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Vette plant to build high-performance engines

Wed, 30 Jan 2013

General Motors is moving its Performance Build Center, which let enthusiasts pay $5,000-plus to build the high-performance engine for their Chevrolet Corvette, from Michigan to the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky.

The move is expected to be completed by spring 2014. It will let a Corvette buyer build his own engine, with help from a GM technician, and then see it installed in his car as it goes down the Bowling Green assembly line.

Which engines the relocated build center will produce will be announced in the future, GM said in a statement on Wednesday. So far, the only engine disclosed for the redesigned 2014 Corvette Stingray is the 6.2-liter LT1 V8 rated at about 450 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. That engine will be built at the Tonawanda engine plant in Buffalo, N.Y. Production of the new Corvette is expected to begin in August.

The Performance Build Center was opened in the Detroit suburb of Wixom, Mich., in 2004. The plant let GM build high-performance engines in small volumes. Each engine was built by one worker, who spent about four hours per engine. At the end of the line, the worker affixed a signature plate to the engine. The engine was then tested before being shipped to the assembly plant.

At launch, the Wixom plant built the 7.0-liter LS7 V8 used in the Corvette Z06 and the supercharged 4.4-liter LC3 V8 used in the Cadillac STS-V and XLR-V.

In 2010, GM opened the build center to Corvette owners who wanted to build their own engine. The Corvette Engine Build Experience for a Corvette Z06 or ZR1 added $5,800 to the sticker price of the car, plus the buyer had to pay his travel expenses to the plant.

Last year the Wixom center built the 6.2-liter LS3 V8 with the dry sump oil system used in the Corvette Grand Sport, the 7.0-liter LS7 V8 used in the Corvette Z06 and the supercharged 6.2-liter LS9 V8 used in the Corvette ZR1. The plant also let enthusiasts build high-performance engines for crate motors and engines for the COPO Camaro drag-race cars.

In 2011, the center built about 3,400 Corvette engines.

The Wixom center has about 30 employees.

The move was included in a GM announcement that it was spending $200 million to expand its powertrain engineering headquarters in Pontiac, Mich., and moving work there from sites in Michigan, Indiana and California.

By Dale Jewett