When the new C7 Corvette goes on sale sometime in 2013, base models will come to market with an all-new 6.2-liter LT1 V-8. Chevy says the new engine will make 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, including the 400 pound-feet that are on tap between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm.

That kind of output is expected to produce a 0-60 mph time of under 4.0 seconds, which could make the new base C7 nearly as quick as the outgoing Corvette Z06. The LT1 V-8 is expected to be lighter and more fuel-efficient than the outgoing LS3 V-8, currently used in the base C6 Corvette and Grand Sport models.

The LT1 took six years to develop, so production wasn’t handed off to an existing line. Instead, General Motors invested heavily in revamping the Tonawanda, New York, Engine Plant to create a state-of-the-art facility.

Seeing the changes in Tonawanda gives you a sense that GM is serious about the fifth generation of the small-block Chevy V-8. Until production of the LT1 ramps up, the plant is busy running production part verifications, which is an elaborate way of saying that workers are making sure the parts and processes function as intended.

As Darryl Johnson, area lead advisor at the Tonawanda plant explains, the LT1 is more than just an engine: it’s the signature for both GM and Corvette.