1981 Z28 - looking for mild modification ideas

Discussion in '1978 - 1981 Specific' started by NHRA 3168, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. NHRA 3168

    NHRA 3168 New Member

    Oct 11, 2017
    I recently helped a friend find a nice 1981 Z28, 350, auto, T-tops etc... . The car is a running, driving, nicely maintained car but completely stock. My friend really likes the car but would like to perform some mild modifications to improve performance with the first thought being more horsepower for the anemic smog motor 350. Does anyone have any suggestions or experience with where to start? This is a nice car that needs to be maintained to a somewhat stock configuration so a big block, nitrous fed motor is out of the question. He isn't a hands on kind of owner and lives 6 hours drive from me so I am trying to show him examples.

    Thanks for any advice or experience you can offer.

  2. Twisted_Metal

    Twisted_Metal Administrator Staff Member Lifetime Gold Member

    Feb 26, 2004
    Bloomington, MN
    First question needing an answer... Does your friend have to get it tested for emissions for licensing?
    Some states have no smog testing and others are pretty thorough in their inspections.
  3. NHRA 3168

    NHRA 3168 New Member

    Oct 11, 2017
    He lives in Minnesota and a quick Google search says no smog tests.
  4. NHRA 3168

    NHRA 3168 New Member

    Oct 11, 2017
    I tried to upload a picture so you can see what we are working with. It is a really nice example of a stock 81Z 81 Z28.jpg
  5. flint9

    flint9 Member

    Jun 6, 2016
    st louis mo
    headers, carb and cam will work wonders,while still keeping mostly stock.
  6. Zspoiler

    Zspoiler Veteran Member

    May 6, 2012
    Federal Way, Washington
    There are the usual modifications.An aluminum intake manifold like an Eldelbrock "Performer. Headers and dual exhuast. With dual catalytic converters if needed .You can use your stock tail pipes.A shift kit if you have an automatic. And MSD type ignition box. A K & N air filter to name a few. That is how I started on mine .Because I drove it daily. It all depends on your pocketbook.

    Attached Files:

  7. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Veteran Member

    Subframe connectors.
  8. flowjoe

    flowjoe Moderator Staff Member Lifetime Gold Member

    Feb 7, 2006
    It seems kind of a shame (and potentially a waste of money) to have gone out and purchased an unmolested 81 Z only to start bolting go fast parts on it but to each their own. It's gonna be hard getting around all the inherent issues with that motor (smogger heads, mild cam, low compression) but the lowest impact biggest bang - since there is no smog - would seem to be headers and true dual exhaust. An intake and carb might be the next level - and not irreversible - but the heads will then be the bottle neck. Plus intake height will be an issue with the cowl induction system - which really does work and looks sooooo much better than the ubiquitous '69 style cowl hoods everyone and their cousins run. K & N filters are over rated and flow less well than most stock filter set ups (despite what their literature says) and when they do flow better they do a crappy job of filtering - the very reason we run filters and not open carbs.

    I'd take it real slow initially...it's a neat time capsule even retaining the N90s...your friend might find he likes it for what it is. If not, it might be better to sell it and buy a resto-mod instead.

    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
    l16pilot likes this.
  9. 8pack

    8pack Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

    Aug 29, 2007
    Pittsburgh, PA
    +1. There are very few of these around that are truly still all original. The prices are going up on these and in particular unmolested ones. This looks like a really nice original vehicle that will probably fetch a very good price. Don’t know what he paid for it, but these are going in the $30s for top quality ones now.

    Buy one that someone has already dumped money into, has a good solid body and he can modify with go fast goodies without depreciating it. Sell this one to a collector or hold onto to it for anothenr3-4 years when prices will probably peak and sell it then....
  10. Zspoiler

    Zspoiler Veteran Member

    May 6, 2012
    Federal Way, Washington
    You seem to forget that you can always change it back to stock if you keep the original parts. Just remember its your car Do with it as you wish.
    Z28zz383 likes this.

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