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

In noting the aluminum construction of the C&L intake manifold, we asked Bender why he opted for this material versus the factory plastic composite. "Composite manifolds are ideal for OEM automotive manufacturers, as they offer a very low-cost product when you're creating very high volumes of manifolds," says Bender. "The up-front tooling costs are several times higher than what it costs to develop a mold for an aluminum product, but if the volume is there, the cost savings per unit can more than make up for it over time.

"Composite tooling is created from 3D CAD models in software. Once the tooling has been cut, it may be necessary to completely redo it if you need to make a substantial revision or change to the product. This can become very costly, which is why most parts made in this manner are tested as 'rapid prototypes' first, to evaluate and make adjustments until the product is right. Although these prototypes can be made rather quickly, they are quite expensive to create.

"We take a very hands-on approach to product design and development. Although 3D modeling is becoming more commonplace within our business, I still prefer to do most things by hand. In the performance aftermarket, the sales volume in most cases simply does not lend itself well to using composites for creating intake manifolds. The up-front tooling costs for aluminum castings may be less, but the time required to make revisions and adjustments is longer than with rapid prototyped parts."

For a suitable test subject, we turned to Hurricane Performance in Orange Park, Florida, which offered up the company's '05 Mustang GT shop vehicle. The Mustang in question is currently at the pinnacle of 4.6L Three-Valve performance with its naturally aspirated 400-plus-rwhp status, and we thought the C&L intake manifold would give it a sizeable kick in the pants over the factory intake manifold. The Mustang features an Al Papitto-built (Boss 330 Racing) 302ci bullet based on a Ford Racing Performance Parts Boss 302 block. Kris Starnes ported and polished the stock heads, and a pair of Anderson Ford Motorsport prototype camshafts moves the air and fuel through the engine.

Installation of the C&L intake is fairly simple. The only real change between it and the stocker is the length of the bolts that are used. Because C&L has eliminated the charge motion control valves (CMCV) from the intake tract, it uses slightly shorter bolts, which are provided. Total installation time was easily under an hour, and rather than just offering you a simple before and after test, we took the opportunity to run a few tests with different throttle bodies on both the stock and the C&L intake manifold.

With a stock intake manifold, stock throttle body, and the factory charge motion control valves in place, the 5.0L laid down 409.08 rwhp, followed by 410.96 with the CMCV-delete plates. Next we installed a production GT500 throttle body and adapter plate, leaving the CMCV-delete plates on. Peak power increased from 410.96 to 414.65 for a gain of 3.7 hp-though we saw as much as 6 hp at just under 6,600 rpm. Out of curiosity, we reinstalled the stock CMCV plates, and power output decreased to 409.08 and 411.28 on back-to-back pulls. Once the throttle body has been opened up, they do become a restriction.

Next it was the C&L intake manifold's turn, and equipped with the GT500 throttle body, peak power improved to 429 hp. Bender told us that a single-blade throttle body wouldn't disappoint, and it didn't as it increased power output to 435.90. The C&L piece really flows some air, so the better throttle body is needed to make sure it lives up to its potential. While the single was worth some 7 hp at peak power, in other areas under the curve, it was good for as much as 8-9 rwhp.

Old drag racing habits die hard, so for the next dyno pull, we gave the engine a 45-minute cool down and iced the intake manifold for about 30 minutes. Horsepower increased from 435.90 to 442.58 at peak, and was up everywhere along the curve as well.

In the end, peak power went from 409.08 to 435.90 hp. The biggest improvement, however, was achieved at 6,875 rpm, where power went from 399.13 to 440.73, a gain of 41.6 hp. Since this test, C&L, Hurricane Performance, and TunersInc have swapped out the single-blade throttle body for the Ford Racing Performance Parts twin-bore Cobra Jet throttle body, and horsepower was within one single horse. What's more important is that driveability is much improved, and little to no tuning is required for it. C&L is now recommending the CJ throttle body for all of its manifold buyers.

Further cementing the C&L intake manifold's impressive gains is the fact that NMRA Real Street competitor Tim Matherly will be running the intake manifold this year on his new Three-Valve combination, and S.D. Wheeler will be using one as well on his NMRA Super Stang entry as well. We expect to see even more out there now, considering C&L says it has sold its entire first run of manifolds already.

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