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.