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Budget Chevy Performance Cars - 3 Chevys For 10k

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LS Camino
Among the least expensive rear-wheel-drive cars out there right now are the '80s A- and G-bodies. We don't have specific numbers to back this up, but easily the most popular version of that body style is the El Camino. GM must have built millions of them between 1978 and 1987. While woefully underpowered, we think this little cruiser has plenty of potential—especially with an influx of torque and horsepower. We'll assume a tight budget, which makes the truck 5.3L (325ci) V8 and 4L60E such a great swap. We've seen used engine/trans packages go for $1,200 or less. Keep in mind that 100,000 miles on an LS engine that's been serviced regularly means it easily has another 70,000 miles or more left on the clock. The 5.3 is rated up to 295 hp, which is a 100-plus horsepower gain over the stock El Camino 305. In some states (like California) you have to be concerned with emissions and use the factory computer and catalytic converter. Technically, we should mention all states fall under federal emissions laws that do not allow you to remove the cat on even the early '80s cars. Beyond the emissions question, however, this is a really easy swap that would transform the anemic El Camino into a nice boulevard cruiser with far better throttle response. If you'd prefer to stick with a nonelectric overdrive trans, we've covered that, too ("Put an Early Transmission Behind a Gen III Block" Oct.'08, pg. 30). You can also connect an older 700-R4 or 200-4R TV cable to the LS EFI throttle-body with an adapter from Bow Tie Overdrives. If you have some extra cash, convert the truck accessory drive over to a Qwik Performance version that will allow the use of an LS1 intake. Hook up the exhaust and control the whole package with a FAST self-learning EZ-EFI controller. FAST sells a controller and wiring harness system for EFI engines for well under $1,000. You will have to drive the ignition with an MSD box, but that's only another $375, which means for around $1,200 you have a fully functional late-model EFI package that has plenty of power and can knock down 22-plus mpg with an overdrive trans. We used Bob Mehlhoff's clean '87 to illustrate the idea. Frankly, it's so simple it would be difficult to justify why you haven't done it already.

Tech Notes
'87 El Camino $1,500.00
5.3L LS engine, used $900.00
LS1 intake manifold, used $ 100.00
FAST Retro-Fit EZ-EFI, PN 302000 $873.95
FAST injector wire adapters, PN 17604-8 $53.25
Aeromotive fuel pressure reg., PN 13109 $144.95
Kwik Performance kit, PN K10168 $287.00
GM flexplate adapter, PN 12563532 $42.41
GM flexplate for adapter, PN 12551367 $119.30
GM flexplate bolts, PN 11569956 $2.58 ea.
AMD steel cowl hood, PN 300-3478-2 $449.95
Total $4,486.65
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Car Craft