LT1 vs LS1: What’s The Real Difference?

Chevrolet has been in a clash with Dodge and Ford for a very long time now. Die hard fans refuse to budge from their brand, even if it’s inferior. For Chevrolet fans, the question may arise: “Which one is better? The LT1 or the LS1?”. Both were available in the 90s Camaro and 90s Corvette. The LS1 is word renowned for its power and reliability. It’s the most debated engine in the world, but what about the good ole’ LT1? Let’s dive in and compare LT1 vs LS1.

LT1

In 1992, General Motors created the all new LT1 small-block. The LT1 used a reverse-flow cooling system that cooled the cylinder heads first. This allowed for higher compression ratios which increased power output compared to its predecessors. All LT1s featured a cast iron cylinder block, with aluminum heads for Corvettes and Camaros, and cast iron heads for all other models.

If you are ever in the market for an LT1, find a Corvette LT1. The Corvette block featured 4-bolt main bearing caps, all other LT1s have 2-bolt main bearing caps.

LS1

If you’ve poked around other parts of this website, than you’ll know that we absolutely love the LS engine. The LS1 was much more advanced than the outgoing LT1 engine. The LS1 featured an all aluminum block, and aluminum heads. This reduced weight significantly whilst increasing heat dissipation. This allowed for more performance while keeping temperatures safe.

All LS1s featured 6-bolt main bearing caps. This makes the LS1’s bottom end incredibly strong, especially when compared to the LT1’s 2-bolt main bottom end.
More Chevrolet small block information is available on Wikipedia

LT1 vs LS1: Factory Performance

This shouldn’t surprise you to much, but the LS1 was way more powerful out of the factory than the LT1. How much better was it though? Lets look at the factory LT1 Corvette and Camaro performance numbers:

  • LT1 Corvette HP: 300 bhp
  • LT1 Corvette TQ: 330 lb-ft
  • LT1 Camaro HP: 285 bhp
  • LT1 Camaro TQ: 325 lb-ft

Now lets look at the numbers for the same generation Camaro and Corvette, but with the LS1 engine.

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  • LS1 Corvette HP: 345 bhp
  • LS1 Corvette TQ: 360 lb-ft
  • LS1 Camaro HP: 305 bhp
  • LS1 Camaro TQ: 340 lb-ft

As you can see from these numbers, the LS1 is way more powerful. Not only does it make more peak horsepower, but it also makes more peak torque. This is due to the massive advancements such as the distributor-less ignition system.

Many Chevy fans argue that the LS1 Camaro made the same amount of horsepower and torque as the LS1 Corvette. After all, they were physically identical. The only possible thing that could made the Camaro less powerful would be the tune.  Many LS1 Camaro owners have put their cars on the dyno completely stock and put down 315-325 rwhp, which equates to around 345 bhp.

LT1 vs LS1: Cylinder Block

All small block Chevrolet engines were cast iron block with cast iron heads. The LT1 cylinder block is basically no different than any other small block produced before it. The Camaro and Corvette received aluminum cylinder heads, which helped increase performance.

The LS1 received a massive upgrade to the cylinder block. The block material was changed from cast iron to aluminum. This helped reduced weight a huge amount, but it also increased heat dissipation. This is important since the LS1 made way more horsepower than the LT1 did. Horsepower creates heat, and cast iron holds heat in much longer than aluminum does.

RELATED: Here’s Why the Chevy LS is so Good

The LS1 is also a Y block design. This increased the strength of the block greatly. Chevrolet increased the size of the camshaft core on the LS1. This allows for much higher lift camshaft profiles without harming the camshaft bearings.

LT1 vs LS1: Price/Performance

Price is basically the ultimate deciding factor when purchasing parts. Many of the people reading this right now own f-body Camaros, and want to know if they should mod their LT1, or swap in an LS1. It’s a tough decision, and 8 years ago I would’ve said mod the LT1. Now LS engines are so insanely cheap that it makes way more sense to go with an LS engine.

You might be able to get an LT1 for a couple hundred dollars cheaper, but you’ll already be behind 50+ horsepower. A few thousand in LS1 mods will bring it up to 440+ rwhp. On the other hand, a few thousand in LT1 mods will bring it up to around 400 rwhp, and likely won’t run as good as the LS1.

RELATED: Chevy LS vs Ford Modular: Which One is Actually Better?

I have nothing against the LT1 engine, but lb for lb you get way more for your dollar with the LS1 engine. Its cheaper to buy, and now in 2016 its cheaper to modify too. Many parts manufacturers have hopped on the LS bandwagon and are making a fortune doing so.

Summary

This shouldn’t have surprised you too much, but the LS1 is the clear winner here. Its lighter, costs nearly as little, makes more power, and has just as big of an aftermarket. The LT1 is a great engine, but the LS1 is an amazing engine. There’s are reason the LS1 is one of the most talked about engines in the entire world.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Author: Bryce Cleveland

Bryce is a die hard car fanatic. When he's not working on his Jeep Cherokee, he's beating it up in the desert. He started Dust Runners Automotive Journal in 2014 and continues to write content for it as much as possible.

6 thoughts on “LT1 vs LS1: What’s The Real Difference?”

  1. This still doesn’t answer my question. So is a 5.3 cast iron block with aluminum heads a LS or a LT. Me and my son both have Chevy trucks. Both with 5.3 liter engines. Now mine is cast block his is aluminum. And my other son it taking a LS1 out of his f body to put a cast block 6.0 engine. So is the 6.0 still a LS. Do you understand my questions now. Please help. The web doesn’t so me anything either. Thanks for everything.

    Gary Wooton

    1. All i can say is the vin number off the block will always designate what its is everytime. LT is pre 2003. LS is after (efficiency of all aluminum). LT is reverse flow from everything 87-88 back, Heads cool first. But if you want a sure understanding and definite answer, write the vin down and call the dealership. For performance upgrades chevy has an amazing assortment without having to go aftermarket and compete pretty well $ for $$. Pay a little more but chevy performance is designed to work with what they have already designed.

    2. Thats probably a vortech engine becuase almost all gm trucks have the vortech v8….not an ls or lt….either way they did answer your question. They said ls has aluminum block and lt has steel…so that means your truck has a LT(or MUCH more likely a Vortech)

      Also lt is pre 1998… ls is post 1998 in the camaro and corvette…as the lt1 went out of production late 1997 model year.

  2. I think u ste right I have a lt1 engine in my 65 chevelle I love it the only problem is the aftermarket world is not so great yes the ls engines is the way to go I wish I can go ls but don’t want another expense my car is done I love the fact I get in it and it fires back up I smoked couple ls1 and big blocks so I’m happy with the power but I know I would be happier with an ls engine

  3. I came across an LT1 with less than 50k miles, so I doubt I’ll swap the engine. Is it a bad idea to boost these engines? I have heard mixed reviews

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