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
Nitrous: Nitrous Oxide Systems
Dollar for dollar, nothing's going to top a good ol' nitrous injection system in the bang-for-the-buck department. For a very reasonable $760, NOS's wet nitrous kit for LS-series small-blocks can add up to 200 hp. This system, PN 05169, was originally designed for LS2 engines, but Holley technicians confirm that it can easily be adapted for use on LS3s and L99s. The kit includes a spray bar plate that bolts behind the throttle body, a 10-pound bottle, oversized fuel and nitrous solenoids, jets, steel-braided lines, and all the necessary wiring accessories. Yeah, you'll have to refill the bottle once you suck it dry, but there's something sinister about running with a high-dollar stroker small-block, using a stock long-block enhanced by a supplemental oxygen supply at a fraction of the cost.
Nitrous Oxide Systems
Monster Clutch: Spec
It's really quite amusing if you think about it. The only thing a bad clutch is good for is clutching onto your wallet. Nothing is as infuriating as adding grunt underhood and grip in the meats, only to smoke the clutch when the punk in the other lane wants a piece. Unfortunately, the easy horsepower potential of the new Camaro, combined with its 4,000 pounds of mass, means such an ignominious scenario is very likely. That said, the problem with heavy-duty clutches is that their aggressive disc designs and stiff pressure plates lead to irritating chatter and a sore left leg. As luck would have it, Spec has figured out the perfect solution with its Super Twin clutch for the Camaro SS. As its name suggests, the Super Twin uses dual clutch discs that provide twice the surface area of a conventional single-disc clutch. This allows using a softer pressure plate and less aggressive clutch lining materials for stock-like driveability. Don't let that fool you, because the Super Twin can handle between 900 and 1,800 lb-ft of torque, depending on how it's optioned. The Super Twin boasts an aluminum pressure plate with billet steel wear surfaces, and fully dampened discs lined in an organic, fiber, or metallic friction material. Once you do finally wear it out, the Super Twin is fully rebuildable. At $1,400, the Super Twin isn't cheap, but it's likely the last clutch you'll ever have to buy.
Roll Control: Detroit Speed & Engineering
Aside from brute power, what makes the fifth-gen Camaro such an intoxicating package is its balance of acceleration, handling, and braking ability. The floatiness of the stock suspension tuning is fine with stock horsepower levels, but adding more power and grip to the mix only increases pitch and roll. What the chassis needs is some more roll stiffness and a dropped stance, and DSE has the goodies to do just that. While DSE is best known for its cutting-edge suspension products for early muscle cars, it's taking a crack at the late-model market with its spring and sway bar package for the fifth-gen Camaro. The $975 setup was designed in conjunction with Hendrick Motorsports, and includes stiffer progressive-rate springs-which lowers ride height 1.5 inches-and larger diameter front and rear sway bays. DSE says that the combo improves ride quality and flattens the chassis out in the corners. It sounds like a tough feat to pull off, but if there's one company that can do it, it's DSE.
Detroit Speed & Engineering
Big Brakes: Baer
Thanks to massive 14-inch rotors and four-piston Brembo calipers, stomping on the brakes in a new Camaro SS is almost as entertaining as squeezing the throttle. Two tons of heft notwithstanding, the sucker flat-out stops. Even so, with as easy as it is to add hundreds of horsepower and improve lateral grip, even the impressive factory Brembos have their limits. Baer has the solution with its new Extreme Plus big-brake kit. The system features two-piece drilled and slotted 15-inch rotors, six-piston monoblock calipers, mounting brackets, steel-braided brake lines, and fastening hardware. That's right, those 15-inch rotors are as large in diameter as many OE muscle car wheels from the '60s. Larger rotors equal increased braking torque, and Baer's brake package increases stopping power while reducing fade. Designed to fit behind the factory 20-inch wheels, the Extreme Plus system lists for $3,300. The road racers at DSE liked it so much, they installed it on their in-house '10 Camaro test car. She looks sweet, Kyle.
Short-Throw Shifter: MGW
Even though a stalled automatic will beat a manually shifted car nine times out of 10, slamming gears like a hooligan is way more fun. Like most production cars, fifth-gen Camaros are plagued with long throws to maximize leverage for girly men with noodle arms. The numb, rubbery shifter feel doesn't help matters either. Although it's a relative newcomer to the scene, MGW has just released one of the nicest short-throw shifters on the market. CNC machined with aircraft-grade stainless steel, the MGW unit reduces throws by 33 percent and replaces the entire stock shifter assembly, not just the handle. One trick feature any racer can appreciate is an internal spring return on the 3-4 gate, which facilitates brisk 2-3 power shifts and smooth 5-4 downshifts. Furthermore, urethane bushings replace the factory rubber pieces for improved shift feel, and a patented sound-dampening center shaft prevents unwanted vibrations from jiggling up the shifter assembly. The MGW short-throw shifter costs $350, and it can be topped off with either a stock or an MGW shift knob.
Old-School Dress-Up Parts: Retro USA
As one of the best-looking cars ever built, by default, the '69 Camaro has to be the best looking Camaro ever built. It's not surprising, then, that GM ripped itself off by profusely integrating retro design elements of the '69 Camaro into the fifth-gen. If the new Camaro still doesn't fulfill your retro quotient, Retro USA can help. The company offers chromed plastic dress-up bumpers, rocker moldings, quarter-panel moldings, and hood vents to complete the '69-ification. The body parts are made from a durable thermoformed plastic that the company says will never crack or chip. The pieces can be purchased individually, or all together as a kit for $1,395.