Top 10 Mods for Modern Muscle

The times are changing, and so is the automotive industry. With a boom and reemergence of muscle cars comes the next generation of modifications to make them faster. Gone are the days of carb tuning, adjustable fuel pressure regulators and distributor timing; with today’s technology, some mods have become obsolete for newer muscle cars. Here are the top ten mods that’ll help increase the performance of your ride and drop your E.T.s at the strip.


1. Hand-held Programmer

Top 10 Mods for Modern Muscle
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The Predator II from Diablosport plugs into the OBD-II of a vehicle and changes the computer instantly.

Hand-held programmers are able to squeeze more power out of your vehicle and enable you to return to factory specs at will. This is beneficial to those under factory warranties, where the tuner may not void it.

Besides adding power, hand-helds offer other features such as changing tire size, rear-axle ratios, removing speed limiters and even disabling “skip shift” on GM manual transmission cars. Most hand-helds are catered to those with bolt-ons, so whether it’s your first or last mod, you’ll be sure to see an increase in performance.


2. Exhaust

It is no surprise that factory exhaust systems need to go. Although some factory piping is more aggressive than previously found on older cars, manufacturers are still trying keep noise levels down just in case Grandma buys the 6.4L HEMI. For anything with a V8 that’s rear-wheel drive, consider long tube headers, a new H or X-pipe or a cat-back. If you want instant satisfaction, choose that last and bolt on a new cat-back muffler system. If you really want to wake up your engine’s performance, find a great set of long tube headers. You can learn more about exhaust here.


3. Air Intake System

After all these years, manufacturers are still putting paper air filters in gigantic plastic boxes under your hood. Dump all of it for a cone filter to let your car breathe easier. There are about 100 different brands per car in a variety of prices, but don’t steer away from the basics: You need a high-flowing cone filter and some tubing. Some companies even sell components individually, so you can piece together your own system.


4. Shift Kits and Short Shifters

Top 10 Mods for Modern Muscle
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Hurst continues to manufacture short-throw shifters for all newer muscle cars.

If you drive an automatic, most modern muscle cars have available shift kits, so you can start chirping into 2nd and higher gears. If you choose to row your own gears, cut down your length of travel by opting for a short shifter.

These mods will dramatically decrease your shift time, increase consistency and potentially lower your E.T.s.


5. Throttle Body and Intake Manifold

Just because throttles are now operated electronically doesn’t mean you can’t buy a bigger one and gain a few ponies. Besides the air intake, the throttle body is the next chokepoint for air entering the engine.

The intake manifold is next on the list of things to upgrade. Factory manifolds have gratuitous amounts of casting flash and gasket misalignments. Get rid of that and the restrictions they pose by upgrading to a bigger intake that supports your bigger throttle body.

These components allow the greatest gains when paired together. Don’t buy a throttle body from company X and then buy an intake manifold from company Y unless you’ve researched their compatibility.


6. Camshafts

Sometimes a camshaft may be the best option for gaining a couple more ponies. A camshaft (if chosen properly) will net you more horsepower, even on a bone-stock car. Consider a mild cam when you have few to no mods and choose a wild cam if you’ve completed a lot of other mods. You can learn more about camshafts in our two part series: Part 1 and Part 2.


7. Nitrous Oxide

For years, racers, enthusiasts and hotrodders alike have been using nitrous oxide as an immediate remedy for gaining horsepower.

Although not sustainable in the long term, strapping a bottle and kit to your car can be performed in a day, and the gains will be worth it in E.T. reduction.

Beware that nitrous oxide, if improperly used, can result in catastrophic engine damage. Consider the consequences of misusing nitrous and always consult an experienced professional if you are unsure if your vehicle can handle it.


8. Superchargers

Top 10 Mods for Modern Muscle
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If you feel your naturally aspirated car cannot compete with factory supercharged vehicles, Procharger has the solution with bolt-on kits.

Supercharging has increased in popularity since cars began to use computers to control the air/fuel mixture. It is as simple as bolting on another belt-driven accessory and using a programmer to adjust the computer for the increase in air.

Manufacturers are producing cars with superchargers as an option, which has driven the after-market supercharging industry crazy. The Camaro, Corvette, Charger, and Challenger all come in factory form with an available supercharger. For the rest of us who can’t drop over $60,000 on a car, bolt-on supercharger kits close the gap between price and horsepower.


9. Wheels and Slicks

Wheels and slicks are some of the best mods to endure the changes in technology.

From a racing perspective, ditching factory steel-wheels for aftermarket aluminum reduces weight. Since most factory muscle cars come with aluminum wheels, the next benefit is running narrower front wheels to reduce weight.

For the drive wheels, wider is better and nets more traction. Some cars are equipped with factory wheels that are both light and wide, while others can use the upgrade. Researching will provide a lot of insight as to whether changing your wheels will give any benefit. It’s always a good idea to have a second set of wheels if you’re going to use drag radials.

Slicks or drag radial tires are one of the must-have modifications for any racer. Changing street tires to racing tires will yield more consistent 60-foot times and lower E.T.s. Traction is a necessity in any race environment, and drag radials do not disappoint.


10. Lower Control Arms

Top 10 Mods for Modern Muscle
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Suspensions have been upgraded with magnetic dampers, yaw sensors, g-force sensors and a plethora of other electronics. What hasn’t changed is the geometry of a vehicle’s suspension, and how movement in the suspension affects the performance of a vehicle.

Lower Control Arms, known to some as LCAs, are a direct replacement for factory arms which tie the rear-axle and frame together.

Factory arms are made of either stamped steel or solid units. The former is a weak point in the suspension and does not provide enough stability during launching. The latter is ideal until more horsepower is achieved, and then adjustable aftermarket units with upgraded bushings are desired.

Solid and adjustable units are available in the aftermarket which provide both an increase in traction and reduce flex during launches. Adjustable arms allow corrections to be made when ride height is altered.

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