Birth of an LS9

David Gluckman
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GM's Performance Build Center is tucked away in an industrial park in Wixom, Michigan. Opened in 2005, this building has since been the birthplace of every Corvette Z06's LS7 V-8, as well as the supercharged LC3 Northstars that power Cadillac's STS-V and XLR-V. Impressive powerplants to be sure, but they're old news - and they're not what brought me here.

The PBC is also the place where each LS9 engine will go from a bare, run-of-the-mill(ing machine) 6.2-liter block to a 638-hp, supercharged engine befitting a Corvette wrapper priced north of the $100k mark. I'm here to see how the ZR1's heart is built.

A full LS9 build takes about four and a half hours and the engines will be produced at a rate of 45 per week. Each of the 25 skilled engine builders follows an engine from start to finish, affixing their name to the finished product. All engines are then cold-tested on a dyno (gasoline and OSHA rules don't mix, apparently) and then LS9s are sent to a third-party supplier for a twenty-minute hot test.

We were given a tour of the line (one of three in the facility) that has just started building production LS9s. After witnessing the completion of the engine that will go into the first customer ZR1 - the car that sold at Barrett-Jackson for $1 million - I met Bruce Blomfield who let me follow along and lend a hand (read: slow down the process) as he built another LS9.

It was an exciting and educational afternoon, to say the least. We took video of the build and condensed it into about six and a half minutes. The YouTube version is embedded below and you can also see a larger, higher-quality version here on our site.

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