TMCP #185: Karl Performance Assembles The 500 Horsepower Chevelle Engine!


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LS engine ready for installation
LS engine ready for installation


Cody Nadler – the engine assembler and Dave Carnkock – shop manager at Karl Performance

This weeks interview is a Chevelle Update with engine assembler Cody Nadlen at Karl Perfomance. The interview takes place LIVE from the assembly room at Karl’s! Cody is an experienced builder and he took time to walk me through the process he is using to build my junkyard LS engine to high horsepower status. In a previous episode (Episode 180) we talked to COMP Cams about which parts to use in the engine and in this episode Cody installs them.

Karl Performance installation of the COMP CAMS Double Roller Timing Chain
Karl Performance installation of the COMP CAMS Double Roller Timing Chain. Note the silver shim spacers that moved the oil pump forward.

This engine is a production LS based V8 out of a Denali, it came from the factory with VVT (Variable Valve Timing) and DOD (Displacement On Demand). Cody told me that he does not work with those features much as he is more concerned with stripping the engine down, getting it back to basics, and moving on with the job of making horsepower. He said that DOD is great for economy and regular highway applications but in a street rod the owners prefer all power all the time.

Head bolts, Rod bolts and Main Bearing Cap bolts in current production GM vehicles are a “Torque To Yield” style bolt where you torque the bolts to a certain spec and then turn the bolts an additional 90 degrees to “stretch” them to the final setting. Torque to Yield bolts can only be used once and Cody told me that they prefer to switch these engines to all ARP bolts that can be used over and over again.

Karl Performance Double Roller Timing Chain LS Front Cover Modifications
Karl Performance Double Roller Timing Chain LS Front Cover Modifications

The production LS engine uses a single roller timing chain and in most cases high performance builds upgrade the chain to either a high strength single roller or a double roller timing chain. Cody said since I am going with the COMP CAMS double roller that it moves the front of the chain and gears forward and multiple changes in spacing to get it to fit. When a double roller chain is installed, it requires shimming the oil pump forward to clear it, but this leads to the front cover not fitting correctly. Cody modified the front cover in a couple spots to let it clear the newly spaced out parts.

Cody noted that when you are building custom engines that a lot of thing require modification to work. In this case the front cover needed modification to work around the roller chain. The aftermarket oil pan also needed modification in order to fit the oil pump pickup correctly. He told me that this is the way he likes it because when you are done you have an engine that is custom and different than what every one else has. He also pointed out that you  need to take your time and make sure what you are installing works, and works correctly.

Just before I left the shop Dave (the shop manager who put the whole program together) mentioned that I should probably set my computer redline at 7000 RPM. The big cam combined with stock heads (and pistons) leaves only about 75 thousandths clearance for the intake valve, and staying under 7000 RPM should keep everything safe and tidy.

LS engines are amazing works of technology but with the help of experts like Karls Performance, technicians like Cody, and an aftermarket industry like COMP CAMS it is still possible to own a totally custom engine that performs.

Thanks for the interview Cody – and thank you Dave Carnock for putting everything together, solving every problem, and advising me on completely unrelated areas of the Chevelle build (chrome, headers, wiring, etc.) Look for an upcoming show that really details everything going on at Karl Performance soon. I’ll be doing a live show from an upcoming Cars and Coffee event!

-Rob Kibbe


This interview sponsored by our pals at National Parts Depot – your premier source for muscle car restoration parts!


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