While the LS2 motor is still relatively new, there are still a handful of bolt-on parts easily installed by any backyard mechanic that can propel a 2005 GTO deep into the 12s. For starters, there is nothing the 364-cube motor likes more than a set of good old-fashioned long tube headers, and while you are at it--why not some tuning? Top that off with a cold air intake, plug wires, drag radials, and a short throw shifter, and you have yourself a manually operated missile.
Stainless Works was well ahead of the game when development was completed on a set of 1.75-inch long tube headers for the 2005 Goat. After making adjustments to the previous year's design (for the '04 Poncho), Stainless Works shipped us a set, which arrived before the end of last summer. A few months later, when we were finished playing around with the nitrous, we headed down to Ron's Custom Auto in Kenilworth, New Jersey, to wrestle the CNC mandrel-bent headers into the GTO's tight engine bay. Having a good pair of hands and a lift would be key for this part of the installation as it unfortunately would require dropping down the steering rack and putting the headers in place from underneath the GTO. The effort, however, is well worth it given the solid construction of the Stainless Works headers. CNC laser-cut 3/8-inch flanges and 16-gauge, 304 stainless steel along with a limited lifetime warranty provide reassurance that exhaust leaks and bent tubing are highly unlikely given the proper installation. Since our Project GTO came with the Corsa chambered mufflers as part of the Sport Appearance Package, we chose to keep the factory catback, but intended to replace the factory cats with high flow units from Random Technology as part of the Stainless Works (emissions legal) kit (PN 05GTOHCAT) that retails for $1,299. Unfortunately, due to some fitment issues, we had to use Stainless Works off-road pipes, which should end up adding a few extra ponies anyway, until the correct pipes to fit the cat are obtained from SW.
The only other challenging feature among the barrage of bolt-ons was the GM Motorsports Ripshift. We obtained this shifter from Speed Inc, GMM's sole U.S. distributor, which costs a very reasonable $299.99 (PN RIPSHIFT). The design of the GTO makes not only for a rubbery and vague shifter feel, but also for difficulty in upgrading to an aftermarket unit. The location of the T56 tranny on the floorpan necessitated a unique shifter location at the very tail of the transmission, and the shifter itself had to be a remote design for an extra couple of inches of clearance. Remote meaning that the shifter linkage is not direct, the shifter handle acts only as a dummy to another lever, which actually does the shifting. The Australian-made Ripshift, though, eliminates the middleman and gives a direct input into the transmission in addition to providing shorter, more precise shifts. Unfortunately, to remove the OEM shifter and install the Ripshift, the tranny would have to be lowered a few inches, making installation without a lift rather difficult. Despite these setbacks, the directions were very clear and Ron's Head Technician Junior Perez knows his way around late model GM cars, so there were no issues.
The last three elements promised to be as easy as you would expect. K&N chipped in one of its Fuel Injection Performance Kits (PN 63-3053), which uses a K&N high performance, open element filter and a slick intake tube. K&N rigorously tests all of its products, so we were sure this baby would be good for a few headache-free ponies and for under $300. MSD was also happy to climb on board as it had just put the wraps on a set of 8.5mm Super Conductor spark plug wires for the LS2 (PN and pricing not yet available). Using a special copper conductor, the wires have less than 50 ohms per foot of resistance, which makes for increased spark efficiency. Since we were already planning to swap out the spark plugs for nitrous friendly NGK TR6s, it required little additional effort. To take advantage of the improvements in efficiency, the factory computer was sent to Fastchip to rid us of the sloppy 11.8:1 air/fuel ratio and the lazy 24 degrees of timing for a mere $450. The coup de grace was a set of Nitto 555R drag radials, measuring 245/45/17 (same as stock), to really give this Goat some teeth. The Nittos are very streetable tires that provide an abundance of traction and cost around $180 apiece.
The best 60-foot time to date was a 2.06 on motor, but with the addition of drag radials and a whole lot more torque, we were hoping to break into the 1.90s. High to mid 12s were also expected, and that was all right with us. Any time you can run 12s with easy bolt-ons that don't sacrifice drivability it is definitely a plus.