Performance Parts - Dyno Thrashin'

We Bust Out the Wrenches & Bust a Few Knuckles in Search of Bolt-On Horsepower

John Nelson Mar 28, 2008 0 Comment(s)
0804chp_01_z 1970_chevy 1/15

Much as we dig all the chances we get here at CHP to create some of the hottest motors going, have you noticed what happens after we build 'em? That's right, we bolt on new parts and dyno them again, always in search of more power. Heads, cam swaps, intakes, nitrous, superchargers, and anything else we can think of. We're betting you can relate, 'cause we ask the same question you do: What can I do to make more power without tearing the whole thing apart again? Enter the bolt-on. You spend a few hours removing one part and replacing it with another, and you make more power. Or at least you hope you do. In that spirit, we once again dive headfirst into the bolt-on world, selecting performance parts and putting them to the test.

As we do in these investigations, our line of attack was clear cut. We had to either obtain--or produce--before and after dyno sheets so that we had clear evidence on any particular piece's effectiveness. Claims without evidence were not even considered for this endeavor. Thanks to the engine dyno at Westech Performance, Granatelli Motorsports' chassis dyno, and our punishing multiday dyno thrash at the SOURCE INTERLINK MEDIA Tech Center, we got the numbers. Why punishing, you ask?

When it came to our choice of mules, we've focused primarily on traditional small-block performance pieces but tried to add a little variety to the mix by including some big-block and LS1 hop-up goodies as well. That being said, we have to point out that we got the chance to try out several bolt-ons on a nearly bone-stock '70 Chevelle SS. This particular mule, which kept its stock heads and cam throughout the testing, gave us the chance to see what a variety of performance parts can do on an original motor--and reminded us how much work it is to keep such a powerplant's original equipment and accessories working while making modifications, all the while leaving it so that it can be returned to original if the owner so desires. It's tough, but the cool thing is, it can be done.

Many of you won't be starting with such an untouched powerplant, but we bet more than a few of you out there are running stockers and considering that first modification (or two). The appeal of the bolt-on part is hard to resist, and now we've given you some food for thought. We've endeavored, however, to incorporate useful information for just about everyone, including those of you who are already far beyond the original equipment stage. To that end, we've included average power numbers to go along with the attention-grabbing peak power numbers, with an eye toward evaluating how a given bolt-on affects performance throughout the powerband.

In the main, we'll let the numbers speak for themselves, keeping commentary to the bare essentials. We've done the testing and published the results; we hope the information proves helpful as you go forth to bolt some power on to your project.

Quick Notes
What we did
Pulled together 13 bolt-on performance parts and got real-world before and after dyno numbers

Bottom Line
There's a multitude of ways to endow your ride with a few--or a lot--more ponies.


Things get interesting when you start stacking one bolt-on on top of another--with the right mix, you can get a nice power payoff.

0804chp_03_z Bolt_on_supercharger 2/15

Centrifugal Supercharger
The bolt-on
Vortech Superchargers standard small-block carbureted kit with a V2 S-trim compressor running 5.5 pounds boost, along with a Mighty Demon 750-cfm blower carb. $3,500

The mule
A '69 Nova with a bone-stock 350 lower end, '70s-era open-chamber heads with 1.94/1.50-inch valves, an Edelbrock Performer intake, a Holley 650-cfm vacuum secondary carb, and a Turbo 350 transmission. Power measured at the rear wheels.

Our take
Even on this very tame engine, the Vortech blow-through setup increased power by almost 50 percent at the wheels; we calculate the gain at the flywheel to be right about 100 hp, which shows that even a small blower setup can produce big gains.

0804chp_02_z Bolt_on_454_heads 3/15

Big-Block Cylinder Heads
The bolt-on
Edelbrock Performer RPM 454-R aluminum cylinder heads, which have 315cc long/300cc short rectangular intake ports, 118cc open combustion chambers, and 2.19/1.88-inch valves. $1,780/pair

The mule
A 502 H.O. Chevy short-block with factory iron rectangular-port heads, 8.75:1 compression, topped with an Edelbrock Performer RPM 2-R intake and 800-cfm AVS carburetor. Power measured at the flywheel.

Our take
According to Edelbrock, the runner configuration optimizes intake and exhaust flow, especially on the short side, while the combustion chambers are designed to maximize chamber efficiency. In this case, it all adds up to nice power gains on the dyno.

0804chp_05_z Bolt_on_manifold 4/15

Intake Manifold
The bolt-on
We followed up the rocker swap with an Edelbrock Performer dual-plane aluminum intake. $120

The mule
The '70 Chevelle now fitted with the Lunati rocker arms. Power measured at the rear wheels.

Our take
The Performer intake flows more air than the portly factory iron piece. Equally important is that its more modern design evens out the airflow between cylinders. Both factors lead to a nice increase in power.

0804chp_04_z Bolt_on_roller_rocker 5/15

Roller Rocker Arms
The bolt-on
Lunati Voodoo 1.6:1 roller rocker arms. $338

The mule
A bone-stock '70 Chevelle SS convertible powered by an RPO L65, 9.0:1-compression 350 small-block, which came factory rated at 250 gross horsepower and 345 lb-ft of torque, running through a Turbo 350 trans. The only modification was a 21/2-inch dual exhaust system with turbo mufflers. Power measured at the rear wheels.

Our take
Some of the increase undoubtedly came from the extra lift provided by the rocker arms, but Lunati's James Humphrey told us most of the gain likely came from the decrease in valvetrain friction achieved by installing full roller rockers in place of the factory stamped-steel pieces.

0804chp_06_z Bolt_on_demon_carb 6/15

The bolt-on Rocker arms and new intake in place, we replaced the Chevelle's original Quadrajet mixer with a 525-cfm Road Demon vacuum secondary carb (64/78 jets). $357

The mule
The '70 Chevelle now fitted with the Lunati rocker arms and Edelbrock intake manifold. Power measured at the rear wheels.

Our take
This was a tough one--Demon recommends its carbs for modified engines, not a factory cammed, low-compression stocker like we flogged here. Although peak gains were minimal, average power was improved through the powerband. This carb also gives us a good, easily tunable foundation to work with as more extensive modifications are made to this engine.

0804chp_07_z Bolt_on_headers 7/15

The bolt-on
Doug's Headers with 15/8-inch primary tubes and 3-inch collectors. $530

The mule
The '70 Chevelle now fitted with the Lunati rocker arms, Edelbrock intake manifold, and Road Demon carb. Power measured at the rear wheels.

Our take
Our intake/carb combo got more air/fuel mixture flowing into the old Chevelle; the new headers evacuate the burnt gases much more efficiently than the factory cast-iron pieces. Another jump in power was the result.

0804chp_09_z Bolt_on_pipes 8/15

Crossover Pipe
The bolt-on
Flowmaster Scavenger Crossover Pipe added into a Flowmaster Delta Force 3-inch dual exhaust system. $187

The mule
A '67 SS Camaro with a 10.5:1 compression 385ci stroker small-block running an Isky mechanical street roller cam, ported World Sportsman II heads, a ported Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold, a 750-cfm Holley Pro series carb, and a T-56 six-speed trans. Power measured at the rear wheels.

Our take
According to our own Kevin McClelland, "The purpose of the Flowmaster Scavenger Crossover pipe is to increase the exhaust gas velocity in the large 3-inch system, providing a torque boost along with a few extra top end ponies." Looking at the numbers, that's exactly what happened.

0804chp_08_z Bolt_on_spacer 9/15

Carb Spacer
The bolt on
Wilson Manifolds 1-inch open carb spacer. $82

The mule
A 10.2:1-compression 540ci big-block with a hydraulic roller cam spec'd out at 0.566/0.566 inch lift, 242/248 degrees duration, and 112 LSA hydraulic roller cam, along with AFR 335 CNC ported heads, a Performer RPM Air Gap manifold, and an 850 Mighty Demon carb. Power measured at the flywheel.

Our take
Open carb spacers increase plenum volume, which usually leads to increased mid-range and top-end power. That's the effect the spacer had on this engine, at the expense of the peak torque; on the other hand, average power was improved. According to Westech's Steve Brul, some combos like a spacer, some don't; you have to try it and see. This one liked it.

0804chp_10_z Bolt_on_roller_cam 10/15

Hydraulic Roller Cam
The bolt-on
Isky Retro Fit Hydraulic Roller camshaft and lifters, 0.485/0.505 inch lift (intake/exhaust), 217/225 degrees duration at 0.050, ground with a 108-degree LSA. $835

The Mule
A 10.5:1-compression 350 small-block with 64cc Vortec heads, an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, 650-cfm Holley carb, and an Isky hydraulic flat-tappet cam with 0.465 inch lift (intake and exhaust), 221 degrees duration at 0.050, and a 108-degree LSA. Power measured at the flywheel.

Our Take
The specs on these two cams are very similar, but the advantages of running a hydraulic roller cam--specifically the increase in area under the curve and the reduction of frictional losses--are clearly demonstrated.

0804chp_11_z Bolt_on_sb_heads 11/15

Small-Block Cylinder Heads
The bolt-on
Brodix IK 180 aluminum cylinder heads, which have 180cc intake runners, 64cc chambers, and 2.02/1.60-inch valves. $1,014/pair

The Mule
A 10.5:1, 355ci small-block with a Comp Cams XE268 cam (0.477/0.480 inch lift intake/exhaust, 224/230 degrees duration at 0.050, 110-degree LSA), ported GM double-hump iron heads, an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, and a 750-cfm Quick Fuel double-pumper carburetor. Power measured at the flywheel.

Our Take
The "IK" stands for Iron Killer, and that's exactly what happened here. You can spend your money on porting a set of old heads or spend it on a set of new heads that produces way more power.

0804chp_13_z Bolt_on_programmer 12/15

Performance Programmer
The bolt-on
A Granatelli Big-G Flash Tuner, which contains several performance tune configurations. It can also read and erase computer codes, modify top speed and rev limiters, alter shift timing and increase line pressure in automatic trans cars, and recalibrate the speedometer for multiple gear ratios and tire size changes. $375

The mule
The '01 Camaro SS, now with a Granatelli nitrous-tuned MAF. Power measured at the wheel.

Our take
The peak gains achieved with the performance tune are impressive, but check out the killer average improvement. This car makes more power everywhere, and you can feel it.

0804chp_12_z Bolt_on_mas 13/15

Mass Airflow Sensor
The bolt-on
A Granatelli mass airflow sensor with nitrous tuning (aka nitrous meter) for use with dry nitrous systems. It works like a normal MAF during normally aspirated operation but adds 5 percent more fuel when it sees the juice. $300

The mule
An '01 Camaro SS six-speed with an SLP harmonic balancer and high-flow airbox lid, an Accufab 75mm throttle body, QTP long-tube headers with cats, GMMG chambered exhaust, and a high-pressure fuel pump.

Our take
This Camaro made good use of the increased airflow and performance calibration, and it worked well with nitrous.

0804chp_14_z Bolt_on_nitrous 14/15

The bolt-on
An Edelbrock Perfomer GM EFI dry nitrous system set up for a 100hp shot. $570

The mule
The '01 Camaro SS, now with the ECM reprogrammed with a Granatelli Big G Flash Tuner. Power measured at the wheel.

Our take
What can we say? Nitrous is the bang- for-the-buck king of bolt-on power adders, and the torque gains here were spectacular. Also noteworthy is the fact that that Camaro made 22 more horsepower and 23 more lb-ft on the squeeze with the Big G program in place as opposed to the stock tune. CHP

Barker Racing Engines
601.847.7433 ·

Barry Grant Inc.
(Demon Carburetion)
706.864.8544 ·

Brodix Inc.
479.394.1075 ·

Doug's Headers
909.599.5955 ·

310.781.2222 ·

800.544.4761 ·

Granatelli Motor Sports
805.486.6644 ·

Isky Racing Cams
323.770.0930 ·

662.892.1500 ·

Vortech Superchargers
805.247.0226 ·

Westech Performance Group
951.685.4767 ·

Wilson Manifolds
954.771.6216 ·




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