10 Best Budget LS1 Bolt-Ons

GMHTP Staff Mar 1, 2006 0 Comment(s)
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I'm sure many of you out there received some excellent coming-of-age advice from your old man as you passed from a free-wheeling, irresponsible kid with lots of toys to a more mature, more responsible, and slightly downtrodden man with, if you're lucky, much more expensive toys. Yep, it's a hell of a party for a few years--then one morning you wake up and the mortgage is due, the significant other wants a new bathroom, and your stinky, obese pets need expensive diet food. All the while, that badass EFI GM that used to see more action than a Stallone flick is sitting neglected--why? Because just as Pops always said: There's always something to spend your hard-earned money on--and usually, it's not your ride.

But don't let it get you down--and for God's sake, don't sell the car! There are tons of budget bolt-ons under five hundred bones that will make a huge difference in your GM's performance--and at these prices, you can still make the rent, smart guy!

Of course, performance gains are dependent on a seemingly infinite number of variables, and those quoted here are purposely on the conservative side. To accurately score the products, a truly attainable performance gain was decided on, and the product cost was actually found and confirmed from at least one source. These numbers are attainable conservative averages, NOT the one-time, record breaking peak, achieved once, on a ringer, in January, below sea level, etc., etc.... Additionally, no "sale" or "clearance" prices are quoted. The prices used were everyday prices listed by at least one retailer.

And to add another perspective to each engine's top 10, GMHTP used a "cost versus gain" ratio when ranking each mod. To do this, the cost of the item was divided by either the rear-wheel horsepower increase, or the decrease in ET in hundredths, to keep things equal.

Finally, although several top ten parts for the LT1 F-body are the same as those for LS1 F-bodies, the prices and performance gains will vary. The performance characteristics of the LT1 are generally different than the LS1, and the powerplant starts with a lower base rating--so gains are somewhat harder to achieve. Now read up on the best budget mods that money can buy--and start wrenching.

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Top 10 Budget LS1 Bolt-Ons Holley's NOS Universal EFI Kit
Your basic single-nozzle wet nitrous kit, available from a name-brand pioneer in the nitrous business. Simply drill and tap the induction tract and install the fogger. Kit is complete with all the basics to start spraying. We'd recommend popping for an rpm window switch and pressure safety switch, but you'll blow the $500 limit in doing so.

The Catch:
Has the potential to blow an engine, if used improperly or abusively. Push-button fun that calls for refills, not full time.
Ease of Install:
Moderate
Wear and Tear:
Heavy
Approx. HP gain/ET reduction:
80 HP
Cost:
$457.99
Cost versus gain:
$5.72 PER HP

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Royal Purple Synthetic Oil
The slippery purple stuff. They offer a complete line covering all major vehicle fluids. Royal Purple products gain their performance advantages through Royal Purple's proprietary Synerlec(R) additive technology. Honestly better than 'regular' synthetic fluids.

The Catch:
None really, besides the expense over other fluids.
Ease of Install:
Easy
Wear and Tear:
Negative
Approximate HP gain/ET reduction:
5 HP
Cost:
$57.00 (motor oil, rear axle gear lube, and coolant additive)
Cost versus gain:
$11.40 PER HP

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SLP Airbox Lid
This bolt-on unit eliminates the restrictive stock baffles and resonator assembly, significantly improving air flow to the throttle body. Not only are they effective, 'lids' are quite possibly the most popular mod for LS1 F-bodies.

The Catch:
Intake noise may increase "every so slightly". Like you care...
Ease of Install:
Easy
Wear and Tear:
Mild
Approximate HP gain / ET reduction:
7.5 HP
Cost:
$99.95
Cost versus gain:
$13.33 PER HP

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4.10 Gears
One of the best ways to improve your car's acceleration is to lower your rear-axle ratio. For a few hundred dollars, you can get the gears and a complete install kit. The hottest ratio ever offered in the Fourth-Gen F-body was a whopping 3.42 in the M6.

The Catch:
Difficult to install properly--experienced professional install only. Kiss away some fuel economy, and your tires--because you'll be busy burning them off!
Ease of Install:
Difficult
Wear and Tear:
Moderate
Approximate HP gain/ ET reduction:
15 HUNDREDTHS
Cost:
$274.99
Cost versus gain:
$18.33 PER HUNDREDTH

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TCI Torque Converter
Factory converters are all tuned for fuel economy, so they lock up as soon as possible, just short of bogging. Letting the transmission-to-engine connection slip until the engine reaches power-rich rpms allows for getting into the powerband at launch. The TCI converter is compatible with the factory lockup strategy for good cruising efficiency. Looser converters are available and do offer greater gains, but they require tuning, sacrifice in lockup function, and a lot more cash.

The Catch:
Fuel economy will suffer a little, primarily around town. The transmission and driveline will receive a little more stress with the loose converter. Drivability will change, but we're not sure it qualifies as a catch, because you'll like it.
EASE OF INSTALL:
Difficult
WEAR AND TEAR:
Moderate
Approximate HP gain / ET reduction:
25 HUNDREDTHS
COST:
$469.95
Cost versus gain:
$18.80 PER HUNDREDTH

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FlowTech Long Tube Headers, off road Y-pipe and Sims
Factory exhaust manifolds and downpipe systems suffer from ultra-restrictive packaging, cost, manufacturing, noise, and emissions restraints. Long tube headers with race pipes flat-out make great power, and Flowtech now offers an alternative for inexpensive LS1 headers. The headers are made from mild steel featuring 1.75-inch primaries and 3-inch collectors. We found a kit including the headers, off-road y-pipe, O2 simulators, and install kit for under $500.

The Catch:
Emission illegal. Ground clearance will be reduced (use particular caution if you've lowered your car) to some degree, but if you drive cautiously you'll be OK. These meet the $500 limit for this list, but they are not "coated" (our photo shows the coated version, available for $130 extra), so don't expect them to last forever. If you have the dough, pop for coated or stainless headers.
Ease of Install:
Difficult
Wear and Tear:
Moderate
Approximate HP gain / ET reduction:
25 HP
Cost:
$464.98
Cost versus gain:
$18.60 PER HP

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Mickey Thompson Drag Radials
Burnouts and spinning tires are all the rage, especially in this age of drifting. But you won't go fast if your tires slip. Tire grip is a key ingredient in getting any car off the line. M/T's new drag radials are available in the proper F-body sizes for 16- and 17-inch rims. Built using the latest in high-tech radial construction techniques and years of drag racing experience in compound development, this DOT-approved street legal drag radial will get your car down the track in record time and drive you home with an excellent ride.

The Catch:
They stick like glue, but they won't last like an OE tire. The other catch is that you'll probably want a second set of rear wheels just for the drag radials.
Ease of Install:
Easy
Wear and Tear:
Moderate
Approximate HP gain /ET reduction:
18 HUNDREDTHS
Cost:
$355.90
Cost versus gain:
$19.77 PER HUNDREDTH

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Quick Time/FlowTech Electric Cut Out
Exhaust back pressure is bottled-up horsepower. The quickest way to uncork the power is to literally uncork the exhaust. The QTP electric cutout is a great alternative for those who don't want to drive around in "race mode"--aka race noise--all the time. Slick toggle switch electric control eliminates the need to crawl under and uncap the dumps.

The Catch:
Not legal for street use, and unlike other "illegal" parts, you could get caught with this one.
Ease of Install:
Difficult
Wear and Tear:
Mild
Approximate HP gain / Et reduction:
9 HP
Cost:
$184.99
Cost versus gain:
$20.55 PER HP

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Thunder Racing Cat Eliminator Pipes
If long tube headers are not an option, cat eliminator pipes are a great way to pick up horsepower. They are designed to bolt in place of your original catalytic converters and give a very "factory" appearance.

The Catch:
Emissions illegal. Will set codes if used without O2 simulators or tuning. Your exhaust will almost smell like it's from 1972.
Ease of Install:
Moderate
Wear and Tear:
Moderate
Approximate HP gain / ET reduction:
7 HP
Cost:
$264.00
Cost versus gain:
$37.71 PER HP

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SLP LoudMouth Cat-Back
Well known as the loosest (and loudest) cat-back available for F-bodies. The latest version employs a modular design that can be reconfigured to fit changing performance, noise-level, and sound-quality requirements. It is stainless steel, modular, loud, and inexpensive.

The Catch:
As the name implies, it's as loud as you can get. If you love noise, this is for you. If your local jurisdiction enforces noise laws, you're beat.
Ease of Install:
Moderate
Wear and Tear:
Mild
Approximate HP gain / ET reduction:
10 HP
Cost:
$399.95
Cost versus gain:
$39.99 PER HP

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