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A Vortec 350, an LT1, and an OptiSpark Walk into a Bar...

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by 350350, Dec 1, 2003.

  1. 350350

    350350 1/2 ton status

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    I know very little about the Vortec 350's, so I'm hoping for some education on the matter...

    I have an LT1 350 in my '95 Z28, and the Optispark ignition is failing as scheduled at about 90K miles. My research indicates that the aftermarket has not yet stepped up with a bulletproof replacement for the well-known, problematic factory Optispark distributor/ignition system.

    I believe (but again know very little) that the Vortec line of engines is based on the same block as the LT1's, which are all similar to the traditional SBC, with some major improvements. I am hoping that the Vortec engine, being a truck application, has a better ignition system that could be swapped onto the LT1. I'm not afraid to be the first to do so if it means that I don't have to replace my Optispark every 70K.

    Can anyone tell me about the Vortec's distributor/ignition system, and if you know about the possible interchangeability with the LT1???

    It's a long shot, but I'm pissed off that the Optispark has been a problem for so long and nobody has stepped up with a real solution.

    Paul 'X' /forums/images/graemlins/thinking.gif
     
  2. cornfed

    cornfed 1/2 ton status

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    Go on the pirate site and search general 4x4 for lt1 hummer, there is a guy at Frankies Offroad that does conversions to the small cap dist. youre talking about. You have to pull the intake and have it machined for the dist. and have your computer reprogrammed also. You may have to buy an earlier computer also, depending on the one you have. Ive been looking into doing this before I swap the lt1 into my suburban.
     
  3. TJS

    TJS 1/2 ton status

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    A reg dist. will not fit in the F-body cause of the low hood line that is why they went to the opticrap. I have replaced many of these and at the same time do a new water pump as well. The weep hole for the WP is right above the opticrap (good going GM).
    T.J.
     
  4. 350350

    350350 1/2 ton status

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    [ QUOTE ]
    A reg dist. will not fit in the F-body cause of the low hood line that is why they went to the opticrap. I have replaced many of these and at the same time do a new water pump as well. The weep hole for the WP is right above the opticrap (good going GM).
    T.J.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    I wondered how in the hail you would get a conventional distributor into the back of the motor without dropping the whole K-member. I suppose that would be an option if it meant a better ignition system. /forums/images/graemlins/1zhelp.gif

    Paul 'X' /forums/images/graemlins/thinking.gif
     
  5. 350350

    350350 1/2 ton status

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    I have the factory manuals for my LT1, and they give detailed info on how the Opti works, schematics of the components, replacement instructions etc.

    Does anyone have the factory manuals for a Vortec 350 that they would be willing to scan in a few pages on its ignition system for me? You would have my eternal gratitude!!! /forums/images/graemlins/ears.gif

    Paul 'X' /forums/images/graemlins/thinking.gif
     
  6. 99firehawk

    99firehawk 1/2 ton status

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    Get your self one for the newer ls1 based engines, you will make moke power and have far less problems.
     
  7. Confedneck

    Confedneck 3/4 ton status

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    why not buy the opti spark replacement for your truck that they use on lt1 f-bodies..i forget what its called..
     
  8. 350350

    350350 1/2 ton status

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    [ QUOTE ]
    why not buy the opti spark replacement for your truck that they use on lt1 f-bodies..i forget what its called..

    [/ QUOTE ]

    This is exactly what I was hoping for!!! Are you saying the Vortec 350 truck engine uses a better version of the optispark??? If so, where do I find it???

    Paul 'X' /forums/images/graemlins/thinking.gif
     
  9. BurbinOR

    BurbinOR 3/4 ton status

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    Bump for ya........the name of the aftermarket is ..............dang I can't remember...........but someone here will. Either way, go to www.thirdgen.org for info on it and the LT-1 to TPI distributor conversion.........plenty of guys in F bodies DID that conversion with no issues (or worked around them).
     
  10. 350350

    350350 1/2 ton status

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    [ QUOTE ]
    Get your self one for the newer ls1 based engines, you will make moke power and have far less problems.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    If cash were no problem, I'd swap in a Z06 LS6 setup... Just to be different... (And to have 400hp of course!!!)

    There is a half-ass setup that uses the optispark to send signals to coil-per-cylinder LS1 coils that is all scabbed onto the LT1. It's not a complete kit and requires a lot of fabrication, and total cost is near $700 by the time you get it all done...

    Paul 'X' /forums/images/graemlins/thinking.gif
     
  11. 99firehawk

    99firehawk 1/2 ton status

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    I have seen running complete 5.3s on ebay for buy it not 2100-2400. Just a thought though. I would have went this way but I was running out of time and needed to get the k5 back on the road for winter duty.
     
  12. Emmettology 101

    Emmettology 101 3/4 ton status

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    Ok, I could be totally wrong here, but dont the Vortec 350's use a regular 350 block with Vortec heads and injection? I know the LT1 blocks are alot different than a 350 block and the heads are not swapable without some modifications to the water passages and such on the heads.

    But this may be no concern when it comes to ignitons. And there is a website on disty swap onto an LT1 here: www.lt1intake.com

    But then the large cowl ledge of the f-bodies does come into consideration....

    Another solution although costly is a stand alone engine management system with coil pack and a disty-less set-up.....
     
  13. dyeager535

    dyeager535 1 ton status Premium Member

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    Yep, Vortec 350 is a "standard" 350 with Central Port Injection. Bore/Stroke didn't change.
     
  14. 350350

    350350 1/2 ton status

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    [ QUOTE ]
    Yep, Vortec 350 is a "standard" 350 with Central Port Injection. Bore/Stroke didn't change.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Now for some real brain teasers...

    [​IMG] It sounds so far like the most practical, economical, and reliable way to go is with a conventional distributor. Any arguments there, aside from the phenominal amount of work it will be to actually get the distributor IN the 4th-Gen..? Looks like there's room for it, but not for installation...

    [​IMG] The OptiSpark uses crank position sensors to do its own timing, so there is no 'setting the timing' as with a traditional distributor, where you can screw it up easily by getting it in a tooth or two off... How do you make the electronics work right whether it's a Vortec or a TPI distributor???

    [​IMG] Regarding the above, the basics of both the Optispark and the traditional distributor have the same components... 1) Distributor Cap, 2) Rotor, 3) Coil, 4) Ignition Module. The OptiSpark is obviously very physically different in design, but the electronics should be the same in theory. Are they the same in the OBDI computers???

    /forums/images/graemlins/deal.gif I'm in way over my head here. After, what, like 40 years of Small Block Chevies shouldn't they have the whole 'Firing the Plugs' thing down to an exact science by now??? /forums/images/graemlins/deal.gif

    Paul 'X' [​IMG]
     
  15. cornfed

    cornfed 1/2 ton status

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    Check out the forum at camaross.com, more lt1 info than you can imagine. Thats where I learned most of wht I know about them now. I talked to the guys at Street and Perforamance at the SEMA show about the dist. conversion. They do away with the MAF and make it a speed density system when your chip is reprogrammed. Another (expensive) option is the dynaspark unit, a re-engineered opti. There is actually a guy selling one on the camaro board for $375, about half the cost of a new one. YOu could go on there and search the for sale section for "dynaspark" and see if its still available.
     
  16. Confedneck

    Confedneck 3/4 ton status

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    "DYNASPARK" is the replacement for Optispark and is touted as being "the last optispark you'll ever buy"!!
     
  17. 350350

    350350 1/2 ton status

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    [ QUOTE ]
    "DYNASPARK" is the replacement for Optispark and is touted as being "the last optispark you'll ever buy"!!

    [/ QUOTE ]

    /forums/images/graemlins/thumb.gif That's what I was hoping to find!!! Cost may prohibit it, but if at all possible I don't want to have to replace the opti more than once, just like I never like to replace any component on any vehicle without upgrading it!!!

    Have to get the kids to bed... but then I'll do my homework on the DynaSpark and get back to you with the details!!!

    Paul 'X' [​IMG]
     
  18. ntsqd

    ntsqd 1/2 ton status

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    [ QUOTE ]
    Get your self one for the newer ls1 based engines, you will make moke power and have far less problems.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Unless he's in the People's Rebulik of Kalifornia, (formerly known as the "Granola State - Full of Fruits, Nut, and Flakes"). Here an LS1 is OBD II and you have to have ALL of the stock parts related to the engine (including so-called 'chassis mounted parts' like the cats) AND match the total engine configuration (single vs. dual exhaust, etc.). From the first sensor in the intake track to the second pair of O2's every part has to be either stock parts or covered by an EO number.

    You don't want to hear about how I've come to know this. Do NOT go with an OBD II vintage engine for a swap in KA.
     
  19. earl87gta

    earl87gta 1/2 ton status

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  20. jac6695

    jac6695 1/2 ton status

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    What is your car doing? I just bought a 94 that runs very poor after getting to full temperature. When cold, it runs really well. It starts to miss and surge real bad at full temp. Power is real low off idle to around 2000 RPM. Midrange power is OK. Is this similar to what your car does?
     

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