We mentioned GM’s Performance Parts division briefly in part one of Project Garage’s Yukon engine swap, but we didn’t get into the serious details. In part two, we’d like to do just that, and hopefully let you in on what seems to us to be a too-closely-kept secret: GM offers some great engines and a great service team to back them up. If you’ve been considering installing a GM engine as part of late-model engine swap (like our Yukon), or if you’re looking for a great late-model engine for your ultimate ‘rod, these people should be high on your list to call.
We bet you’re thinking the same thing we thought when we first started researching the project: Buying performance parts through a standard dealer is a pain. They rarely know a lot about the parts you’re interested in because they don’t sell very many of them. Indeed, though you can purchase parts from the GM Performance Parts catalog from any GM dealer, most dealers aren’t intimately familiar with these parts from the road-less-traveled and won’t be able to help you.
However, GM has established a network of “authorized dealers” — 300+ dealers who’ve committed additionally to have at least one person at the dealership who’s trained and up-to-date on the catalog and its application — to assist you. Furthermore, each of the authorized dealers has access to a support team back at GM Performance Parts headquarters who can answer their questions should your questions stump them.
As we discovered, calling one of the authorized dealers yields a totally different experience, superior even to that of many custom parts shops. We called up a Dallas, Texas area dealer who was part of the program when we were first seeking an engine for the Yukon. We had a difficult situation for a variety of reasons:
- We had a 1995 Yukon that depends on its computer for more than just engine managment.
- We weren’t willing to give up fuel injection.
- We have to pass emissions testing and yearly vehicle inspections (which are moderately difficult here in metropolitan Texas).
- We required a daily-driveable vehicle.
- And, most of all, we wanted more power.
They eventually sold us their H.O. 350 in “base” configuration — no intake manifold or fuel system — along with a carefully-selected intake manifold that fit the Yukon’s non-Vortec throttle-body injection. The engine’s rated at 330 HP in base configuration.
GM Performance Parts indicates that they have an even better solution for 1996-1998 model Yukons (and similar vehicles): an emissions-legal 383 producing 425 HP with an almost completely bolt-in experience. Neat stuff, and not nearly as expensive as you’d think. (They did indicate that there are five states in which the 383 isn’t legal. Though it’ll pass emissions “sniffer” tests, these five states require that an engine be of the same displacement as the one it replaces in order to be legal. A stroked/bored 350 doesn’t qualify. Luckily, Texas isn’t one of those states. If you need to know what they are, ask a GM Performance Parts authorized dealer; It’s just one of the very interesting things they can tell you.)
GM Performance Parts also recently re-created their website completely to provide signficantly more information about the program. We checked it out — link below — and discovered it to be true. The new website is now the program’s preferred first-point-of-content and can direct you to the authorized dealer closest to you.
When you call, be sure to ask for a catalog. Not only does it include some of the most drool-worthy engines you’ll see — such as the Corvette Z06’s LS7, producing 505 HP and gobs of useable torque — but it’s a who’s-who of engines you’ll see installed in mega-rods on TV. Also, be sure and ask (or check the website) about the GM Performance Parts Mobile Show — a semi-truck-based show that travels from city to city stopping at authorized dealers to give you a chance to see some of the rarer engines first-hand and learn about the product line.
GM plans to release additional improvements to the website in October, including an “engine configurator” that’ll allow you to select from hundreds of engine components (pistons, rods, heads, etc.) to assemble you’re dream engine, then instantly see the exact performance you can expect from your specific combination. Incredibly, they’re not using simulation to determine the numbers; They’re actually assembling each of the 3,600+ combinations, dropping them on the engine dyno, and testing them. So, when the configurator says your combination’ll make X-many horsepower, you can bet that some poor guy(s) had to actually build it to see. (And if you’re an out-of-work engine builder, well, you now know where to call.)
Pricing is quite reasonable — considering what you’re receiving — and their basic 290 HP 350 small-block starts at around $1,700. We paid around $3,000 for our 330 HP H.O. 350. GM indicated to us that their engines range from $3/HP to around $17/HP, so they offer products for almost any budget.
We’ll be back next week with an update on the Yukon. We’ve been busy fabricating upper engine mounts and locating a few of the harder-to-find parts, all of which we’ll tell you about in the update.
GM Performance Parts [GM]