Tom Smith
December 16, 2004
With its plenum area divided in two and the runners splayed both left and right, the new BBK SSI intake resembles the 3.8 V-6 intake from Ford.

As BBK continues its march from parts packager to bolt-on manufacturer to, now, an engine parts maker, it is introducing consistently more sophisticated parts. The company's latest push is intake manifolds, so, besides the Single Stage Intake for 5.0 engines we're testing here, BBK has introduced Chevy LS1 and Honda intakes as well.

It's also likely we'll see even more intakes from BBK in the not too distant future as this ever-growing company ramps up its engineering and manufacturing muscle. But for now, we went to BBK's distribution arm, Brother's Performance Warehouse, to watch the brand-new Single Stage Intake bolt onto a 5.0 test car and get the numbers on the company's in-house chassis dyno.

As luck would have it, our visit was mere days away from using pure production parts. The castings we worked with for this article are thus last of preproduction prototypes. They were cast from production tooling, however, and the only meaningful differences from run-of-the-mill production SSI intakes is they had been beaten up some from being bolted on and off the car repeatedly during final development. That work had mainly consisted of trying minor shapes inside the plenum as BBK searched for any possible last-minute horsepower before signing off on the production tooling. No secret bumps or hollows were found, so the SSI production was set to begin just as we began to pen this story.

While we have previously described the Single Stage Intake in detail in our March '04 issue ("Early Warning," p. 130), by way of quick review, the SSI is an open-runner, high-rise, twin-plenum intake for 5.0 engines. It is aimed at the typical bolt-on Mustang-with the usual exhaust system, short-tube headers, large mass air meter, throttle body, and so on. An intake in this market needs to demonstrate a clear superiority over the stock inline-oval intake, and preferably compete head-to-head with the dominant aftermarket offerings.

Installing the SSI follows conventional practice. The old intake is stripped of all its fittings while on the car. Then the intake is removed, the fittings are transferred onto the BBK intake, and it is installed on the long-block. We've hit the highlights of the install in the photos and captions, but expect no surprises. The only caution we can note is to fit the PVC parts to the lower intake before installing the intake as clearance at the rear of the SSI is limited.

Did the new BBK offering hit its power goals? It sure did. It posted at least a 28hp gain over the GT intake using the strictest test criteria. If you accept a bit of ignition timing optimization, then the SSI is worth 30 hp. Those are fine gains, and strongly in the hunt with other intake manifolds in this class. Combined with its aggressively low pricing and included fuel rails and adjustable fuel-pressure regulator, BBK's distinctive-looking SSI should have no trouble establishing itself under many a 5.0 hood.

Horse Sense: Have you ever seen a tech drain coolant from an engine using a shop vac? We did when Bryan Rogers hooked the ol' Hoover up to his Cobra. This does save undoing hoses, but it also sucked all the water out of the engine, not just that in the heads and intake.

Because of the high-rise design of the BBK lower intake, dedicated fuel rails are necessary. BBK therefore supplies these extruded aluminum fuel rails with each intake, making it a remarkable value. What's more, BBK also includes a matching BBK fuel-pressure regulator for the now- published price of $569.99. That's somewhat more than originally projected for this intake, but it's still an obvious bargain. The slightly L-shaped fuel rails are available separately, but no pricing had been announced at press time. Fuel injectors are not included.

Obviously, the BBK lower manifold is from the staggered rectangle school of design. This allows large, high-volume runners for good top-end power. Not as obvious in this view is that all runners are equally spaced and shaped-there are no offsets, dimples, or constrictions in runners 1 and 5 to clear the distributor. Instead, all the runners are laid back slightly, so each is identical. Furthermore, the runners are separate for cooling air circulation, and the bottom of the lower intake has a cover plate to avoid hot oil splash. This also makes plumbing a compact-but not hidden-nitrous system fairly easy. No nitrous pads have been cast into the lower runner bottoms as was once speculated.

Eyeballing down a runner in the lower manifold shows the line-of-sight airflow path this high-rise unit provides. We grabbed this casting out of the production shop, literally before it was finished being machined. By the time it's done, this runner opening will be CNC port-matched to the upper casting. BBK says the SSI flows 12 percent more air than competing intakes.

Excited youth will buy this intake on price and looks alone, and why not? A pleasant titanium-colored powdercoating on the upper intake (the lower is bare aluminum) gives it family resemblance to BBK's valve covers.

Because the runners are pushed as far as possible to the rear of the engine, the crankcase breather has been moved to 2 o'clock when viewed from the rear. It accepts the stock basket filter and plastic plug-in breather. An extension tube is provided to ensure the PCV plumbing can reach where it must. Not shown is an exhaust passage for emission's compliance. A CARB E.O. number is pending.

Looking through the 75mm throttle body opening shows the plenum finish and design. Cutbacks on the runners facing the central plenum aid airflow to those four runners. As with many other 5.0 intakes, an adapter is used to mount the throttle body in '94-'95 Mustang applications.

There's no shortage of plenum area in the center of the intake, especially after considering there is more plenum area at the runner ends. This guarantees plenty of air for higher- rpm operation. A machined aluminum plate covers this area. So far, "SSI" script is the design we've seen CNC'ed into the plates, although that sort of thing can change at the last minute. It's also the per-fect place to mill out any sort of custom script or design when looking for a custom touch.

BBK's SSI intake incorporates the EGR plate into the upper casting, so there is no need for an EGR plate, per se. The EGR location to the rear and lower than the throttle body opening tucks the EGR valve away for a clean installation.

Here's the baseline configuration for our dyno testing. It could be one of thousands of hot-rodded 5.0 Mustangs.

Installation begins with the complete removal of the stock upper and lower intakes. Because many of the small fittings, vacuum Ts, and such will be transferred to the BBK intake, take the time to strip off those small parts as you go. It's easier than wrestling the manifold on the bench.

As the BBK intake has large coolant passage openings, it's a nice touch to trim excess gasket material when fitting the BBK intake. A hammer and chisel make fast work of this. It's also smart to glue the gaskets to the cylinder heads because they tend to shift when installing the lower intake.

Reaching the PCV area is nearly impossible with the BBK lower installed on the engine, so fit the PCV "basket" filter and the supplied long-hosed valve to the lower intake before installing the casting on the engine.

Thanks to just that much extra height and the inevitable hoses, wires, pipes, and things getting in the way, achieving the classic, straight-down lower intake manifold installation is difficult. So, while you can lower this intake yourself, a helper is a good idea. From there, dressing the intake with your fuel injectors and the BBK fuel rails follows standard procedure. It's easiest to fit the injectors to the fuel rails, then the assemblies to the lower intake. The rails bolt to the lower intake in the usual fashion.

Dressing the upper BBK intake is most easily done on the bench. One thing to remember to do is reclock the EGR valve when transferring it onto the new upper casting. As is, the electrical socket will face the manifold, making connecting the wiring harness impossible. It takes only a minute to reclock the EGR valve's position sensor, however.

There are no hidden bolts or tricky hardware between the upper and lower BBK manifolds. Allen-headed bolts are supplied by BBK, and an Allen socket or T-handled wrench does just fine.

One of the few concessions to our nearly production manifold was a lack of design machining on the plenum cover plate. It wasn't bad looking like that, and perhaps BBK could offer the cover plate undecorated. It would be a boon to those wanting to make their own designs. A simple bolt-on installation makes swapping this plate a breeze.

It was much easier to remove the distributor when making this manifold swap, and you might as well plan on doing the same at home. Bryan bumped the engine onto TDC on cylinder 1 before pulling the distributor, and he marked the edge where the rotor was pointing, so reinstallation was a breeze. A quick shot with the timing light was the only other thing required.

While high, wide, and handsome, the BBK SSI manifold actually clears both valve covers, so either cover may be removed without disturbing the intake. While tall, the intake does clear a stock hood, although it may be close around the "BBK" script on the driver-side plenum. Ultimately, this could depend on your car's engine mounts, the hood's sound-deadening pad, and other variables.

For testing, the only thing changed from the baseline GT setup was the intake manifold and throttle body. Because the throttle body remains in its stock location, no monkey motion is required when fitting the induction.

Our Test Car
Getting paid to work on his own '93 Cobra hatchback was Bryan Rogers, the Brother's tech seen swinging the wrenches in our bolt-on photos. Of course, Bryan had been swinging the same wrenches over the same intake for weeks by the time we got to him. Prototyping can be such a pain.BBK said it designed the SSI to work with the typical bolt-on 5.0, and Bryan's car fits the bill. Running a stock cam, computer, and 24-lb/hr injectors on a stock-spec 306 short-block, the combination benefits from a Pro-M mass airflow meter, Edelbrock Performer RPM heads with 2.02x1.60-inch valves, BBK 151/48-inch full-length headers, an H-pipe, and a smog-pump eliminator kit. Also helping are electric fans and a deleted engine-driven fan. A daily driver, this early Cobra retains its stock pulleys and sports BBK's relatively new 5.0 valve covers.