The Nitty Gritty
A pop of the sculpted hood reveals the secret to the 4.3L engine's power production - a Vortech supercharger blowing 10 lb of boost into the normally docile powerplant. The 50-state-legal blower is the new V2-SQ unit that's quieter and smoother than Vortech's previous models and is now standard across the product line. All by itself, Vortech claims a 43-percent increase in power--a nice gain, yes, but we wanted to go for a touchdown rather than settling for a field goal.
To that end, we also included a set of JBA's ceramic-coated headers and a Gibson cat-back exhaust system, ensuring the supercharged gases would exit quickly and easily, providing increased power at the same time. The most unusual piece of the puzzle comes from the enormous three-core air-to-air intercooler residing under the front bumper. This intercooler reduces intake temperatures significantly, allowing for more boost with less worry of piston-melting detonation. The final piece of the engine puzzle comes from custom reprogramming of the engine-control unit by Fastchip of Tulsa, Oklahoma (www.fastchip.com). Master technician Ed Wright's flash reprogramming adds response from as low as 400 rpm. His handiwork also recalibrates transmission shift points and firmness for more spirited driving. Additionally employing a 160 thermostat, Fastchip tweaks the engine-cooling fan for increased performance. The Fastchip ECU program goes several steps further than the popular Hypertech plug-in models, but requires sending the ECU to them to work its magic. It was well worth the one-day turnaround as our peppy blown motor ran smack into the rev limiter in first gear prior to the Fastchip reprogram bringing things back under control. All told, the engine tweaks nearly doubled the horsepower, making the grand total to a Corvette-like 337. It's worth noting that, at the start of our project, Chevy dyno results netted only 160 at the flywheel. Torque numbers jumped as well, from 205 to 308, which, by the way, is more than you'd get from an Acura NSX (224) or a Porsche 911 (258).
Too Hot To Handle
It seems that many highly tuned SUVs have a difficult time finding a balance between increased handling and quality ride characteristics. Often, getting 4000-lb behemoths to go left and right in a sporting fashion requires eliminating their built-in-utility features as well as severely compromising day-to-day ride. Given that this Blazer is a 4x4 and faces four full seasons of weather, it was paramount not to drop it 6.0 in. and install 40-series rubber. Complementing the aforementioned tire upgrade is a set of Edelbrock Performer IAS shock absorbers. Edelbrock calls the IAS shocks the first in existence that drastically reduce chassis roll without compromising ride quality. This best-of-both-worlds setup fits right with Project Blazer's goal to increase handling while retaining the stock ride height.
Also, a thicker Hellwig rear anti-roll bar aids in reducing body roll. A complete set of Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings are included in the mix, as well. Energy Suspension claims a firmer ride, with less wheel hop under hard acceleration, along with three times the longevity of the stock rubber bushings. A set of Stillen's cross-drilled sport rotors and metal-matrix brake pads at all four corners ensures the Blazer stops as easily as it starts.
Inside, the classy leather interior of this LT-level Blazer remains intact, unless you count the addition of a mostly stealth yet powerful audio system with components from Premiere, Boston Acoustics, and Alpine. A custom subwoofer enclosure and amp rack have been integrated into the rear of the Blazer. This extremely subtle yet terrific sounding system was designed and installed by Audio Electronics of Indianapolis. The dash is also dressed by a Speed Glo white-face gauge kit from APC. This snazzy piece reads white during the day, but changes to a luminescent glow for night driving and draws praise from everyone who sees it. A pair of AutoMeter white-face gauges are mounted on the A-pillar to provide the all important boost and fuel-pressure readings.