GM Performance Parts E-Rod Crate Engine: New Best Friend to Lovers of Smog-Controlled Malaise Era Machines


As lovers of single-digit-thousand-dollar cars and residents of states with emissions controls, we often find ourselves sighing in disappointment to learn that a certain Wagoneer, Monza, BMW Coupe or Cutlass is from 1976 or later. At least here in the Golden State, all post-’75 cars are required to pass a smog test (though oddly, no safety inspection). While keeping a motor in a state of tune that’ll pass late-70s tailpipe emissions isn’t that hard, the visual inspection for the original engine with original super-crappy emissions controls severely limits or complicates what can legally be done with cars of the era.
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would go through the effort to get a newer, say LS3-based, crate motor cleared by The Authorities? Oh, wait: GM Performance Parts did.

It’s worth taking a second to recognize that the obvious optimal solution would be loosening of emissions regulations. Based entirely on conjecture, 1976 to say…1990 vehicles comprise a small portion of the automotive population and given that they generally drive few miles per year, their impact on overall air quality is likely small. That said, as a resident of Los Angeles, I’m leery of a total-free for all as I’d like to be able to go for a run in the summer without choking to death. As a middle ground, I’d recommend reinstating a rolling exemption or just requiring older vehicles to pass the sniffer, regardless of what’s at the other end. Alas, political processes make my brain (and soul) hurt, so for time being we’ll back away from the political rabbit hole.

Luckily, within all of this emissions-controlling hoopla, the California Air Resources Board (ironically, “CARB”) has a loophole allowing for the swappage of any motor that’s of the same year or newer than the car (yay!), provided the motor retains it’s original emissions equipment (boo!). The tricky part here is it limits swaps to junkyard/recycler motors where the source car can be identified and emissions equipment transferred over. This complicates the whole process, particularly compared to the preferable purchase of a new crate motor from Summit, Jegs or the like.
Here’s where GM Performance Parts saved the day. They put together a 6.2L LS3 based ready-to-run crate motor kit complete with enigne management and wiring harness, then jumped through the necessary hoops to get it approved by CARB for 1976-1995 vehicles (pre-OBDII, arguably the range most in need of a swap), even though it’s not actually from any other vehicle. This means you can drop an all-aluminum 430hp electronically controlled, fuel injected motor into any car you want. Are there drawbacks? Sure. For one, you have to run the pre-set tune and included catalytic converters to maintain smog legality. Second, and worst of all, is the price: roughly $8,500.
There’s obviously room for debate around the idea of dropping what’ll be realistically $10 grand worth of engine into just about any car likely worth less than the motor itself. That said, an honest, reliable, tunable, reasonably efficient 430hp is a whole different world than the “I can build a 350 that’ll do that for 1000 bucks!” comments likely to appear. Obviously, there’s no reason to spring for the E-Rod if you’re not building an emissions-controlled car, but if you think about it as the center of a $15,000-30,000 custom build like MotoIQ’s 3rd Gen (FD) RX-7, it starts to make more sense.

moto iq v8 fd rx7 project
Image from MotoIQ.com

Also, for those wanting to go either Mama-bear or Papa-bear on the Goldilocks LS3, GMPP is working on expanding the E-Rod line to include 5.3L, 7.0L LS7 and the blown LSA 6.2L motors as well. From what we can tell, they’re not yet available, though.
Not really Hooniverse Asks-worthy, but what’s your take?
Worth it? Too much money? (Those aren’t mutually exclusive). Just buy an ’05 GTO? Stop swapping GM motors where they don’t belong? Most significant aftermarket breakthrough in years?
Sources:
Jegs, Summit, MotoIQ and GM Performance Parts

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  1. dragon951 Avatar
    dragon951

    This + 944 = win.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Or a 928.
      Or…
      Any 70s or 80s non-M BMW
      A Se7en from Hell
      Every FJ80 out there
      Every non-258/4.0L Jeep from 1975 to 1995
      Almost every GM vehicle from 1976 to 1995
      That said, I would not put this in anything remotely Ford related.

      1. dragon951 Avatar
        dragon951

        I'm already planning:
        <img src="http://www.renegadehybrids.com/944/Customers/JeffLocus/Pic14x.jpg&quot; />
        Now I just need about $20k…oh, right.

      2. Mike_the_Dog Avatar
        Mike_the_Dog

        A reliable 928?! Scary…

  2. muthalovin Avatar

    Pretty pricey, but probably worth it. I am amazed that GM realized there was a market for this. Good on you, General.

  3. DrJomamachubby Avatar
    DrJomamachubby

    Just do what Illinois and probably other states did and make the cutoff 1995, i.e. only test 1996 and newer. That means that all any testing station needs is an OBD2 scanner. There can't be that many 1995 and older cars right now and every day a few more shuffle of to the crusher.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Not a bad idea, and certainly simplifies the process (provided you don't want to monkey with your OBDII car much).
      Fortunately/unfortunately, in California, there's no shortage of pre-OBDII cars as cars last forever here. Also, older cars tend to accumulate in densely (or what passes for dense out here) populated areas like LA or the Bay Area. I'd guess more than half of the cars in my working class LA neighborhood are pre-96.

    2. 2000ccs Avatar
      2000ccs

      Illinois's cutoff is 1967. If it's pre-OBDII they'll hook your car up to rollers and put a pipe on your exhaust. My first ever emissions test was done on my 1992 Pontiac Bonneville, but this was slightly before 2000.

    3. zsm Avatar
      zsm

      It's a bit more complicated than that, as 2000ccs alludes to below.
      If your car is '67 or older, it never gets checked.
      If your car is diesel, it never gets checked.
      There are some other scenarios where you don't get checked, for example you can apply for an exemption from the emissions testing, you may or may not be granted one. There are various reasons, a show car is one. In this case it's best to get antique plates. Of course then you can only drive the car to/from shows and repairs. Technically you don't need the antique plates, but that and a policy from a place like Hagerty makes your case a whole lot stronger. There's still a some chance you will not be granted the exemption though, it's case by case and may be limited to a certain number granted per year.
      But then the place you live comes into play as well because you may live in a place where emissions testing is not done. There are only certain regions that do the testing, if your car is registered outside of those places, it never gets tested. That makes sense, since smog really only applies in populous areas.
      Okay so you're like me and you have a late '80s Mazda and live in a Chicago suburb. It use to be you had to get it tested periodically. A few years back they made a change. If you had a car '95 or older, and if it had a passed the last test, you never needed to have it tested again. If you bought such a car and it had been previously registered to an address where testing was required and it had passed, you never need to test it again. But if you register a car that had previously been registered at an address that does not do testing, you will need to get it to pass that first time.
      So that's it for IL in a nut shell. I think it's all pretty sensible really if you consider how there are less of these older cars that need tailpipe checks, though people do things like put louder exhausts on their 'vettes.

  4. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    I'm curious if Ford Racing will counter with any kind of mod motor crates.
    As it is, you can get the new 5.0L as a $7k crate, but not smog legal: http://www.fordracingparts.com/parts/part_details
    Funny thing is, those Mod motors (particularly the DOHC ones) are waaaaay too wide to fit anywhere but a mod motor or big block engine bay. Pushrods for the win, in this case.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      Yeah, I'd LOOOOOVE the new 5.0 in my LTD, but I'd have to get it as a donor from a new Mustang and use all of the accompanying smog stuff, which is likely a headache. DOHCs will fit in Fox bodies, though.
      I've already done the smog legal engine swap route, and thankfully my LTD has the BAR E.O. sticker to prove it.

      1. mad_science Avatar
        mad_science

        Cobra 5.0?

      2. Tomsk Avatar

        If Ford Racing offered a smog-legal new 5.0 kit, I'd drop one in a Fox Body Continental, slip a New Edge SN95 Cobra IRS under the back, and paint it the most offensive factory color (possibly two-tone).
        Name? Coyote Ugly, of course.

        1. LTDScott Avatar

          Wow, that's sick. I love it.

      3. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        The BAR E.O. sticker… that's your family name in Olde English lettering across the rear window, right?

    2. 2000ccs Avatar
      2000ccs

      I hope so, as I'm still holding on to the idea of making a Monster Miata with a 5.0 here in emissions-controlled Illinois.

    3. Tomsk Avatar

      Let's not forget Mopar and a new-gen Hemi. I mean, who wouldn't want a Dodge St. Regis that'll run low 13s/high 12s?
      In all seriousness, though, last time I talked to a GMPP rep (a couple months ago) they were still waiting on an E.O. number. Given CARB's history of asshattery toward hot rodders, I wouldn't run out and buy a post-'75 project car until the ink from the rubber stamp is dry and hasn't disappeared.

      1. Tim Odell Avatar
        Tim Odell

        Yeah, apparently they jumped the PR gun with some claims when they first launched the line, but they finally got it:
        <img src="http://photos.motoiq.com/MotoIQ/Project-Cars/Project-FD/CARBp1/1056557742_3Jq9m-X2.jpg"&gt;
        Via the comments on the other Project RX-7 post at motoIQ http://www.motoiq.com/magazine_articles/articlety
        Farther down in the comments, there's also a confirmation that they have the manual-trans version as well.

        1. Tomsk Avatar

          YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-haw!

  5. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    It's expensive, but it will work. And it's vastly better than almost any engine it'll be replacing – particularly in a smog chocked seventies or eighties car. GM might want to think about doing this with some less well endowed engines, and maybe have a couple of I-4s, I-6s and V-6s as well. Maybe GM could provide a modest rebate for supplying the VIN of the GM product the new engine will be going into>

    1. mad_science Avatar
      mad_science

      Agreed.
      It used to be a high-200s to mid 300s hp crate was a killer swap for all kinds of vehicles, but these days that's V6 territory. I'd love to see a turbo ecotec, turbo 2.8L from the SRX or the DI 3.6 from the Camaro as options for smaller cars.
      I'd guess the problem is that the LS engines are compact enough and powerful enough to make the effort to swap a V6 not really worth it in contrast. I could still see the ecotec being a good match for older classic sports cars, though.

  6. LTDScott Avatar

    Funny, my friend is in the process of buying an FD for this swap as we speak. I think it's a ton of money for what you get, but being able to jump through smog hoops with minimal hassle is worth its weight in gold.

  7. RichardKopf Avatar
    RichardKopf

    This + `77-`90 Caprice Estate = über win.

  8. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    Neat idea, and I hope this market expands.
    Too rich for my blood though. And on a personal level not only am I generally uninterested in most 76+ cars, but I think the engine is a weeeee bit homely. It's like ol Bertha from one-town-over that's been rumored able to suck the chrome off a trailer hitch, but was beat with an ugly stick. It, um… just…. nah. Can't do it.
    The only things that belongs on my valve covers are a breather or a PCV valve. And I don't trust that new fangled Fuel injection majiggy stuff either.
    Boy. I just officially got old.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Hmmm… If it's not okay also to have a pair of grommets, washers, and cap nuts on your valve covers, then I think I know where some of that oil is going from your MGBs.
      <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2481/4054231658_e895978719.jpg&quot; width="400">

      1. ZomBee Racer Avatar

        Ah, right-o ol' chap!
        Speaking of which, at our first Lemons race our second driver came back into the pits worried after about half an hour. He yelled excitedly "I think there's an electrical short somewhere, and I don't want to burn up!!" I started checking it all out and asked him what the symptoms were. He stated on right-hand corners smoke came billowing out of the gearshift boot.
        I immediately noticed the rear bolt and grommet was missing from the valve cover (WTF?!?) and every time he went around a RH corner oil was pouring over the exhaust header.
        Not sure what happened to them, but I was able to mickey-mouse a temporary fix out of leftover MR2 bits that lasted for quite some time. So add random broken MR2 bits to my list. And blue smoke. In limited quantities blue smoke can be a useful diagnostic tool.

  9. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Hi-po crate engines, factory supported upgrades, cheap gasoline, all alien concepts to the UK market.
    If a kid here today has a car that isn't fast enought, he paints it lime green, puts a bodykit, big wheels and a loud stereo in it and adds some stickers so impressionable young ladies think it's fast.
    I yearn for non £1.30 per litre (litre!) fuel and a car worthy of a 390.
    Get off my lawn,
    Rabble rabble.
    [/Grumpy whinging bastard]

  10. buzzboy7 Avatar
    buzzboy7

    Cool, but still not as cool as not having to deal with that CARB bs

  11. Mad_Hungarian Avatar
    Mad_Hungarian

    I'm imagining a '71-'76 LeSabre coupe, or maybe a boattail Riviera, with one of these under the hood, but completely stock looking with the hood closed, making one killer daily driver.
    What transmissions does it bolt to?
    Does anyone have any performance and fuel efficiency data for any real world applications?

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      IIRC, LS engines bolt up anywhere a Chevy small block would, so pretty much any trans.
      I'd guess fuel economy is heavily dependent on tranny, gearing and how much of the skinny pedal you use. For reference, the ~3750lb Camaro SS is rated at 16/25. Assuming reasonable gearing, I'd bet most low-3000s lb classics could do the same (remember, they tend to be much less aerodynamic).

  12. ptschett Avatar
    ptschett

    I like the idea and I hope they sell oodles of them. Hopefully enough that Ford and Mopar take notice. (Just as long as they're not actually going into Fords or Mopars, where it seems to me that there are viable workarounds.)

  13. cklockwork Avatar
    cklockwork

    my '77 442 was built for this engine. and i just realized this now.

    1. RichardKopf Avatar
      RichardKopf

      I think you'll find that your `77 442 was actually built for a Rocket 350. Or a 455. Maybe a nice 403.

  14. cklockwork Avatar
    cklockwork

    well, she has the 350… but, as you can imagine, it's a little underwhelming. unfortunately the 455 was cut in '76 and the 403's are hard to come by (despite being the go-to engine in Trans Ams for a few years.) So i've always thought it'd be cool to go crate and modern. And having once lived in Los Angeles, smog control laws have always been on my mind. Then again, that was all before I bought a Mustang GT as my daily driver… so the stock 350 being "underwhelming" isn't much of a concern anyway.

  15. Fej Avatar
    Fej

    <img src="http://i837.photobucket.com/albums/zz295/shoogar/Cutlass_03.jpg&quot; >
    Really makes me wish I'd been able to buy this

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