Chris Hemer
May 1, 2002
Photos By: Courtesy of Manufacturers

As a high-performance enthusiast, you've undoubtedly heard the phrase free horsepower bandied about. It means horsepower that is lurking within your existing combination, just waiting to be released. Now, we all know that truly free horsepower is as hard to come by as a free lunch-or a free date with the Maxim cover girl. But by maximizing the engine's efficiency through careful examination of its every function, it is possible to extract several extra horsepower you never knew existed. A cold-air or ram-air package is one of the easiest, most effective ways to do this, with a minimal investment in time or money.

Put simply, these systems introduce ambient air from an area outside your hot engine compartment into the engine. As we're sure you know by now, cooler air is denser air, which makes for better combustion and more horsepower. As an added bonus, these packages typically include a low-restriction air filter as well, and many make provisions for a larger mass air meter to free up even more ponies (of course, this makes for pricier free horsepower).

In the last few years, several companies have begun offering fresh-air and ram-air systems, so to keep you updated as to what's available, we've compiled this buyer's guide. In it you will find a variety of systems (in alphabetical order) for Mustangs ranging from six-cylinder models to 5.0s to 4.6 Cobras-in short, something to fit your car. Certainly they're not free, but cheap horsepower is almost as good, right?

Anderson Ford Motorsport
Every car dealership has a parts department. Some even carry high-performance parts. But Anderson Ford's motorsport department (Anderson Ford Motorsport) in rural Clinton, Illinois, goes way beyond that. The company has its own dyno and offers a variety of performance parts of its own design, including its Power Pipe induction systems. AFM offers Power Pipes for '86-'93, '94-'95, and '96-'01 Mustangs, as well as '96-'98 Cobras and the brand-new Bullitt Mustang. Made from mandrel-bent, 4-inch steel tubing, these kits are designed for use with 77-83mm Pro-M shorty mass air meters, and place the mass air meter/air-filter assembly inside the fender so it can feed off fresh air. Each Power Pipe kit comes with the tube and rubber mounting elbows for the throttle body and mass air meters. Anderson reports its Power Pipes are worth between 6 and 14 hp at the rear wheels, depending on the application, engine mods, and so on, and retail between $188.00 and $232.66.

Kenne Bell
Kenne Bell is a company that needs no introduction. But for those of you who might have just crawled out from under a small-block, here goes. Kenne Bell produces a wide variety of performance products, most notably its twin-screw supercharger kits for Mustangs, Ford trucks, and SUVs. Company President Jim Bell made Kenne Bell famous for high-performance Buick engines and components, but when that market began to die, attention quickly turned to the burgeoning 5.0 market.

Kenne Bell's kit is a true ram-air design, consisting of a length of flex hose, a scoop that mounts underneath the front fascia, an air-filter canister, the company's own polyester cone filter, mounting hardware, and instructions. Kenne Bell maintains that the accepted rule of thumb for horsepower increase is "every 10 degrees in air-charge temperature reduction is equivalent to 1 percent in horsepower." For the math-challenged, let's just say that Kenne Bell claims a horsepower gain of up to 25 crank horsepower and an e.t. reduction of 0.25 second and 2.5 mph.

BBK
The name BBK is almost synonymous with high-performance products for Mustangs and Ford trucks. Now in the business for some 14 years, the company that brothers Brian and Ken Murphy started has grown into a 35,000-square-foot facility in Corona, California. Today, their product line consists of headers, H-pipes, exhaust systems, throttle bodies, suspension components, wheels, and yes, their own cold-air Induction systems.

BBK offers these systems for '86-'93 and '94-'95 5.0 Mustang applications ($149.00), as well as '96-'01 Mustang GTs ($169.99) and '96-'02 Cobra Mustangs ($299.99), featuring polished chrome tubing. These systems come complete with a high-performance, cotton-element air filter, blue rubber mounting sleeves, polished stainless steel clamps, and all mounting hardware and instructions. BBK's system for the Cobra is unique in that it is the only system on the market that uses a custom cast-aluminum inlet tube that mimics the shape of the original plastic oval tube for the best appearance and performance.

Cerra Racing When you run a successful Mustang racing team for three years, it only stands to reason that more than a few people are going to ask you to help set up their cars. Well, that's exactly what happened to Mike Cerra and the crew at Cerra Racing in Colona, Illinois, so they opened up their own shop. In business for three years now, the company specializes in "making cars run properly" according to Mike. Cerra Racing burns its own chips, has a Dynojet dyno, and offers a variety of aftermarket products and services.

Cerra Racing's induction kits differ from others in this guide in that they don't draw from outside air; the air filter remains in the engine compartment. Cerra maintains that, in its dyno testing, there was no advantage to drawing from air outside the engine compartment, as long as the air filter was shielded from fan wash. The company offers packages for the 4.6 Cobras and GTs only. Each kit includes a powdercoated inlet tube (3 1/2 inches for the Cobra, 3 inches for the GT); a billet-aluminum adapter (attaches filter to mass air directly); an 8-inch Powerstack filter; a stainless steel filter shield that is offered powdercoated in black, silver, red, blue, or polished; a breather tube; and all necessary hardware and instructions. Both kits are backed by a 30-day, money-back guarantee and retail for $199.95.

De Molet Motorsport De Molet's founder, John De Molet (pronounced De-mo-lay), started off making induction systems for a few cars at the track. After being told by several of his customers that he should market his product, John took heed and started his own business. Since then, he hasn't looked back. He offers his Densecharger cold-air induction systems for '89-'93 and '94-'95 5.0 Mustangs, '94-'02 V-6s, '96-'02 GTs, and '96-'01 Cobra Mustangs. The company even has a system for '89-'95 Thunderbird SCs.

De Molet's systems use three-piece ABS plastic tubing in most instances, which has a 77mm inside diameter (except for the Cobra system, which is 100 mm) and uses a black Plexiglas cover plate. John says he uses plastic for the simple reason that it is a heat insulator, while metal is a heat conductor. A side benefit of this philosophy, of course, is that his systems are less expensive. All kits run between $85 and $89, except for the Cobra kit, which can run as high as $150 for a complete system. Kits also include a K&N air filter, a mass air meter coupler, a flanged mass air pipe (where applicable), all necessary hardware, and instructions.

MAC Performance Made famous by its line of headers and after-cat exhaust systems for the 5.0 market, MAC Performance now offers a broad line of high-performance products and accessories. How broad? Let's just say there's not enough room to talk about it here. But we can talk about the company's induction systems.

MAC carries a total of six different Racer's Choice cold-air systems, including those for '86-'88, '89-'93, and '94-'95 Mustangs, '96-'01 GT and Cobra Mustangs, and '94-'01 3.8 V-6 Mustangs. The good-looking systems use chrome-plated, 3.5-inch-diameter, mandrel-bent tubing and blue rubber sleeves with stainless steel clamps. Each system comes with a high-flow air filter and all necessary hardware and instructions. The mounting plate bolts directly into existing airbox holes top and bottom for a clean appearance. Systems for the '89-'93 5.0s start at $124.50, while the '94-'95 5.0 system is $169.50, the '96-'01 GT is $189.50, the '96-'01 Cobra is $169.50, and the 3.8 V-6 system is $189.50.

MAC claims its systems are good for up to 19 hp.March Performance One of the original purveyors of ram-air systems for Mustangs, Michigan-based March Performance is best known for its line of underdrive pulleys. But it still sells ram-air kits for all Mustangs, including '86-'93 and '94-'95 5.0s (the same system also fits '94-'98 3.8 V-6 Mustangs), '96-'02 GTs, and '96-'02 Cobras. The '86-'93 system (see lead photo) includes the ram-air scoop (which fits under the bumper), a 5-inch hose with stainless steel hose clamps, a high-flow airbox to replace the restrictive stock box, and a 9-inch conical K&N air filter for $175.

The rest of the systems (pictured) include the same-diameter hose, stainless steel clamps, and a coupler to replace the factory silencer assembly. These systems retail for between $135 and $145, as they use the stock airbox and no air filter is included. However, March recommends the use of a high-flow, stock-replacement type, such as those offered by K&N.

March contends it is difficult to measure horsepower on a chassis dyno because the air has to be moving at high speed in order for the system to be effective. However, the company does say you can expect to see a 0.2 reduction in quarter-mile e.t. and up to 0.4 on a cool day. There must be something to this, as NMRA Factory Stock racers Rich Groh and Justin Burcham use March ram-air systems, as does modular maven Barry Shepard.

Moroso Performance Moroso Performance Products, located in scenic Guilford, Connecticut, is one of the giants of the automotive aftermarket industry. Basically, the company makes everything for the automotive enthusiast-if you can think of it, Moroso makes it. However, it only makes its High Flow Air Induction System for the beloved '86-'93 Mustang.

As with other products in this guide, Moroso's system takes the simple yet effective approach to making horsepower by placing the air filter outside of the engine compartment. The kit consists of a computer-designed, rotationally molded polyethylene air duct; an oil-impregnated, cotton-gauze filter element; a black powdercoated, stamped-steel mounting plate that uses the original airbox bolt holes; and stainless steel clamps. Moroso says the system flows 122 percent more air than the factory system, which results in a gain of 11 hp. Moroso doesn't sell retail to the public, but states the system will run around $89 through its dealer network.