The thrill of getting a new ride to mess with is only surpassed by seeing that project ratchet-up in performance. Sometimes gearheads get a new and relatively stock ride, then dive in with big-league mods. But if you're short of time, cash, or both, then chances are you're going to take a more incremental approach to making your Camaro performance vision a reality.
Our new (at least to us) 2001 Chevy Camaro Z28 is painfully bone stock. Rather than tackle big-ticket items first, we wanted to start with something a little more basic. Two of the most popular "first mods" for fourth-gen LS-powered Camaros are air intakes and handheld programmers. The intakes help more air get into the engine, which equates to more power, while the programmer performs a plethora of tasks from tuning to adjusting for tire sizes. In the grand scheme of things, they both fall into the "affordable and easy-to-do" category, which is never a bad place to start.
Performance in the Palm of Your Hand
Ever since engines were mated to computers, gearheads have been figuring out ways to tweak the code to induce more performance. Unfortunately it's way easier to get it wrong than it is to get it right. For those of us without the mad skills needed to make sense of the raw programming code there's a solution: the handheld programmer. You can't get as deep into messing with your ride's computer as you can with PC-based programmer, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. This is because it's unlikely you'll end up turning your engine to slag since the handhelds come pre-loaded with tunes that have been dyno tested and proven safe.
But there's more to them than just the tuning tweaks they provide. They can also remove top-speed limiters, adjust for aftermarket tire sizes, change gear ratios, and even remove the dreaded Computer Assisted Gear Selector (CAGS). If you have an automatic, there are more benefits to be had in being able to adjust your transmission's shift points. All of this is in an easy-to-use, menu-driven format. What's not to love?