If you look through the pages of Summit Racing’s newest speed-parts catalog, you’ll find 700-plus manufacturers, and among all the aftermarket products they offer, you’ll see a plethora of parts to make your classic Pontiac perform better.
Not surprisingly, if you browsed a 20-year-old Summit Racing catalog, you’d see many of the same manufacturer names that are around today. Would you, however, find that any of the same parts which made the Pontiac community fork over its hard-earned dollars in 1991 are still available today?
The answer is yes. Two decades after the ’91 Pontiac model-line was brand-new and in dealer showrooms, a myriad of aftermarket speed-parts for classic and late-model Pontiacs were available then and are still being manufactured today. This story reveals which have stood the test of time, but in order to make our list, we’ve made the requirement even tougher by asking if the part is a better value today than it was 20 years ago.
To determine the answer, we called upon the consumer price index (CPI), which keeps track of annual domestic inflation. For example, in 1991, the average price of a loaf of bread was 71 cents, a movie ticket was $4.81, and a quart of synthetic oil cost $5.99. Today, bread averages $2.78 a loaf, a sit-in on the latest and greatest Hollywood blockbuster costs $7.80, and a bottle of synthetic engine lubricant will set you back $7. Each of these items has seen its price increase at a different rate of inflation. According to the CPI, however, across-the-board average retail prices are 61.7-percent higher than they were in 1991. That means speed parts that set you back $100 in 1991 would theoretically cost $161.70 today.
But do they? We found 12 aftermarket speed-parts many Pontiac hobbyists loved in 1991 and still find popular today. For each item, we list its manufacturer information, street price advertised in the Sept.-Oct. ’91 and Mar.-Apr. ’11 Summit Racing catalogs, and adjusted-for-inflation (AFI) price. We then let you compare the item’s current street-price against inflation. Like us, you’ll see that some are priced dramatically below the AFI price, others are very close, and some are few dollars over it.
We have also included a section that discusses engineering, manufacturing, and/or technological improvements made to each product compared to 20 years ago, which can offset the fact that it may be slightly over the AFI price. It may still be a great value because its simply a better product. Others, in contrast, are still made the same way, but some are screaming deals because the 2011 price is well under the AFI price.
Notes: MSD ignition boxes and coils were seriously considered for this story, as we found the 6A, 6AL, and Blaster II all beat inflation-adjusted prices, and the ignition boxes have been redesigned with clean-sheet technology, but we already covered the features of the MSD 6A and 6AL ignition boxes three months ago (“SEMA Tech Guide,” HPP, May ’11).
The prices from Summit Racing quoted in this article were accurate when this story was written, but may not be current. Check www.summitracing.com for the latest prices on the parts listed.
B&M Racing and Performance Products
What is it? Megashifter (PN 80690)
1991 Price: $139.75
2011 Price: $214.95
AFI Price: $225.98
Why you need it: If you’re looking for one of the quickest shifters for the quarter-mile, it’s hard to beat the popularity of the Megashifter.
Design changes and technological advancements: Shortly after 1991, the Megashifter was completely redesigned to address warranty-related issues. Then in the mid-’90s, its tooth-ratcheting plate was hardened for extra durability; the spring tension was changed in the mechanism; the T-trigger was changed from a two-piece to a one-piece design; and its boot and main stick were redesigned. It hasn’t undergone major changes since that time.
What makes it a great value? A complete redesign combined with a durability increase and a price point that is $11.03 under AFI makes this shifter a sceamin’ deal.
What is it? Performer Intake Manifold (PN 2156)
1991 Price: $133.95
2011 Price: $212.95
AFI Price: $216.60
Why you need it: The Performer offers the torque you love from Pontiac’s cast-iron, dual-plane intake, but in a replacement, substantially lighter cast-aluminum design that features provisions for mounting either a Q-jet (spread bore) or a square-flange Holley (square bore). It also accepts stock or aftermarket throttle and kickdown cable brackets and/or linkages and it fits under a shaker hood scoop. For increasing power at higher rpm on modified engines, you can step up to the Performer RPM, but it doesn’t fit the criteria of this story because it wasn’t made in 1991. It’s also taller at the carb flange, which reduces hood clearance.
Design changes and technological advancements: Edelbrock has made significant improvements to the Performer, both in the technology of the machining process and the quality control of the part. It is now machined completely on CNC-controlled equipment. Aesthetic changes include the addition of Edelbrock’s badge of quality, the Made in the USA metal badge, and an optional black finish.
What makes it a great value? It’s $3.65 cheaper than the AFI price and was improved in machining and quality control. It’s a better part now, and still cheaper than its 1991 counterpart after inflation is figured in.