Like many automotive enthusiasts,d supply issues have us waiting on parts to show up for our engine build for Project McLuvin, our 1976 Chevrolet LUV (Light Utility Vehicle). Fortunately, some of the pieces are starting to arrive, which is why we decided to write this article. Why, you ask? Every once and a while, you will order a part that is entirely too cool not to talk about, and we had one show up, and it has to be shared even though we haven’t built the engine yet.
Several months ago, we decided to build a 400-plus cubic-inch LS engine for our LUV project. And while the lightweight truck would probably have been just fine with a naturally-aspirated engine, we couldn’t help ourselves. We wanted something unique, just like the two-tone truck itself. So after weighing our options and going back and forth, boost certainly made sense. And what would look cooler than a positive displacement supercharger protruding from the hood? Well, a green one, of course!
With our minds made up, we reached out to Whipple Superchargers to see if the team could concoct a wild green hue and apply it to one of its superchargers. Of course, they said no problem, but now we had another dilemma: which supercharger did we need?
Big Power In A Smaller Package
Nick Purciello, Whipple’s Product Line Director, knew precisely which supercharger we needed and quickly recommended the Gen 5 Whipple. Purciello said, “The 3.0-liter Gen 5 Hot Rod kit for LS engines is our latest and greatest technology, which features a 4×3 rotor pack versus the previous generation’s 5×3. In addition, the Gen 5 brings a whole new level of supercharger efficiency, meaning even more power from a smaller displacement compressor. As a result, this 3.0-liter is able to best our previous-generation 4.5-liter.”
The Gen 5 supercharger is nothing short of stout. Recently we ran across a dyno session on Wegner Automotive’s YouTube page that featured a 376 cubic-inch LS3 which belted out 1,164 horsepower and 962 lb-ft of torque. These numbers certainly got our attention, especially considering our LUV only weighs 2,500-pounds in factory form. But first, we needed to pick a color that would match the pickup, which is virtually impossible. Secondly, we needed to find an accessory drive system since Whipple doesn’t offer one.
Accessory Drive Kit
Finding an accessory drive was pretty easy because Whipple recommended Wegner Automotive. So, with Purciello’s endorsement, we gave them a call and ordered the WAK075 Front Accessory Drive Kit. This unit is computer animated designed (CAD) and computer numerical controlled (CNC)-machined out of billet aluminum, eliminating component flex in high-performance applications. It also offers a dedicated 10-rib supercharger belt and complete belt wrap for a no-slip operation. While these are just a few of the advantages of the drive, we will take a deeper dive in a separate article.
With the Wegner Automotive accessory drive on the way, we could now turn our attention back to the Whipple supercharger. We still needed to select a color, and we knew that might be a challenge. However, that was not the case. You see, Whipple can do just about any color in the rainbow. Purciello emailed us a link to Prismatic Powders’ website, where we started to weed out color after color.
Green With Envy
The problem was that the two greens used on the truck were not what we would want on the supercharger. The dark green reminds us of a John Deere tractor, while the lime green is too 1970s-esque and groovy. Finally, after searching for what seemed like hours, we found the color Shocker Yellow. Shocker Yellow is a neon yellow when placed over a white base. However, this color shifts drastically over a silver base, making every shade of green perfectly possible.
We reached out to Purciello again and gave him the color; he had us confirm the green hue one more time, and we did, hoping we weren’t making a mistake by coating the unit green, of all things. Unfortunately, while we would love to tell you we didn’t lose any sleep over our choice, that was not the case — there were a few nights of tossing and turning as visions of an ugly green supercharger danced in our heads.
The Whipple supercharger kit came in a massive box that weighed just under 100-pounds with a sticker saying “open immediately.” But, of course, that was not a problem as we ripped into the behemoth of a package like it was a Red Ryder BB gun on Christmas morning in 1983. And to be honest, we were very concerned about our color selection until we finally saw it in person. The coating is like a deep candy color and screams for attention. And while we loved our choice, it looks even better in the sunlight. The only problem is pictures don’t do it justice. So you will have to see it in person at LS Fest someday to get the full effect.
With the supercharger out of the package and sitting on a freshly rebuilt 5.3-liter junkyard engine we used for mockup, we pulled the rest of the contents out of the box. We never thought to ask Purciello what else came with the supercharger from Whipple; as it turns out, there’s quite a bit of stuff that’s included.
The first small package we opened included Whipple’s billet fuel rails, anodized in black and laser engraved with the Whipple logo. The female ORB threads in the fuel rails allow easy plumbing when we get to the fuel system. Another nice system feature is that the rails work with both short and tall fuel injectors, depending on what you have. The other small box in the package included all of the necessary parts and hardware to complete the installation, so you won’t need to run back and forth to the parts store.
Devil’s In The Details
After we had the Whipple on top of the LS engine, we were finally able to inspect the assembly, and it’s a work of art. But you might be wondering, what makes the Gen 5 supercharger so unique?
As the unit’s displacement suggests, the 3.0-liter Gen 5 outperforms 1.9- and 2.3-liter roots-type blowers. And while size matters, the Whipple offers many advantages in design, like precision-ground helical-cut gears and a one-piece integrated casting to minimize bolt-on pieces and adapters, with their potential leaks or even airflow restrictions. Whipple engineers even designed what they call the Integrated Crusher inlet. This venturi-shaped inlet design was developed for maximum airflow capacity with minimal rotor cavitation and allows for larger throttle bodies to be fully utilized.
Cooling is another area where the Gen 5 shines. This unit offers a massive air-to-water aluminum bar-and-plate intercooler that provides more cooling capacity than any other positive displacement system on the market. In addition, this oversized intercooler air-bypass system offers incredible fuel economy when you’re not in boost because it won’t circulate hot air like other superchargers. But the ingenuity doesn’t stop there – Whipple also opted for a top-mount design that allows for a cooler operation than inverse-mounted superchargers, resulting in more power per pound of boost.
Oiling is another area where the Gen 5 sets itself apart from others. An oversized self-contained oil system dramatically reduces oil temps no matter the circumstances. Whipple even integrated a unique oil level sight glass for easy level and quality checks with just a glance. Best of all, there’s no dipstick to misread.
The Gen 5 redesign is built for efficiency and significant power when it comes to performance. It offers a zero-turn inlet allowing for decreased induction loss compared to rear inlet superchargers and their 180-degree bends. In addition, a center discharge port was utilized for better cylinder-to-cylinder distribution, and the discharge design allows for less pressure loss, meaning more power even at lower boost levels. These changes mean more power out of the hole and a flat torque curve with instant boost at the touch of the throttle. And if you need more or less boost, the pulley can be changed in as little as three minutes.
With all of the unique features of the Gen 5 supercharger, we’re excited to get this on the dyno. And as soon as the rest of our parts show up, KPE Racing will be assembling the engine momentarily. We know that the green Whipple will make some serious power, but the question is, how much? Stay tuned as we plan on finding out sooner rather than later.