The key to the LT1's stout power output is its Vortec-style aluminum cylinder heads. Competent porters can squeeze 280-290 or so cfm out of factory LT1 castings, which translates to a whole lot of power with very streetable cams. With ported stock heads and a cam in the 230/240-at-0.050 range, LT1s can lay down 400-420 rwhp with ease. That's enough to propel a dialed-in chassis well into the 11s at nearly 120 mph. While those figures are impressive, respectable gains can be achieved without internal modifications. Since GM intentionally choked up the intake and exhaust tracts on Camaros to ensure that LT1 Corvettes maintained a slight power advantage, cold-air induction kits and after-cat exhaust systems free up considerable amounts of power. With the addition of long-tube headers, simple intake and exhaust bolt-ons can boost quarter-mile trap speeds into the 107-111 mph range.
One place GM engineers shamelessly cheaped out in fourth-gen F-bodies is the rearend. The 7.625-inch 10-bolts are absolute junk, and failure is almost guaranteed once sticky tires and minor engine mods are thrown into the mix. While aftermarket girdles help, that money is better spent on a 12-bolt or 9-inch replacement rearend from companies such as Currie, Moser, and Strange. Each offers complete bolt-in assemblies with your choice of axles, gears, and differentials, with prices starting at $1,800. Further up the driveline, although the Tremec T56 transmissions can handle in excess of 700 hp, LT1 clutches become marginal at anything beyond 400 hp. Centerforce, Ram, and Spec offer a variety of upgrades. Additionally, McLeod's slick twin-disc setup will hold as much power as you can throw at it.
Another shortcoming of early fourth-gen Camaros is their severely undersized brakes. The single-piston calipers and 10.7-inch front rotors are no match for the kind of power these not-so-lightweight vehicles produce. To fix this, Wilwood offers high-end big brake kits, but resourceful enthusiasts have concocted some budget-oriented solutions. All '98-and-later F-bodies (including V-6 models) came equipped with twin-piston front calipers and 11.8-inch rotors. To swap them onto an LT1 car, you'll need everything between the upper and lower control arms (rotors, calipers, steering knuckle) off of a newer F-body. Careful junkyard or message-board scouring can land a complete setup for less than $250. Taking it one setup further, UMI Performance bundles together a complete C5 Corvette front brake setup for $820. The kit includes brand-new GM 12.8-inch rotors and twin-piston calipers, Hawk pads, and custom caliper mounting brackets.
If you need stock replacement components of GMPP parts, don't even bother with dealerships. Instead, check out these GM wholesalers. They sell the same goodies that dealers sell but at a fraction of the cost.
888.748.4655 · paceparts.com
Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center
800.456.0211 · sdparts.com
Van Devere Oldsmobile
330.253.6137 · vandevere.com
What Makes an LT1 an LT1?
Knowing the anatomy of an LT1 will help determine which parts are interchangeable with a traditional small-block Chevy and which parts are LT1 specific. Like all '86-and-later small-blocks, the LT1 is equipped with a one-piece rear main seal and the crank is externally balanced. While the harmonic damper is zero balanced, the flywheel or flexplate relies on counterweights to properly balance the rotating assembly. That said, any one-piece crank seal will fit an LT1. Just make sure to zero-balance the flywheel or flexplate if you're internally balancing the rotating assembly.