How to Increase the Horsepower on a 1979 Corvette Engine

by Eli LaurensUpdated November 07, 2017
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Items you will need

  • Socket set

  • Wrench set

  • Screwdrivers

  • Carburetor cleaner

  • Synthetic motor oil

  • High-performance spark plugs

  • 8 mm ignition wires

The 1979 Chevrolet Corvette was a later model version of the third generation of Corvettes, which began in 1968. Unlike the earlier versions, only one engine size with two option codes was offered, limiting horsepower for economy and emissions standards. The Chevrolet 350 cubic inch V-8 engine is a very common and easily improved motor, with a number of bolt-on parts offered that can raise horsepower. The average backyard mechanic can increase the power of a 1979 Corvette in about four hours.

Change out the spark plugs with hotter, high-performance types by turning the plug counterclockwise and replacing it. Spark plugs are rated by their heat range, which is the minimum operating temperature. Hotter or colder plugs will increase performance or economy, and many multi-node plugs will not need to be gapped like normal styles.

Replace the ignition wires with thicker cored wires, which will increase horsepower by sending more energy to the plug. Stock wires are 6 or 7 mm thick, and over time they can crack or split, reducing the effective energy that reaches the plug. Pull the wire free from the distributor and spark plug, then press the new wire firmly into place. Some types of performance wires will require some assembly, so check the instructions included with the set.

Replace the motor oil, transmission oil and differential oil with an all-synthetic brand. The standard oil of 1979 was organic, and as long as the seals do not leak, switching to synthetic can gain as much as 20 horsepower on a Chevy 350 motor. The engine and transmission will require filter replacement, but the differential will not.

Clean the carburetor and throttle plate with a spray cleaner by opening the air intake, then saturating the interior of the carburetor with the engine off. Some types of cleaners can be used while the motor is running and sprayed in spurts so that the engine doesn't bog down. Many years of debris and carbon can build up on all four barrels of a 1979 carburetor system, so removing it from the motor and spraying it completely is an option.

Replace the air intake with an open-element style filter. This is usually done by unscrewing the top intake plate, unscrewing the snorkel connector, then mounting an open element filter plate directly over the carburetor with the existing screw. Emissions equipment won't connect to the open element filter, but the horsepower gains can be enormous.


Rebuilding the carburetor with larger jets can increase horsepower.


Use proper safety equipment when working on a vehicle.

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