The Chevy Camaro helped define the American muscle car. Since 1966, it has been tearing along American roads, down drag strips, and around tracks. But when it comes to glory, it seems that the first generation and the latest generation hoard it all. There’s a reason for that. The 5.7 liter LT1 V8 in the 1995 Camaro Z28 only made 275 hp. But because we’re dealing with a Small Block Chevy, that’s about to change.
95 Camaro Z28: More Power
The fourth generation Camaro represented a radical leap in styling, taking the name from its boxy, ‘80s hammer body to a rounded ‘90s motif. Under the hood crouched GM’s LT1 V8, 5.7 liters of America that was nonetheless only good for 275 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque in stock form. And in 1993, this was nothing to scoff at.
But Camaro Z28 performance has come a long way, and your fourth gen needs some power upgrades. Thankfully, we have you covered. Here’s what we recommend.
Start, as always, with a K&N Cold Air Intake. It’s about the easiest power mod you can make to this platform. There’s been some conjecture over the years about the effectiveness of a cold air intake, but unlike a lot of manufacturers, K&N’s not afraid to show you that effectiveness by publishing their dyno sheet. We took the following straight from K&N, so if you don’t believe them, talk to them about it, but putting a CAI on their Z/28 gave them an extra 18.3 hp and 18 lb-ft of torque. That’s massive.
Find out more about K&N Cold Air Intakes here.
Next down the intake chain is the throttle body. And who better to turn to for a throttle body upgrade than Edelbrock, the masters of fuel and air since 1938? It’s a simple bolt-on part that can improve your horsepower. The stock throttle body measures 48mm. This 52mm unit from Edelbrock will make full use of your stock intake manifold, which also measures 52mm. But we can also recommend this Edelbrock intake manifold, which measures at 58mm. If you decide to go that route, Edelbrock also makes a 58mm throttle body to make full use of it. Please note that the 58mm throttle body will not fit the stock manifold.
Increasing your throttle body diameter and adding a free-flowing, high-volume intake manifold will mean cooler/denser air heading into your engine, and that means more power, and more Camaro performance. These two items are the perfect complement for your CAI.
Now that we have breathing in taken care of, what about breathing out? Stock exhaust systems can be restrictive, because they’re designed to be quiet for some reason. Quiet is for Camrys, not Camaros. So let’s tune that exhaust, and let’s start with an option.
Pacesetter makes some excellent LT1 exhaust manifolds, or headers, to start efficiently channeling the exhaust as soon as it leaves the engine. They’re specifically designed to offer the freest flow possible, and the included collectors effectively sort all that exhaust into the rest of the system. They’re even ceramic-coated, so they’re less prone to rust and help to keep the engine compartment cooler. That’s two separate ways a pair of headers can help improve power.
However, please be aware that the Pacesetter headers may require some special fabrication work relocating your catalytic converters. And that might alter the rest of your exhaust system as well. That’s between you and your welder. But we can tell you that Pacesetter can improve your performance, and we didn’t want to leave you out of that loop.
Onward down the line. Borla has a really cool design for their cat-back exhaust. Since the Camaro exhaust is a single pipe system that splits in the muffler, Borla decided to experiment with backpressure and what happens when you block off varying amounts of flow in the passenger side. Each new restrictor plate presented different results, so they decided to include four in this kit, one that blocks off the passenger side outlet completely, and three others in varying degrees of restriction.
One owner ran dyno tests and found a 7.9 hp/7.2 lb-ft improvement when he used the full plate, but a 10.4 hp/7.4 lb-ft increase when he used the medium restrictor plate. Borla knows that there are a ton of variables that go into exhaust tuning, and any number of factors on your own build could affect it. So they gave you options.
Intake and exhaust are covered, but we’re not done yet. Because with higher horsepower your ECU will add more fuel, and if you have more fuel, you need to be sure you’re using it.
Cue the Sarah McLachlan music for an important PSA: Every year thousands of gallons of unburned fuel are wasted, dumped through exhaust pipes as vapor, because their spark plugs don’t generate enough love to burn them completely. Don’t let these be your spark plugs. Don’t let that be your fuel. Take it away, Sarah. “In the aaaaarms of the aaaangels…”
A higher-powered system needs a higher-powered spark, or more specifically, a wider spark. That doesn’t start with the spark plugs, actually, but with the ignition controller. MSD stands for Multiple Spark Discharge. So this MSD Digital 6A-L ignition box generates multiple sparks per cycle. If a stock system produces a single thread, MSD produces a rope. This causes a more complete burn of the fuel in your cylinder, meaning a more efficient cycle, and most importantly: more power. The Digital 6A-L also includes a programmable rev limiter.
But don’t throttle that spark through your stock coil. This MSD blaster coil is designed specifically for use with an MSD box, and fits the tricky GM Dual Connecter Coil system perfectly. From there, the spark goes to the distributor, but this can be a weak link, too. Upgrade yours with an MSD breakerless distributor. MSD starts with a single block of billet aluminum and mills it out for the housing. They add an advanced optical encoder far superior to the stock unit. And they even give you a timing adjustment screw with 5 degrees of customization.
Next that spark runs through spark plug wires. MSD found that stock or parts store spark plug wires had trouble handling their spark loads. With higher voltages, you get something called ElectroMagnetic Interference, or EMI. If the wires are close enough to each other, one wire can actually broadcast a magnetic field around itself that will interfere with the current in the other wires. This can lead to timing issues. This MSD spark plug wire kit has two measures of protection against that. First, there’s a magnetic coat around the wire. That coat is then wrapped in a coil of very fine conductor wire. There are 40 feet of conductor per foot of spark plug wire. This shuts down EMI quick.
Finally, the spark plugs. E3 offers a unique spark plug design with a triple-prong, “Diamondfire” shape. This is the perfect complement to your MSD system, since it allows for the spark to appear faster and stronger, resulting in a more complete burn.
In 1995 fuel injection was just in its adolescence, but you could still add a custom tune. This Hypertech Power Programmer III can give you an extra 8 horsepower with a few simple buttons. It can also adjust your shift points and firmness if you’re running an automatic, your speedometer and odometer if you’ve added custom gears, your rev limiter, your fan parameters, and more. Or you can just reset everything to stock.
Suddenly we’ve brought your LT1 Camaro up to speed with more modern offerings, simply with a few bolt-on modifications. It should be noted that we do offer cams and other engine internals for the LT1, but we don’t make recommendations on which ones you need, because we can’t be sure of what other modifications you’ve made. If we recommend one cam, but you’ve already plugged in custom lifters, and you ruin your whole head, we don’t want to go to court. We’re allergic to lawyers, you see.
However, we can put you in touch with the experts at Comp Cams, who can point you toward exactly the Camaro performance parts you need.
Click on any of the links above to shop for your 95 Camaro Z28 performance parts. And check back Thursday when we explore the notion that power is nothing without control. We’ll upgrade the brakes, suspension, and handling in the next installment.
Power modding can be tricky. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-877.787.8989. One of our experienced, American techs will be happy to help.
What’s your idea for AutoMods? What vehicle should we do next? We just gave $100 to a guy who suggested the a platform, and we want to do the same for you. Submit your suggestion in the comments, and if we pick it, we’ll send you a $100 StreetSideAuto.com gift card. We’ll announce the winner the final Friday (hint: 3/27) of every month at noon central. Good luck!
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.