According to you: 11 cool air cleaners to spruce up your engine bay
Although they’re far more efficient and power-packed than their V-8 ancestors, most late-model cars just don’t have the same kind of under-hood presence as cars from the ’80s, let alone the ’50s and ’60s. We asked our community to tell us their favorite air cleaners, and we are happy to report that there is some clear consensus on what air cleaners look the best. Here are the top 11-ish responses, in no particular order.
Mopar Six-Pack/Six Barrel
Whether it was a Dodge Six Pack or a Plymouth Six Barrel, the monster air cleaner atop the 440 meant business either way. Heck, it meant business on the 340 too!
1963 Z11 Impala
While Chevrolet was still experimenting with the Mystery Motor 427 that was the predecessor to the 396, 437, and 454 big-blocks of the muscle car era, there was another 427 that would set the stage and help Chevrolet make the displacement memorable. The race-bred Z11 Impala, stripped and lightened for competition, packed a 427-cubic-inch version of the W-motor that took the already potent 409 into even more legendary territory. The cowl-induction was straight out of NASCAR and helped the big engine pump out 430 hp through a pair of four-barrel carbs. The engine pictured here was from a sublime example that sold for $340,000 at a Mecum auction in 2017.
We were a bit surprised we had to go to Facebook to find a comment mentioning the 1951–1956 Cadillac/Oldsmobile “batwing” air cleaner. The simple design of these air cleaners matches the mid-century design of the exteriors and the scoops hint at the performance that lies within. This design was so popular that multiple companies still manufacture reproductions. They look good on just about any ’50s car.
Camaro Cross-Ram 302
This one may be more about the intake than the air cleaner, but any intake that has a pair of carbs spaced that far apart and an air cleaner that spans them will draw some attention. Even the Crossfire Injection Camaro and Corvette managed to make twin one-barrel throttle bodies cool.
Hudson Twin H Power
Hudson made a lot of strides in car design and engineering, netting them multiple NASCAR manufacturers championships in the early ’50s. Some of Hudson’s racing knowledge made its way to the street when it offered a twin-carb upgrade to its 308-cubic-inch flathead six that resulted in 160 hp. Hudson embraced the new induction, calling it “Twin H-Power” and topped the twin one-barrel carbs with ornate canister air cleaners.
1967 Buick GS
This piece of automotive art has a bit of an architectural vibe to it. It’s come to be known as the “Star Wars” air cleaner because the two inlets do make the piece look a bit like some sort of sci-fi shuttle, or maybe a droid, we’re not sure. It can be found on the 1967 Buick GS400 as well as the 1967 Buick Riviera GS. The one-year-only intake seems to be a hard-to-find commodity for restorers, so seeing one in person is a rare treat.
Mopar embraced the shaker hood scoop with graphics on the underside of the hood that nearly made you want to get your eyes examined. As if you needed more reason to stare at a Hemi ‘Cuda.
Everyone loves shaker hoods, we can’t forget that Ford used some beautiful and functional shaker scoops on Torinos and Mustangs.
Trans Am Shaker
Of course, GM also got into the shaker scoop action, but for Trans Am the scoop was mounted backward. While the shaker scoop was shared with the spicier Formula variants, it really became a Trans Am signature and was used for most of the second-gen Trans Am’s run.
1958 Mercury Monterey Super Marauder
The 1958 Mercury Monterey’s 383 V-8 used a gargantuan, round air cleaner that looked like a flying saucer. Huge and pretty cool in its own right, it got completely blown out of the water by the piece of art that topped the optional 430 Super Marauder V-8 and its triple carbs. The 400-hp engine deserved the gorgeous sculpture, no doubt, but just imagine the work that went into casting it in aluminum, polishing it, and painting it. No wonder we’d get accustomed to stamped air cleaners and eventually plastic airboxes.
Pop the hood on an ’80s pony car and you may spot a round air cleaner with twin snorkels that lead to cold-air ducts. It could be a Mustang or a Camaro, as both featured similar looks. They’re simple, they can be effective, and they both are a bit of throwback that honors their SCCA Trans-Am heritage. Even if many of these engines were just coming out of the Malaise Era, they still offered solid performance for their day and a nice foundation for building real power with help from the aftermarket.
Of course, our community suggested these and many more, so make sure to visit the thread and add your favorite to the growing list. Who knows—with enough strong responses we may revisit this subject for a Part II post.