Originally Posted by LilRoush
Um, set a goal, then make your plan.
Things to ignore on a pushrod V6 motor:
Cold air intakes
Anything higher than 87 octane unless you are using a power adder (supercharger/turbo/nitrous)
Throttle body upgrades (unless using a power adder)
Throttle body spacers
X vs H pipe doesn't matter b/c of the firing order
Skip anything that applies to a 4.0L SOHC motor - as they are completely different than your single port 3.8L OHV.
Want big power, skip the bolt ons and just put a supercharger on it. You will nickel and dime yourself to get minimum power gains if you screw around with bolt ons.
I build cars from the suspension/brakes up.
Things to ignore? Really? I would agree don't expect big power gains and keep expectations modest. The kid is ready to dive in so I say let him start with the basics and work toward the big stuff if he wants to stay with it.
Getting more air in and out, advancing the timing and tweaking the spark curve will always makes a difference, pushrod or not. Its a staple of hotrodding. To advance the timing, tweak the spark curve to take advantage of the increased air & fuel with a higher octane you need a chip to tune it. You can argue a custom chip is needed to see the true gains the mods will offer. The stock TB is more than adequate to support these basic mods so I agree its a waste to replace it. These motors ship with headers from the factory so aftermarket is really only for cosmetics.
Another good starter mod is underdrive pulleys. I like to also recommend synthetic lube in the engine, trans & rear as well. These free up a few HP and help with gas mileage too.