No one questions the superiority of LS engines when it comes to power, reliability, and toughness. It’s been over two decades since the engine came out, and in that 20 years the LS series assumed the performance throne from its Gen I small-block ancestor. But nothing in this world is ever perfect, and even the LS engine has a few flaws. Probably the biggest of which is making an LS look good when installing one in a classic Chevy.
The March Performance ’57 is powered by a built LS7 nestled between the framerails of an Art Morrison Tri-Five chassis complete with an IRS suspension. This car is destined for a lot of shows, and also highway driving, so the accessory drive not only needed to look as great as the car, but also have full function and reliability.
Compared to the Gen I small-block and big-block Chevy, which are easily bedecked with chrome, billet, and other accoutrements to make them really look spectacular when the hood is open, the LS presents more challenges when it comes to aesthetics. From the eight coils perched like warts on top of the valve covers to the front accessory drive that is, at best, utilitarian, the LS essentially has a face that only a mother could love. But since the first LS1 was shoehorned under the hood of a Corvette, the aftermarket has come a long way, and making an LS look good is a lot easier thanks to companies such as March Performance.
Bracketry and parts on all March Performance systems feature a clear powdercoat finish, regardless of color. This helps protect them from the elements and so the owner doesn’t have to spend time constantly cleaning and polishing the system. They also offer a show chrome finish like the one we’re installing on the ’57. Bill Brown explains, “March uses PPG custom-made powdercoat for our parts, which is done in house to ensure quality. All March systems, other than chrome, are clear powdercoated. March powdercoat lasts for years. I have seen 20-year-old March kits on cars that still look great.”
March Performance has been in the business of making engine accessory drives and peripheral engine items for over 25 years, giving owners of various makes the best options possible for not just beautifying their engines, but also installing efficient, precise, quality accessory drives to run the important things on an engine. Seeing the obvious need on the LS front, March used its experience and state-of-the-art production facilities to design and produce kits that make the LS series look like Cinderella on her way to the ball.
The most important thing with installing a new accessory drive system, and just about any other part, is reading the instructions! March Performance systems are CNC machined and designed to fit precisely, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to get the parts onto your engine. Bill Brown definitely doesn’t recommend winging it, “Alignment on a serpentine drive system is critical. Some aftermarket engine blocks are cast differently than OEM blocks, the same for some aftermarket heads versus OEM heads. Our instructions ensure that the system is installed correctly for trouble-free operation.”
Currently, March Performance is working on the final assembly of its 1957 convertible project. Equipped with an Art Morrison chassis and an LS7 for power, this build needed the obvious March touch to get the LS7 looking as spectacular as the rest of the car. The solution was one of their chromed Style Track kits. While following along with the install, we got to talk accessory drives with Kim March himself and Bill Brown, Head of Engineering for March Performance. One of the first things we asked was what are some common mistakes people make when choosing an accessory drive? Bill explained, “Common mistakes made when picking a drive system are fitment and use of the system itself. It’s best to talk to a qualified rep if you’re building a system for a daily driver versus a race car. They’re completely different systems in regards to performance and function. We are application specific, and offer systems for street cars as well as cars that will see track action.”
After installation, check the alignment of your system using a straightedge or laser tool. If you have a misalignment you will get belt squeal. This is the most common tech call March gets, and typically they find the power steering unit being a common misalignment due to it being so close to the crankshaft.
Bill continued, “In today’s world, there are a lot of custom things being done, even with aftermarket chassis, engine placement, plus other design decisions that can create issues for selecting accessory drives. But March Performance can easily handle those.”
On remote P/S units, March uses a press on flange as a courtesy to make installing the pulley an easy bolt on. However, due to different aftermarket block castings, it’s important to check alignment here first. If you have a problem call the March tech line and they can teach you how to properly check alignment and make your drive system performs as it should.
“If you need an accessory drive system and are worried about fitment just call our tech line,” Bill explains. “There are many different applications using a combination of different parts that can, in most cases, fit into your system. Things such as location of accessories and type of accessories, our web page is not big enough to post all this information. But out tech support has years of experience in fitting different systems into custom cars and trucks.”
Because the LS7 is being set lower in the Art Morrison chassis, it created a clearance issue between the main crankshaft drive pulley and the power steering rack. The solution was a precision made (larger) spacer between the harmonic balancer and the pulley to help it clear the rack.
This meant the rest of the system had to be modified accordingly to move the rest of the accessory components forward for proper alignment with the crank pulley. If you have a similar situation, be sure to contact March before ordering your accessory drive so they can make sure your kit doesn’t have fitment issues.
March supplies high-quality alternators, power steering pumps, and A/C compressors for their systems.
The A/C compressor is mounted low on the driver side of the LS engine, which will make hiding the A/C lines much easier. They also offer high-mount options.
All the pulleys and brackets in March’s systems are precision CNC machined from 6061-T6-grade aluminum, and the mounting brackets are thicker when compared to other accessory drive systems, making them stronger and superior to cast brackets.
All of March Performance’s mounting hardware is high-quality stainless steel for looks and durability. After all, hardware that rusts isn’t going to help in looks department no matter how nice the brackets are.
March also builds its own remote power steering reservoirs for its accessory drive systems that are designed to mount in a variety of locations.
Here’s how the Style Track system looks when done. Much more attractive than the factory accessory drive for the LS series, and relocating the A/C compressor to the low position keeps it out of sight for a cleaner look. If your LS engine is of the supercharged variety, Bill says don’t fret, “If you’re running a roots blower or a standard blower, we can work with you. We have setups for installing blower drive systems and are developing new systems for the roots blowers currently offered with GM crate motors such as the LSA, LS9, and LT4.”
Photography by Patrick Hill