According to you: 11 cool air cleaners to spruce up your engine bay

Brandan Gillogly

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

Mopar six barrel air cleaner
Brandan Gillogly

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

Z11 Impala air cleaner
Brandan Gillogly

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.

Cadillac/Olds “Batwing”

Oldsmobile "batwing" air cooler
Brandan Gillogly

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

Camaro Cross-Ram 302 air cleaner
Brandan Gillogly

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 Twin H-Power air cleaners

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

1967 Buick GS air cleaner

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 Shaker

Mopar Shaker air cleaner
Brandan Gillogly

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.

Ford Shaker

Mustang Cobra Jet 428 decal and shaker hood scoop
Brandan Gillogly

Everyone loves shaker hoods, we can’t forget that Ford used some beautiful and functional shaker scoops on Torinos and Mustangs.

Trans Am Shaker

1976 Pontiac Trans Am hood

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

1958 Mercury Monterey Super Marauder air cleaner
Brandan Gillogly

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.

Pony-car twin-snorkels

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.

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    They are all very cool but there are some left out like the basic 69 Z28, no chrome just function to name just one.

    I never tired of popping the hood on my ’68 Hemi Road Runner and seeing its huge round chrome air cleaner lid. Maybe not the sexiest design, but between it and those big black-wrinkle valve covers, it was an imposing and ominous thing to behold.

    That’s what I did with my patrol car. It was always turned back over when I got it back from the maintenance department. Something about EPA rules. 🙂

    I am pretty crazy about the Mopar fresh air, intakes of the late 60s and early 70s. The six pack iteration you mention also came on single for barrel cars and Hemi dual quad cars some of which included the N96 fresh air hoods. The coolest of which may have been the 1969 1/2 A12 Road Runner and Super Bee with the huge rectangular baseplate that served as a hood seal for the massively scooped six pack and six bbl fiberglass hoods. The T/A Challenger and AAR Cudas shared this concept the following year with 340 six pack/six bbl. They were all extremely cool stuff.

    I remember well the Mercury Marauder air cleaner on my dad’s boss’s car and also a similar one on his friends 410 cubic inch Edsel with a tri-power set up. Very cool to an 11-year-old kid.

    Love them all. Too bad that today’s engines are covered with yards and yards of plastic. One has to dig deel to see the actual engine.

    It all comes down to NVH, noise, vibration and harshness. The injectors on a direct injected engine are almost as loud as a diesel’s so those engines must be shrouded in plastic and if you look you’ll see noise absorbing foam on the back side of all that plastic. Customers want quiet and composed cars most of the time.

    Being a lifelong Bow Tie guy, I agree the 3×2 air cleaner is missing from your list. Otherwise you included some awesome picks!

    You have the Z11 Cowl Induction, which is way cool, and straight-up functional. For us Chevelle guys there’s also the 1970-72 Cowl Induction hood / air cleaner combo. A lot more Halloween than the Z11, but it does work. Plus, there’s nothing like the howl of a Q-Jet with an open-element CI air cleaner and fully functional CI hood (even though some of us just blocked them open). The ’72 version with the Therm-O-Vac on the snorkel is a little hard to find (I built one once using a snorkel off a Camaro AC) but repros of the ’70-’71 version can be found easily.

    Yep, love them all!
    One of my all time favorite setups though are the 427 Thunderbolts with the dryer ducts feeding in from each side. I drool over those everything, lol.

    That’s not a “bat wing” air cleaner. The bat wing is the mid-fifties Chevrolet and Cadillac two-pot factory dual four barrel oil bath air cleaner. I have seen a lot of Cadillac “bat wings” modified to fit the stock Chevy dual four spacing…

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