OK, so your neighbor Bob's best friend's second cousin had a stock SS 396 Camaro that ran 12s on an uphill dragstrip, in the summer, with a sandstorm rolling in, and a swarm of locusts clogging up the air cleaner. Preposterous? Yes, but only slightly less plausible than the story where your uncle Ted ran 12s in his own big-block Camaro at the local dragstrip. Urban folklore aside, most published quarter-mile tests of the era confirm that the legendary L78-powered Camaro, and its 396 ci of glory, was a mid 14-second machine that might crack 100-mph trap speeds on a good day. Compare that to the LS3-powered fifth-gen Camaro that rips 12.90s in the quarter at 113 mph, and it's painfully obvious that cars really weren't faster way back when. With A/C, power everything, a cushy leather-lined cockpit, a kickin' stereo, and 24 mpg on the freeway-in a chassis that turns and stops way better than its great-great grandpa-the fifth-gen is clearly a superior all-around ride. That's not to say we'd take a fifth-gen over a '69 Camaro, because while we might do silly things like give more credence to documented test data than popular mythology, we haven't completely lost our minds. Nevertheless, for many Camaro nuts who can't afford to spend $7,000 on a rusty carcass that somewhat resembles a first-gen, the fifth-gen is the next best alternative.
Even so, as good as it may be, there's always room for improvement. To meet the demand of hormonally imbalanced hot rodders, the aftermarket has inundated parts catalogs with an impressive array of hardware in the short time that the fifth-gen has been available. This partially explains why '10 Camaros were running 9s within the first year of production. Of all the great parts out there, we've picked out 11 of the hottest widgets on the market that will pump some extra gusto into that high-tech pony. We know we said 10 hot parts in the title, but what can we say, PHR is a great value. So here's how to transform your fifth-gen Camaro from an outstanding all-around performer to an even more outstanding all-around performer in 11 easy steps.
Intake: Airaid Cold-Air Induction
The first mod most late-model enthusiasts add to their cars is a cold-air induction system. Considering they're among the cheapest and easiest to install of all aftermarket parts, it makes perfect sense. GM knows that your old lady might drive your Camaro from time to time, so factory airbox designs put more of an emphasis on quiet operation than performance. That means bolting on an aftermarket cold-air induction system is worth some easy horsepower, and in the case of Airaid's new intake kit for LS3- and L99-powered Camaros, the tally checks in at an additional 16 hp and 13 lb-ft of torque. The system bolts in place of the stock airbox, and includes a high-density polyethylene intake tube, a high-flow cotton gauze air filter, and all necessary clamps and couplers. At just $340, the Airaid's cold-air induction system is a raging bargain, and it might just be the easiest way to keep your old lady away from your car.
Anyone who has messed around with the LS-series small-block knows that they pick up ridiculous gobs of power with long-tube headers. Increases of 30-40 rear-wheel horsepower are common, so after doing easy stuff like a cold-air intake and an exhaust system, the next logical mod on the list is a set of headers. Dynatach's long-tubes for the LS3 and L99 Camaro utilize stainless steel 17/8-inch mandrel-bent primaries, CNC-machined flanges, and a unique four-bolt collector flange for a leak-free seal and improved ground clearance. They're available with both 2.5- and 3-inch collector extensions that connect to either a factory or aftermarket intermediate pipe, which can be had with a high-flow cat or an off-road pipe. Dynatech's headers are fully compatible with factory oxygen sensors, and the kit includes gaskets and installation hardware. The company claims that its headers are worth 36 hp and 25 lb-ft over stock, at the rear wheels, and based on our experience with long-tubes on LS motors, we believe it. Prices start at $1,200.
Exhaust: MagnaFlow Cat-Back Pipes
There aren't many things to criticize about the new Camaro SS, but man, who turned down the volume? To help it sound less like something that belongs in a monastery and more like a burbling beast that belongs on a racetrack, MagnaFlow offers a variety of exhaust systems for both six- and eight-cylinder Camaros. The more basic variant is a rear section kit to replace all the factory exhaust hardware behind the stock intermediate pipes. The system includes mandrel-bent 2.5-inch over-axle pipes and dual mufflers, and a choice of either 2.5- or 4-inch tips. MagnaFlow's cat-back system adds dual 2.5-inch intermediate pipes and a center resonator. The improved flow is worth an advertised increase of 15 hp and 19 lb-ft of torque on an otherwise stock Camaro SS. Every inch of MagnaFlow's exhaust systems are built from stainless steel, and its mufflers boast a straight-through design with a stainless perforated core for an aggressive tone. Axle-back kits list for $825, while complete systems go for $1,020.
Camshafts: COMP Cams Bumpsticks
Unless the motor has already been pulled out of the car, swapping out cams on a late-model is never fun. Nonetheless, when the motor in question is an LS3 or L99, that hard work will definitely be worth the effort. These sweet mills come equipped with GM's rectangle-port L92 cylinder heads, which flow a stunning 320 cfm from the factory. If you prescribe to the 2hp-per-cfm school of thought as a means of gauging power potential based on cylinder head airflow, it's quite obvious that the stock 6.2L camshaft doesn't come close to taking full advantage of the L92 casting. In fact, the 376ci LS3 uses the same camshaft as in the 346ci '01 LS6, albeit with a smidgen more intake lift. Since the factory cam was originally designed for an engine that's 30ci smaller and heads that flow 60 fewer cfm, it's not surprising that the LS3's torque curve plummets rapidly after 4,700 rpm. Fortunately, COMP Cams has recently updated its assortment of Gen IV camshafts that yield an astonishing increase in power. Take COMP's 277LRHR13 grind, for instance, which features 227/243-at-.050 duration with .614-/.624-inch lift. Provided the test subject has already been uncorked with a free-flowing air intake and exhaust system, cams of this size are worth a solid 70hp increase over stock while still limiting engine speeds to a stock-rod-bolt-friendly 7,000 rpm. Just make sure to get a set of matching valvesprings to make it all work. COMP offers dozens of grinds for Gen IV motors to suit an array of tastes, along with VVT-compatible cams for L99s. One will set you back just $400.
A high-stall torque converter is like being the world's greatest manual transmission driver pass after pass. That's because they allow an engine to rev to the fat part of the powerband the moment you hit the gas, a feat that requires modulating the clutch with a level of precision few humans can achieve. And chances are you're not one of those elite specimens. It's no wonder, then, that higher-stall performance torque converters can frequently knock a half-second off of quarter-mile e.t.'s. Although hot rodders haven't had much time to dig into GM's new 6L80E six-speed automatic transmission, TCI has already developed a torque converter for it. Its Street Fighter converter increases stall speed by roughly 1,500 rpm over stock, and is durable enough to endure boost and nitrous. Beefing it up are a billet front and clutch stop assembly, furnace brazed internals, and a heavy-duty hub, splines, and sprag races. Finishing off the Street Fighter is TCI's proprietary HDT coating, which helps dissipate heat for reduced transmission fluid temps. To ensure the highest level of quality control, all TCI converters are computer balanced, and tested for leakage and runout. List price