What can I do to give my Camaro more power


Asked by May 26, 2013 at 06:41 PM about the 1989 Chevrolet Camaro RS Coupe RWD

Question type: General

I have a 89 Camaro with the V6 in it. I would like to do a engine swap but don't have the money.  What are some things I could do to it to make it faster/handle better?

19 Answers


Replace all the expendables on your V6 to get it running at full potential.


add new headers, maybe a supercharger , bear brakes and 6 or 8 piston calipers , elibach springs , elibach sway bar, new k&n air filter a bully dog system, a new exhaust and add a computer chip to make it go faster.

2 people found this helpful.

make sure your basic tune-up items are in good shape. The biggest gain is often regaining lost power. The factory air intake set-up is good for the v6, having a K&N just wont be worth the money. Add some exhaust if you want to sound good or if your is rusted out or leaking. It's a v6 89 camaro, even the v8 by today's standards isn't near fast. Big power comes with money, IF you want power build out a 350 or something and a trans capable of handleing it. Stiff springs, wider rear tires, locking rear end, stiffen the chassis, remove things like unneeded seats and spare tire. Then you have a nice little camaro that you wont ever get your money back out of, lol


I know you said you are on a budget, so weigh the aftermarket products against what your really want. Some of the aftermarket products mentioned above will cost more than an engine swap. Look into a turbo charger, but your engine may not be strong enough to handle the boost in power. The old signs in speed shops reads, " How fast do you want to go? How much money do you have?"

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cheap and fast wont be reliable, reliable and cheap wont be fast, reliable and fast wont be cheap.

1 people found this helpful.

I think the biggest issue youre going to have is that theres just not enough aftermarket support for your engine other than people who have built custom turbo kits and now sell them, which is ultra expensive and usually require a rebuilt anyway. For a few hundred you can buy an old small block. Slowly build it up with inexpensive parts. The stock bottom end on a 350 can handle over 350-400 horses. Buy a mild cam, and if your states emissions allows, swap it to a carb. The injection systems of the late 80s chevys just arent easy to modify and usually a lot of chip tuning/customization is needed. For relatively cheap you can buy a set of 96+ 350 heads which is good for 30 horses. Just make sure you buy an aluminum intake. You can increase lift with the cam and/or increase rocker ratio. Maybe have someone hand port the heads or try it yourself if youre good with a die grinder. 3rd gen Camaros are fat kids. Put it on a diet. Remove all the crap you dont want and stiffen up the suspension. Then crack a beer. You now have a decent Camaro that you can enjoy and smoke the tires off. After you replace the weak rear end, of course.




You might just look for a car swap or trade in for what you want. Remember, all the recommendations above except for a major tune-up will cost a lot of money. Put what you may do against a car payment for one that runs like you want it to and make your decision if money is your concern.


nitrous.....a couple hundred and a couple hours.......and its done!


I dont like to object to peoples opinions and ideas, but nitrous really isnt a good idea in this case. Its an 89 2.8 Camaro, and the owner already stated he doesnt have much money. So it stands to reason that the car probably has well over 120K or more miles and isnt in incredible shape mechanically speaking. So adding nitrous, which we all have to admit is like heroin for your thumb/right foot, is just going to stress a engine that is already due for freshening. What happens when he blows a head gasket or something major? He doesnt have the money to fix it. Now he's screwed. Not to mention that nitrous is illegal in many places, hard to find and expensive to refill. I admit nitrous is cheap fun, but just not in this case. And just saying "get another car" is like telling water not to be wet. Im sure if he could afford a new ZL1, he'd get one. But he has what he has. How about offering some advice on how to improve his ride versus saying he cant?


Michael, not to get into a hussy-fit here, but I agree on your reasoning with nitrous not being to his advantage given the cost and older engine. But sometime we have to be realistic. He wants to make a plow horse compete with a quarter-horse. Putting a hundred dollar saddle on a ten cent horse will not make it compete. Cars are like boats, they nickle and dime you to death. Making an old six banger Cameo into a competitive speedster will cost money. Start with a radiator, motor, transmission, drive line, breaks, rear end, and fuzzy dice for the rear view mirror. It will all add up. Compare that cost with a trade that already has those features and then he can make a decision. Tune up what he has for a little bit of cash, maybe even put better wheels and tires on it, cheap paint job or have the paint buffed out, and have a very nice looking ride and be happy. We can't all afford a new car, but we should not kick what we have either.

1 people found this helpful.

here is something free, rip all your interior out other than the driver seat and dash. Light weight makes you faster but when you finally impress the ladys with your fast car you have to tell them to sit on the egg crate where a seat should be. I think this guy just became a vent for everyone frustrated with people who want power but dont want to spend a dime. It doesnt happen and all you do is end up wasting money on things like octane booster and electric turbos that are crap. Octance booster has benifits but not for your everyday average Camry or in this case v6 Camaro. And electric turbos were just made to rip people off. The 2.8 is just a small workhorse motor that wasn't even great at that, The best thing to do is to yank it out and put a 3.4 in it, they bolt right up and have more power.


I agree that making his vehicle fast isnt going to be cheap. Making something better rarely ever is. My gripe is more about people not really helping. They fire answers without any real insight into what the owner is seeking, or in their best interest. The beauty of owning an old beater is that you dont have to build it right away. I wasnt suggesting he go out and purchase a motor, trans and rear end tomorrow. Buy it in pieces, from a junkyard. Maybe even one that needs a rebuild. Build it over time, learn the technology, get your hands dirty. Thats what the people who started this hobby did. Too many kids these days (and Im only 29, so those days arent too far in the rear view) just want to roast tires without any real knowledge of how an internal combustion engine works. And when they do come looking for help, people say things like "put a turbo/nitrous on it". Maybe that might work for a short time, but it will likely end in the demise of the car and/or the owners wallet. This thread actually got me thinking about why I dont see many third gen F-bodies on the road anymore. Its not because theyre bad vehicles, it because too many ill informed kids blew them up or wrecked them. Anyway, like I said, my argument is if someone is seeking advice, lets point them in the direction THEY need to be in, not whats easiest or fastest or requires the least amount of thought on our end.

I question this "need for speed"---what are we trying to do here?...if racing, there are tracks where you won't run over doggies and kitties...and pedestrians....and we can do this safely...outrunning another motorist...c'mon grow up!....please.~


What we have here is a failure to communicate! One of the best lines to come out of Hollywood. I have read and re-read the question posed and the answers. Some are a little far out, sounding like tongue and cheek, some are genuine tryi9ng to help the kid with his question. This sounds like a young man that is not trying to race on the highway and run over kittens or kids, but has in his mind a car he wants to get more oomph out of. Andrew had the best answer. Do a good tune up, and make sure everything is working in good order. I have had Pontiacs or Buicks for several years now. I went from the V-8 to the front drive six and to the new generation 3,8 V-6. They are just as fast if not faster than the old 350 v-8s offered back then, get great gas mileage, are reliable, not expensive to maintain. What is the real question? This guy has a limited income, as most of us do, so is asking without dropping a ton of money, how to get better performance out of his 6 banger. Tune-ups and proper adjustments are best. If it is not what he wants, he needs to assess it and make decisions on how and what he will do to satisfy his desires. Build from scratch as you suggest, not kill kitties as Roy suggests, or tune up as Andrew suggests. The decision is his to make, we all gave our opinion, let him decide his course of action. We are acting as a committee, and they never can decide the right course of action. Put this to rest. Boxbench48, what do you think?

1 people found this helpful.

...we share the same highways, but have varying amount of brakes left~


Hey everyone thanks for the helpful advice. I know for sure that I'm not going to turbo charge it (don't have the finances to build to engine to be able to handle it) and while nitrous would be fun, the car is running with a chip and I don't want it to ping...I'll probably give it a good tune up, spiff up the interior real nice and then slowly but surely start to build everything else up.

1 people found this helpful.

hooray boxbench48----have made the best of what you know to be excellent~


I'm assuming you want a lot more power than your average V8. Not only is the possible, but it can be done on a very tight budget. The first thing you need to do is find out where all of the excess weight is in your vehicle. The 3rd Gen Camaro is a hefty girl, so putting her on a diet is critical. 1st, you have to understand that the steel fenders are not that much heavier than fiberglass so leave those alone. If your front bumper cover is in good condition, you can remove it carefully (there are lots of bolts, screws, and clips which hold this onto your car). Once the front cover is off the vehicle, you will see the ugliest bumper you have ever seen. This is a 5 mph bumper which literally serves no purpose. The government claimed it saved thousands of lives, but at 5 mph, I've never heard of anyone dying or receiving a serious injury. You have to drill out the rivets to remove this behemoth. Once it's gone, you will have removed about 20 pounds from the front end. It doesn't seem like much, but this is just a start. Put the front cover back on and drill as many holes as you can in the headlight buckets. These do not need go be as beefy as they were manufactured. This will also keep your headlight bulbs from overheating during the summer. Next, take off your hood. It's really heavy so you'll need a friend to help unless your super young and super strong. It weighs at least 80 lbs. The best way to lose weight here is to replace it with fiberglass. That being said, I assume you're on a budget. So here's how you fix that. Replace the stock hood shocks with fiberglass hood shocks. These will only set you back about $40 online with free shipping at http://www.carid.com. Next, look for the weight in the hood. Most of this will be found in the middle structural supports. I suggest drilling small, 1" holes approximately every 3" along the front, the back, and the x- brace. Do not, I repeat, Do not drill holes in the side supports of the hood as this will cause it to buckle, forcing you to spend the money on another hood. Because you have a V6 car, I would keep your stock front and rear coil springs as you will be glad you did once you build some horsepower. Another place you can drop weight in the engine compartment is with the multiple brackets which hold the front end together. They are there for accessories and only add weight. By now you should be getting the idea of how to drop weight on your vehicle. You can drill holes in your pulleys which will drop a lot of weight but you have to make certain the pulleys are balanced after you drill them. Also make sure that you deburr the holes because they will eat up your belts otherwise. Another place to lose weight is in the interior. The stock carpet is ok, but underneath it is a sound deadener which weighs a lot. Pull out the sound deadener then spray in a can of truck bed liner. A light coating is best and is all that is needed. This should cover the entire floor then you can replace the carpet if you were careful removing it. Another heavy weight is the stock steering wheel. Buy an inexpensive Grant wheel from your nearest autoparts store. They range from $30 and up. If you can't find one you like there, try online. Again at CarID they have a good range of steering wheels starting at that price range and you're interior will thank you. Next, get rid of the stock radio system. An aftermarket stereo is a third of the weight and sounds ten times better for less than $200.00 when you shop around. Next, leave the stock seats as they truly don't weigh any less than aftermarket seats until you start spending a lot of money. Now that you're done with the diet plan, it's time to get ready for horse power. The first thing you want to do is go to a junk yard and find a wrecked Z28 or IROC and grab the rear axle assembly. They can be had cheaply and they should have rear disc brakes with posi-traction. Next, a good set of gears (I recommend 3.90:1) will set you back around $300 with the install kit. Next, it's not time to leave the junk yard yet. Turbos and intercoolers can be had for cheap. If you want a big turbo, look at the F250 and F350 Fords with Turbo Diesels from 1996 and up. They have variable geometry turbos which work great with smaller engines and make huge horse power. Make sure you grab two of them. Second, look for Saab 900's or Volvo 840 Turbos and grab two of their inter coolers. They too can be had for cheap. Next, you can purchase turbo rebuild kits for about $100 each on the internet and the intercoolers generally don't have to be rebuilt. Now, call Summit Racing Equipment at 1- 800-230-3030 and ask them if they have a template kit for machining your stock heads. They should. If they don't, call Jegs at 1-800-345-4545. Using these kits will save you a bunch of money and you'll learn a new skill........how to machine your heads. I recommend porting and polishing your heads as far as you're willing to go. If you mess up, junk yard heads are a dime a dozen. Next, get a set of copper head gaskets and aluminum header gaskets. Buy a set of turbo headers on Ebay. This is the cheapest way to go. Jegs and Summit both offer insane cam packages and I recommend full roller rockers for your motor. By now, you'll need an intake. Unfortunately, your engine (if stock) is the 2.8L and is rather weak. But these tricks can help. My recommendation would be to find a junkyard 4.3L and do the same things to it. This engine is basically a 350 minus 2 cylinders and makes a ton more horse power. Your transmission will also need a rebuild. I suggest going with B&M's master rebuild kit. You can get videos on youtube to learn how to rebuild your transmission. In the end, you'll be the pro, you'll save ten's of thousands of dollars, and yes, you actually can smoke a V8. Best of luck my friend. Let me know how it goes.

2 people found this helpful.

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