z06, as well as the supercharged 4.4L Northstar V-8s in the V-Series Cadillac STS and XLR.

The LS9 follows a similar path to greatness as the 505-hp LS7, with one skilled technician building each engine up from the finished aluminum block to the installation of its heavy-duty flywheel and twin-plate clutch. Total build time takes nearly five hours, with LS9 output set at 45 engines per week.

There are 25 engine assemblers at PBC (38 total employees), with three lead builders training the staff. More than 2,000 hours have been spent familiarizing workers with the intricacies of the LS9.

The LS9 embodies “GM's first 100 years of performance experience and technology. There is immense pride among everyone involved with its development and manufacturing,” says Sam Winegarden, GM Powertrain's executive director-gasoline engine engineering.

Nametags on each engine allow this level of pride to be traced back to the original builder. Our tour of the shop culminated with the completion of the first series production LS9.

A celebratory milestone for PBC, the engine will reside under the hood window of Corvette ZR1 No.1, which earlier this year was auctioned for $1 million to benefit the United Way of Southeast Michigan.

Although the LS9 tops the food chain in GM's small-block range, less than one-quarter of its parts are unique.

All work starts with a block attached to a rolling stand, which is wheeled around the U-shaped “line” as different components are attached. Most parts are separated into color-coded kits for various build stages, differentiating the LS9's internals from the LS7's.

Once tested, the engines are shipment to the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, KY.

Ultimate in Exclusivity: Hand-Built Engines
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New GM V-8 to Top 620 hp in '09 Corvette ZR1
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