How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!
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2004-2007 Cadillac CTS-V Performance Mods Discussion, How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!! in Cadillac CTS-V Series Forum - 2004 - 2007; I've been documenting this on another forum, but now that the project is essentially done, I figured I'd pull the ...
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    Cool How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    I've been documenting this on another forum, but now that the project is essentially done, I figured I'd pull the highlights of the thread over here, too. So, let's travel back in time to early June, 2011...

    June 11, 2011:
    Last weekend the LS6 in my 2005 CTS-V let go at VIR. I've done very little disassembly thus far, but even at the track it was pretty clear that it was a rather catastrophic failure.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mha1e7Q448

    Initially, I thought that I had shifted to 4th and the engine had blown as soon as I got back on it. However, as I look at the video now (and look at previous laps when the engine didn't scatter itself all over the track), I think the engine actually blew when I put the clutch in to shift to 4th. Someone at the track asked me if it had blown when I went to shift, and I told them no (as I said above, I was remembering the chain of events wrong).

    So, my first question is, what would pushing the clutch pedal in do to the loading on the engine that would cause it to fail? Obviously, something was right on the edge, and changing the loading on the engine by pushing in the clutch pedal was the straw that broke that component's back, but I admittedly don't know enough to explain how that could be. Can someone help me out here?

    One of the guys on another forum responded with:
    The tension loads on a connecting rod are almost always higher than the compression loads. The compression load, coming from combustion before TDC actually reduces the tension load on the rod. This explains why many engines break rods when you lift off to shift. You have revved the engine to its maximum RPM, so the tension forces are highest. You make the tension forces even higher when you lift to shift. The combustion pressure in the cylinder is much lower at part throttle, so it doesn't help cancel some of the tension forces. The result is that this is when rods usually break.
    Makes perfect sense, but wasn't something I had ever thought about before.

    Anyway, here are a few initial pictures of the damage:

    This is the first thing I found. I was swapping the street wheels/tires back onto the car, and at the same time went to remove the ChaseCam from where I had mounted it on the front crossmember. As I looked up under the engine I thought I saw something next to the driver side engine mount:


    Sure enough, that was a piston ring, which was twisted like a pretzel. As I looked a bit further, I could see something in the gap between the sump of the oil pan and the front crossmember - that turned out to be the head of a valve. And although I couldn't get a good picture of it, I could see into the crankcase between the DS header primaries and the DS engine mount - I reached up in there and pulled out a chunk of engine block:


    I started some disassembly earlier this week and found a little surprise when I pulled off the throttle body:


    Not the best picture, but that's a bunch of chunks of aluminum that were sitting behind the throttle plate, accompanied by more of the same in the intake manifold:


    There's also a bunch of oil/coolant in the manifold. The oil/coolant isn't too surprising, but I was pretty shocked to see all that metal in there. I guess it all got pushed/blown back up the intake runners as the engine came apart?

    Anyway, I'll be continuing disassembly this weekend and into next week as I find time to do so. Obviously the next thing on my plate is to figure out what to go with next.

    Although I figured at some point the engine would need to be rebuilt (and I would upgrade some things at that time), I've never planned on making it into a monster. The car splits time with my Subaru as my daily driver and that will continue to be the case. When I make long trips it's the car of choice for comfort reasons, so I don't want a 427 that drinks gas. Basically, I was figuring I would do the typical cam/rockers/springs upgrade and call it good.

    Now that I'm basically starting from scratch, though, things might be a little different. First of all, GM no longer sells the LS6 crate motor or long block, so getting one from GM isn't an option. There are plenty of used ones out there, of course, and quite a few "spares" out there that racers bought and tucked away. I have a couple/few options at this point...
    • There's a guy with a 5000mi LS6 on LS1tech, asking $3k. Apparently it was built up (by whom I'm not sure) from a bare block with a used crank, used rods, new Weiand pistons with stock CR, new heads/valves/springs.
    • Another guy on LS1tech sent me a PM offering me a new-in-crate LS6 long block. He sent me pics, it's the right part number and appears to be legit. His initial asking price was $4400. From what I've seen, places had them advertised anywhere from ~$4250 to $5000+ when they were still available, so $4400 seems pretty reasonable.
    • Ken @ KNSbrakes.com referred me to a father/son combo that used to race a Z06 or two, no longer do, and have 2 or 3 engines stashed away. I have to call the son to find out what exactly they've got and what they'd be looking to get for one.
    • There are used LS6s as low as $2500 on car-part.com.

    Probably the only other option I would consider is an LS3, most likely a crate engine. The "normal" LS3 is available for ~$6250, and then there's a souped up version with a GM "Hot Cam" available for a few hundred more. Used ones on eBay or car-part.com don't seem to be any more affordable (a lot of them are actually more expensive!), so new would almost certainly be the way to go. There's a pretty good summary of what it takes to put an LS3 into an LS6 car posted by a guy from Katech on LS1tech. Roughly $500 worth of conversion harnesses, assuming one goes with the Lingenfelter conversion box to account for the reluctor differences on the Gen III and Gen IV engines. However, I've read bad things about that Lingenfelter box on LS1tech - some guys have had multiple boxes fail, others have run the same box for a couple years with no issues. The only other option is to pull the crank to replace the reluctor, which would kind of suck to have to do on a brand new engine.

    The other issue on the LS3 is that another Z06 buddy of mine says the Vette guys have had problems with them surviving on track due to oiling issues. Interestingly enough, my friend said that SCCA authorized the Vette guys to run a dry sump setup for racing as a result of the oiling issues, while the guy at Zip Corvette who tuned my car says that it's the guys who've gone to dry sump that are having the oiling issues. I don't know who's right! Anyone have any thoughts on whether there's any truth to the LS3 being susceptible to oiling issues on track?

    Regardless of whether I do the LS6 or the LS3, there's the question of what can be done to enhance durability.
    • High oil temps have been a fact of life from day 1 (with some doubt as to the accuracy of the indicated temps), so I have an oil cooler setup, but it just hadn't made it onto the car yet. 25-row Mocal cooler, -10AN lines, thermostat, etc. That will obviously go in with the new engine. [Well, it should have... more on that later.]
    • I also have a Katech oil pump that would have gone onto the rebuilt engine had I gotten to that point, and will now go onto the new engine.
    • I suppose an Accusump would be the other logical thing to do, but I honestly have no idea where the hell I could fit one!
    • The general thinking on the intarweb is that the CTS-V's deeper oil pan (compared to the other LS-engined cars) helps with oiling. However, I've never seen inside the pan to know what sort of baffling or oil control it has, and/or whether there are some upgrades that can be done to help in that respect.

    Any thoughts on reliability mods for an LS engine used on track?

    One positive aspect of this is that I'll never have to worry about anything on the driver's side undercarriage ever rusting, as the bottom of the car is coated with a nice layer of oil.
    '05 Stealth Grey CTS-V, Hyper Silver Linea Corse Venetos w/Continental ExtremeContact DWs (summer), black Team Dynamics ProRace 1.2 wheels with 275/35-18 R-compounds (track), Hyperblack Rota Torques (winter), KW Variant3s, V2 front brakes, Hotchkis rear sway bar, EPS cam, TEA-ported 243 heads, FAST92 intake w/LS2 TB, JBA Camaro/G8 1-3/4" shorty headers w/JBA cat pipes, Corsa exhaust, UUC motor and tranny mounts, UUC shifter, MAPerformance trailing arms, Specter cradle bushings, etc...

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    June 14, 2011:

    Drained the oil pan last night. Or perhaps I should say the coolant pan, since the first 20sec or so was all coolant. Note that coolant shoots a lot farther out of the drain hole, which means your drain pan isn't positioned properly and you make a nice big puddle on the garage floor.

    Some bits and pieces on the magnetic drain plug and some flakes in the oil, but nothing amazing - not like the oil that came out of the dead EJ25 in the Subaru years ago, for instance.

    I managed to track down and order a new LS6 long block about 30min ago. I've been calling around various places looking for either the complete engine (PN 17801628) or the long block (19210918 for CTS-V version, 12498399 for the Vette/F-body version), but thus far hadn't had any luck. Everyone I called said they were all gone. A guy on LS1tech PM'd me and say he had a new-in-crate 19210918 that he had bought and never installed, but that was the only new one I had found (he wanted $4400 + freight). I had also found a former Z06 racer with 2 complete engines and 1 partially scavenged, but he said he had spent ~$18k for the 3 and wouldn't want to lose any money, so that was going to be pretty expensive. I was just about resigned to buying the long block from the guy on LS1tech or buying a used one to rebuild, but figured I would make some more calls today. I found www.newgmengines.com through Google, gave them a ring earlier today and they said they would see what they could do, that they had located a couple just recently for someone else. Called them back once I got home and they had just finalized the deal with whomever they're getting them from to buy 2 of them. $3800 shipped. Hooray!
    '05 Stealth Grey CTS-V, Hyper Silver Linea Corse Venetos w/Continental ExtremeContact DWs (summer), black Team Dynamics ProRace 1.2 wheels with 275/35-18 R-compounds (track), Hyperblack Rota Torques (winter), KW Variant3s, V2 front brakes, Hotchkis rear sway bar, EPS cam, TEA-ported 243 heads, FAST92 intake w/LS2 TB, JBA Camaro/G8 1-3/4" shorty headers w/JBA cat pipes, Corsa exhaust, UUC motor and tranny mounts, UUC shifter, MAPerformance trailing arms, Specter cradle bushings, etc...

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    June 15, 2011:

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Olsen View Post
    I managed to track down and order a new LS6 long block about 30min ago. I've been calling around various places looking for either the complete engine (PN 17801628) or the long block (19210918 for CTS-V version, 12498399 for the Vette/F-body version), but thus far hadn't had any luck. Everyone I called said they were all gone. A guy on LS1tech PM'd me and say he had a new-in-crate 19210918 that he had bought and never installed, but that was the only new one I had found (he wanted $4400 + freight).
    Hmmm, maybe I wasn't quite so smart. I got myself mixed up on the long block part numbers - the guy that PM'd me on LS1tech actually has PN 89017653, not 19210918. When I sent him a PM letting him know I had found another option, he replied with the following [refering to the specs on newgmengines' website]: "FYI... I believe those cam specs are from the smaller '01 ZO6 cam, not the '04-'05 CTS-V version; also, the '01 had solid stem valves, lighter springs and different head castings. Maybe they just looked up the wrong info for their descriptions." I've found another thread in which a guy selling a 19210918 said it had the 243 castings (which from what I've gathered are the good LS6 heads), but that doesn't mean that the valvetrain is the good stuff. Makes me wonder what exactly I'll be getting.

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    June 16, 2011:

    Quote Originally Posted by guy #1
    The oil temperatures seem to be a constant battle with the Corvettes on track so I would definitely look into an oil cooler.
    As mentioned previously, I've seen high oil temps as long as I've owned the car. The '04s and '05s had wiring/grounding issues that cause inaccurate oil temp indications on the factory display. (When I was driving the car home from buying it, I turned on the A/C and the high oil temp (>300F) alarm started going off. Turned A/C off, oil temp dropped ~40F.) I've done both the dealer/service fixes (reprogram the display and re-route the sensor ground) and some DIY fixes (also to address bad grounds), which made a big difference, but I still think the indicated temperatures are higher than actual.

    Regardless, I've had an oil cooler for months, and really should've gotten it installed during the winter "off season", but never did.

    Quote Originally Posted by guy #2
    FYI all the LS6/LS2 had the 243 cast heads and some were even 799, but the cylinder head is for the most part identical. Only the >'02 LS6 cylinder heads had the lightweight valves if that's what you're looking for. The tech:

    http://www.ls1tech.com/forums/genera...id-valves.html
    Thanks for the tech. I learn something new about the various LS engines every time I open the forums!

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    June 16, 2011:

    Pulled the intake manifold, valley cover, and rockers this evening, pictures to follow. It would appear that cylinder #5 is the guilty party - it had a piece of piston ring in the intake runner, I can see there's a chunk of something down by the valve (don't have anything long enough to reach it), and when I pulled the rockers the intake valve spring for #5 is sticking up higher (which indicates to me that that's the valve missing a head). The valve stem must be bent, though, because I can't pull the thing off the head. (If the valve stem was straight, I'd be able to just pull the spring / retainer / stem right off the head, right?)

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    June 18, 2011:

    Pictures from the other night's work...

    Progress being made in tearing things down:


    That main wiring harness is truly a PITA! Basically, the thing fully surrounds the engine, so I couldn't figure out a way to flop it off to the side. I ended up disconnecting all the fuel injectors and then sliding the intake manifold out from under that harness.



    You can see a chunk of metal in the #5 runner (center one) by the valve stem:


    With all of the rockers removed, #5 intake is sticking up higher than all the rest:


    Most of the shrapnel from inside the intake manifold (the long piece of piston ring on the right was actually sitting in the #5 intake runner in the head):


    Some of the larger chunks:


    There's quite a bit more stuff stuck inside the manifold, held in place by the oil/coolant goop. I left the manifold standing upright on the throttle body opening and got more stuff out, but the rest is going to stay inside the manifold until someone more motivated than me gets their hands on it.

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    June 19, 2011:

    Quote Originally Posted by guy #3
    I would be very hesitant to change the rod bolts to a higher strength model, without resizing the large end of the rod.

    The point of using a higher strength rod bolt is so that you can torque it so that there is more clamping load at the joint. More clamping load at the joint, equals more static deformation of the shape of the large end of the rod. Without resizing the rod, the bearing is going to wear badly since the rod isn't round.
    Huh. While I haven't really much thought to what exactly I'm going to do in this case, I always thought using ARP rod bolts was a "standard" thing to do when one wants to upgrade the internals but doesn't want to swap out the stock rods.

    Haven't worked on the car at all today, as this weekend was dedicated to getting some stuff taken care of on the Subaru. This Friday is "V Day 5" at Summit Point, so with the V down the Subaru will be hitting the track with all the other Vs.

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    June 23, 2011:

    Long block was delivered to the house yesterday. Still haven't done anything more with the engine in the car, as I've been playing with the Subaru to get a couple things ready for the track day tomorrow.

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    June 25, 2011:

    Quote Originally Posted by guy #4
    Are you planning to make any modifications to the engine, such as oil pump, lifters, ARP rods, timing chain, etc...?
    I think the answer to the upgrade question is, "Yes," I just haven't really done any research yet to figure out what I want to do. As I said earlier in this thread, I was figuring that I would eventually do a cam in the now-exploded motor, so I might as well do it now in the new one. And if I'm going to do the cam, it only makes sense to do all the rest of the valvetrain bits. I have one of Katech's oil pumps to put on it, too.

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    June 30, 2011:

    I've been slacking, but made some progress this evening. Tomorrow I need to hit Advance Auto to grab a PS pulley remover so I can pull off the pulley and then remove the pump, after which I should be able to pull the driver side head. I've already go the header on that side removed and all of the head bolts are loose.

    New engine:




    The thing has clearly been sitting somewhere for a while. It's all wrapped in the original plastic, which seems completely intact, so I'm not worried. That plastic wrap is coated in a pretty good layer of dust, and it's the heavy, black industrial shop dust, not the light around-the-house dust.

    Driver side spark plugs, 7-5-3-1 (left to right):




    Hmmm, nothing obviously wrong there...

    And the money shot for today - the block. With the driver side header removed I could finally get a good picture of the hole in the block. It's actually bigger than I thought - probably about 6" long x 3.5" high.



    It was tough to get a good angle to see in there, but I could see the journal where the #5 and #6 rods should be. It was pretty clear there was only 1 rod there. I could see some dings around the base of the #6 cylinder. Can't wait to get the head off and see what I find in #5!

    Then followed some diagnostic discussion on the mode of failure:
    Quote Originally Posted by guy #5
    That supports the earlier appearance of #5 dropping a valve and mayhem from that point on... That really sucks.
    Quote Originally Posted by guy #6
    If the rod is missing, a rod bolt let go. A piston and / or valve-caused failure will usually leave at least the bottom part of the rod assembly relatively intact and on the journal. If that's still there, and the journal is un-blued, an inadequate rod bolt (for a given rpm / duty cycle) was not the root cause. That's my call on this one at this point.

    A rod (upper part with or w/o the cap) kicked sideways punched the side of the block, the same punched upward caused the upstairs mayhem. The crank throw may have caught the rod edge (where cap meets rod interface) and was able to push the piston past TDC with enough force to bust the piston (if that actually occured - we'll see for sure when Patrick pulls the top end apart), but that's a moot point because valve parts will be a major contributor to the carnage anyway.

    If the head stopped the piston (and a valve was likely at least partly open), the multi-piece valve broke off (the valve head) itself. The non-forged piston shattered, unlike forged pistons, which usually just crumple up. The flailing untethered small end of the rod (add edit: and the pin if the rod isn't cast and broken in two) will then take out the cylinder wall.

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    July 1, 2011:

    Had to hit a few different parts places to find a PS pulley remover, and then of course the one they gave me didn't work. 2 of the 3 bolts that hold the PS pump bracket are just behind the pulley, so you can't get anything but an open end wrench on them. Took a while, but I got it off.

    Which means... more pictures of carnage!!!

    The head:




    That chunk of metal in the intake port doesn't want to come out - it's wedged in there pretty good. I think the damage is actually repairable, but I don't have a lot of experience with this sort of thing. Although it looks ugly, with the exception of the curved shallow gouge about 12 o'clock on the intake port, none of the damage is deep.

    My only experience with such things was years ago, when I blew the 302 in the Mustang. When the heads (TFS TW) came off, one of the combustion chambers looked like a BB had gotten loose in there - dozens and dozens of circular pockmarks. I sent the heads off to TEA to be ported and they were able to fix that, so I think this could be fixable, too.

    Anyway...







    As the picture says, I'm not sure which rod that is. My quick attempt to reach in there and spin it was for naught, but I didn't get much leverage on it.

    Close up of the fractured cylinder wall:


    Can someone explain the ridges on the cylinder wall to me? This could be a really stupid question, but are the cylinder liners threaded into the block? Do the ridges provide a path for coolant to surround the cylinder walls?

    Went fishin' with my magnetic reaching tool and found some bits:


    Also pulled out the head of the exhaust valve.

    I plan to spend a lot of time in the next two days working on the car. I might actually get the engine out this weekend, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that happening, as I tend to be rather slow on these projects.

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by guy #6 again
    A close look at the sides of the big end could give you a clue. Wear marks should be slightly different, depending whether it was facing the adjacent rod or the crank. Looking at bearing wear may also give it away, depending on the rod journal fillet profile.

    My guess on the ridges is dry cast-in iron liners (cylinder walls), meant to keep the cylinder from traveling vertically. Wet liners often stick up a tad, so tightening the head keeps it where it's supposed to be.
    July 4, 2011:

    On the "gone fishin'" front, while I was thwarted by a bad stud last night (more on that below) I did more digging down through the #5 cylinder. I remembered I have one of those little flexible grabber/reaching tools, so I used that to pull up much of the #5 piston, a piece of main bearing cap, and a chunk of rod. Good stuff.


    I haven't spent as much time on the car as I would've liked this weekend, but I did manage to get the PS header and head off this morning. Yesterday afternoon/evening was ruined by one of my typical wrenching episodes. To reach all the head bolts, the header has to come off. To get the header off, obviously I have to remove the 6 fasteners holding it on. I have ARP studs installed, and one of those decided it didn't want to come out of the head. The other 5 were just fine, and the 6 on the driver side were just fine, but this one decided to be a bitch. Now, if it had been one of the rear 4 studs, it wouldn't have mattered, as there's enough room to easily get the header flange off the studs. But the front 2 there's not, so of course it was the 2nd stud from the front. Dammit! I double-nutted it and tried working it back and forth (heh heh), but it was a no go. I finally decided I was going to have to cut it off at 8:15 last night, but a normal hacksaw or Dremel wouldn't fit in there, so I needed to get one of those hacksaw blades that's just a handle since. Aaaaand since it was Sunday night, everyone closed at 8pm. Dammit!!

    So, this morning I went and got the blade handle, cut off the stud, removed the header, and removed the PS head. The #6 intake valve head was snapped off and sitting on top of the piston, and the #6 exhaust valve is bent. Other than that the head looks just fine. Each of the cylinders had a little bit of shrapnel in it, I supposed sucked in from the shrapnel that was blown into the intake manifold.





    Crappy, blurry picture, but unlike the #5 valve heads, which both look like they were beaten on with a hammer by King Kong, the #6 intake valve head broke off pretty clean.


    So, I'm getting close to being ready to pull the dead engine out. I need to do some rearranging in the garage so I can get the engine hoist into position. (Whether or not I can get it into position remains to be seen. I may need to open the garage door and back the car up a bit to make more room.) At my normal work pace I doubt I'll manage to get it done during the week, but I think next weekend it should definitely be out.

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    July 16, 2011:

    I bought a FAST 90mm intake manifold (used) off a guy on LS1tech, so that's on the way. I suppose it's possible the stock intake manifold could be cleaned out and used again, but I'll just upgrade while I have the opportunity to do so.

    Progress has been somewhere between slow and non-existent the last couple weeks, and unfortunately it's not going to get any better in the near future. Last night playing indoor soccer I broke the 5th metatarsal in my left foot. I'm in a splint right now, and will probably end up in a cast this week (for up to 6 weeks). Hobbling around the garage on one leg is not going to improve my work rate!

    The broken foot really ended up being a killer. I actually never ended up in a cast, but had to have surgery, then was on crutches wearing a walking boot for a couple months, then had another couple months in just the boot. In the end, the original "8-10 weeks" diagnosis ended up being 25 weeks! Not that I was making amazingly rapid pace in that first month after the engine blew, but at least I was working on the car and making some progress. Once I was on crutches and limited in mobility all progress stopped and my attention waned. Thus, when I got off the crutches and then eventually got out of the walking boot, I was slow to get going on again on the project. Instead of using the rest of the winter to crank through the swap, I procrastinated and hemmed and hawed about what parts I wanted to use, prolonging the whole thing by months.

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    September 2, 2011:

    Made a small bit of progress today, if I can even call it that. As of yesterday, I'm down to walking with 1 crutch, which means I can actually get around the garage without killing myself. Short day at work today, so I got into the corner of the garage where I had stuck the heads off the dead engine and took them to the UPS Store to ship to TEA. My fellow CTS-V'r Rich had TEA do his heads last year (just their "stage 1" CNC) and has had good results with a moderate cam, so I think this will work out just fine.

    I talked to one of the guys at TEA last week and he said as long as the valve stem bosses weren't cracked that they could probably weld repair the combustion chamber and then the CNC work would get it back in the right shape. We shall see...

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    re: How to replace / upgrade your LS6 in only 369 days!!!

    October 1, 2011:

    I talked to Mike @ TEA the week after I shipped the heads and he had just taken a cursory look at the damage. He thought it would be fixable, and I guess it was, because I got an email from TEA on Thursday to report that the heads are done. Hooray!

    Time to start getting back into the garage and working on the car again. I'm still in a walking boot, so not 100% mobile, but pretty close.

    October 2, 2011:
    Quote Originally Posted by crankedupforit
    Congrats. Decide on a cam yet?
    Negative. Rich has the same heads (TEA-worked LS6) with a cam from EPS that seems to be working very well for him. Since I copied him on the heads I may just copy him on the cam, too. I was also thinking I'd talk to Ed Curtis, as I've had him do a couple of cams for the Mustang (supercharged 302, then N/A 351). Either way, I figured the cam grinder would want to have the flow numbers for the heads so they know what they're working with.

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