LS1 supercharger upgrade
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LS1 Supercharger Upgrade Guide

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

Chandler is an automotive expert with over a decade of experience working on and modifying cars. A couple of his favorites were his heavily modded 2016 Subaru WRX and his current 2020 VW Golf GTI. He’s also a big fan of American Muscle and automotive history. Chandler’s passion and knowledge of the automotive industry help him deliver high-quality, insightful content to TuningPro readers.

For many years, General Motors/Chevrolet’s LS1 engine has been a solid power plant for supercharged builds. Originally released in the C5 Corvette, Camaro, and Trans-Am, the LS1 already makes a stout 305-350 horsepower and 335-365 lb-ft of torque from the factory. However, for those looking to seriously increase the power on their ‘Vette or F-Body Pontiac, an LS1 supercharger is a great upgrade.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about supercharging your LS1-equipped vehicle. Whether the LS1 is stock or swapped, we have recommendations and a kit for you. First, we’ll go over everything you need to know about forced induction and the LS1, then we’ll get it into all of the supporting mods you’ll need to make your build reliable and a success. Finally, we’ll break down the top 5 LS1 supercharger kits on the market and analyze them.

LS1 supercharger upgrade
Credit: Hawks Motorsports/YouTube – Maggie TVS MP2300 Supercharger in an F-Body Firebird

LS1 Engine Basics for Forced Induction

The LS1 is a 5.7 L V8 engine with an all-aluminum block and head. It has a single cam-in-block overhead valve (OHV) setup and uses pushrods to actuate the valves. The LS1 is fuel-injected and uses a drive-by-wire cable setup, except the Corvettes which use fly-by-wire throttle control. The LS1 has advertised compression of 10.1:1, but is actually 10.25:1 – which is boost-friendly.

In 2001, GM/Chevy introduced the LS6, which was basically just an LS1 with a new intake manifold, cylinder heads, and slightly reworked internals. Starting that same year, the LS1 got the LS6 intake manifold and cylinder heads, which continued until production ended.

A very common mod for early LS1 (‘97-’00) is to put on an LS6 intake manifold and cylinder head, which are direct bolt-on fits. For those looking to squeeze the most power out of their LS1 supercharger build, they are definite must-upgrades. For a list of other potential mods, take a look at our Top 7 LS1 Mods guide.

LS1 Supercharger Basics

Now that we know a little about the LS1, let’s look into adding a supercharger, also known as a blower. Superchargers come in several different configurations and sizes, all of which will change depending on your build. In the next few sections, we’ll cover the different kinds of LS1 superchargers, which one you should consider for your build, and any supporting mods you will need – depending on your power levels.

The Different Kinds of LS1 Superchargers

For the LS1 there are two primary types of supercharger configurations: roots style and centrifugal style. There is also a third kind of supercharger, known as a twin-screw, but those are much less popular for LS1 builds.

Centrifugal-style superchargers are by far the most common choice on most builds. Centrifugal superchargers look and operate a lot like turbochargers. The main difference is that while turbos use exhaust gasses to power their compressor, centrifugal superchargers use a belt instead. Because of this, they are generally better for builds that want to make a lot of horsepower, especially on the top-end.

Roots-style superchargers operate much differently and are the more traditional style of blower. Roots superchargers truly are blowers, in that they don’t actually compress air before pushing it into the intake manifold. They simply push excess air into the engine, which then gets compressed inside the cylinder during the compression stroke. Basically, they are massive air pumps. They are great for instant boost and low-end torque, but can’t match the higher RPM power and boost levels of a centrifugal blower.

Typically, a roots-style supercharger will sit directly on top of the engine, whereas a centrifugal-style supercharger will sit elsewhere in the engine bay. For the Corvette, Camaro, Trans-Am, and other LS1-equipped vehicles, centrifugal superchargers are much better fits. There is such limited room under the hood, especially on the Corvette, that roots-style blowers don’t fit easily. It’s still an option, but you will be size – and thus boost – limited.

Which LS1 Supercharger is Right for You?

Choosing which is right for you depends on your power goals and aesthetic proclivities. Do you want the most power? Go with the centrifugal. Are you after the old-school muscle car look? Roots style is your best bet. For LS1-powered cars, most people will go with the centrifugal, due to size and space. However, that’s definitely not the only option, and moderate roots-style builds are still very popular.

LS1 Supercharger Supporting Mods

Now let’s talk about supporting mods for your LS1 build. We’ll break supporting mods into two categories, recommended and necessary. Recommended mods will help your supercharger build make better power more reliably, but are optional on moderate builds. Necessary mods are mods you absolutely need to do to make your supercharged LS1 reliable.

Recommended Supporting Mods for Supercharging

First, let’s look at the recommended mods. As we mentioned earlier, starting in 2001, GM/Chevy updated the LS1 intake manifold and cylinder heads to the LS6 versions. If you have a ‘97-’00 LS1 equipped vehicle, we would definitely recommend upgrading to the LS6 version. Both the LS6 intake and heads are known to flow much better than the LS1 versions and are direct bolt-on fits.

Both the stock LS6 manifold and heads should be good through 600 horsepower. If you are thinking about making more, you’ll want to at least port your intake and heads, if not move to more powerful versions. Upgrading to the LS6 cylinder heads also lowers compression on the engine to around 9.2:1, which is more boost-friendly than the stock 10.2:1, making it another reason to consider it as an option.

Another optional but recommended mod, if you are looking at big horsepower, is an upgraded camshaft. The stock camshaft does well through 550-600 horsepower, but past that, you’ll want something with larger duration and more lift. For recommendations on upgraded LS1 camshaft, heads, and manifold check out our Top 7 LS1 Mods Guide.

Necessary Supporting Mods for Supercharging

As far as necessary upgrades go for an LS1 supercharger kit, it’s a pretty big list. For bolt-on mods, all you really need to worry about is getting long-tube headers with either an x or h-pipe exhaust. The stock exhaust manifold will be too restrictive to flow adequately for most LS1 supercharger kits.

For many people, simply upgrading to the stock LS6 exhaust is adequate through 600 horsepower. However, you can also upgrade to larger aftermarket long-tube headers with diameters of at least 1 ⅞ inches. Past 600 horsepower, larger long tubes will be necessary. You can check our above-linked LS1 mod guide for LS1 long-tube header recommendations.

LS1 Valve Train, Oiling System, and Fueling Upgrades

After bolt-ons, there are also several upgrades you will want to make to the fuel system, oiling system, and valve train. Starting with the fuel system, you will at a minimum need larger injectors as well as a bigger fuel pump.

Your injector size will depend on your build level. Stock LS1 injectors flow 27-30 lbs/hr, depending on the year and model. For 500 horsepower on the LS1, you’ll want injectors that flow at least 36 lbs/hr, for 600 horsepower you will want to upgrade to at least 42 lbs/hr injectors. If you plan on running alternative fueling, like ethanol, you will need to go much bigger.

There are also several valve train upgrades to make. First, you will need stronger valve springs to handle the boost and increased power. You will also want to upgrade the pushrods and lifters to stronger versions, too. Also, upgrading the timing chain is a very good idea. The stock timing chain has been known to break, especially when the engine is pushed in the upper RPMs.

You have two main options for upgrading the LS1 timing chain. Many people simply take the beefier chain from the LS2 and use that, and it has shown to be very reliable. You can also get a double-chain setup. The advantage of the double chain is that if your first chain breaks for some reason you will have another fail-safe before your valve train implodes. However, a proper LS2 chain setup will not break if installed correctly.

Finally, let’s talk about the oil system. You will want to get a larger and more powerful high pressure oil pump before supercharging your LS1. The LS oiling system has been known to be weak on higher power builds, and getting a better oil pump is very cheap insurance.

LS1 Internals and Block Power Limits

The LS1 engine, and the entire LS-series, is known for having robust power limits. It’s generally considered that the LS1 block can withstand about 800 wheel-horsepower before it will struggle. That’s not always the case, as some people have run hundreds of horsepower more, but most people 800 whp is considered a reasonably reliable limit. You won’t get 50,000 miles out of it, but it also won’t break apart after just a few runs.

Internally, like the rest of the early LS-series, the LS1 pistons and rods are good until around 500 horsepower. The rods are stronger than the pistons, but it’s a good idea to upgrade both to stronger forged versions if you want to go past 500 horsepower reliably. At this stage, you will also want to add head studs. If you have a manual transmission you’ll want a beefier clutch, if you have an auto a stronger torque converter.  The most frequent fail points on the LS1 are the rods, ringlands, and pistons, making pistons and rods the most important things to upgrade internally.

Top 5 LS1 Supercharger Kits

Now that we have talked about what it takes to supercharger your LS1, let’s get into the recommendations. We have a couple of C5 Corvette supercharger options, as well as some Camaro/Firebird superchargers and a general LS1 blower kit. Let’s take a look.

The Top 5 LS1 Supercharger Kits are:

  • A&A Superchargers
  • East Coast Supercharging
  • ProCharger
  • Magnuson Superchargers
  • Vortech Superchargers

1) A&A LS1 C5 Corvette Supercharger Kit

LS1 Supercharger
Credit: A&A Superchargers

Price: $5,999.00+

Blower Style: Centrifugal

Purchase Link: A&A C5 Corvette LS1 Supercharger Kit

To start, we’ll look at C5 Corvette LS1 supercharger kits, and at the top of that list is the A&A C5 Corvette LS1 supercharger kit. The A&A kit is probably the most popular on the market for the C5 Corvette and it is a beauty. The kit comes with everything you need, including a very nice and large intercooler for substantial cooling.

A&A’s LS1 kit has many different V-3 Vortech supercharger options, all of which are centrifugal configurations. You can make anywhere from 500 wheel-horsepower to 1,000+ wheel-horsepower with their kit, depending on blower size.

The A&A kit is also CARB certified, making it 50 states emissions legal. This is one of the biggest selling points on this kit, as that is a huge advantage. It is a little on the pricey side, but you are getting outstanding craftsmanship as well as emissions legal supercharging. It’s really the best of both worlds and makes this kit a top option.

2) East Coast Supercharging C5 Corvette LS1 Kit

Price: $5,699.00 – $6,199.00

Blower Style: Centrifugal

Purchase Link: ECS C5 Corvette LS1 Supercharger Kit

Apart from the above kit, the best C5 Corvette supercharger kit is by far the East Coast Supercharging (ECS) LS1 kit. The ECS kit is very highly reviewed in the C5 community and ECS is known for their craftsmanship and customer service.

Their LS1 kit has three options for centrifugal style blowers, capable of 500-1,300 wheel-horsepower depending on your choice. It also comes with an intercooler and upgraded belt system to handle the increased power. The head units are Novi 1500-SI (black or polished) or Novi 2200R. The Novi 1500-Si is capable of around 500-800 wheel-horsepower, while the Novi 2200R is meant for extremely high 1,000+ horsepower builds.

ECS’ LS1 supercharger kit is a great deal for the price while providing solid quality and performance. We have seen many ECS powered Corvettes and they all have satisfied owners. Feel very confident getting an ECS unit for your LS1.

3) ProCharger LS1 Supercharger Kit

Price: $7,498.00+

Blower Style: Centrifugal

Purchase Link: ProCharger Supercharger for LS1 Kits

Now let’s look at some non-Corvette specific LS1 kits. For the Camaro and Firebird, the ProCharger LS1 kit is a great option. ProCharger has been one of the preferred blower options for the LS series of engines since the LS1 came out in the late-’90s. ProCharger is one of the top supercharger companies in the world, and their LS kits are very highly reviewed.

All ProCharger superchargers are of the centrifugal configuration. For the LS1, most people run either the P-1SC or D-1SC sized blowers for moderate but not insane builds. All ProCharger LS1 kits have an intercooler and optional tuning options. Depending on the specific kit, many of the ProCharger kits are also CARB legal, making them 50 states emissions legal.

Ask anyone with a ProCharger on their LS1 and they will likely tell you positive things. They truly are the standard for the industry, and any LS1 powered vehicle will do well with a properly installed kit. You definitely will want to consider the ProCharger kits for an LS1 build.

4) Magnuson Superchargers TVS2300 LS1 Kit

Price: $7,618.81 – $8.025.00

Blower Style: Hybrid-Roots

Purchase Links:

Magnuson Supercharger for LS1 C5 Corvette

Magnuson Supercharger for LS1 Camaro and Firebird

Next on our list are Magnuson Superchargers, affectionately known as “Maggies” by most of the LS1 world. While most people opt for centrifugal-style blowers for their LS1, we wanted to include at least one roots-style option, and there is none better than the Maggie TVS2300 LS1 supercharger kit. The kit does require some welding to fit within the engine bay, but it is very well-engineered and produces some outstanding power.

The TVS MP2300 blower uses a 4-lobe high helix rotor design which minimizes noise while increasing power. Both kits also have a larger air-to-water intercooler, and the Corvette kit has all necessary fueling upgrades included, too. With the TVS MP2300 supercharger, you can see gains of up to 130 horsepower and 130 lb-ft of torque.

While the Maggie definitely won’t match the output of the centrifugal systems, it is still very reliable and produces solid boost from the instant you touch the throttle. Magnuson has a fantastic reputation for quality and power, and their latest LS1 kit is no different.

5) Vortech Superchargers LS1 Supercharger Kit

Price: $3,585.99 – $3.904.99

Blower Style: Centrifugal

Purchase Link: Vortech Superchargers LS1 Supercharger Kit

Our final recommendation for an LS1 supercharger comes from Vortech Superchargers. Vortech makes a generic LS1 supercharger kit that is designed to be compatible with most LS1 powered GM and Chevrolet vehicles, as well as LS1 swapped vehicles.

Vortech uses their V-3 Si Trim supercharger for their kit. The V-3 Si is a centrifugal supercharger that is capable of 22 PSI, flows 1,150 cfm, and is capable of 775 horsepower. It is very similar to the SI head unit used by A&A Corvette in their LS1 kit.

The Vortech kit is relatively cheap, the cheapest on our list, and it does not come with an intercooler. Depending on your specific vehicle, you may need some fabrication to make this kit to your specific engine bay. However, it will produce solid performance and is a definite consideration for a supercharged LS1 build.

LS1 Supercharger Upgrade Summary

While the GM/Chevy LS1 already makes pretty good power from the factory, plopping on a nice big supercharger is a definite game changer. Throwing a couple of bolt-ons will definitely wake the LS1 up, but supercharging it takes the LS1 to a whole other level.

If you’re looking to easily put your car in the 450-500 horsepower range without making intake manifold, cylinder head, or camshaft upgrades, a supercharger kit is your best option. It is honestly a much more simple upgrade than those combined and will produce more power. If you really want to squeeze the most power out, adding the other mods is great, but for a good street warrior a supercharger with some long-tubes is probably the best option.

What’s your experience with supercharging the LS1 engine? Are you considering doing so on your LS1 car?

Drop a comment and let us know!

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