Top 10 Easy Performance Projects

Top 10 Easy Performance Projects

Cool car stuff without getting too dirty
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You want to modify your ride. There are tons of easy performance enhancements you can make that will take up just a small part of your time. Think about it-only two or three hours after work or a over a lazy Saturday. Installing creativity-impaired bolt-on performance is like falling out of a tree: anyone can do it and you always know where you'll wind up.

Installing creativity-impaired bolt-on performance is like falling out of a tree: anyone can do it and you always know where you'll wind up.

Here's the big question: is the hardest part of your wrenching project getting started? How often have you planned to spend the evening bolting on a new carbon-trispiffonate gear modulator only to find yourself still on the couch three hours later? Get focused. You won't be bogged down in details if there's only a few of 'em. Choose a simple project from this list and hop to it.

Systems have been designed to replace the condenser and breaker with solid-state Hall-Effect electronics. Scan through vintage-muscle magazines (particularly for Mustangs and Fords) and you'll see them. They create a stronger spark that lasts much longer (as does the product itself), and you don't need to worry about constantly tuning the system. Better yet, these ignitor systems can work with your current points-style coil. Plug and run.

Enter brake lines. Once again, factory components that get the job done just don't do it to hot-rodder standards. Factory brake lines are usually reinforced rubber from the hard line fitting in the wheel well to the caliper. When you brake hard (especially in an older car), the brake lines' circumference grows with pressure-they expand. Lost braking power, right there. What's the fix? Sheathed lines-braided brake lines. Much like the rotors, braided brake lines are available in stock-configurations for most performance-minded vehicles. You need to swap them with the factory lines, and do a lot of bleeding (of the brake lines), but the change makes a difference. Firmer pedal, more consistent braking. By the way, this is a good time to flush your brake system-once a year, mind you, always with new fluid.

Electric fans can be set up alone or in parallel, on a thermostatic switch or straight off the ignition, in front of the radiator or behind, push or pull. There is flexibility to the installation (where can you fit it-), as long as you don't remove the radiator shroud (need that to properly cool the engine at speed). You need to have room to run power to it and for a cut-off switch. Several manufacturers make vehicle-specific kits like those for Fox-chassis Mustangs or full-size Chevy trucks. Best yet, test situations have shown that an electric fan can free up 45 more horsepower on a 450 hp small block. Try this at home.

Consider too the possibility there are radiators factory-manufactured for special applications, such as a police/pursuit application or with a big block (if you're a small block guy).

Radiator Swap

Speaking of engine coolant, aftermarket radiators are a very easy afternoon swap. Usually just a matter of undoing two hoses, the shroud and some bracketry (and removal of the electric fan if it secures to the radiator), expanded engine cooling capacity is a few twists of the wrist away. Factory cooling is, once again, just enough to handle the factory-spec systems when new. As soon as you begin making performance modifications, though, you make more power, and that means more heat. For example, early Ford Mustangs (most often equipped with a puny two-row radiator) are notorious for running out of cooling capacity quickly when modified. Aftermarket replacement radiators might use aluminum or brass cores and hardware, and flow more efficiently than the factory unit. Consider too the possibility there are radiators factory-manufactured for special applications, such as a police/pursuit application or with a big block (if you're a small block guy). While you're at it, examine the radiator hoses for cracking or loss of structural integrity-replace them with silicone pieces if available.

The factory pump is limited in its ability to cope with beyond-factory levels of fuel demand. If your power situation is expanded beyond the factory level, the pump will be working at full capacity just to keep up with daily driving. Full throttle can starve the engine and result in overheating and power-robbing lean conditions. The easy fix (unless you're making power far beyond stock levels; then you'll need more than a pump to catch up) is removal of the factory pump and filter. Some cars require you to drop the gas tank, others just need a panel in the trunk popped out. In place of the stock parts, drop in a pump with greater g.p.h. (gallon per hour) capacity and new filter. Upgrade-replacement units are available that will bolt right in. If you have the time, plumb a fuel pressure gauge in the engine compartment and install an adjustable pressure regulator and you'll have real-time information-access and control.

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