Give it to me cheap! I don't car who you are, we all like cheap stuff. Now I'm not talkin' "cheap" as in quality, I'm talking cheap as in a good buy. If you don't believe me, just look at the theme of this issue, "Budget Motors," that should say it all! Even better are the cheap bolt-on mods that any person with half a brain can bang out in their garage.
When it comes to late-model Chevys, such as the L98, LT1, and LS1, not all bolt-ons have to rule out lunch for the next month. There are those "budget" mods that won't set you back too deep in the hole, yet will still put a smile on your face.
There are, however, a few things we need to consider. Number one: budget. What is your budget, exactly? Everyone's isn't going to be the same, so let's just say each mod needs to be near the 500 mark, which, is pretty manageable regardless of age or situation. Next up is the ease of install. There are mods that with a few handtools, half an hour, and a fifth-grade reading level can be tackled. On the other hand, there are mods that require a little more in depth knowledge, and are still within our budget range. Whatever the case may be, we're going to throw a bit of both in.
The ironic thing about cars is that the older you get, the more money you have to spend. Your time, however, diminishes. In contrast, the younger you are, the more time you have. Money, on the other hand, is tight. It's not exactly poetic justice, but still, you gotta dig it. However, when it comes to budget mods, they seem to suit both sides of the playing field, which makes it beneficial to each end of the spectrum. We've gathered up few items here for each of the three motors, but keep this in mind, many of these parts swing both ways. Meaning that each of these budget mods is a good upgrade for all the engines. On a side note, this is only a handful of parts, we wouldn't even have enough staff to tackle all the parts out there! By the way, all claims are held by the manufacturers.
Crane Cams Gold Race Extruded Aluminum Roller Rocker Arms
Crane Cams (386/258-6174, www.cranecams.com) 1.7 Gold-Race, full-roller aluminum rockers for the LS1/LS6 engine family add up to 20 more horsepower over stock. Although the LS1 was originally equipped with 1.7 rockers, the Crane rockers feature the exclusive Crane "Quick-Lift" design, which moves the valve off its seat quicker, initiating flow into the combustion chamber earlier, thereby increasing port efficiency and horsepower output. They're also designed for quiet operation and do not trigger the stock GM "Knock Sensor," which retards spark advance and reduces power output. The rocker arms are available as a complete kit (rockers, rocker studs, pushrod guideplates and pushrods) or separately, and are an easy bolt-on. They also clear stock Chevy rocker covers. By the way, 1.8 ratios are available, as well.
A stout way to improve upon performance is the addition of a new manifold. One such manifold being the F.A.S.T. (901/260-3278, www.fuelairspark.com) LSX multi-piece intake manifold which shows 20-plus hp increase over the LS1 intake and 15-plus hp over the LS6 intake, with no loss of drivability or low rpm torque. Unlike aluminum intakes, the F.A.S.T. polymer intake avoids becoming a power robbing heat sink. The LSX comes with integrated nitrous oxide injector ports and the ability to accept a larger than stock throttle body for increased airflow. In addition, the LSX manifold has added material for porting and the top shell is interchangeable to accept the 78mm or 90mm LSX throttle bodies. Other companies that offer new manifolds are Weiand and BBK.
When looking to gain up to 20 hp by pretty much only picking up a screwdriver, there's no easier way to go than a Mass Airflow sensor. Granatelli Motorsports (805/486-6644 www.granatellimotorsports.com) MAF's are direct OEM replacement that won't void your factory warranty and add anywhere from 8-25 hp. The MAF's Improve performance from 2,000 rpm to redline and increase gas mileage and throttle response.
March S.F.I. Fluid Dampened Performance Pulley
The addition of a March Performance (888/729-9070, www.marchperf.com) underdrive pulley is a budget mod that shows sign of improvement right out the gate. The March pulleys increase horsepower by as much as 12 hp by reducing the energy used to drive the cars accessories. Plus, the fluid dampened design won't cause spark sensors to retard timing with resultant loss in power. March offers a dampener crank pulley, power, and amp alternator pulley.
BBK 58mm Throttle Body
Besides a new intake another way to increase air and fuel is to throw on a new throttle body. The BBK (951/296-1771, Dept. SC, www.bbkperformance.com) 58mm high-flow throttle body is designed for improved throttle response and torque. The throttle body has been ported and flow bench tested for optimum airflow and it provides more power when used with an exhaust system and/or headers.
SLP 1.6 Aluminum Rockers
Just like the LS1, rocker arms are quick way to gain a few ponies, SLP's (732/349-2109, www.slponline.com) 1.6 ratio aluminum-bodied rocker arms feature a narrow body and a self-aligning roller tip. The resultant high ratio and reduced friction results in up to a 10 rear-wheel hp gain over the stock 1.5 rocker arms. The package includes 16 rocker arms, detailed instructions, and all required installation hardware.
COMP Cams Valvesprings
The recent development of the COMP Cams (800/999-0853, www.compcams.com) Beehive valvesprings is a sure-shot way to pick up some ponies. Beehive springs carry several advantages over a conventional spring. Beehives are built around the varying diameter of the coils, which means each coil is a different diameter than the one above and below it, which ultimately makes the spring resistant to harmonic failures, and the small diameter of the top coil means a smaller retainer can be used.
Hyper Tech Power Programmer
When it comes to pressing a few buttons to bump up your ride's performance, you can't even begin to complain. With Hypertech's (901/382-8888, Dept SC, www.hypertech-inc.com) Power Programmer III, all it takes is to plug the Power Programmer into the underdash diagnostic plug, answer a series of "Yes/No" questions, and that's it. It's also more than a tuning chip. It's a self-contained automotive tuning computer. The programmer lets you change tire size ratios, shift points on automatic transmissions, and more.
SLP Intake Kit
Sometimes it's nice to just get outside and catch some fresh air, and the same thing goes for Chevy. The more cold fresh air, the more horsepower. SLP's (732/349-2109, www.slponline.com) intake kit replaces the restrictive, power robbing factory air cleaner assembly. By picking up cool outside air these systems make up to 20 additional hp.
Any LT1 owner knows that the GM Optispark ignition is straight up crap, there's really nothing you can even say positive about it. For that reason MSD (951/857-5200, www.msdignition.com) developed a performance distributor to replace the GM LT-1 Optispark. It's machined from an entire billet block of aluminum down into a precise housing that fits in place of the factory piece. Then it's filled with a reliable new pickup assembly, a trick timing adjustment mechanism and an all-new MSD distributor cap. The pickup is an advanced optical encoder, a different style of optical pickup than the OEM. Once installed, you have the ability to adjust the ignition timing-the only distributor that offers timing adjustability. An adjustment screw allows the timing to be tweaked up to +/-5 degrees. The distributor is equipped with a fresh air vent and has an extra-thick mounting surface for the cap to eliminate leaks.
Holley Stealth Ram Intake Manifold
For those L98 owners looking to make some power, odds are many will ditch the TPI setup and go with a conventional setup, such as the Holley (270/782-2900, www.holley.com) Stealth Ram intake manifold The Stealth Ram intake manifolds from Holley are designed to increase mid-range torque along with high-rpm power up and above 6,000.
SLP's TPI Intake Runners
If there's one stigma surrounding the L98 Tuned Port Injection engine is the fact it falls flat past 5,000 rpm. For those users who don't plan on ditching the TPI setup SLP (732/349-2109, www.slponline.com) has developed their high-flow cast-aluminum intake runners. The runners are designed for optimum runner volume and divider lengths to maximize airflow, and produce up to 20 additional hp over the stock runners. They are cast from OE-quality, aircraft-grade aluminum- and precision-machined for a perfect fit. The runners are an easy bolt-on upgrade for the 5.0L or 5.7L engine in '85-'88.
Nitrous Works Kit
When it comes to bang-for-your-buck power, nitrous ranks right at the top of the list, plus it's cool to hit a little "Go" button! Nitrous Works (706/864-8544, www.barrygrant.com) has a system for the TPI motors. The system is a single-stage, adjustable kit designed as a direct bolt-on installation. Its freeze-free plate design is compatible with OEM engine components and does not require an additional fuel pressure regulator or upgrade. This kit will deliver 50-125 hp instantly to '85-'92 5.0- and 5.7-liter engines. Other companies to look into are ZEX and NOS.
I love my Hooker headers! You can't talk about budget engine mods and not bring up headers, so here they are. One of the most time-tested ways to turn up the hp is to install full-length heders, especially where permitted. If you can get away with running full-length headers, such as Hookers (270/781-9741, www.holley.com) Super Comp headers by all means do it! Besides the seat-of-the-pants thrill, they sound cool, as well. To get even better results go with an entire exhaust system. Check out companies like Flowmaster, Magnaflow, Stainless Works, and DynoMax.