16 Hot Budget Performance Packages

Low on cash, but want more speed? GMHTP's selection of LS2, LS1, and LT1 power packages will help satisfy your need!

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It's been said that the best things in life are free-but that assertion clearly was not made by a car fanatic. With go-fast goodies for late-model EFI GMs numbering in the many, an enthusiast can easily blow an entire paycheck a month on engine-related speed parts with only a few clicks of a computer mouse (Come on, don't say this has never happened to you!). To further complicate matters, once all those shiny new parts arrive at your humble abode, who's to say that the stuff will really work together the way you'd expect? Yes, parts incompatibility-related double spending can push you even further into debt, especially when you're on a relatively tight budget.

It takes some know-how to select a parts combination that will yield a reliable horsepower increase on relatively little bread-and we're here to help. We've compiled this list of budget-minded performance packages for vehicles equipped with the ever-popular LS2, LS1, and LT1 engines. The goal: show how choosing parts wisely can provide big power and torque increases for a reasonable-if not minimal-investment.

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Though many of them simply represent proven combinations of compatible go-fast bolt-ons, some of these packages include discounts you couldn't get by buying each of the components alone. We've taken the route of organizing the packages on the basis of engine type-so while many of them are only quoted as fitting specific vehicles, in most cases, very similar packages are available for other vehicles with the same engine. Also, depending on the exact model and year of your car, package pricing and the components included in each may vary slightly. (And though all attempts have been made toward accuracy, don't shoot the messenger if any of the photos show incorrect parts-or if component specs or pricing change.)

To help you out even further on your quest for affordable go-power, we've broken each engine type down into a price hierarchy of lower-dollar and somewhat more expensive component pairings. The exact split is somewhat arbitrary, but we wanted to at least provide some sort of cutoff between what we thought enthusiasts on a tight budget would want to spend and what power mongers with a slightly more open expense account would be able to afford. Upon completion of some rather intricate educated guesswork, this cutoff came to $1,650.00. You'll also note that for the LT1, we only included packages that came in under this value; since these cars are getting a bit older, we figured that LT1 owners are probably on a somewhat more stringent budget than others (Wealthy LT1 aficionados, the editor anxiously awaits your complaint letters). And remember, this listing is just a general smattering; lots of other options and combinations are available from each of these-as well as other-manufacturers.

Prepare your piggy banks for impact: though we're by no means talking about the speed parts equivalent of a free lunch, intelligent choices mean that going fast can be cheaper than you might expect!

LS2 Low Budget

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SLP 421 HP Bobcat PerformancePac
COMPANY: SLP Performance Parts
VEHICLE: GTO
PART NUMBER: 29051
PRICE: $1,220.35
POWER GAIN: See dyno chart (rear wheels)

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New Jersey-based SLP Performance Parts offers improved performance, looks, and sound for 2005-2006 GTOs in its 421 HP Bobcat PerformancePac. Complete with "421 BOBCAT" fender badges, this affordable system includes several items to help your Goat perform its best. A 160 thermostat allows cooler running temperatures, and a high-flow filter increases the air available to the LS2 engine. Providing an aggressive rumble is SLP's stainless steel "Loud Mouth" cat-back exhaust, which incorporates SLP's PowerFlo-X Crossover system, twin resonators, and 3.5-inch angle-cut exhaust tips. Topping off the package is custom tuning from SLP supplied in the form of a DiabloSport II handheld programmer. This handy item includes spark and fuel maps that enhance the power otherwise provided by the components that make up the 421 Bobcat package. All of these items combine to yield impressive power and torque gains out of your GTO's LS2. An identical package with the quieter "Loud Mouth II" muffled cat-back is available for a few bucks more under PN 29050.

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Speed Inc. Installed Camshaft Package
COMPANY: Speed Inc.
VEHICLE: Most LS2
PART NUMBER: N/A
PRICE: $1,645.98
POWER GAIN: 58 hp (rear wheels)

Though our primary focus in doing the research for this story was to find parts packages that you can install yourself (and hence save some labor-related cash), when we ran across a good enough deal on an installed package, we figured it would be worthwhile to include. Such is the case here.

As much as 58 rwhp can be unleashed with Speed Inc.'s fall/winter installed camshaft package special, depending on the aggressiveness of the cam selected. The price includes your choice of COMP bumpstick (either custom ground or off-the-shelf, up to 0.600 lift), COMP valvesprings and pushrods, a new GM crank bolt and front seal, fluids, and custom dyno tuning. Note that higher-lift cams will require stronger valvesprings (a $125 option). The package photo and price also include an optional ASP pulley and NGK spark plugs; if you don't want them, you can save yourself almost $246, but note that without the pulley you'll lose about 8 rwhp.

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TSP Heads & Cam Package-PRC Heads
COMPANY: Texas Speed & Performance
VEHICLE: Most LS2
PART NUMBER: N/A
PRICE: $1,599.00
POWER GAIN: See dyno chart (rear wheels)

For the penny-counting enthusiast who wants to step into a heads/cam package, Texas Speed offers a mail-order one that's tough to beat. The above price will get you Precision Race Components Stage 1.0 LS2/LS6 cylinder heads, your choice of a TSP camshaft, and a set of TSP hardened chrome-moly pushrods. The cylinder heads are assembled using the factory valves and LS2/LS6 valvetrain, though upgrades to 2.04/1.57 stainless valves and COMP beehive springs or PRC dual valvesprings are available. A 64cc combustion chamber maintains the factory 10.9:1 compression ratio. The heads are fully CNC'd on a five-axis CNC machine, and they come standard with a competition valve job that is also performed on a Newen CNC seat and guide machine. TSP says "the full CNC work ensures 100 percent accuracy and incredible consistency for each set of heads."

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Want to spend just a little more money? The package can be upgraded to PRC Stage 2.5 LS2/LS6 heads for $1,919. These heads will come standard with the larger stainless steel valves and dual springs, but they will use the same 230cc port that the Stage 1.0 heads use. Note that tuning is not included in this package, though it is available for an additional $250 plus shipping and includes one year of free tuning updates. The dyno graph you see here is of a 2005 GTO six-speed donned with a set of PRC Stage 1.0 LS2/LS6 heads and a dual spring kit, as well as a TSP Magic Stick 4 camshaft. Please note that the only other mods on the car were long tube headers and high-flow cats, which are not included in the package.

LS2 Moderate Budget

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SLP 455 HP Bobcat PerformancePac
COMPANY: SLP Performance Parts
VEHICLE: GTO
PART NUMBER: 29040
PRICE: $3,717.95
POWER GAIN: See dyno chart (rear wheels)

Designed for 2005-2006 cars, SLP's 455 HP Bobcat PerformancePac can wake up your Pontiac GTO's LS2 in a hurry. The system spec sheet starts with the same list of quality components as the company's 421 HP Bobcat package, and adds in a few notable extras. Long-tube, 1 3/4-inch ceramic-coated headers and a matching PowerFlo-X crossover pipe help further improve exhaust exhalation, and an SLP underdrive pulley reduces parasitic losses incurred in driving engine accessories. The icing on the cake is a set of SLP 1.85-ratio rocker arms, which come with titanium retainers, high-performance valvesprings, keepers, and new hardware.

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All of these items bring total power to 455 flywheel horses, and this number is also of course a throwback to legendary Pontiac engines of years past. And you'll get the fender badges to let everyone know about it-that is, if they didn't already notice the incredible improvements in your GTO's sound quality! If a deep rumble isn't quite to your taste, an identical package with the quieter "Loud Mouth II" cat-back is available for a few bucks more. As a package, the total dollars spent equates to a savings of about $100 over buying each of the parts that comprise the kit individually.

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Speed Inc. Heads & Cam Package-Patriot Heads
COMPANY: Speed Inc.
VEHICLE: GTO
PART NUMBER: N/A
PRICE: $2,999.99
POWER GAIN: 70-100 hp (rear wheels)

Providing gains of 70-100 rwhp over stock depending on camshaft aggressiveness, Speed Inc.'s mail order GTO heads & cam package includes Stage 2 ported Patriot cylinder heads featuring 2.05-inch intake and 1.57 exhaust valves, as well as the COMP cam of your choice, chrome-moly COMP pushrods, and an ASP underdrive pulley. To help ensure the added flow gets out, a set of Stainless Works long-tube headers with off-road pipe (not shown) are also included. Completing the kit are new NGK spark plugs along with all necessary hardware and seals. Did we mention mail order tuning is included as well?

Optional extra cost upgrades include AFR heads and a catted X-pipe. Don't have an LS2 under your Goat's hood? You're in luck: a near-identical package can be had from Speed Inc. for 2004 GTOs at the same price.

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TSP Heads & Cam Package-Terminator Heads
COMPANY: Texas Speed & Performance
VEHICLE: Most LS2
PART NUMBER: N/A
PRICE: $2,369.00
POWER GAIN: 70-100 hp (rear wheels)

For those looking for a heads & cam package using an aftermarket casting, Texas Speed also offers a system featuring the Precision Race Components "Terminator" cylinder heads, which are based off of Edelbrock castings. Among other improvements, these heads have a thicker deck than a factory head, which is advantageous when used with big power adders. The Terminator heads use a 230cc intake runner size and feature a 62cc combustion chamber to net an 11.15:1 CR on a stock LS2 short-block with stock head gasket set. Standard issue are stainless steel 2.05/1.57 valves. The customer's choice of a TSP camshaft and a set of TSP hardened chrome-moly pushrods are also included in the package. Mail-order tuning is available for an additional $250, and if your tuning needs change within a year, TSP will retune for free (plus shipping).

LS1 Low Budget

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SLP 350 HP F-Body PerformancePac
COMPANY: SLP Performance Parts
VEHICLE: Camaro / Firebird
PART NUMBER: 28020
PRICE: $725.90
POWER GAIN: See dyno chart (rear wheels)

Need more performance, but don't got a lot of cash? SLP can help you add some horses to your F-bod for scarcely more than a month's rent-and save $50 over the cost of purchasing all of the items individually. A high-flow airlid, performance air filter, Cold-Air Induction Package, and F-body Smooth Bellows help your LS1 inhale easier.

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To add more bark and bite, a stainless steel, modular "Loud Mouth" cat-back exhaust system is included, and this system makes it possible to swap between the quieter muffler and louder resonator quickly and easily to suit your mood. (The stated part number includes the resonator only, but you can also order the system with the muffler, if you so desire). Capping things off are "350 HP" fender badges to let everyone know this isn't your typical ride. This particular part number includes dual/dual exhaust tips and is for 1998-99 vehicles, but PerformancePacs for all other model year F-bodies are available-as are your choice of dual/dual tips or 3.5-inch slash-cut tips.

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Speed Inc. Installed Camshaft Package
COMPANY: Speed Inc.
VEHICLE: Most LS1
PART NUMBER: N/A PRICE: $1,399.99
POWER GAIN: 50 hp (rear wheels)

Just as with LS2-equipped vehicles, Speed Inc. offers an LS1 fall/winter camshaft installation package special that includes any COMP cam up to 0.600-inch lift (stronger dual Patriot springs will be needed over this), COMP springs, and chrome-moly pushrods, along with all necessary seals, fluids, and hardware-and a dyno tune! Speed Inc. says gains of 50 rwhp are realistic depending on how aggressive one wants to go with the camshaft specs. That's a lot of power for just under $1,400-without you even having to touch a wrench!

Extra-cost options, some of which will add significantly to power gains, include NGK plugs ($15.99), A/C recharge ($50.00), long-tube headers ($150 plus cost of headers), an ASP crank pulley ($230 w/belts), an ARP crank bolt ($26), and Patriot dual valvesprings ($125.00).

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TSP C5 Header & X-pipe Package
COMPANY: Texas Speed & Performance
VEHICLE: Corvette
PART NUMBER: N/A
PRICE: $849.00
POWER GAIN: See dyno chart (rear wheels)

Catering to budget-minded C5 enthusiasts, Texas Speed's header & X-pipe package features 1 3/4-inch diameter headers with 31-inch primaries. Built from aluminized steel, the headers come standard with ceramic coating. Both they and the supplied 3-inch off-road X-pipe are mandrel-bent for the best possible flow, and TSP says their slip-fit design will bolt up to any factory or aftermarket cat-back exhaust system. The headers are offered with and without AIR and EGR fittings, and all of them come standard with O2 fittings in the collectors and extensions for the front O2s. (The rear O2s will have to be turned off with tuning, which TSP can do for $75 plus shipping.)

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If you prefer to use your factory H-pipe (to keep your cats and also save $200), the company offers the system with a pair of connection pipes that will couple their long-tubes to the factory H-pipe. Either way, the package will also come with a new GM dipstick and dipstick tube for 1997-2000 model C5s. The dyno graph shows results before and after the long tubes and X-pipe installation on a six-speed 2000 Corvette.

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Thunder Racing LS1 F-Body Bolt-On Package
COMPANY: Thunder Racing
VEHICLE: Camaro / Firebird
PART NUMBER: N/A
PRICE: $775.00
POWER GAIN: Up to 40 hp (rear wheels)

Louisiana-based Thunder Racing offers this LS1 F-car performance package that includes a mandrel-bent, stainless steel MagnaFlow cat-back exhaust system with 3.5-inch polished tips. Other package components include a Whisper Motorsports Induction Lid, high-flow air filter, and an ASP crank pulley complete with new shorter belts. Sound simple? It is-and that's the beauty of it. Anyone with decent mechanical competence can install the package on his or her F-body, too.

All of these included items combine to yield improved sound, economy, and most importantly power! Specifically, Thunder Racing says that as much as 40 rwhp can be unleashed depending on application. That's enough to put just about any near-stock Mustang in your rearview in a hurry.

LS1 Moderate Budget

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SLP 400 HP F-Body PerformancePac
COMPANY: SLP Performance Parts
VEHICLE: Camaro / Firebird
PART NUMBER: 28038
PRICE: $3,398.45
POWER GAIN: See dyno chart (rear wheels)

In addition to the items included in the company's 350 HP PerformancePac, SLP's 400 HP F-Car PerformancePac also gives you an 85mm High-Flow MAF to further aid intake airflow, and a DiabloSport II Programmer with SLP custom tuning to optimize engine spark and fuel.

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In addition, 1.85-ratio rocker arms act to open your LS1's valves further for increased cylinder filling and emptying. Speaking of cylinder emptying, tuned-length long-tube headers with aluminum-ceramic coating are provided along with high-flow cats and all necessary hardware. Top it off with the included distinctive fender badges, and you've saved $100 over purchasing all of these items individually! Though this particular package part number is for 2001-2002 vehicles, similar packages are available for all other model year Camaros and Firebirds.

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Speed Inc. Heads & Cam Package
COMPANY: Speed Inc.
VEHICLE: Camaro / Firebird
PART NUMBER: N/A
PRICE: $2,649.99
POWER GAIN: See dyno chart

Similar though not identical to the company's LS2 head & cam package offerings, Speed Inc.'s LS1 system starts off with Stage 2 ported Patriot LS6 heads using 2.02 and 1.57 valves and a 59cc chamber. As to the valvetrain, the COMP cam of your choice is accompanied by COMP pushrods.

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An ASP underdrive crank pulley also is included, as are NGK spark plugs and coated Pacesetter long-tube headers with an off-road Y-pipe (neither exhaust item pictured). All necessary hardware and gaskets are also included in this price, as is mail-order tuning. Optional upgrades include AFR heads ($900), an LS6 intake for older F-cars, and Dynatech Supermaxx headers with cats ($850). To get the gains shown in the accompanying dyno chart, you will also need a free-flowing cat-back exhaust (not included).

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TSP Heads & Cam Package
COMPANY: Texas Speed & Performance
VEHICLE: Most LS1
PART NUMBER: N/A
PRICE: $2,369.00
POWER GAIN: 70-100 hp (rear wheels)

Complementing the company's packages for LS2 engines, Texas Speed offers this LS1 heads & cam system that features Precision Race Components "Terminator" cylinder heads. These particular heads use a 200cc intake runner and feature a 62cc combustion chamber to help net a 10.85:1 CR on an otherwise-stock LS1. Based off of Edelbrock LS1 head castings, these heads have a 3/4-inch thick deck for added strength and sealing. Also included is your choice of a TSP bumpstick and a set of TSP hardened chrome-moly pushrods. And, like with TSP's LS2 package, tuning is available for an additional $250 plus shipping for PCM.

For those on an even tighter budget, Texas Speed offers basic LS1 heads/cam packages using ported 5.3L castings starting at $1,599. Check out the company on the Web for more information.

LT1 Low Budget

SLP LT1 F-Body Performance Package
COMPANY: SLP Performance Parts
VEHICLE: Camaro / Firebird
PART NUMBER: 21014, 22100, 30017C, 30029, 31042, 30044
PRICE: $1,567.20
POWER GAIN: 37 hp (rear wheels)

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Though not technically available as an SLP PerformancePac, the variety of LT1 F-body bolt-ons offered by SLP can combine to form a worthy power-enhancing package. And though the items we've gathered here work only for 1995-1997 Camaros and Firebirds, you can easily set up a package for 1993-94 single-cat cars using similar part numbers. On the induction end of the equation, SLP's Cold Air kit ($279.95) picks up air from outside the hot engine compartment and delivers it past the company's Throttle Body Flow Booster ($36.00), yielding a smoother, cooler air charge inside the intake manifold. As to the exhaust side, SLP's polished, ceramic-coated 1 3/4-inch headers ($720.95) feature 3/8-inch stainless steel flanges for strength and are bolted up using the company's header install kit ($61.75).

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Capping off the system and offering increased exhaust tunes is SLP's "Loud Mouth" exhaust, which, though originally designed for later LS1-powered cars, bolts up easily via use of a PN 30044 installation kit. The exhaust will set you back $432.55 and the install kit just $36. When combined, these items yield significant power and torque gains at the rear wheels! You can sub in a quieter "Loud Mouth II" exhaust if you like; or you can also leave the cat-back out and save some dough, but you'll lose about 11 rwhp. The choice is yours!

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SLP C4 330 HP PerformancePac
COMPANY: SLP Performance Parts
VEHICLE: Corvette
PART NUMBER: 24000
PRICE: $1,441.80
POWER GAIN: See dyno chart (rear wheels)

If you've got a 1992-1996 Corvette, you're in luck: SLP offers an affordable PerformancePac just for you. This package deal saves you $75 over buying each of the components individually, and comes with intake components including an SLP Cold Air Induction System and Throttle Body Flow Booster.

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Increased valve lift is afforded via aluminum 1.6-ratio narrow-body roller-tip rocker arms, and a "PowerFlo" exhaust system sets the deep rumble of your Corvette's LT1 free. Want to add a distinctive visual touch? Slap the included "330 HP PerformancePac" badges on your Vette's exterior to let the world know your LT1 means business!

Thunder Racing LT1 F-Body Performance Package
COMPANY: Thunder Racing
VEHICLE: Camaro / Firebird
PART NUMBER: LT1PP2
PRICE: $499.99
POWER GAIN: See dyno chart (rear wheels)

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Proven on GMHTP's project LT1 Firebird ("Thunderstruck," Nov. 2006), Thunder Racing's LT1 F-Body Performance Package keeps it simple and affordable, yet offers impressive gain-per-dollar fun. A stainless steel MagnaFlow cat-back exhaust system improves the exhaust note while adding torque throughout the rpm range, and a K&N cold air intake moves the filter out of the restrictive stock airbox and into cool air in the space just ahead of the driver's side front wheel.

Finally, a throttle body airfoil further reduces intake system restriction for dyno-proven gains. At just under $500, it would be tough to find more LT1 power for less dollar. Note that in the accompanying dyno graph that a 160 thermostat will also be needed to achieve the indicated increase.

 

Sources

SLP Performance Parts
Toms River, NJ 08755
732-349-2109
www.slponline.com
Texas Speed & Performance
Wolfforth, TX 79382
806-866-0734
http://www.texas-speed.com
Speed Inc.
Schaumburg, IL 60193
847-891-0767
www.speedinc.com
Thunder Racing
Baton Rouge, LA 70809
(877) 516-7223
http://www.thunderracing.com
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