Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
May 3, 2010

Rumors of its existence have been going around the Internet since the first prototype went out the door for testing. Over the course of the last three years or so, C&L proprietor Lee Bender has been constantly refining his latest product to make sure it was the absolute best it could be. Finally, the Internet buzz turned into reality, and C&L Performance's first production intake manifold for the Three-Valve Mustang was ready to be flogged on the dyno.

"In 2003, we were the first company to develop an upgraded upper intake plenum for the '96-and-up Two-Valve 4.6L Mustang, and that product was a huge success at the time," says C&L Performance's Lee Bender. "Our '05-and-newer products quickly accounted for the highest percentage of our overall sales. This led us to evaluate the factory Three-Valve intake manifold to determine what improvements could be made. Although the factory intake does have a higher flow capacity than the stock cylinder-head intake-flow capacity, it still fell short of the CNC-ported heads that serious enthusiasts were using." While the factory plastic intake manifold saves weight, Bender believed its plastic construction wasn't ideal for high levels of nitrous oxide.

"By implementing individual port bosses for a direct-port system, our manifold allows enthusiasts to safely run as much nitrous as they are comfortable with, without fear of backfires, fuel accumulation, or fuel puddling issues," notes Bender. "In our dyno testing, the manifold has shown that clear gains are afforded by the intake manifold on everything from a totally stock engine (11-14 hp) to a fully built engine. The better the heads flow and the higher the engine operating rpm, the greater the potential gains are with the new manifold design. It's a natural for high-boost applications as well."

Designing, testing and producing your own intake manifold is no easy feat-in fact it's a major undertaking.

"The first flow testing for our original production runner designs (for comparison with the original manifold capacity) took place in May 2007," says Bender. "The manifold has gone through two completely different sets of tooling and two different runner configurations since the original design.

"The last seven months of the product development cycle was spent optimizing various characteristics of the manifold with valuable help from independent third-party testing. We had to ensure that the manifold's final configuration was flexible enough to support the needs of those with high-rpm engines, while doing all that we could to maintain good overall performance for those who have cars that operate below 6,500 rpm. The first cast samples were created over a year ago, and the first true production samples (with a revised intake port runner) were cast in July 2009.

Getting down to specifics, we asked Bender what the main differences are between the C&L intake and the factory plastic piece.

"Aside from its aluminum construction, which is a substantially more durable material, it features an individual intake port flow capacity that is roughly 28 to 30 percent greater (on average) than the original intake," notes Bender. "This was accomplished by eliminating the crossover runner design of the factory manifold. By keeping the port entry location for each respective bank of runners away from the other, we were able to maintain the same port shape throughout the entire runner. The stock crossover manifold (due to front-to-rear-port length and spacing) has to convert the runner from a round opening to the oblong shape of the factory port at the cylinder head. The runners are length-tuned to develop a horsepower peak that starts at around 5,000 rpm and extends to at least 7,000 rpm, and even higher if the engine is built to operate above that range.

"The total manifold volume has been increased by 1.1 liters, which gave us the best overall performance at all rpm points during testing. The factory charge-motion-control valve plates are completely eliminated when installing this manifold, and this saves the customer the trouble of having to purchase aftermarket delete plates.

"Every major characteristic of the manifold was adjusted and thoroughly tested to ensure we had the best possible configuration. This testing, along with that of third parties using various configurations, added substantial time to the finalization of the product, but it also ensured we had done everything that we could to optimize the product."

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