3000GT VR4 performance builds or staged upgrades for your sportscar. Whether for fun on the street, track, or drag racing, there are some things that make planning it out a little easier. This section goes through those things and more.

3000GT Photos
(showing modifications)
Performance Build




for the 3000GT VR-4

A comprehensive list of parts starting with bolt-on hi-performance parts

or other aftermarket power and efficiency modifications.





There is really no "staged" way of listing performance upgrades, modifications or builds. Many things can be done at certain times while others require previous modifications to work or operate properly. I will TRY to lay it out in a easy to follow manner but realize that while there is some reason for the order you can also sub in this or that during different times.

As previously mentioned, you need to know your goal. If you are truly going to build for, say 500ish AWHP then you should give consideration to your engine internals (covered on page 5). While you can just DO IT and then wait until your stock bottom end fails you (thereby needing to pull the engine and rebuild it), many choose to not purposely do that. Notice I said purposely.

So once again - know your end goal (or at least a darned good idea). Because otherwise you might very well do something out of order in such a way as to waste labor, money or usually both. Using the aforementioned spreadsheet method will also help you get your goals better identified by, if nothing else, showing you the costs as they are added up.

Here is a LIST in categories such as:

So for much of these categories the higher in the list it is done usually means to do it first or at least sooner than items at the bottom of the category list. There is no set rule on most of this and you need to go back to having a PLAN to reach your GOAL within your BUDGET (remember page 1!).


No special tools usually needed and do not need technical adjusting or tuning, etc. Although you still will need some tools and ability to use them. Most of these are giving you power increases by making the affected system more efficient.
Air Filter Increased efficiency of your air intake system by replacing the OEM air filter system with an open filter. Most popular is the K&N FIPK and next would be the HKS system. Stay away from the cheap eBay or K&N "look-alike" crap. Get the good stuff from the start and have no worries.
Cat-Back Exhaust The factory exhaust system is restrictive. By getting a Cat-Back (meaning - components AFTER or towards the BACK of the CAT (catalytic converter), you increase your exhaust flow. ANYTHING that frees up flow in your exhaust is a plus on a turbocharged engine. You want it as free as possible in restrictions. There are several brands available all with differing sound and noise levels. Research as needed.
Downpipe This will add to freeing up your restrictive exhaust system as well as save you some weight. Remember that saving weight can give you some nice buttdyno results too! (see weight section later in the listings). There are a few nice aftermarket ones available. Stillen and Megan Racing are popular. Pay attention to whether the one you are looking at has a flex section or not. This can make a difference, especially when you are looking at changing your motor mounts.
Gut Pre-Cats This is usually the best time to do this. When you replace your big heavy down pipe you will want to ream/gut/remove the insides of the front and back precat. Although many downpipes will save you from doing the front one because they bolt right up and take the place of. But the rear you want to gut out. You can get a rear precat adapter instead but it isn't needed in lieu of just drilling out the cat itself. But either way is fine.
Main Cat You will still have a main Catalytic Converter in your system at this point. Some remove it entirely. Quick note: this is illegal for a car licensed on public roads. Drawbacks are fuel smell all the time and also passing emissions (if applicable) won't be possible. But you can remove it and replace with straight pipe, or, buy a HI-Flow catalytic converter. Unless you are racing all the time and have no emission worries I'd advise to keep your main cat installed or get the HiFlow one. The HiFlow Cat will still do it's job but give you much better efficiency. This is usually the best way for many owners.
E-Cutout This is a good place for this since we are talking about exhaust and freeing it up. You can get an electrically operated CUTOUT which will bypass your whole exhaust system with the press of a button. You will then get really freed up exhaust but also loud (no mufflers). I have further info on the cutouts here on my site at CutOut area. The manufacturer name is Quicktimeperformance
Lightweight Driveshaft This is a nice upgrade overlooked by many except the highest modified cars. It frees up a LOT of ROTATING weight (which is an extra plus for weight savings) and is something that you can usually feel the difference in with your buttdyno. Personally I think the two piece Carbon Fiber shaft is the best way to go. This upgrade is a nice bang-for-the-buck.
Spark Plug wires This can come later depending on your goals and budget. The OEM wires are good quality but if they are old and worn out then get a new set on there. If you are going to be modifying your car to a medium to high degree then you might consider some 8.5-10mm plug wires for performance. If you go with an amplified ignition and higher boost levels you'll need good wires. If not then just stay OEM or equal. Personally I like the Accel wires for a good middleground and the MSD or Magnecore for the top end.



This is not necessary unless you start getting to modifying to a medium degree. But it is nice to know WHAT temp you are at (ie - an actual number) or WHAT your oil pressure really is. And the stock boost gauge is really a load gauge not boost directly. If you are going to go much past simple bolt on upgrades then you will want an accurate boost gauge. And, again, do not go cheap here. You need to rely on it to be accurate or you can ruin your engine.

As for other gauges: Coolant Temp and Oil Pressure would be your next two basics and good to have. There is A/F which isn't needed until you get electronics installed (or EMS standalone) that can tune for it. Without that it is just bling for now. EGT - same thing and even more so. EGT tuning is only done by the hardest core racers these days. If you know how to EGT tune then you don't need to be reading any of this, ha! Oil temperature is nice if you track or race at all. Knowing your engine oil temps can be very useful. Other would be volts. I like volts better than amps for everyday monitoring of my electrical system.

Anyway - go quality only. I personally think the best are AEM right now. There are Greddy and Defi but they are really hard to get parts for or support for. Greddy pulled out of the USA and Defi changes their models all the fricken time and then make their stuff obsolete in less than a year or so. That then leaves Omori, which is mostly special order, HKS, again hard to find/support and overpriced, Blitz, and Apexi (which are nice products too). There is also Autometer and contrary to some people's opinion is very nice stuff. They have a big range of cheap to the expensive (they're the biggest meter company in the world). So Autometer is OK but get their upper end products if you must.

Digital or analog? Totally a personal decision. I've run both and personally find the digital are much faster to read/comprehend than analog. You get instant exact number rather than have to convert the 'tick marks'. So for accuracy and speed of comprehension the digital is much better.

One quick note: if you even plan to go to a standalone ECU (EMS) of the AEM then consider the serial gauges from AEM. I recommend them highly. Each gauge can monitor 19 parameters and can easily change with press of a button. They will display via telemetry anything the EMS is monitoring. See more at aemsports or you can see mine on my interior shots. So if you think you'll be going to a full standalone system to control your injectors and tune your car then I'd say hold off and plan on serial gauges. You will be able to monitor a LOT more in must less space. They are also very accurate and reliable plus other features (like alarms and so forth).


Intercooler pipes and/or Y pipe

Your stock intercoolers, piping, and Y pipe are more than sufficient at this point. However, if you plan on raising the boost to higher than 14psi eventually (eg: larger injectors) then you might consider a new Y pipe. Or if you want to add some bling, a nice set of polished Stainless Steel pipes. The stock Y pipe likes to pop off at higher boosts and is a PITA when it does (you will stall out immediately). Some people jam a tennis ball in there to hold it from blowing off (yes, seriously,,lol).

This is another thing that I say "stay away from eBay junk". Get quality. If not then later you will find a problem if you want to, oh, say tap for water injection, or install sensor, or just have a quality engine system under your hood. So again - do it right the first time. Get a high quality one like the DNP brand. The good ones also are crushed or bent by T-clamps like the cheap knockoffs.

New pipes themselves is mostly looks although they are a little bit larger so you will gain efficiency and flow once you get larger turbos on there. But if you are staying with stock turbos then the shiny pipes are all looks. Again DNP makes the best in polished stainless steel.

Your stock intercoolers are perfectly fine for the time being. More later.

Turbo Timer

A turbo timer is a small electronic device that keeps your car running for a predetermined time to let the turbos cool down before the engine is shut down. This prevents the oil from sitting in a really hot turbo and 'coking'. Ever see a big OTR truck idling for a long time before shutting off? That is what they are doing. Turbos get VERY hot, especially if you start boosting in the upper ranges. I mean red hot. So you want to cool those things down before you just stop the flow of oil and water to them. If not the oil will coke (get baked to crap) and then give you all sorts of problems. Many models also have an auto setting that changes depending on your RPMs and boosting.

They interface with the eBrake and clutch pedal so no one can steal your car if you turn off the ignition and walk away. The unit will turn off your car for you. You can also lock the doors and engage your alarm (2G owners).

I personally like the HKS model that I use but Blitz makes a really nice one that is small and very popular. There are also Greddy units but as previously mentioned they pulled out of the USA and were having company financial issues. So I don't buy a brand that has those problems and possible risk of no product support.

Short Shifter

A lot of people get a short shifter to replace the stock ones because the throw is so far in comparison. And the 91-93 shifter is so tall it's almost cartoonish. LOL

Easy to install and helps make shifting a lot nicer.

One other thing a 1G owner can do is swap in a 2G shifter which will gain some better shifting. Not as short as a true short shifter but it is an in-between solution.

Remember it isn't all about just going fast, you have to stop too!
Rotors and Pads

This is sufficient for the majority of lightly mod'd cars. Some nice slotted rotors will free up rotating weight and cool better than stock. Switch to a high grade of pads can gain you a little too.

VR4 brake rotor and calipers

If you are road racing then you might want to look into a full brake system upgrade like a brembo-style system.

If you are drag racing then a lightweight drag system like Brakeman would be the absolute best in my opinion. I have the first, and so far only, Brakeman system made for the 3000GT on my drag race VR4 . (click link for brakeman on a 3000gt).


Braided lines These are, in my opinion, a waste of money. If your stock lines are worn out then it won't hurt but do not buy these to replace stock lines in good condition and expect any difference at all. You will spend money and have zero difference from stock lines in proper condition. Of course they do look nicer though!
ABS delete Beyond the scope of this guide. For now I'd say leave your ABS intact. Unless you really understand the reasoning (and drawbacks) I would ignore messing with your ABS system.
1G to 2G calipers

If you have a 1G (1991-1993) then you can benefit from putting on a 2G brake system. The 2G (94-99) has much larger rotors to disperse the heat better and prevent brake fade. Both have about the same stopping power initially but repeated stop/go/stop/go can cause the brakes to fade quicker on a smaller rotor surface since it cannot get rid of the heat as fast.

It is a nice middle ground between staying stock and going to brembo or something extra large like that. For just about every street or daily driver VR4 the stock brakes. Just keep good straight rotors on there and quality pads designed for your type of driving.

If you want bling, paint the calipers before install with brake caliper epoxy paint. And use the stuff made for brake calipers or over time regular paint, even high heat, WILL wear or flake off and look bad. Another option is to have them powder coated which looks really nice too. My advice is stay with a color that isn't way off from other brake calipers. This means either gun metal, black, or red. Other colors like yellow, blue, green, etc. look way out of place.

Lower to the ground gives you better control

There is no doubt that lowering your car will give you much better road performance / cornering. This is a performance change that will be felt right away. Remember that you need to make sure the wheels are aligned properly after making any suspension changes like this. Don't forget to get that done and by qualified shop only!

3000GT suspension system


The OEM struts are actually very high quality and perform excellent. The ECS system in your VR4 is superb. There is the TEIN system and I have two such systems in my cars. But I will tell you that the stock ECS is the best hands down if you plan to drive your car on a daily basis or mostly street driving in general. If your struts are in good shape and ECS functioning well then just look at lowering and not replacing the whole system.

If you want to go to a more 'race' type setup (i.e. - TEIN FLEX) then expect to have a VERY stiff suspension. The softest setting of 1-16 on the FLEX is still stiffer than the stock SPORT setting.

One thing you can do when you order them is get the front and rear coils softer (front = 10 instead of 12, rear 5 instead of 6). This is a special order but should not represent a problem. I'm the first to ever do that AFAIK and several have done this since. It helps a little bit for the street machine but is still a very stiff suspension designed primarily for racing. Also note that you do not want to go any softer on the coils because then the metering will be off and must be redone at the factory. 10/5 is the farthest down you can go without special work on the struts themselves.


One added note here on alignment (more is mentioned in detail at the 60K section). Sometimes the rear steering alignment cannot be brought into spec. So to accomplish that you need to install adjustable rear control arms. Something to keep in mind if your alignment is not dead on when you have it done. Get it to the mm dead on for the best handling and ride.

For planning purposes expect to pay around $200-$300 for a thorough AWD AWS alignment. Anything less and I would be wary.

Sway Bars This will drastically improve handling. The front is pretty easy to install. The rear is a different matter and is a very lengthy and labor intensive procedure.
Strut Bars These help tighten up your car by tieing the R & L struts together at the top with a bar that goes across the car. There are front and rear bars. They provide some effect but no where near as much difference as better sway bars.
Yes, looks DO matter!
In fact out of everything on these entire lists the looks is what will ADD value to your car easier and more than anything!

Paint and Body

I'm not sure why I see so many owners reluctant to get a nice new paint job. And get any dings taken care of too. It is NOT that much money compared to other things on this list. But if anything will add to the value of your car it is a new paint job. No question. So give serious thought to this being part of your performance upgrades or plans. It is easy and painless. Stay with the same color I say 99% of the time. Get a shop that is trusted and honest (they do exist, if you live in W WA i can steer you to one!).

So if your VR4 has dents, faded paint, or just tired (or is a 91-93 with no clearcoat) - do yourself a huge favor and restore that awesome sportscar to what it should look like! You WILL be glad you did!

If there is ONE thing that will raise the value of a used car it is a new paint job. Almost 90% of all the other things talked about here will NOT bring more money or value to your car like a paint job will. In fact some will lower the value. So keep this in mind!

Missing body panels Part of getting your car up to snuff in my opinion is replacing any loose panels that are missing. Sometimes this is hard to achieve (like the front spoiler/splash shield) but at least try to put things back if you have a car that a previous owner lost or was too lazy or cheap to put back or replace your panels, splash guards, or other such pieces. Having all of the stock shields will protect most of the front under carriage and give you a clean car to work on. There is a HUGE difference in looks and quality of cars that have had the shields on vs off. Same for the window trim and side pieces.

Wheels and Tires


Stock wheels are heavy. But it is also hard to find nice looking lightweight wheels that fit the VR4. Just take your time and look around though, they're out there. And by reducing the ROTATING weight you are truly doing a performance modification. it is NOT just looks.

18" 3000GT VR-4 Wheel, cool huh

Tires - I see too many owners going cheap here. Remember the cheaper or 'higher mileage' tires (aka - HARD rubber) have a drawback. This is that they handle like crap compared to a nice sticky (soft rubber) tire. Yes they wear out a little sooner and cost more. But you WILL notice the difference. I say,,,,,You WILL notice. The difference between a $375-400 tire and a $200 and below tire is immense. The ride is much worse on the cheap tires as is the handling and cornering.

While it does come down to cost sometimes I will advise that if you want to do high speed driving and/or cornering then do not go cheap on tires. Go with a top tire like the Eagle F1s or equal (about $400 per tire). The VR4 came from the factory with these quality tires for a reason. If you have ridden/driven a VR4 with the higher quality tires then trust me you never want to or can go to the cheap ones. I know that 400each is costly but you ARE driving a top end sports car that cost 45-50K in it's day (which would be a 70-80K car today if they still made them).

Is it a performance mod? Yeah, I would say so. The stickier expensive tires grip better, better launches if that is your thing, and safer too. The VR4 kicks ass on other cars in cornering but only if you got the nice tires to do so. See what I mean? This is a performance consideration. Maybe not a 'glamorous mod' but it's one that will perform and give you results for your money. Guaranteed.

Some things that don't fit anywhere else but are important

If you are like me then the cars stereo is critical and considered a performance product!

So when planning your build keep the thoughts of stereo upgrades in your plans. Here's some of my custom stereo work here.

Weight Reduction

Removing weight can give you the same results as added horsepower. Now many say the VR4 is "heavy". Well uhhh yeah. It is a GTO. it is made for the OPEN ROAD. That weight is what gives it stability where other cars haven't. I've ridden in many other cars where the owners claim the VR4 is 'heavy' and my fillings about rattled out of my teeth in their lightweight car at over 125 mph. My VR4? Set a cup of coffee on the front dash at those same speeds. Total control and ride stability. So don't let people squawk nonsense. That weight is not all bad for what the car was/is designed for - open road / high top speeds.

But if you want more power like for racing then remember that rotating weight is a much better savings than non-rotating. They can both be a plus but the rotating weight will be multiples better for increasing your buttdyno results. Meaning - driveshaft, rotors, wheels ; all those are rotating mass.

The only thing I would say NOT to do on losing weight is two things.

1) lightweight flywheel - total waste of money in my opinion and many others. You will not notice any appreciable gains regardless of theory but you will notice the PITA starting from a stop when you loose that rotating mass. This mass is important and in fact if you want to drag race at all you WANT that heavier flywheel there. Ignore those wanting to sell you a LW flywheel. Stay with the stock steel one.

2) Keep the stock Harmonic Balancer as opposed to going for a lightweight aluminum aftermarket underdrive pulley. That balancer provides a function important to your crankshaft. Some might get away with it but it really is not a change I recommend. The advantages are slight compared with the loss of the function that the stock balancer provides. And if into serious or hardcore racing you actually want an even better balancer there. So, no to lightweight crank pulleys.

3mm Hydraulic Lifters See the 60K page on these and whether you need them or not. Install when doing service to your heads is the easiest way. Some people however want to plan on these as an upgrade when they are planning to take the car in to get worked on.
Silicone Dress Up

Dressing up the engine with higher quality silicone hose is common with the majority of owners. As is polished intakes and other bling too.

The silicone hose is more durable and heat resistant and comes in many colors to accent your engine bay. Buy the quality stuff (again, many hoses sold at places like eBay are junk) and be advised to NOT use silicone hoses on anything that comes into contact with fuel or oil. Silicone cannot handle petroleum product contact for very long as it will break down. Do not use it for valve cover or breather lines.


A LOT of owners add on polished aluminum parts. Like the upper intake plenum, or valve covers, or add on like fusebox covers, etc. They look nice even though they do not have anything to do with performance. Be advised though - do not polish OEM parts under your hood that are steel and/or have a anti-corrosion finish on them (that green tint coating like on your brake lines). Because if you do they will then rust and you'll have to keep maintaining them all the time.

This also goes for bolts. For more detail on bolts and fasteners (and why to stay away from Stainless Steel in many instances) - see my FASTENERS write up.


A lot could be said about batteries and also the smaller race style. But for here just realize that you want a battery that is in good condition. They do not last forever. The average is around 4-5 years. The VR4 is very voltage intense. Meaning it has a high electrical demand (which is why the 110A alternator output). So make sure your electrical system is in good health before you get too far into a large build and adding electronics or stereo.

As for brand, I like the Optima red top. Regardless of internet rumors or other people's experience they have performed well for me over the last 10+ years. But a good brand like interstate works well too. Just don't expect your battery to last forever. They don't.

Some add a ground wire kit (I prefer the HKS brand kit) to help with power distribution. Other than that this is a maintenance issue not build issue. But it is something that must be kept in mind during a planned build.

As for a bigger or aftermarket alternator - only the biggest stereo system type build should worry about the stock alternator not being enough. The OEM alternator is a very high quality item will fulfill just about all other builds except the massive stereo system ones. Save your money and just make sure your stock one is in good condition. I use a stock alternator on my 1995 VR4 and have a pretty large stereo system and have zero issues electrically.

Motor Mounts

When reviewing your 60K you might have found you need new motor mounts. Here's a good time to consider what mounts you want to install. The OEM mounts are the best choice for most street cars. They are also the most expensive. The other choices are aftermarket and are either A) poly-mount style (polyurethane) or B) solid mounts (no flex at all). Both are substantially stiffer than stock mounts.

If you are building a race car or one that your only main concern is pure performance then the solid style mounts are fine. And less money. But realize that you are removing the stock mounts that absorb the movement and vibrations of the engine. So there is a noticeable difference. So much so that many people do not like it once they install them. You will feel the difference in the cab and when you drive the car.

So again it is dependant on your goals for the car. If you want a nice ride like stock and prefer not to go into performance to such a degree that you add rattling and shaking then stick with OEM mounts for sure.



Now it is time for the more serious mods that start going beyond "bolt on".



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