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Thread: Looking for any good V6 3.8L performance tips

  1. #1

    Red face Looking for any good V6 3.8L performance tips

    Hi, just bought a 2002 Camaro V6/5-speed manual from it's original owner, with less than 15,000 miles on the odometer (yes, it's true, and I have the paperwork to prove it).

    It isn't perfect, but very nice, still had it's original tires on it, original brake pads, serpentine belt, etc. Probably still has it's original spark plugs in it.

    I just drove it home from Tucson, AZ to Minneapolis, MN, and am planning many upgrades to make this a "Z26". I have already done the following:

    Installed 1LE sway bars, with Energy Suspension end links with poly bushings.
    Installed an Edelbrock Panhard Rod.
    Installed a "new" AAM aluminum rear end cover.
    Installed a strut tower brace.
    Installed a cold air induction kit, consisting of an SLP stainless cold air induction tunnel,
    a K&N filter, and a Whisper air lid, along with a custom aluminum tube to eliminate the "air silencer".

    What I still have to do is:

    Install an SLP driveshaft loop, along with an aluminum driveshaft with new U-Joints.
    Install UMI bolt-in sub-frame connectors.
    Install a Torsen posi with 3.42 gears, replacing the 3.23 open rear end.
    Install an SLP "SS" rear spoiler and an SLP "SS" stainless muffler with the dual/dual tailpipes.
    Install a Hurst shifter.
    Beef up the rear lower control arms with welded plates on the bottom and install solid rubber Moog bushings.
    Bolt on a set of original SLP 16X8 ZR1 5-spoke wheels with brand new BF Goodrich 255/50/ZR16 tires.


    Bolt on a set of Bilstein shocks/struts.
    Maybe a set of headers and 1.85 rocker arms, so the heads can breathe better.

    Not trying to make this the fastest car around, just trying to make it more fun to drive, to get the quarter mile times below 15 seconds, maybe surprise a couple of V8 drivers at a stoplight. With the mods that I have done already, it handles very well.

    If any of you have any good info on an ECM/CPU "tune", I would be interested in hearing about it, but only if it is reliable and verifiable.

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  3. #2
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    Most people tend to say no to rockers in all honesty. You get better results from a cam/supporting mods.

    For a tune there is no real reason to have one until you have decent mods like a cam or rockers. Doing a tune with bolt-ons is pretty pointless on these cars. To tune you need to buy a wideband sensor to get a reliable tune down. Read around on the board, there are a lot of threads about starting mods. Intake, headers, exhaust are always a good way to go.
    1997 Camaro - sold
    2013 WRX - the awd DD

  4. #3

  5. #4
    Thanks for the info. I'm trying to balance my mods to power, handling, and appearance. About $1000 in each direction.
    I like the rocker arms, because it is much cheaper, easier to do, and will give me about 10% greater valve lift without any other mods. If I can get the RWHP up to about 200-210, I would be very happy. Do you recommend removing the MAF screen? It is easy, and reversible, I would think that it might make a significant difference. I tend to lean more towards better handling than straight line performance. What do you think about the Mallory Ignition products for the L36 engine?

    The bigger stabilizer bars (1LE), along with the Energy Suspension end links, Edelbrock Panhard Rod, strut tower brace, and 245/50/ZR16 tires have dramatically improved the handling, but I know I can do more. I want it to handle a lot better, but not sacrifice the ride quality, so I will keep the stock springs at the 4 corners. However, further stiffening the chassis and adding Bilstein shocks should make a noticeable difference, especially since the car has T-tops.

  6. #5
    Light Throttle V6Hawk's Avatar
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    Everyone reccomends to keep the MAF screen on. You could potentially mess your engine up by removing it. I know it has caused a few people some headaches by taking it off.
    As far as mods the two best mods I've done are the posi and 3.73's. Most fun, by far. Coming in at a close second would be the exhaust work. Sounds like you've done some fun mods already! Post some pictures of your car!
    Pacesetter Headers, TSP Rumbler, Highflow Cat, 3.73 Gears, Eaton Detroit Truetrac posi, Transgo Shift kit, SLP Airlid, K&N Airfilter, Free Ram Air Mod, BMR Strut Brace, 32mm Front Sway Bar, MSD Super Conductor Wires, NGK TR55 Plugs, Firehawk Ram Air Hood, Tuned by PCMFORLESS

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpringerV6Camaro View Post
    Thanks for the info. I'm trying to balance my mods to power, handling, and appearance. About $1000 in each direction.
    I like the rocker arms, because it is much cheaper, easier to do, and will give me about 10% greater valve lift without any other mods. If I can get the RWHP up to about 200-210, I would be very happy. Do you recommend removing the MAF screen? It is easy, and reversible, I would think that it might make a significant difference. I tend to lean more towards better handling than straight line performance. What do you think about the Mallory Ignition products for the L36 engine?

    The bigger stabilizer bars (1LE), along with the Energy Suspension end links, Edelbrock Panhard Rod, strut tower brace, and 245/50/ZR16 tires have dramatically improved the handling, but I know I can do more. I want it to handle a lot better, but not sacrifice the ride quality, so I will keep the stock springs at the 4 corners. However, further stiffening the chassis and adding Bilstein shocks should make a noticeable difference, especially since the car has T-tops.
    You're going to need more than rockers for 210rwhp. I'd be damned surprised if you were putting out 170rwhp right now, so you're not going to get a 40rwhp jump by rockers. Don't remove the MAF screen, it isn't that restrictive and it helps smooth the air flow over the MAF. If you remove it the MAF tends to be less happy. The stock ignition is more than adequate for these engines. The stock coils actually out perform MSD coils by far.

    The 1LE bars are nice, but once you go to a 35/22mm setup you'll think that 32/19 setup is a pansy setup. Get weld-in SFC's, the bolt in are nice but you get more out of the weld-ins. And if you really want good shocks get Koni's. I run bilstein HD's on my setup and like them, but Koni's are supposed to be far better.
    1997 Camaro - sold
    2013 WRX - the awd DD

  8. #7
    Thanks for the info. I guess I'll keep the screen on, at least for awhile. I will, though, change the open 3.23 rear end to a 3.42 Torsen posi soon. I don't want to go with the 3.73s. Yes, they would be fun, but will hurt the gas mileage too much. The aluminum driveshaft should help put more power to the rear wheels as well. I'll get some photos done soon!

  9. #8
    Well, I read about an '02 buildup by Tom Henry on the Internet many years ago. He took a new, stock V6 camaro, and built it up to about 300 hp at the crank. He did a dyno test on the stock engine, and got about 167 rwhp, which sounds about right on a stock 200 hp engine. That's about an 18% HP loss through the drivetrain to the rear wheels, and that sounds about right.

    I figure that my cold air intake setup is worth about 20 HP (SLP cold air intake tunnel, Whisper Air Lid, K&N filter, custom straight tube to the throttle body, eliminating the "air silencer". The SLP dual exhaust muffer from a 2000 Camaro SS and headers should be worth about another 15-20 HP. The aluminum driveshaft and changing rear gears from 3.23 to 3.42 should give me another 5 HP. Rockers should give me another 5-10 HP. If I can get 40-50 additional HP out of these mods, I should be at 200 rwhp minimum, if not a bit more. I can already "feel' the difference by the intake setup alone. An 18% drivetrain loss from 240 HP should give me about 197 RWHP. If I can reach 250 HP at the crank, it should be about 205 RWHP. I think that that could get this car to run sub-15 second 1/4 mile time slips. If not, it will be close. If I had an auto tranny, I'd say no way, the engine doesn't have enough torque, and the auto tranny (IMO) is a POS, it is geared for gas mileage, not performance. A stock V6/M5
    Camaro is reported to run 15.8 quarter mile times, not to mention a lot more fun to drive.

    Just got done installing the Hurst 5-speed shifter. If you drive a 5-speed, and don't have this shifter, you need to get one, pronto. The difference in effort and precision is astounding. I had an adapter made, so I could screw on the leather "Hurst" shifter knob, and it is so slick. Shorter throws, and the shift knob is at the right height, right off the right side of the steering wheel. There aren't very many left on the market, so buy one before they are all gone. You will be glad you did.

    As for the sway bars, yes, I'm sure that the bigger bars would be better, but I'm trying to use as many "stock" parts as possible.
    I might buy an OEM 21 or 22mm rear bar, but some say that it is "too much", and the seller wants a lot of money for it ($180).
    If he would sell it for $120, I'd snap it up.

    I'm going to try the UMI bolt in SFCs (two point). They are cheaper than the 3 point connectors, are easier to install, lighter, and I can get them in chrome moly, which makes them lighter, but stronger than the standard connectors. Trying to keep the weight down. Yes Koni shocks are nice, but too spendy for this "daily driver". The Bilsteins are spendy enough, at over $400 a set. I have driven the Bilsteins before on a Z71 Pickup, and had a good experience with them, I'm pretty sure that I will be pretty happy with them. I'm trying to stay on budget with this car, make good, solid improvements at a reasonable cost, and be able to unbolt or remove anything that I put on it, just in case. The UMI 2-point connectors tuck up nicely under the running boards, they look like they are well designed, and I figure that they should make a noticeable improvement. Like I said, I'm trying to significantly enhance this car's handling, acceleration, and traction, and appearance without spending a ton of money, sacrificing the ride quality, or gas mileage. So I'm taking a "balanced" approach, while still retaining the reliability and staying away from any unexpected trouble. Like I said, I'm trying to spend about $3000 in engine performance, handling, and appearance upgrades. I want to use as many stock parts as possible, but there will be some noticeable aftermarket parts, especially once you open the hood and crawl underneath it. If I wanted a real "screamer" I would have bought a Z28, and spent a ton of money on that..... Oh, wait, I already DID. Yep, an '01, 5600 original miles, fully loaded, 6-speed, still have a few bolt-ons to put on, but it is BEAUTIFUL, and NO, it is NOT for sale. Improvements include: 17" SLP ZR1 5 spoke wheels with Goodyear F1 tires, SLP cold air intake, lid, smooth bellows, K&N filter, ported MAF (screens removed), 1LE sway bars, SLP strut tower brace, still have to bolt on an SLP Y-Pipe and better exhaust, KONI shocks, rare JBA stainless shorty headers, have a brand new set of Corvette
    243 heads that are ready for a good CNC port job, SLP 1.85 rockers, should be good for about 400 HP, which is about all the rear end can take...

  10. #9
    Full Throttle fbodyrs96's Avatar
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    You can get bilsteins form the ws6store for $360 shipped. Stranos also sells entry-level konis now for $200 ish, but were on back order. I have the 21 rear and love it, but I also have a vert, been told that makes a difference. Paid $50 and the guy even dropped it off, on his way through.

    Sent form my Samsung Galaxy SIII

    Kris

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpringerV6Camaro View Post
    Well, I read about an '02 buildup by Tom Henry on the Internet many years ago. He took a new, stock V6 camaro, and built it up to about 300 hp at the crank. He did a dyno test on the stock engine, and got about 167 rwhp, which sounds about right on a stock 200 hp engine. That's about an 18% HP loss through the drivetrain to the rear wheels, and that sounds about right.
    What mods?

    I figure that my cold air intake setup is worth about 20 HP (SLP cold air intake tunnel, Whisper Air Lid, K&N filter, custom straight tube to the throttle body, eliminating the "air silencer". The SLP dual exhaust muffer from a 2000 Camaro SS and headers should be worth about another 15-20 HP. The aluminum driveshaft and changing rear gears from 3.23 to 3.42 should give me another 5 HP. Rockers should give me another 5-10 HP. If I can get 40-50 additional HP out of these mods, I should be at 200 rwhp minimum, if not a bit more. I can already "feel' the difference by the intake setup alone.
    No intake actually gives 20hp. Believe me, never happens. You may get 5hp from an intake, 5 from an exhaust, 2-3whp from the AL DS, and rockers I'll agree with 10hp (which is stupid for how much money they are). There is no way that you will ever get 50hp from bolt ons, just won't happen.
    An 18% drivetrain loss from 240 HP should give me about 197 RWHP. If I can reach 250 HP at the crank, it should be about 205 RWHP. I think that that could get this car to run sub-15 second 1/4 mile time slips. If not, it will be close. If I had an auto tranny, I'd say no way, the engine doesn't have enough torque, and the auto tranny (IMO) is a POS, it is geared for gas mileage, not performance. A stock V6/M5 Camaro is reported to run 15.8 quarter mile times, not to mention a lot more fun to drive.
    T5's are known to blow up, just a FYI. A stalled A4 is pretty damn fun. Also, A4's can shift much faster than you will ever be able to shift your T5, just something to think about.

    As for the sway bars, yes, I'm sure that the bigger bars would be better, but I'm trying to use as many "stock" parts as possible.
    I might buy an OEM 21 or 22mm rear bar, but some say that it is "too much", and the seller wants a lot of money for it ($180).
    If he would sell it for $120, I'd snap it up.
    A 21 or 22mm rear bar is too large for a 32mm front sway bar, in my opinion (talk to Sam Strano also). The tendency is going to be to oversteer, especially in the rain and slick conditions. The 32/19 setup is very neutral and a good set of bars. Bigger is not always better when it comes to sway bars, especially the rear bars (unless you're only drag racing). Its all about pairing them, hence the 35/22 setup working well together.
    Last edited by skimphish; 06-10-2014 at 08:21 AM.
    1997 Camaro - sold
    2013 WRX - the awd DD

  12. #11
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    No way you got 20hp from a cold air intake. And you don't get any hp from changing the rear gears or driveshaft; changing the driveshaft may increase whp, but only because you're reducing drivetrain loss. Unless you're shaving weight by changing the rear gears, you won't gain any whp, but you'll have more mechanical advantage so you should be able to accelerate faster.

  13. #12
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    You have a good mind set, but with that on the table, you really sound like you want to get a cam. A cam with all the other supporting bolt on mods will put you right where you want to be.

    Oh. and do yourself a favor and get a magnaflow or borla cat back.

    Sent from my HTC6525LVW using Tapatalk

  14. #13
    Tom Henry had the intake and heads ported, cam, timing chain, had the stock exhaust and intake manifolds "align honed" I believe. He also played with the ECM and did some ignition upgrades as well. He got almost 300 hp at the crank after all the mods, but admitted that playing with the ECM was difficult. It's all on the internet for you to look up.

    Maybe I won't get 20 HP out of the intake, but I can't believe that it will be less than 10. SLP claimed that just putting on a stock Z28 dual exhaust muffler was worth 5 HP, so if I install headers and the "better" SLP Z28SS muffler, I should get at least 15-20 I figure. The stock exhaust system on this V6 model seems to me to be very restrictive, as well as the intake. I'll post photos soon as to what I have and what I plan to install. Maybe a better flowing converter would help as well. I believe that I can already feel the difference in 0-60 performance just from my intake mods, though I have yet to measure it.

    There is a company that specializes in modifying 3.8L stock rocker arms, by welding material to them, and then machining them to get a 1.85 ratio, at an affordable price. I'll look it up again. Look at the Buick 3.8L vendors. They will even give you a "core" refund for your stock rockers.

    I'm not that hard on manual trannys, most of the time, so I am fine with the T5. It is rated to 300 hp, and the Camaro/Firebird have the improved "world class" T5. I have driven one now for 8 years, and have never had a problem, even when towing a
    1000+ load over a 1500 mile round trip, with a fully loaded Camaro (2 adults, camping stuff, and luggage). The Hurst shifter definitely helps to hit the gears better, with shorter, more precise throws. Yes, you can make an auto work well, but I don't know anything about them, so I would have to pay someone a LOT to get one to work right. A lot of T5s failed on the late 80's/early 90's Mustangs, because people would build up the motor, then start jamming gears, and had a lot of tranny failures behind a stout V8, which had a lot more torque than the 3.8L V6. With the Hurst shifter, believe me, I can shift gears pretty fast, about a 30% reduction in shifter travel, and much more precise. When driving easy, I can shift gears with two fingers on the top of the shift lever (except maybe reverse) without any problem.

    Yes, I have talked to Strano, and he says the same. If I am going to stay with the 32mm front bar, stay with the 19mm rear bar.
    I'm fine with that. I can further fine tune the chassis and suspension with the frame connectors, stiffer rear lower control arms,
    and the Bilstein shocks. If you drove this car through a cloverleaf with the 12 year old Goodyear Eagle GA tires on it, with the 28mm front bar and 13mm rear bar, and drove it now, you would notice a helluva difference already.

    This is a "work in progress" project. I don't have the cash to everything right now, but I have a good platform to build on. I will do a lot of reading, and noting what I've done and what kinds of results I get. What is so nice about this, is that I was able to find such a low mileage original, rust free, crash free car to improve on. I have been driving it for over a month now, and can find ZERO problems with it. If it had a problem, I'm sure that I would have found it by now.

  15. #14
    Maybe not, but I can already feel the difference, but maybe it is because I am driving it at a lower "sea level" than from where I drove it home, where the air is thinner. Yes, I know that I don't get any "hp" from changing the driveshaft or rear gears, but the engine doesn't have to work as hard to spin them, hence, more power to the rear wheels. I am trying to pursue this "project" as a "balanced" endeavor, trying to keep the gas mileage about the same, but dramatically improving the acceleration, handling, and "fun" mode, without spending too much. I bought this 15,000 mile original V6 Camaro for only about $9,000 (including shipping and transfer of title/sales taxes/registration/etc.). The original owner paid almost $25,000 for this car when new. I have all of the original paperwork, window sticker, registration, maintenance, etc., so this is a fully documented car. I drove it home through the Rockies about a month ago without a hitch, on it's original tires, brakes, engine serpentine belt, just missing a 12 inch snowstorm in Cheyenne, WY by only two days. The original owner maintained it well, but not perfectly, but still, it was a good find. I doubt that I could find another car like this for the same price anywhere in the US for the same price, EVER. I averaged over 33 mpg on the drive home, and it didn't leak anything or burn a drop of oil. Everything works, and it has a lot of factory options. It may not be a Z28, but it will be a lot cheaper to drive, maintain, and insure, and it will still be a lot of fun to drive. Some have said, install the "3.73" gears!!! Tempting, but I won't do it. Would cost me more to buy the gears, my gas mileage would suffer, and the engine "life" would be shortened. This car won't win any street races anyway, and I'm not a street racer, too risky. The undercarriage of this car looks like new, and I want to try to keep it that way as long as possible.
    Even the unpainted rear end was essentially "rust free", and cleaned up nicely before I painted it with some Rustoleum.

  16. #15
    Well, I have a nice, used 2000 Z28 SS (SLP) stainless camaro muffler that I bought for only $170 on a Craigslist ad, and it has the dual/dual exhaust tips on the end pipes. Undamaged, and they cleaned up really nice. When I add on a set of Pacesetter mufflers,
    I should feel some definite improvement. Sure, the ride will be louder, but WTF.

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