Modernizing our classic Camaros isn't just about being “cool,” it's also about increasing their reliability and making a great car that much better. And, while we would all love to have the latest and greatest upgraded widget, the reality is that sometimes our wallets are a bit light on cash. This can happen with just about any aspect of our cars, but this time we're going to talk about pulley systems.
For those running modern LS engines, it's pretty easy to find an affordable serpentine drive system since that's what LS engines came with from GM. Between Corvettes, Camaros, GTOs, and trucks, there's bound to be a drive system to fit just about any application. Our über-expensive '68 project Camaro, Bad Penny, runs a drive system scavenged off a wrecked '02 Z28 Camaro. It was dirt cheap and hasn't given us a lick of trouble.
The challenge gets a little tougher if you're working with an older small-block. For decades these engines came with V-belt drive systems that simply aren't as reliable and don't handle as much power as a newer, serpentine ribbed-belt arrangement. The easy option is to hit up one of the aftermarket companies selling billet drive systems that are as beautiful as they are functional. Of course, all that milled goodness comes with a hefty price tag of between one and three grand. Industrious gearheads could dig around boneyards and find a drive system off an 80's GM car, such as a third-gen Camaro to fit the bill, but it's dirty work and there's no guarantee that the mechanical parts, like the water pump or alternator, aren't on their last leg.
Chevrolet Performance must have heard tales of small-block owners rummaging through scrap yards in search of drive systems and came up with a factory-fresh offering. For the most part, their drive system is what's found on a third-gen Camaro, which is good on several levels. First, it's all based on tried-and-true GM parts that are proven to work and hold up over time. Secondly, since it's all standard OEM fare, replacement parts are available at any parts store. Blow a power steering pump in the middle of nowhere and more than likely you'll be back on the road in no time. The downside is that it looks like an OEM drive system. The aluminum brackets are bulky, but keep in mind they were designed with function first and aesthetics second (or maybe eighth). If you want the system to look a bit fancier you can always clean up the casting marks on the brackets and have them, along with the pulleys, powdercoated or plated. But at just over $600 for the whole deal, including accessories and hardware, it's a smokin' deal that can get your old-school small-block in step with the 21st century.
To see how easy this kit was to install, we called up Pace Performance and had them ship us one of the non-A/C systems.
01. Our starting point is this 383 small-block that we built in the last issue. It has aftermarket RHS heads and a TCI balancer, but for the most part, it's just a typical small-block.
02. Here are the main components of the Chevrolet Performance pulley kit we picked up from Pace Performance (PN 12497697, $629). This kit comes complete with a water pump, power steering pump, alternator, idler pulleys, and OEM-style spring-loaded tensioner. It also includes all the gaskets and fasteners needed to get it on the engine and in working order.
03. The first step was installing the GM reverse-rotation, cast-iron water pump (PN 19201601), and torquing the bolts (PN 9442012) to 30 ft-lb. Before installing the pump we shot it with some low-gloss black Eastwood paint.
04. We then used the supplied bolts (PN 11515756) to install the water pump pulley (PN 10055880). The called-out torque spec was 37 ft-lb.
05. Even though our system came sans the radial A/C compressor, we still needed to install the bracket (PN 10055800). The instructions warned that some of the bracket mounting points might not line up with the holes found on the cylinder heads, especially if they are aftermarket. In our case, all of the mounting holes on the RHS cylinder heads lined up perfectly with the GM brackets. If you find one of the holes doesn't line up, the instructions state to skip it and you'll still be good to go.
06. Moving to the other side of the engine, we installed the alternator and power steering bracket assembly. This consisted of a large aluminum bracket (PN 10105212) and a remanufactured ACDelco power steering pump (PN 88985115). Note that the high-pressure outlet on this pump is a 16x1.5mm O-ring style. All the bolts for this bracket were torqued to 37 ft-lb.
07. To install the new crank pulley, we first removed the crank bolt then secured the pulley (PN 10055879) to the TCI Rattler balancer using the three provided bolts (PN 9440226). The torque value here was 43 ft-lb.
08. The lower idler pulley (PN 11514317) was then affixed to the A/C compressor bracket and the two torx-bit fasteners were torqued to 37 ft-lb.
09. Since we're not running an A/C compressor, we needed to install this eliminator bracket and pulley assembly (PN 10055890). Our tall RHS valve covers made getting in the top bolt impossible, so we pulled the cover to install the upper long bolt, middle short bolt, and lower stud.
10. The kit also included this rather substantial brace (PN 10105267) that runs from the rear of the A/C compressor bracket to the side of the head. If you're running GM cast-iron manifolds, then the brace should line up to the third manifold bolt. For headers, they include a 1.5-inch spacer as shown. To be honest, without an A/C compressor installed, this brace falls more into the "overkill" category.
11. The spring-loaded belt tensioner (PN 10055798) was then secured to the compressor bracket using the supplied bolt (PN 10055882).
12. Included with the kit is this 105-amp Delphi Delcotron CS 130 series alternator (PN 19152464). The rear power lug just barely hit our tall valve covers so we trimmed it down a bit.
13. The kit also included a brace (PN 10077579) to help further support the alternator. It did rub on our tall valve cover, but a little grinding would have helped it easily clear. If running headers, you would use the 1.94-inch spacer as shown.
14. We were then able to install the GM serpentine belt (PN 88986814) and double-check all of our fasteners to make sure we didn't miss anything.
15. And just like that, we were done. The system was ridiculously easy to install and took under an hour to get in place. Best of all, the parts lined up and went together just like you would expect factory parts to do. And while the system won't win any beauty contests, it's certainly a rock-solid and affordable solution for those wanting their classic small-block to have a modern serpentine ribbed-belt system.