The crazy times we live in as gearheads. Wasn’t that long ago, a performance car leaving the factory with 400-plus horsepower was equivalent to owning your own street-legal racecar. Today, having 400 ponies to destroy your tires with is about as special as going to Walmart. But the great thing about the LS platform, and in particular the LS3 and its factory horsepower rating of 426, is that stock is just the starting point. The aftermarket is rife with parts that can have an “average” LS3 making enough power to destroy any car you’re likely to encounter on the street.
For the fifth-gen Camaro SS owner, Summit Racing has a Trick Flow Specialities top-end kit (TFS-K326-580-520) and Trick Flow by Stainless Works headers and cats that’ll have your LS3-powered Bow Tie pumping out LS7-like power (or better) in virtually no time. The kits consist of heads, cam, long-tube headers, and high-flow catalytic converters.
For our test, we headed over to Antivenom Performance in Seffner, Florida, with a bone-stock, six-speed-equipped ’13 SS that would give us the perfect platform to test the Trick Flow kit. The Antivenom crew had the install done in a day and the car back on the dyno to measure the results. We were somewhat shocked by the baseline test, as most LS3s put at least 370 hp to the wheels. The 348 rwhp baseline from this one represents the low end of the spectrum, one lower than we’ve ever seen before. Here’s what we got.
1. Our subject car was a low-mileage, six-speed, manual-equipped ’13 Camaro SS. On the Anitvenom Dynojet chassis dyno, it made 348 hp and 351 lb-ft torque. This is the lowest output of any stock LS3-powered SS we’ve ever seen.
2. The first step (after letting the engine cool) was unbolting and removing the factory iron exhaust manifolds.
3. After removing the factory airbox assembly and disconnecting the fuel lines, the intake manifold is unbolted and removed.
4. With the intake out of the way, the ignition coil assemblies are unplugged and removed, the valve covers unbolted, and then the factory rocker arm assemblies are taken off the stock heads. We’ll be reusing the factory rockers (with a trunnion upgrade) after installing our new heads.
5. Our ’13 Camaro is equipped with electric power steering, so just this idler pulley bracket needs to be removed. For earlier cars with hydraulic assist power steering, the pump will be unbolted and set aside.
6. With everything clear of the heads, they’re unbolted and removed. From the factory, all LS engines come with torque-to-yield head bolts, which can only be used once. After the heads are off, pitch those fasteners in the trash so you don’t accidentally reuse them.
7. On the right is the stock LS3 head, and on the left is our new Trick Flow Gen X 255 CNC-ported head, PN TFS-32610001-C01. They feature fully CNC-ported 255cc intake runners, CNC-profiled 69cc combustion chambers, and 2.165/1.600 valve diameters. The Trick Flow heads come fully equipped with high-performance dual valvesprings. Depending on your requirements, they can be spec’d out with two different rate valvesprings, and titanium or steel spring retainers.
8. The Trick Flow heads are taller than stock LS3 heads, with revised intake ports that have a straighter shot at the intake valve. With less bend in the intake port, the air/fuel mixture can travel at a faster velocity, allowing for more of an air/fuel charge to be sucked into the combustion chamber while the valve is open. That translates to more horsepower, especially when combined with a bigger cam and/or a power-adder.
9. One of the extra things you’ll need to install the Trick Flow top-end kit (or swap heads on any ’08-up LS-series engine) is a pair of these coolant plugs, GM PN 12602540, and a pair of the necessary bolts to install them, PN 11588714.
10. Another part that’s highly recommended for this install is Summit’s trunnion upgrade kit for LS rockers, PN 143002. This kit replaces the factory trunnion and uncaptured needle bearing assemblies with a full circumference trunnion and fully captured needle bearing assemblies. Under high-horsepower and extreme-duty conditions, sometimes the factory rockers will eject their needle bearings into the engine, which can potentially damage the oil pump or anything else the oil flows through. It’s a cheap upgrade that gives added durability to the valvetrain.
11. Back to the engine, with the heads off, the radiator and water pump are removed, followed by the harmonic balancer. Then the timing cover can be unbolted for the cams swap.
12. Before the cam sprocket can be removed, the factory tim-ing chain tensioner has to be pinned back to relax the chain.
13. After the sprocket is unbolted from the cam and removed, the cam retainer plate is unbolted from the block so the cam can be removed.
14. Out comes the cam. The factory LS3 cam isn’t a bad cam, but its design is on the more conservative side, with a lift of 0.551/0.525, duration of 204/211 at 0.050, and lobe-separation angle of 117. With the extra flow capability of the new Trick Flow Gen X heads, swapping to a bigger cam only makes sense to get more power out of the engine.
15. The Trick Flow cam that comes with the kit specs out at 0.625/0.625 lift, 113 lobe-separation angle, and 230/238 duration at 0.050.
16. Included with the kit is a fresh pair of factory GM MLS head gaskets, PN 12610046.