I get asked daily about cam installations. For some reason the internet has made people believe that your first modification should be a cam, well in fact it shouldn't be. Every build, every budget is different. If your overall goal is to stick to NA power start with a converter. This will allow us to select any cam for your future build. It also gives you time to think if NA is something you are wanting to stick to, or go Boosted. The cam will vary for each build.
But overall the converter will gain you more performance gains with no actual horsepower gains. I can make a car faster with only a converter over adding a cam to a car for less than half the price and NO HP Gain. Crazy isn't it! Not really, you gotta think about how a converter works, and how a cam works. Converters are beneficial even without a cam, while a cam is only beneficial with a converter. Converters are so tight from factory that it doesn't allow you to enjoy a cam only build. Now for those that aren't looking for good power gains, or the best drive-ability then they are the exception to the mix. They are easily pleased and weren't told about what the difference would be with the correct combo.
If you are looking for overall performance, which opening up the motor for a cam install I am assuming that you are looking for overall performance. Adding a cam with no converter is a waste of time and money IMO. With a cam and converter I am open to give you a cam that can not only rev more, make more power in higher RPMs but also give you that lope sound that you are looking for and not only in PARK, but in DRIVE as well. Also with a converter your car won't pull through the brakes because the converter will be looser than the stock one. Hence how we are able to add more performance to the cam. Yes some "off the shelf" cams you can install without a converter but minimal hp is gained, and the sound is not what typically what people are wanting.
The reason for adding a cam typically is to adjust the RPM at which HP comes in and adding additional RPM range to your engine, and in benefit gaining some HP and TQ from it. Benefits of the cam job also, is upgraded OEM parts like the fuel pump, trunnions, springs, lifters, Head bolts, timing chain, etc. I get it, everyone loves the sound of a choppy LS/LT, but a converter is needed to get you that CHOP CHOP. Additional HP can be added in a cam job by compression, fly cutting pistons to get even larger cam, and valve job in the heads. Porting necessarily doesn't gain the power, but a proper valve job will. I will get into this in a different post.
Overall you need to decide why you are wanting a cam install, and what benefits you are looking to gain from it. If you were racing, I can make a car go faster with just simply upgrading the converter over upgrading the cam. But when paired together I can still make a better performing vehicle when adding a converter, since that is the best modification to an automatic in general.
For boosted applications, you are more free to keep your drive-ability with OEM converter because your setup is not all motor spec'd. Your cam grinds are much smaller of a lobe separation than an all motor build. But still to get better performance, a converter is the way to go, always. Each build and each budget varies, this is why I ask so many questions when people hit me up, because I want to make sure you don't have to do your build twice. I would rather give the info then you question me later as to why I didn't tell you.