Tom Wilson
March 1, 2004

Horse Sense:
It's interesting to have an all-new lower intake manifold for 5.0s on the market. For so long the staggered, round GT-40, 5.0 truck, and Edelbrock lower manifolds have hosted a huge array of uppers.

Not to forget we named our magazine after it, but some rather large manufacturing concerns have been built on the amazing success of the 5.0 Mustang. Such is definitely the case with BBK, founded in 1988 as the most modest of 5.0 bolt-on parts mail-order operations. Beginning in an apartment bedroom and quickly moving to a single unit in a strip mall (where we made our first visit), then on to ever-larger buildings, BBK's growth has been steadily spectacular.

During its multiyear association with Edelbrock, BBK continued development of many parts but avoided intake manifolds, valve covers, and other cast-aluminum parts because its partner was heavily invested in them. Those constraints are now gone, and BBK has put the throttle down on developing these more sophisticated pieces.

A major step was purchasing a pattern shop, which makes the wood patterns from which aluminum casting molds are built. Pattern-making is one of the huge up-front expenses in producing a casting (that first intake manifold easily costs more than $30,000 in production expenses), and BBK is aiming to substantially contain these up-front costs by having its own development capability.

Development is also much faster and with greater control over the product in your own pattern shop, an ability BBK says is vital in today's market. Furthermore, a steady stream of new products is also a must. This inevitably leads to new markets, such as Chevys and Hondas. So, while the 5.0 Mustang launched and defined BBK for the first decade, the company is not exclusively for Fords anymore.

The New Intakes
Almost like a celebration, at this 15-year mark BBK is displaying a gen-erous line of new products. Central of these is an all-new 5.0 intake manifold. Still a work in progress during our latest visit, the lower intake was receiving final adjustments while the upper was in preliminary layout and not available for inspection or photography. But much of the intake's character is clear.

Targeted at the current leading street intakes-the Edelbrock Performer RPM II, the Holley SysteMAX II, and the Trick Flow Track Heat units-the BBK intake uses a staggered-rectangle runner layout. The runners in the lower intake are identical to each other, with no jogs or constrictions around cylinders one and five, as in all other 5.0 intakes. The upper intake design resembles the 3.8 V-6 intake on current Mustangs. There will be two plenums positioned roughly above the valve covers, along with the throttle body in the stock location. A curving runner will arc from the throttle body to the connecting tube between the two plenums at the rear of the engine. From the plenums, sweeping runners lead to the runners in the lower intake.

Airflow is planned to exceed the current leaders by approximately 12 percent, according to BBK. No prototype had been taken to the dyno by press time, however.

Key to the new intake are the fuel rails. While getting the lower casting to clear every stock and aftermarket distributor BBK could lay its hands on was not difficult, Ken Murphy (the K in BBK) found it impossible to get either stock or normally configured aftermarket billet-aluminum fuel rails to clear the distributor. The resulting splaying of the fuel rails meant the injectors ended up at differing and-one presumes-not optimal angles to the runners, so the rails were redesigned.

Aluminum extrusions, the new-design fuel rails, feature a slight L shape, which clears the distributor and allows symmetrical injector placement. Simple brackets mount the fuel rails to the lower intake in the conventional manner.

BBK will sell every new intake with these fuel rails, and will also offer the rails as stand-alone items. The complete intake kit, including the upper and lower intake, the castings, the gaskets, and the fuel rails, will retail for $499, according to BBK. March 2004 is the expected on-sale date for the new intake. We'll dyno test it in prototype form before then, so keep your eyes peeled.

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This intake kit is designed to reuse the stock fuel-pressure regulator, but will accept an aftermarket regulator, and it can be mounted in a more convenient location than the stocker. If you don't already have an aftermarket regulator, an adjustable, high-flow fuel-pressure regulator will be optional with the kit.

As mentioned previously, the BBK fuel rails will be available separately. Pricing was not set for fuel rails by themselves, but it's amply clear they'll set a new standard in low fuel rail pricing. They have to, considering the fuel rails and complete intake manifold are not that much more than what some companies charge just for rails!

Fuel injectors will not be included with the fuel rails or intake.

As for the upper casting, it will have the EGR plate cast into it, similar to an SN-95 intake, so there'll be no need for a stand-alone EGR plate. The throttle bore is sized for a 75mm throttle body, which BBK recommends starting around the 450hp level. In fact, the 75mm BBK throttle body will be optional. Another option-with favorable pricing when bought with the intake-will be a 75mm BBK throttle body.

Finally, Brian says BBK will eventually offer a short-runner upper casting, strictly for racing. He says it will look like the earlier Cobra or '00 Cobra R intakes, with a bulbous bread box hiding velocity-stack-like short runners inside. It could prove useful on high-rpm, steeply geared combinations where the rpm is always kept buzzing.

After the 5.0 intake is introduced, BBK will switch to its 4.6 modular intake for late-model GTs. Preliminarily priced at $599, the new piece will fit '96-'04 4.6 engines, and is scheduled for release during the summer of 2004.

Because the 5.4 is a taller, wider engine, the new intake will not fit.

In general layout and philosophy, the upcoming Two-Valve intake will be "pretty similar to the 5.0 manifold," although the final layout has yet to be finalized. "But," as Ken points out, "this is the nicest thing about having the pattern shop in-house. You can do the job fast and give good feedback [to the pattern maker]."

Expect an all-aluminum intake designed for the standard GT powerband. Because the stock intake is plastic, holding the weight gain with the aluminum intake is a concern. Inevitably the new intake will be Bullitt-like, although tubular aluminum runners and a cast plenum have not been ruled out-shades of the GT-40 tubular intake!

New Bolt-Ons
As have all header manufacturers, BBK has been turning out a seemingly continuous stream of new headers lately. The latest set is for the 4.6 GT engines, a notoriously difficult application to do any good with.

The trouble is the wide modular engine doesn't leave much packaging room in Mustangs, so headers that fit don't work and headers that work don't fit. BBK's answer is a steel casting to form the collector on the passenger-side header. This allows bends and collection not possible with sheetmetal, and thus gentler, flow-friendly curves in the 1 5/8-inch primary pipes.

In this article, BBK provided rear-wheel dyno numbers from its in-house development testing. They show distinct power improvements-especially in torque-so maybe there's something to this cast collector concept.

A quick look at the midrange dyno numbers shows the meat of the improvement.

To be conservative, call it a gain of 12 lb-ft of torque and 8 hp-huge improvements for a short-tube 4.6 header.

Some of the other parts we came across on our BBK visit are visual treats, such as the company's growing line of valve covers. We're presenting them in the photos, along with more on the headers and the full treatment on the new lower intake.

As for future articles, stand by for testing from us on some of these parts. It's a safe bet we'll be seeing more from BBK as well.

Behind the Machine
Today BBK encompasses 25,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehousing, an additional 22,000-square-foot warehouse, and-most recently and tellingly-a complete pattern shop. Furthermore, a brand-new 25,000-square-foot building was going up during our latest visit, and we're sure there will be many more square feet before long.

Multiple Murphy brothers were originally involved in the BBK start-up. But through the inevitable lean times early on, some left the corporation, so it's been Brian and Ken Murphy running the business for many years. Brian, one of the Bs in BBK, specializes in marketing and business development. Ken sticks mainly to the mechanical side and is typically found developing new products or tending to the manufacturing process.

While the two brothers enjoy dif-ferent aspects of their business, key to BBK's success is that both share a common, street-oriented view of the Mustang market. From the beginning they realized the core Mustang exper-ience emphasizes bolt-on street performance.

And while BBK easily has the resources today to dabble in motorsports-Brian and Ken each have 5.0-based Mustang road racers-their street focus kept them from pouring money into major Mustang racing ventures in the '90s when that was so popular. Many a tuner or small-time parts manufacturer has stayed just that because they were feeding a voracious racing habit. Even some large, household names in the Mustang world have arguably sacrificed their futures on the racing altar.

Instead of racing, BBK invested in its business and-by default-in Southern California real estate. Fans of automation and CNC precision, Brian and Ken snapped up computerized tubing benders and machining centers as soon as their early parts sales allowed. And, while they've bought a few new machines, most of their acquisitions were one-third-the-price, year-old machines because they offered the same machining performance at huge savings. It's a practice they still follow today.

This economy, coupled with its market success, allowed BBK to make the step up to land and building ownership. They replaced rent going out with appreciation and tax write-offs coming in, which meant more machines and thus greater leverage with their product success because they had more to sell.

With increased production capacity came the ability for a wider range of products. From headers and throttle bodies, BBK moved on to pulleys and suspension pieces. Cold-air and even supercharger kits followed, along with a lateral move to trucks. Finally, it was time to move to other brands besides Fords, and today BBK is well diversified into GM and import brands.

Two other factors have helped. With a characteristic ability to logically suppress ego (another rare commodity in small-time aftermarket ventures), BBK was quick to shed its own parts when it was clear partnering with others worked better. An example is suspension parts. BBK's early gear desperately needed engineering development the company simply didn't have the skills or time to provide, so it discontinued the line and partnered with Maximum Motorsports to sell Maximum's complete line. Instantly, BBK gained a superb suspension line while Maximum's distribution skyrocketed.

The other factor was partnering with Edelbrock on throttle bodies. Brian and Ken emphasize the legitimacy their association with Edelbrock gave the BBK name, and when Edelbrock elected to make its own throttle bodies and the association ended, BBK had already gained valuable name recognition.

Midrange Dyno Numbers