For the classic muscle car owner who wants to loosen the reigns and feel the full power of those horses under the hood, upgrading the engine might seem like the most practical solution. Installing a supercharger, adding a cold-air intake or swapping cams are viable options for increasing horsepower, but they aren’t one size fits all.
As a technical consultant at Fuel Air Spark Technology (FAST) — part of a national conglomerate of cam shaft, fuel injector and torque converter manufacturers — Kevin Winstead has seen muscle car owners take the “one-size-fits-all” approach, and he knows that it doesn’t always have the desired effect on performance.
“Maybe they’ll put in a bigger cam in their car or something of that nature, and when they realize they’ve hurt the performance of their car then they start working on getting it back,” Winstead said.
What Winstead recommends to muscle car owners whose vehicles are equipped with automatic transmission might not be conventional, but in his experience, it works.
“Start with the torque converter,” he said. “That torque converter change can be the No. 1 performance improvement for the car. There is nothing else you could do besides adding some kind of power adder like a supercharger or nitrous to match that performance.”
Winstead said he has seen muscle car owners shave seconds off their quarter-mile times with a torque converter swap.
However, he added, torque converters should be customized to their application. Winstead recommends getting a consultation before replacing a torque converter.
“Everything from the cam shafts, rear-gear ratio and what tires they’re running come into play,” he said. “Where are they located? Are they at high elevation, like in Denver, or are they at sea level? All of that comes into play when deciding what type of torque converter and the proper stall speed for their torque converter.”
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