Using an extended bottom view piston having a quartz window, flame propagation observation and flame contour analysis were carried out to investigate the combustion characteristics of a heavy-duty type LPG lean burn engine. The swirl ratio and piston cavity configuration were varied to investigate their effects on combustion and engine performance. Gradual reduction of NOx but increased hydrocarbon emissions were measured for leaner mixtures compared to the stoichiometric operation. High swirl apparently accelerated the initial flame kernel development, as evidenced by a shorter crank angle interval from the spark ignition to the maximum cylinder pressure. The ‘D’ type cavity, with an increased squish area located below the intake valve, was shown to have the shortest burn duration among the piston cavities tested. The experimental flame propagation observation procedure was shown to be useful for the study of the combustion process in engines.