Article contributed by Mitch Talley
If you think it was complicated putting your kids’ toys together for Christmas, try talking to Jeff Kasper.
The California salesman recently became the first person to go through Chevrolet Performance’s new Crate Engine Build Experience, which lets customers take part in the construction of their engine at the General Motors Performance Build Center in Wixom, Mich., northwest of Detroit.
“The build program was the thrill of a lifetime,” said Kasper, who put the new motor in his Camaro SS. “Going inside the assembly facility and actually participating in building my very own engine greatly exceeded my expectations – and I’d absolutely recommend it to every enthusiast.”
Of course, that enthusiast would need some deep pockets since this new program doesn’t come cheap. Kasper’s LS7 purchased through the Crate Engine Build Program has a suggested retail price of $22,756.10. (The LS9 ZR1 motor purchased through the program retails for $32,050.)
The program is definitely a first-class operation, however. Once an order for a motor is placed through a Chevy dealer, a special concierge takes care of the details and makes sure the customer has an unforgettable experience.
Kasper first learned about the Corvette Engine Build Program that allows Z06 and ZR1 customers to help in the assembly of their motors.
“I inquired about building an engine, even though I wasn’t purchasing a Corvette,” he said. “A few months later, I learned about the Crate Engine Build Program and made arrangements immediately. I was pretty much on the next plane to Detroit, as soon as I put in my order.”
For the mechanically less inclined, don’t worry that you’ll be thrown into the factory with a set of wrenches and told to “connect the dots.”
Overseeing the assembly and use of the specialized tools required is a specially trained engine builder.
“The builders there were great to work with and the whole experience was a lot of fun,” said Kasper. “It was fascinating to learn how these engines are built with a combination of hand-assembly techniques and some computer-assisted high-tech tools.”
Kasper didn’t just tighten a few bolts and look on, either. He actually participated in every part of the assembly, even installing the crankshaft in the cylinder block and tightening down the intake system atop the engine.
He even placed an “assembled by…” plaque with his name on the engine to finish the process. Then the engine was fired up and put through a series of tests so that it earned a 24-month/50,000 mile GM factory warranty.
It was definitely a great feeling for Kasper when he heard his motor rumbling.
“I got the most satisfaction and pride when I heard my engine fire up for the first time,” said Kasper. “When the engine came to life, it was the payoff for a day’s work and it was a satisfying success.”
Tom Stephens, GM’s vice chairman of Global Product Operations, is a firm believer in the program.
“In a way, this is a dream program for a …customer,” he said. “I would have jumped at the chance to build the 427 in my ’67 Vette, and that didn’t have half of what goes into one of these modern precision engines. Today’s LS7 and LS9 Corvette engines are pinnacle achievements in engineering, and to personally involve our customers in their final creation shows the depth of Chevrolet’s commitment to make lasting connections with the customer.”