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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here's my dilemma: I want to tow about 4000lbs with my 72 Elky. I've got a basically stock 350 w/350 trany that's nowhere near up to the task. Pouring money into the 350 would be fun, but not the best option. I've boiled it down to two possibilities.

  1. A guy close by sells very clean LS1 engines w/100k or less miles. They are totally complete and turn key setups except for fuel system. They even include a fly by wire throttle, AC pump, EVERYTHING. The whole thing is $1995. Probably good for 20-25 mpg on the highway.
  2. A friend has an immaculate 454 w/396 heads. Its balanced, polished, and all that other cool engine stuff by a guy who really, REALLY, knows his engines. He built is specifically for a motor home. It has less than 1000 miles on it. I can get it for about $1500 WITH a trany that has the same mileage as the engine. I think its a 350 trany but I'm not sure. He said its a 3 speed.
I'd go for the 454 in a heartbeat, knowing that I'll have to install stronger springs. But I'm terrified of the mileage I might get. I'm only getting about 14.5 at best with the 350, but have no idea what to expect from the 454.

So PLEASE sound off on what you would spend my money on and why. :argue:

Thanks a billion!
 

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its basically a decision of spending the extra gas money for the 454, or spending a couple years worth of gas money doing the LS swap.

But if towing is you're reason for the swap, I vote 454. simple swap, and more than enough torque to get the job done
 

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Towing is really what a 454 is made to do. The engines are torque monsters. Either way your gas mileage will not be good. Is the 14.5 while towing? Bc if it is then that is really decent towing mileage. A mild BBC with the right tune will prob net you around 10-12 with right gearing
 

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By the time you fight engine mounts, trans electronic interface, drive shaft coupling, extensive wiring mods and lack of conversion parts, you'll wish you had the rat motor. Yes, the mileage will be worse, but it will take a long time to make up the difference in cost. Have you looked for an exhaust system that will work? Lots of headers for the rat. Not s many for the LS......
 

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if you have the $$$ and resourses and not in a hurry id go ls1
but if you want a weekend swap and back on the road go with the 454
if it where me id go 454 jmho:beer:
 

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A good 350 can easily tow 4000 pounds. I've towed travel trailers that weighed a lot more than that with trucks with 350s for years.
 

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My friend, I just towed a load of horses with a 6 cylinder GMC safari. the trailer was close to 2k and each horse was about a thousand (x2 horses). Went about 500 miles in a day, up and down hills, and zero problems happened.

A good 350 should be capable of pulling 6000 or more pounds assuming the springs, brakes, and frame can take it.

The real question is do you have time and money for the headaches of swapping the LS1.

Me personally, i like things easy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks all. Please keep it coming.

The 14.5 mpg is non-towing.

Since torque/towing is basically a non-issue with the 454, and I'm not looking for a hotrod, does anyone know how to squeeze decent mileage out of the 454?
 

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its a quick swap to a 454,and if your towing anything,plan on getting about 6-8 miles to the gallon,but without towing,yeeeaaahhh buddy,its on...(14-16 MPG depends on how heavy your foot is):beer:
 

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I think the only way to get good gas mileage out of any vehicle is to have the timing and tuning done properly.

Slow constant acceleration and steady speeds. I know its hard when a ford pulls up next to you.
 

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The price on the LS engine seems high for the mileage. Does that include a transmission, wiring harness and ECM? Not sure what your budget is but there are a few companies making A body LS swap parts. Hooker and Edelbrock come to mind. LS series engines are pretty cool once you get them dialed in. Leading Edge Performance in Las Vegas can tune it for you. My vote is for the LS swap. But only if you get all the parts for the price you mentioned.
 

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what gears are u running now??

yep u need the od trans to go with the ls to get all the benefits,,and probly some gears..
the new 454/trans sounds like a better deal,,if it is what they say it is?? buy it and re-sell it..:beer:
u can get a new gm crate 350/290hp for 2k,, (or a 383 :smileyb:for a little more).
convert it to efi ?? throw in a od trans?? just thinkin out loud..:texas:
but a 350/350 should pull 4000lbs all day long..
 

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The LS1 is a WAY cool option, I just bought a sand rail with a 383 stroker LS-1 Dart heads, some AWESOME gofast goodies ,, and as much as I love taking the smaller motors and making the bbc guys look silly,, This one is a no brainer.... for pulling that 4000 pound trailer you need AT LEAST a 3/4 ton truck! It's not about having enough torque to make it go, it's about having CONTROL of the trailer when a semi passes you at 80, or in a hard cross wind, or,, (and the BIG one) getting it all stopped and safely under control when that idiot on the cell phone slams into the back of someone in front of you. I have been pulling a 6500 pound trailer with my 94 half-ton 4x4 and I am the FIRST to tell you I am a total frickin IDIOT!!!!!

It is not safe and any 4000+ pound trailer is going to give you first hand experience in that saying of the 'tail wagging the dog'.
I'd rather run across the freeway with a blindfold on than try to get through freeway traffic pulling that trailer behind 'not enough' truck. Getting going is no problem, I built a motor for that. Getting it all stopped and having control is another story. Do yourself a favor,, look for a nice bigblock 1ton for your hauler.

just my 2¢ and I promise you,, after a couple of thousand miles pulling that trailer,, it will be yours too!
 

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look for a 6.0 liter truck engine. LQ4 or LQ9. typically they can be had used complete with an ecm for <$1200.

perfect for towing and if properly tuned would prob get 15+mpg while towing. the lq4/9 series of engines share a ton of stuff with the LS1. heads are interchangable, cranks, rods, most anything except pistons. i know for a fact that the lq would outlast the 454, get better mileage, and also haivng efi is MILES ahead of any carb setup that gets used daily/semi daily.
 

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I own a 6 liter 2500 HD which gets right at 15.5 non towing. I also own a gen 5 Camino with a 540 which gets much worse with the increased frictional losses of the extra cubes A decent 454 should get you about 12-13 if you drive in a civilized fashion. That's tough to do with a well built package. You want a oval port 454 with about a 220I/230E 112 overlap hydraulic roller cam and about 9.5 to 1 true compression.

You are going to grin more with a big block than the LS motor. But here's the critical point: In any towing situation, getting it up to speed is not nearly as important ans stopping it. trailer brakes have come a long ways and a set of Kodiak discs with a Brake-Rite electric over hydraulic actuator will make stopping the trailer a breeze. I tow 12,000 pounds of boat and trailer with a 3/4 ton and the trailer brakes on two axles let me stop the combined rig easier than just the truck. I don't see any probklem with towing 4,000 pounds with a 72 camino, providing the trailer has decent brakes. Surge brakes are NOT brakes. I disagree that it requires a 3/4 ton to tow 4,000 pounds. Giive me a 454 in a '72 and I'll tow 4,000 pounds anywhere other than in the snow and ice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I'm loving all the great opinions and advice.

For those who said the 350 should be fine for the 4000lbs, that's true on the flat, but I'm up and down the mountains--the 350 is just no bueno por nada.

Not sure about the rear end gears. There's no tag and I haven't done a manual check. But I'm pretty sure that the 454 would make the question moot.

Thanks again. Please keep it coming :You_Rock:
 

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Marv hit the nail on the head---you can pull anything with almost anything given enough engine and tranny but control is where its at....I've towed a thunderbird with my Elcamino from Florida to Kentucky. Did it exactly once and will not do it again period. Going up and down hills with marginal control will add much grey to your hair.....Dan
 

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Marv makes a good point about having enough truck to control that load. Especially when you consider the El Camino is built on a car chassis, not an actual 1/2 ton truck frame. how much tongue weight we talking here? 1000 lbs?
 

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Kerno,, AMEN brother! Trailer brakes, and GOOD trailer brakes ought to be a LAW!!! I've have had flat trailers and boat trailers with surge brakes and they are about as good at getting at your truck/trailer stopped as your parking brake is with a car. Trailer brakes and a good controller is a MUST no mater how much vehicle you have or don't have.
 
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