Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
April 1, 2002
Photos By: Courtesy of Anderson Ford Motorsport

Horse Sense: Though we tested all these intakes on a purpose-built NMRA Real Street car, the intakes legal for the class are limited. They are as follows: Stock 5.0 and Two-Valve 4.6 EFI intake, Ford Explorer, SVT Cobra EFI (PN M9424D51, M9424E51), Ford Racing Performance Parts GT-40 (PN M6001A50), Edelbrock Performer (PN 3821), Trick Flow Street (PN 51500001), and FRPP's 4.6 Two-Valve High-Flow Intake (PN M9424E46). The intakes must be run out of the box-no porting or port matching.

Let's be honest-you've already skipped ahead to the dyno numbers, looked at the peaks, and crowned one intake the champion of all 5.0 intakes. Now you've thumbed back to the beginning of the story to see what we have to say about the test, but you already know everything you need to know, right? While you've done that, a public-relations guy is listening to my voicemail message and lying in wait to tell me how unfair the test was and how his intake would have fared better if we'd only done this or that.

In a way, you are both right. First off, checking in on those peak numbers is a great shorthand way to compare any speed part. Bench racers like to talk about only the big numbers, and to racers there's only one winner and a pack of losers. As for the PR guy's opinion, it's just as valid, because any test is inherently limited to the base combination used for testing. We know an 8,000-rpm race engine with a big cam and ported heads would be a much better platform for the short-runner intakes and boxes. However, there's a prevailing opinion that adding a supercharger will magically compensate for using a race-oriented intake on the street. And most of you run street cars, so that's what we knew you'd want to read about.

That brings us to the test at hand. Back when I was a lowly staffer at Super Ford magazine, I laid the groundwork for an all-encompassing intake dyno test. The idea was to test all the intakes on a streetable, naturally aspirated combination, then test them all again on a streetable, supercharged combination. About the time I was setting this up, I got the call to take over this magazine. So our dear, departed sister pub tested the intakes in naturally aspirated form ("Intake Power," Feb. 2000, p. 34, and "A Real Scream," Mar. 2000, p. 44). The latter test was on the racier NA intakes, but the former catapulted the Holley SysteMAX II intake into ubiquitous popularity because its peak numbers bested its nearest competitor by 20 hp.

The first aftermarket intake to challenge FRPP's pioneering GT-40 intake, the Edelbrock Performer (PN 3821) is a mainstay of street-driven 5.0s. Anderson Ford Motorsport retails this intake for $555.78, and in our test it produced peak horsepower and torque of 500.3 hp and 477.2 lb-ft, while averaging 439.8 hp and 462.1 lb-ft from 4,000 to 6,000 rpm.

While a similar effect may follow this story for another intake, there's more to look at than just those peak horsepower numbers. We've divided the intakes into natural groups of street intakes (Edelbrock Performer, Ford Racing Performance Parts Cobra, and Trick Flow Street), street/strip intakes (Edelbrock Performer RPM, Holley SysteMAX II, and Trick Flow Track Heat), and race intakes (Cartech box, Downs Ford Motorsports box, Edelbrock Victor 5.0, Trick Flow R, and Vortech Mondo Box), because you really need to consider the intake's intended use. With that in mind, we've provided average horsepower and torque numbers from 4,000 to 6,000 rpm for the street intakes and 4,500 to 6,500 rpm for the street/strip and race intakes.

According to our tester, Rick Anderson of Anderson Ford Motorsport, "These are the rpm ranges that a car is run in during wide-open acceleration. For example, a car equipped with a World Class T5 transmission that is shifted at 6,200 rpm will fall back in First gear to around 4,200 rpm. When you're looking at dyno graphs, this is the most important thing to look at-not the peak. The average is what puts the car down the track. This will change with different transmissions, and with an automatic with different torque converters."

You probably recognize the Holley SysteMAX II intake (PN 300-72S) as the intake under the hood of most every Renegade racer's hood. This intake is similar in design to the venerable Vortech/Saleen intake that used a 5.0 truck lower intake. The SysteMAX II uses an improved, Holley-specific lower design and retails for $581.50 from AFM. Topping out at 510.6 hp and 465.8 lb-ft of torque, the SysteMAX II intake averaged 466.1 hp and 446.3 lb-ft from 4,500 to 6,500 rpm.

To produce the fairest possible test, we ran them all on what seemed a natural car-a purpose-built NMRA Real Street race car that tip-toes the line between race performance and street civility. Check out the 5.0 Tech Specs sidebar for specifics on the combination. We ran the whole thing on the in-house Dynojet at Anderson Ford Motorsport. In the past we've tested many parts with Rick's assistance, as he sincerely wants to see how these parts work so he can learn. Rick strives for consistency in testing-ensuring the car was in tip-top shape before beginning the test, then doing all the right things such as starting every pull at the same 160-degree engine temp. Fortunately, he doesn't mind sharing the fruits of his testing labor with us.

While it might be difficult to admit for most of you power-mad stoplight racers, this is most likely the group of intakes you're interested in. This pack is designed to produce superb low-end torque and good power all the way up to 5,500-or-so rpm. With a stock cam and these street intakes, our combination was maximized for torque produc-tion, which makes for great street per-formance. The results were not too shocking. All the intakes produced nice, fat torque curves, with the Edelbrock and Trick Flow averaging in the 460-lb-ft range. Though all the intakes performed nicely, the Trick Flow Street impressed with the highest peak and average torque and horsepower number, coupled with the lowest price. That's a powerful combination in a street intake.

As with the Edelbrock Performer RPM, the Trick Flow Track Heat (PN TFS-51500002) is a shorter-runner variation of its little brother, the Trick Flow Street intake. Retailing for $450 from AFM, the Track Heat maxed out at 500.3 hp and 456 lb-ft of torque, while averaging 459.6 hp and 440.5 lb-ft from 4,500 to 6,500 rpm.

Unless you're aiming to get on the cover of our Xtreme Street 'Stangs issue, this group of intakes should offer you enough power potential for that bleeding-edge street/strip Mustang in the garage. These intakes are designed with slightly shorter-and in some cases, larger-runners than their street brethren. The end effect is to trade a bit of bottom-end torque for some more interesting power at the top of the tach.

It's for this reason these intakes seem natural for big-power, street-blower cars. However, our combination was a bit of a hindrance for the true potential of these intakes. According to Rick Anderson, it's no surprise these intakes performed so well on this combina-tion, but that performance for these intakes could have been improved in the 4,500 to 6,500 rpm range with the use of a wilder, supercharger-oriented camshaft.

Best known for its turbocharger systems, Cartech has long been producing parts for 5.0 Mustangs. The company was one of the first to pioneer the breadbox upper intake on a stock lower. Today it offers box uppers for stock, GT-40, and truck lower manifolds. We tested the upper built for the GT-40 lower, which retails for $367 from Cartech. On the dyno, the Cartech box topped out at 484.8 hp and 439.3 lb-ft of torque. From 4,500 to 6,500, it averaged 439.3 hp and 420.9 lb-ft.

Obviously, the Holley SysteMAX II intake was the favorite based on our previous testing experience, and it performed well. However the big surprise of the street/strip group was the first entry in this category, the Edelbrock Performer RPM. It posted the best average torque and horsepower from 4,500 to 6,500 rpm, as well as the highest peaks. The SysteMAX II isn't too far off, but it costs more, while the Track Heat is just a bit off the pace but offers the mitigating factor of being about $100 less than the other intakes. So, it's basically a toss-up. You can pay more and get a bit more performance, or save some money and make up the difference with that money spent elsewhere.

As we noted in the intro, our Real Street combination isn't the ideal testing ground for race-oriented intakes. These intakes are built with large, short-or nonexistent in the case of the boxes-runners designed to rumble past 7,200 rpm, and in some cases all the way up to 8,000 rpm. Why test them then? Well, as we said before, there has been the prevailing opinion that running these intakes in concert with a supercharger is the magic pill to have the best of both worlds-low- and high-rpm power.

Another longtime proponent of box upper intakes is Downs Ford Motorsports. This company offers box uppers for truck and GT-40 lowers, and we tested the GT-40 unit (PN DFM9424DF), which retails for $349 from Downs. The Downs box peaked at 489.2 hp and 429.2 lb-ft of torque, and it averaged 444.2 hp and 425.2 lb-ft of torque.

As you can see in the dyno charts, these intakes do indeed trade low-end torque for high-rpm power, even with a supercharger. Naturally, the Edelbrock Victor and Trick Flow R-Series turned in better average torque numbers from 4,500 to 6,500 rpm, as they have runners versus the open plenums found in the box manifolds. What's more interesting is the high-rpm power. Only the Downs box and Vortech Mondo box peaked at a higher rpm than the Victor and the R-Series, but no box outperformed the short-runner intakes in average or peak power production.

The Trick Flow posted slight power and torque advantages over the Edelbrock, and of the "runnered" intakes, it was a bit cheaper. Then there are the boxes. Most are in the mid-$300 range, but that's for the upper only. If you can get a used GT-40 lower, or you already have one, a box is a cost-effective, high-rpm alternative. However, if you have to buy the box and a lower intake, the price becomes high in a hurry. For example, AFM sells the GT-40 lower for $340, so you're looking at nearly a $700 intake if you buy the upper and lower for a box setup.

Designed as the fuel-injected equiva-lent of the company's popular Victor-carbureted intakes, the Edelbrock Victor 5.0 intake (PN 2945) retails for $572.26 from AFM. The Victor 5.0 pumped out peaks of 510.8 hp and 456.2 lb-ft of torque, and from 4,500 to 6,500 rpm it averaged 460 hp and 440.1 lb-ft.

While we found it interesting to see what these intakes would do with the extra 550 rpm we ran past the stock 6,250-rpm rev limiter, Rick Anderson says these intakes really need a larger camshaft, more cubic inches, and more rpm to excel. In all, we'd say these intakes-especially the Victor 5.0 and R-Series-performed better than we expected on an edgy street combination. But don't plan on bolting one of these to a stock 302 with a blower and think you're going to be king of the street. These intakes are for race cars, so when you wind them past 7,000 rpm, they will leave the street and street/strip intakes in the dust.

A big reason Mark Anderson's Real Street car makes about 500 rear-wheel horsepower with unported heads, an unported intake, and a stock cam is he uses EFI Systems Programmable Management System. Rick Anderson has long been a supporter of this user-friendly, piggyback tuning solution. In short, this system plugs inline with the stock EEC IV processor and substitutes performance outputs for the standard EEC fare when appropriate. The PMS is easy to use because you can make changes at 2,000, 4,000, 6,000, and 7,800 rpm, and the PMS interpolates-or fills in the blanks between-those ranges.

We all know what R stands for, so it's no surprise to find the Trick Flow R-Series intake (PN TFS-51500003) in the race group. Retailing for $499 from AFM, the R-Series peaked at 515.6 hp and 459.5 lb-ft of torque. Meanwhile, from 4,500 to 6,500 it averaged 467.3 hp and 447.3 lb-ft.

While tuning is obviously an important part of the PMS allure, it also allows you to exceed the stock rev limiter-hence our testing to 6,800 rpm-and datalog information such as boost, timing, mass airflow, air-charge temp, and more. By saving this information to a PC using EFI Systems Interaq software, Rick was able to ensure our dyno pulls were as consistent as possible. In most cases, the timing was within 1-2 degrees (16-18 degrees) and the boost within a pound or so (11.7-14.2 psi) at the top of the tach. Now that might seem like a large boost differential, but Rick says he ran each manifold several times, and the pulls with a bit more boost did not always make more power. In fact, some of this differential could have been the result of backpressure in intakes with smaller runners.

When it was all said and done, Rick believed this test was performed as consistently as possible. What more could you want?

Reflecting back on the earlier naturally aspirated testing published in our departed sister pub, Super Ford, we discovered the supercharger does produce more distinct results. In naturally aspirated testing, the intakes were generally similar in average output, while the blown testing results were more varied. This shouldn't really be a surprise, as the majority of these intakes were designed with naturally aspirated performance in mind.

Perhaps the most unique intake in the bunch is the Vortech Mondo Box, which retails for $355 from AFM. This intake is basically Vortech's Mondo Cooler aftercooler with no cooler in it. It is designed to bolt to the GT-40 lower intake and peaked out at 487.5 hp and 445.4 lb-ft of torque. From 4,500 to 6,500 rpm, the Mondo Box averaged 447.3 hp and 428.6 lb-ft.

"A supercharger is an easy power increase," Rick Anderson says. "Bolt it on, tune it, and go. On the average, you will get a 150-200hp increase at the rear wheels with 10-14 pounds of boost. What most people do not realize is how it changes the function of the intake. The manufacturers of these intakes spend hours designing and testing intakes for naturally aspirated applications, but when you supercharge them it changes how the intake is filling the cylinders.

"A naturally aspirated intake is designed to pull air through it, which is what each cylinder is doing. It's pulling air through the intake. Great care is taken to ensure each runner flows equal for each cylinder, which is tough for the outer runners and the corners are designed for air to be pulled off of them. The plenum area is also designed so it does not starve any of the runners, and the runner length is tuned for the intake's intended rpm range. With a supercharger, the air is being forced through. The outer runners are getting the most air, the corners are being forced around-not pulled-and length is not as important. The cam and supercharger control this, which is why this test is so different from the naturally aspirated Super Ford test."

5.0 Tech Specs
Mark Anderson's Real Street Car
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINELECTRONICS
BlockEngine Management
Stock (D.S.S. Real StreetEEC IV with EFI Systems
short-block)Programmable Management
Cylinder HeadsSystem
Trick Flow Twisted WedgeMass Air Meter
Intake ManifoldPro-{{{M}}} 80mm
All of themIgnition
CamshaftMSD
Stock '87 5.0Gauges
Power AdderAuto Meter
Vortech S-Trim w/ AFM 
Power Bypass KitSUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
ExhaustSprings
AFM/Bassani 1 3/4 short-Eibach Drag Launch
tube headers, Bassani X-Struts/Shocks
pipe, and Bassani mufflersQA1
Fuel PumpRear Suspension
Aeromotive Pro PumpHP Motorsport
Fuel InjectorsWheels
55 lb/hrBogarts
TransmissionTires
{{{Liberty}}} Pro-Shifted T5Goodyear (front), Mickey
ClutchThompson (rear)
AFM Real Street clutchBrakes
RearendAerospace Components
8.8 Moser, 3.73 gears, Moser 
spool and Moser 33-spline 
axles