Kristian Grimsland
Associate Editor, Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
December 10, 2013
Photos By: Marc Christ

Yes, we know it's not a new GT500 or 5.0L, and that's OK. For the rest of you modular fans who can't flip the coin into the new modular market, we wanted to show you that the predecessors of today's engines that powered cars like the '98 Mustang Cobra aren't forgotten in our books.

Let's face it—dating back 15-plus years, a 305hp 1998 Ford Mustang Cobra wasn't bad. It was a huge improvement over the 215hp non-PI Two-Valves. And though the '96 Cobra wasn't the first car to get modular power, (thank you, '91 Lincoln Town Cars), it certainly was the beginning to a long evolution of modular engines. Aftermarket companies swarmed over the new DOHC design, fighting to compete for the top spot in performance development. One of those companies was JLT Performance.

JLT has been in business since 2003. Owner Jay Tucker is an avid racer and performance enthusiast. Having owned a supercharged '99 Saleen Mustang, Tucker was unsatisfied with the aftermarket CAIs and decided to build one himself. A trip to the dyno showed that his homemade product worked.

Fast-forward five years into the Terminator Cobra era, and Tucker once again built a custom CAI, this time yielding even better results. With help from the Internet forums, word spread of his success. Shortly after, requests were pouring in for him to build more. With that, Tucker eventually quit his day job and started what is now JLT Performance. The first line of cold-air systems worked well, but in January 2012, JLT re-released its entire line of CAI systems.

"The main reason for the redesign was for fit and finish," Tucker tells us. "We were able to do it, but we had to keep it cost affordable. The fitment was OK on the old design, but we listened to our customers and wanted to make a better product. We've gotten a great response from our customers since the release."

If your ride is sporting one of JLTs early designs, an upgrade kit is available at a cost of $149 for its Ram Air intakes and $189 for its cold-air kits.

Yours truly owns the '98 Cobra in this story. It's a nice all-around ride, but it needed some TLC. It has a few simple bolt-ons, including 4.30 gears, a Bassani X-style midpipe, a custom tune, and JLT's first-generation Ram Air CAI. For this article, we show JLT's latest and give our Snake a breath of fresh air.

1 Our ’98 Cobra already sported a JLT Ram Air CAI when we started. The difference is in the quality of the product. This was one of JLT’s original designs. It worked great, but JLT released its redesign of its product back in January 2012. Its new CAI design no longer uses PVC pipe to construct its intake, instead it has finer ABS plastic, creating a much better finish.
2a Removal of the intake was easy. To begin our test, we returned our Cobra back to stock. We had the original factory intake and air silencer, so we installed them.
2b Removal of the intake was easy. To begin our test, we returned our Cobra back to stock. We had the original factory intake and air silencer, so we installed them.
3 Using a SCT X-Caliber 2 flash tuner, we installed the factory tune. Along with the old JLT intake, our Cobra was also equipped with a custom tune.
4a Using our in-house DynoJet dyno, your author climbed in and rolled into the throttle.
4b Using our in-house DynoJet dyno, your author climbed in and rolled into the throttle.
5 In stock trim, our Cobra laid down 282 rwhp and 277 lb-ft of torque. This was about what we expected, as our Cobra also sports an off-road X-style midpipe.
6 Before and after each run, we took note of our coolant and intake temperatures using our Blue Point thermo reader. This helped us to keep each run the same. Before a run with the engine cool, we saw intake temps around 100-degrees Fahrenheit. After, intake temperatures were around 106 degrees.
7a With our baseline runs finished, we removed the factory air inlet. Pictured here, we removed the mass-air meter and placed it onto our new JLT CAI. Included in each kit is a mass air meter adapter and new gasket.
7b With our baseline runs finished, we removed the factory air inlet. Pictured here, we removed the mass-air meter and placed it onto our new JLT CAI. Included in each kit is a mass air meter adapter and new gasket.
8 A perfect example of what you don’t want your air filter to look like is shown in the bottom of this photo. JLT offers replacement S&B filters for $45.
9a We then installed our new CAI intake, along with the new heatshield.
9b We then installed our new CAI intake, along with the new heatshield.
10 Both the IAC and PCV hoses need to be trimmed to fit.
11 Here’s what the finished product looks like. We think the new intake looks a hundred times better compared to our old one.
With the new intake installed, we ran our Cobra with the stock tune, followed by a custom tune. Without the tune, our Snake put down 287 rwhp and 280 lb-ft, enough for a 5-rwhp gain. With the tune, peak power jumped up to 292 rwhp and 285 lb-ft. That’s a 10-rwhp and 8–lb-ft gain over stock.