I’ve been talking about camshafts and researching them for years, but the cost of an LS cam is usually $400 not including the mandatory valve springs and special tool required. I was hesitant to pull the trigger before because people say “You have to do lifters and timing chain.” That requires removing the heads – meaning head gaskets and head bolts among other miscellaneous cost that escalate a simple cam swap into a $1000+ project. I’ve pulled the intake off of my LS1 a few times already and 4th gen Camaros are not the easiest car to work in. The back half of the engine is in a cave under the cowl and windshield. I wasn’t going to tear apart my daily driver down to the block and spend $1000 just for a cam swap so I kept putting it off.
All over the forums people talk about 224 and 228 duration cams as daily driver cars, so I knew that was the range I was looking for as far as duration, but I also didn’t want some .650″ lift monster that was going to have me worrying about piston clearances and stuff like excessive vale train wear and noise. I thought about using the ls9 springs that you can find online for ~$65, but that would limit lift to .560″ and most of the cams are up near .600″ because even the stock heads flow well up there. The PAC 1218 springs are twice as much at ~$130 on eBay, but will allow up to .600″
Finding this guy on YouTube, sloppymechanics, I regained the burning desire again to cam my car because of his care free confidence and $400 total parts list recommendation. I watched one of his videos early in 2017 recommending parts for a 500 wheel horsepower turbo LS build where he recommends a cam from Jegs that is over $100 cheaper than cams are selling everywhere else. The final straw was when I saw his new video series “don’t BS me” he talks about this cam he is using from Elgin cams, off eBay, that has identical specs to the jegs cam for $238. The cam is 228/230 @.050″ .585″/.585″ 112 lsa which was almost exactly what I was looking for! For the price this was an amazing deal considering I also found the PAC 1218 springs on ebay for $130 and the valve springs compressor for ~$25.
This guy has made over 1000 horsepower on a chasis dyno, so I know he isn’t some bullshitter. He just swaps out the springs and the cam, not all that other stuff everyone else talks about and probably makes more power than all the internet whiners combined.
Replacing the valve springs on a 4th gen camaro is kind of a pain in the ass because of how far the engine sits under the cowl, but it isn’t impossible. The springs by far the most time consuming part of a cam swap, taking about 4-6 hours is realistic. For my first time doing a cam on an LS car it took me 3 days. I wasn’t rushing and certainly could have done it in 2 or maybe even 1, but keep this in mind if you need this car to drive you to work. I did the valve springs first, so if I needed to drive the car before I was finished, I could still drive around with the stock cam with the new springs until I had enough time to drain the coolant and disassemble the front of the engine.
To swap the actual camshaft on an LS you will need to drain the coolant, remove the radiator and water pump. You might need to depressurize your air conditioning system and also remove your condenser if your roommate can’t finagle it out of the way without spilling his beer while you try not to scratch the shit out of your cam bearings as you wiggle the cam out. Making sure the dots on the sprockets are lined up and spinning the engine by hand after the rocker arms are tightened down is probably a good idea to make sure the valves don’t get a love tap from Mr. Piston.
Oh yea, you are definitely going to need to tune your car after you put bigger bumps in it. You can pay someone to do this, or you can spend days on YouTube watching videos and eating drive thru food with a computer in your passenger seat like I did.
Even with my janky tune without a dyno, I picked up 3 mph and .3 seconds in the quarter mile(without nitrous). The car sounds awesome at idle, and even better if it doesn’t die right after you start it. I’ll eventually get around to dyno tuning this beast and see how much more I can get out of the catfish Camaro before I write an article about a catastrophic failure!