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]
We’re smack in the middle of the Project Garage Yukon’s engine swap, and while we’re not quite ready to spring the next post on you, we did want to give you a heads up on a couple of items that are awfully usefull to have around when you’re taking on an engine swap.
The first is what we’ve always referred to as “board tape.” It’s the stuff that professional audio engineers use to label mixing boards as it fits perfectly in the little indented strip below the faders. We use it to label plugs, wires, and other items that we want to be sure to put back in the same place during assembly. We’re not horribly concerned about its specific size, but we like to use it because it’s easy to write on with a pen, very smudge resistant, and comes in a nice-sized roll. You can usually pick the stuff up at big music stores, or you can order it online from a variety of sources.
The other item is a box of locking-top sandwich bags. We’re partial to Heftys or Ziplocs as they have the “zipper” across the top for easy opening and sure-fire closing. The Ziplocs also have a slick white section on which you can write with a Sharpie. The advantage to these: now you can put all the bolts, nuts, or other little parts that go with a larger part in a bag and label it. In fact, if you’re pulling the part you can also go ahead and tape the bag to the item as well, which makes reassembly easy. You can find these at any grocery store.
You can lose hours or even days if you misplace fasteners during a large task like this, so why not spend the $20 or so on these items and make sure you’ve got it all under control?
We’re just sayin’.
Earlier this week we mentioned that we brought a few new projects into the garage, and this is one of them: a beautiful 1995 Yukon GT — the two door version — that spent its easy 24,000 mile life in Arizona.
As clean and nice as the Yukon might be, though, it’s horribly underpowered. With the stock 5.7L (350 CID) engine producing only just shy of 200 HP, this SUV makes a lot of racket but doesn’t really do much to move itself. The question we’ve been pondering is how to give this creampuff a much-needed injection of power without sacrificing driveability or reliability.
In our minds, one of the big factors in driveability is fuel injection. We don’t want to give up the Yukon’s instant start capability, and we don’t want to be crawling back under the hood every time the weather changes, either. So high on our list is keeping the injection. Calls to numerous crate motor manufacturers made it clear that dropping in an injected crate motor would be very, very difficult. Most of the pre-configured injection systems available are designed more for installation in older, carb’d engines as opposed to integrating with other modern systems like an electronically-controlled transmission and computer controlled gauge package. In short, we were told that to install an injected crate motor we could expect to scrap the transmission and build our own gauge package for the dash. And we could forget the climate control. Ouch!
Enter GM Performance and their very thorough catalog. It was a bit difficult to track down these guys. Calls to GM directly were answered by people who’d either never heard of the performance division or forwarded us to someone else they thought might know something. Eventually one of them did, and we were informed that GM Performance parts are only sold through dealers which support the program. Currently there are five of them in the US. Luckily, one of them is located relatively near our offices and shop here in Texas, so we made a beeline there.
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We’ve received a number of email requests from readers asking for more project coverage in general and for more automotive project coverage specifically. Well, ask and you shall receive. This first Toolmonger “project garage” post will cover the beginning stages of one of the automotive projects we’re currently undertaking: the teardown and rebuild of a wrecked BMW “airhead.”
BMW fans refer to their line of horizontally-opposed-air-cooled-twin series of bikes as “airheads.” We came across this particular example — a 1976 R90/6 — as a “haul-it-off” special in the Fort Worth area. As best we can determine it was parked in “as wrecked” condition after an accident about five years ago. Apparently it was “t-boned” at low speed from the rider’s right. Though there’s certain to be some frame damage, the bike rolled straight and appeared surprisingly together considering what it’d been through.
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