1979 Camaro z28 help

Discussion in 'Engine Topic' started by Masonwolfe98, Jun 4, 2021.

  1. Masonwolfe98

    Masonwolfe98 New Member

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    Jun 4, 2021
    I’ve owned a 1979 camaro z28 for close to 8 years now. Got the car when I was 15. It was a barn find with 22,000 original miles. 350 with a 4 speed. Came with all original paperwork, Jack, spare. All original from factory. Amazing shape.

    I put a lot of time into it when I was younger, stopped when I went to college and am now wanting to finish or atleast be able to drive and enjoy it before I go to medical school and once again have little time for it.

    so far it’s been repainted, I have restored the brakes, brake lines, fuel lines, sending unit, painted underneath and the engine bay, window trim/weatherstripping, interior and pretty much everything else except for some more cosmetic work and the biggest thing, the engine.

    I always wanted to keep it stock since it’s an original barn find, however I don’t plan on selling the car and want to be able to enjoy it. My original plan was to buy another crate 350 and leave the original engine stock and just clean it up overtime. However, I can’t afford a new crate engine at the moment and I’m running out of time to get the car running before I go to school and actually enjoy my project.

    I decided on using the original motor for the time being, adding some performance upgrades while also keeping all the stock parts in case I ever want to restore it to its original self. Saves me time and money since I can afford to upgrade the engine I have.

    My goal is to have a nice streetcar with some performance, the original feel everywhere else. Nothing crazy but more than the original 175 hp.

    I recently got lucky and found someone selling brand new sbc parts for cheap because a shop closed down. This included a Holley air cleaner, Edelbrock performer rpm intake, Holley 600 street warrior, and a streetfire distributor.

    My issue is I’ve been doing research on these parts and general performance upgrades on the original 350 and most people point to the heads of these engines. I was going to restore Vortec heads and with these parts I would have a pretty enjoyable street engine with some get-up. But then I realized that the performer rpm may cause a hood clearance issue since another thread said it was taller than the original intake. The forum said with Vortec heads the engine would be too high but with the stock heads it clears.

    I plan on getting a new cam and headers/exhaust but I’m at a crossroads with the heads. The original ones are in amazing shape but obviously aren’t the best for performance. I got the intake for an amazing deal but should I sell it, buy a low rise intake, and continue with Vortec heads. Thoughts?
  2. Zspoiler

    Zspoiler Veteran Member

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    May 6, 2012
    Federal Way, Washington
    I did that on my 1979 Z-28 for awhile Until I went overboard. You can add aftermarket intake,I used a Edelbrock Performer with my stock heads . There is an article in site and in Hot Rod Magazine from back in the day ,On how to make your stock hood functional, You can either use your stock distributor and or an aftermarket one .I put a set of headers with true dual exhaust .And or use you stock exhaust manifolds .I did this while I was in the Marine Corps ,So time and funds were limited Until I got out and added things like upgrades in suspension and the such As my job and income improved .Good luck to you,

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  3. 1980RS

    1980RS Veteran Member

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    Jun 17, 2006
    It's worth more stock and like I told my Brother when he had an original 68 Camaro. They are only original once, after that it just a modded car like anyone else can have.
  4. biker

    biker Veteran Member

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    Dec 7, 2014
    The vortec heads have a different intake bolt setup and wont work with your rpm intake. If you are just looking for a solid, usable noticeable upgrade to your engine, your stock heads with the right cam, intake, headers, dual exhaust and a performance ignition curve in your HEI distributor will do it.

    Vortecs are great heads, but with their potential, you would need to really upgrade the rest of your combo to take full advantage of them. You can get 275-300 hp out of your current engine without them. In daily driving, the torque that comes with an upgrade from 175-275 hp is far more noticeable than the increase from 300-400 hp.
    Edit: if your stock quadrajet carb is in good shape, it will easily support 300 hp. If you carefully pull off the factory seals from the idle mixture screws, you can tune the idle for the changes that you make.
    There are plenty of powerful stock headed engines running around out there. I will emphasize again making sure u have a good ignition curve for your upgrades.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2021
    Oldskool62 and sandlapper like this.
  5. sandlapper

    sandlapper Veteran Member

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    Oct 9, 2020
    SE CSA
    welcome new fellow
    listen to biker
    It's only original once.

    keep your GM Delco HEI distributor (far better than streetfire) and Quadrajet carb ... get Lars Grimsrud's free white papers to refresh, recurve/tune Both.

    Keep the OE air cleaner assembly. True dual exhaust with cat delete will make a difference.

    If yours has composite head gaskets; replace with thin (~ 0.015") steel shim gaskets such as felpro 1094 or 7733SH1 ... they'll raise compression about 1/2 point ... say from 8.2 to nearly 8.6 ... that'll also improve quench height to about 0.040". In general, compression ratio is directly proportional to performance ... also, optimal quench/squish matters.

    at the ~ 300 fwhp level, changing street 350 intake manifold ain't gonna do much.

    Good, reliable specs from GM

    Next motor: rebuild an rpo L31 iron-head Vortec OE roller cam motor from 96-2002 truck or buy a new (not rebuilt) GM crate replacement L31.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021 at 3:14 PM
  6. Rustbucket350

    Rustbucket350 Veteran Member

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    Sep 4, 2013
    Oviedo, Florida
    You don't "have to" upgrade anything to put vortec heads on your current 350. Yes. They do have a different bolt pattern than your factory heads. For the valve covers and the intake.

    What heads do you have currently? You may not need to take them off at all. I always recommend the crane 274h06 as a fantastic cam since it works very well with motors from 8:1 to 10:1. Power potential is mostly in the head flow, which is why I asked what heads you currently have. If you have 882s, which are common for that year, then despite what people say you can make one hell of a 350 with those heads.

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