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Old 09-19-2011, 10:13 PM   #1
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Default cheapest 5.3 turbo setup possible

I know I could research all this for hours and already have but I'm tired of researching and hurting my friends feelings when I start telling him the things that need to be done. He's good at welding and can fab up a turbo kit for his truck. His idea is that he can run a cheap eBay turbo and have it going for around 1000$ looking to make 450-500rwhp. He has a couple spare 5.3l engines in his shop and isn't afraid to blow one but honestly he's a mechanic and doesn't understand the need for things like bigger injectors, better fuel pump, having it tuned or buying a wideband setup. I have efi live and he can just fab up the turbo kit and let me tune it without the supporting mods. Ive spent hours trying to figure out the very basics he will need but it would save us both a lot of time if someone could just give me a ballpark estimate of what he's going to need to spend. So I can stop researching everything and just give him some numbers on what its going to cost. Basically as cheap as possible. I've already crushed his budget mentioning the need for a fuel pump, larger injectors, and a way to tune it. Even if he opted to spend the money for a wideband setup I've told him I'm simply not experienced enough tuning to try to do it on the street. I bought everything for my car basically so I can get it drivable to make sure it was ready for someone with a lot of experience to tune it then so I can log my runs and make sure everything is correct as I have so much money in my setup that I want every pass logged. I probably could tune it, but I don't feel comfortable doing it.

Anyone feel like giving a decent estimate on the cost? He has a few 5.3 engines, a spare truck to drive but he wants this truck to be his daily driver when its done. He's a good mechanic but doesn't really understand fuel injection or tuning.
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Old 09-19-2011, 10:49 PM   #2
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4-4.5k
and thats good for a DD. and thats doing all the work yourself
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Old 09-19-2011, 11:28 PM   #3
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594HP 5.3L Gen III Small Block for $3,252 Even cheaper than above
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Old 09-20-2011, 12:26 AM   #4
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Well from what I have learned so far (and I`m not even done yet) is that there is no such thing as a mild turbo motor, and I`m pretty sure its not cheap in any way either. I spent around 1500 for my turbo, wastegate, BOV, intercooler, turbo flange, and v-band clamp. I could have done it cheaper with fleabay but I didn`t really trust a e-bay turbo for the long term and have heard mixed results about the offbrand ebay BOV`s. I felt a lot better spending a little more and ordering it from modular turbo and getting quality parts and a turbo with a warranty than a cheap Chinese turbo. I did splurge on the recirculating BOV (gotta keep it quiet) and the stainless flanges (another $120 for the stainless header flanges) It was over $300 for the stainless for my headers/logs since none of the manifolds will fit my combination and retain the A/C. It was actually cheaper for the schedule 10 stainless pipe and fittings than for steel stuff. My stock 5.3L with a turbo will need dual fuel pumps to be on the safe side though since a single with booster would be on the edge of supporting it. Bigger fuel injectors are a must, but the ford ones seem to be available for only a couple hundred a set. I bet that by the time I`m done it will be 3-4k for everything.
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"possible" is a relative term around here... anything is possible. It's "possible" to put a whole K3500 4x4 dually truck rolling chassis under a brand new Mini body. Is it reasonable? No. Does it make sense? No. Is it possible? Yes.
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Old 09-20-2011, 04:53 AM   #5
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Thanks guys, more input is welcome but it sounds like I was in the ballpark. My guess was 4-5k at least. The small stuff really starts to add up. He can weld though, already has a fmic, manifolds, and his dad already made a manifold setup for his race car using one of the 5.3's they had laying around the shop. His plan was to use a turbo off a diesel he had rebuilt. I had to rain on that parade already. These guys are old school mechanics and think a turbo is a turbo extra. It's hard explaining how it has to be matched to the engine and where it will spool without choking the engine at high rpm. I'm no expert but I know enough to at least convince them to get a cheap eBay turbo with close to the correct intake and exhaust housing if they want to try this. I started really hurting their plans when I mentioned needing bigger injectors, fuel pump, and a way to tune it. 1000$ budget just isn't close imo. Even doing the work yourself. Everything except for the tune I'm pretty sure they can do but I'm probably going to have to help them pick the parts to use and they were thinking I could tune it with my efi live setup I have for my car. I explained that they would need a wideband setup and I still wouldn't feel comfortable doing it myself so it still needs to go to a shop for the tune. I want to see this done though so I'm going to try to help find the cheapest possible parts that will still work for the setup but there is no way I can see it being done for 1k$ like they want.
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Old 09-20-2011, 06:22 AM   #6
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There's a saying I heard someone say before. It goes a little like this.
" Cheap, Reliable, fast. You can only pick two"
So if you want cheap and fast it wont be reliable, if you want reliable and fast it wont be cheap, and if you want cheap and reliable it wont be fast
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Old 09-20-2011, 12:47 PM   #7
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my system costed under 1000 to build for everything, turbo, piping, cooler, bov, wastegate.


Cheap, Reliable, fast is what my car is...im driving it so dont say it cant be done.
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Old 09-20-2011, 06:50 PM   #8
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it can be done pretty reasonably on the cheap but you have to scour classifieds for used stuff or good deals, be willing to use import stuff then not bitch if you break something. i , like malibu, got it done for pretty low bucks. i had about 1800 into my kit. i sold the car so now i am gonna do the silverado i just bought. so i am in the same boat. tell him to be patient and if it feels good buy it.
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Old 09-20-2011, 06:58 PM   #9
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didn't Car Craft or Hot Rod do a cam and intake swap on a 5.3 and make 451hp? i'll have to look which magazine when i get home. screw a turbo if all they wanna make is 450...

cam - $370
headers - $?
intake - $250-350
spray a 50 shot - $400 new

shouldn't that be close?
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Old 09-20-2011, 07:34 PM   #10
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450-500 rear wheel would basically be the starting point. Basically my friends dad owns his own shop, we grew up together but his dad is pretty old school. Great mechanic but just isn't up to date on the new fuel injection stuff. I've known both of them and spent many days in his dads shop learning about cars back when I first got my drivers licence. All three of us have basically the same truck. 5.3l extra cab, they have a couple 5.3's in the shop with nothing wrong with them that they have acquired over the past 10 years or so. His dad has a 68-69 I think Camaro that is an all out track car. He had a tierod break and got it into the wall a few years back and really upset the old man. Just recently he has become interested in getting the car back together but it seems the engine is locked up or possibly froze one winter so he is upset. These guys were like family to me in my teenage years. It's real disappointing seeing his dad get down on the build and not want to mess with the car. His son and I were thinking about seeing what we could do with a cheap turbo on his truck. 450-500rwhp would be a start as he still wants to daily drive it. The goal though is to spark the interest of his dad and really push one of the two they have sitting in the shop. Money is a big issue here. They have the fab skills and the shop, I'm capable of doing the research and finding out what needs to be done. I'm a certified technician with a good understanding of how everything works. I've just never tried to deal with such a budget before. I don't want blown engines as that would screw up the main goal. Basically we want to show his dad what one of the 5.3's can do for as cheap as possible then hint. Imagine it in your race car on c16 with way more boost... And if it pops its cheap to replace. Junkyard/eBay build. We both want to have a little fun and hopefully get his dad back into racing his old Camaro like we remember when we were teens and learning from him. Kinda a father, son and step brother build. That is if it all works out. First step is to turbo my friends truck. He has a work truck so his can be down, mine can't. We get it setup cheap, somewhat reliable, no it won't be fast but should still show potential and hopefully get his dad interested in really going all out with one of them in his car. My position in all this seems to be the bearer of bad news. I want to do things right, they want to use what they have sitting on the shop floor. Be it an unknown turbo off a diesel and stock injectors. Mechanically they can fab up everything and replace parts but they really don't seem to know much about the technical aspect of everything. I can see that's where I'm going to have to step in and pray they listen.
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Old 09-20-2011, 07:38 PM   #11
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stop playing get a 6.0 some used l92 heads texas speed make a serious cam line up and throw 150 shot on a wide open throttle switch and call it a day . and you can scrap the fuel injection on ebay to pay for the carb and intake set up.
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Old 09-20-2011, 09:21 PM   #12
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+1 for spray on 6.0..whatever you have budgeted for a turbo build..double or triple it
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Old 09-20-2011, 09:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lsxmalibu View Post
my system costed under 1000 to build for everything, turbo, piping, cooler, bov, wastegate.


Cheap, Reliable, fast is what my car is...im driving it so dont say it cant be done.
same here. i havent actually added everything up. but i think my "kit" i made was around 900-1500$ depending on what you count .extras like aftermarket radiator,fans etc.)
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Old 09-20-2011, 11:21 PM   #14
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Check out http://www.one-guys-garage.com/ he has a ba 6.0 turbo nova and did a buddies 5.3 turbo build in a 3rd gen that super clean and done to perfection. I think he can hook u up for cheaper than you think
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:26 AM   #15
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Thanks guys but this isn't my build. If I were trying to make a fast car or truck this isn't how I would go about it either. The fact is these guys have their own shop, can fab everything up themselves, have a race car that needs an engine and have a couple 5.3's sitting in the shop. Just so happens I think all 3 of us have the lm7 in our trucks too so the son who is a welder wants to fab a kit for his truck to hopefully get his dad to do the same with his race car. I've tried to talk him into a 6L with a cam swap, converter and 150 shot as that's my cheap solution to going fast but this is a 4wd truck and he isn't so much interested in having a fast 1/4 mile truck. He wants to drive it every day and have some fun with it while showing his dad what the two engines sitting in the shop are capable of. If his dad becomes interested we will probably end up seeing how far we can push one of these. I think the race car is certified to run 8's or lower. It was running 9's I think hitting the rev limiter at the 1000' mark out of gear before it had a run in with the wall. The car has sat in the shop for years and just recently has be been interested in fixing it but hit a road block when he found the engine has something internally wrong. So the idea of using one of the 5.3's got thrown out there. First the sons truck will be proving grounds though. Talked to him again yesterday and he sounds like he's ready to pull the trigger on ordering some more parts so I think its going to happen. Probably going to get a wideband o2 sensor and I will tune it for larger injectors, pull a **** load of timing out and get it nice and rich before heading to the dyno for a real tune. We are a good half a day away from the nearest shop with a dyno that can tune it so everything needs to be ready when we take it. He can't afford to two days off work and a trip half way across the state just to have issues that need addressing when we get there. At the same time its going to be done as cheap as possible. "Cheap, fast, reliable. Pick two." Is something I quoted him when he mentioned his goals though lol. Money is the only issue here, between the 3 of us the know how is there. Knowing how to do it cheap isn't my area though. With my own car I basically bought the best I could afford with everything.
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Old 09-21-2011, 12:56 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Black01M6SS View Post
Thanks guys but this isn't my build. If I were trying to make a fast car or truck this isn't how I would go about it either. The fact is these guys have their own shop, can fab everything up themselves, have a race car that needs an engine and have a couple 5.3's sitting in the shop. Just so happens I think all 3 of us have the lm7 in our trucks too so the son who is a welder wants to fab a kit for his truck to hopefully get his dad to do the same with his race car. I've tried to talk him into a 6L with a cam swap, converter and 150 shot as that's my cheap solution to going fast but this is a 4wd truck and he isn't so much interested in having a fast 1/4 mile truck. He wants to drive it every day and have some fun with it while showing his dad what the two engines sitting in the shop are capable of. If his dad becomes interested we will probably end up seeing how far we can push one of these. I think the race car is certified to run 8's or lower. It was running 9's I think hitting the rev limiter at the 1000' mark out of gear before it had a run in with the wall. The car has sat in the shop for years and just recently has be been interested in fixing it but hit a road block when he found the engine has something internally wrong. So the idea of using one of the 5.3's got thrown out there. First the sons truck will be proving grounds though. Talked to him again yesterday and he sounds like he's ready to pull the trigger on ordering some more parts so I think its going to happen. Probably going to get a wideband o2 sensor and I will tune it for larger injectors, pull a **** load of timing out and get it nice and rich before heading to the dyno for a real tune. We are a good half a day away from the nearest shop with a dyno that can tune it so everything needs to be ready when we take it. He can't afford to two days off work and a trip half way across the state just to have issues that need addressing when we get there. At the same time its going to be done as cheap as possible. "Cheap, fast, reliable. Pick two." Is something I quoted him when he mentioned his goals though lol. Money is the only issue here, between the 3 of us the know how is there. Knowing how to do it cheap isn't my area though. With my own car I basically bought the best I could afford with everything.
Yall keep forgetting that time IS money.

You can have fast and reliable without spending a ton of actual money. Just count the sweat and knowledge in with the cost.
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Old 09-21-2011, 08:36 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lsxmalibu View Post
my system costed under 1000 to build for everything, turbo, piping, cooler, bov, wastegate.


Cheap, Reliable, fast is what my car is...im driving it so dont say it cant be done.
If you have all the basics then yes it can be cheap,me I need a worthy trans,a beefed up rear,fuel pumps,317 heads z06 cam,pushrods,rod bolts...ls1 intake...should i go on....nowhere do i see cheap..so basically it comes down to where you start and your goals
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Old 09-22-2011, 07:10 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tta656 View Post
If you have all the basics then yes it can be cheap,me I need a worthy trans,a beefed up rear,fuel pumps,317 heads z06 cam,pushrods,rod bolts...ls1 intake...should i go on....nowhere do i see cheap..so basically it comes down to where you start and your goals
dont need fuel pumps....one walbro 255, dont need psuhrods, dont need rod bolts, dont need a ls1 intake,,,,

point is there are things you need and things you dont need, why spend 100 on rod bolts for a 300 junkyard motor.
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Old 09-22-2011, 04:57 PM   #19
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this can be beatin to the ground....my motor has 28k miles and didnt cost me $300,so some will do it right and some will do it again
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Old 09-22-2011, 05:43 PM   #20
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Quote:
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...point is there are things you need and things you dont need, why spend 100 on rod bolts for a 300 junkyard motor.
^^ x2 ^^ this is an excellent point
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Old 09-22-2011, 05:43 PM
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