7 V-8 induction systems that need to make a comeback
There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from finally finding that perfect speed part that will complete your project car. Unfortunately, the discovery is often paired with the sticker shock and realization that the part took so long to find because it’s rare and, therefore, expensive. Duh.
Some of the appeal of those elusive parts is that not everyone at the local cruise-in has one, but it would be nice if just a few more of the aftermarket’s most interesting parts were available so that buyers wouldn’t have to worry about dodgy threads or someone else’s ill-advised attempts at hand-porting. Here are seven V-8 induction systems we wish would make a comeback:
Accel Super Ram and SLP T-Ram
GM’s Tuned Port Induction was the first port-injected EFI engine installed in Firebird, Corvette, and Camaro V-8 engines. Introduced in 1985, TPI was a big step up compared to the throttle-body injection they had used previously, although its long-runner design seems like it would have been better suited for truck use, as its strength is producing low-rpm torque. Peak power from the 350 TPI engines came at only 4400 rpm.
Even the factory intake has some retro appeal, but the aftermarket did come up with some equally alluring solutions that also managed to significantly increase power. Accel’s Super Ram used a wide plenum with a finned top that was reminiscent of a carbureted cross ram, or GM’s own Cross-Fire injection, except with runners sized to flow enough air to produce some real power. Revealing one under the hood of a C4 Corvette was the ultimate in late ’80s EFI hot-rodding.
However, our favorite TPI-era intake is the elusive SLP T-Ram. It uses shorter runners that feed each bank of cylinders from opposite sides of a T-shaped plenum. Its design was like a mirrored version of the ’80s Mustang’s 5.0-liter EFI intake that fed all cylinders from a plenum on the driver side. SLP built eight 1991 Firebirds with a 350-cubic-inch small-block topped with the T-Ram, adding 18 more in 1992. The Firehawk produced 350 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque when a normal-production TPI 350 made just 245 hp and 345 lb-ft. The Firehawk’s performance wouldn’t be matched by a regular-production F-body until the LS1 debuted in 1998.
T-Rams were available in the aftermarket, but they came late in the TPI’s life cycle. The LT1, with its shorter intake runners, was better suited to higher-rpm performance and debuted in Corvette in 1992 and in F-bodies the following year. The T-Rams’ scarcity and their proven performance, as evidenced by the Firehawk, make them a hot commodity whenever one goes up for sale. If third-gen Firebirds heat up in the collector car market, perhaps SLP, now known as Special Vehicle Engineering, can bring them back.
Edelbrock SY1, STR10, Chevy Z/28 cross rams
Cross-ram intake manifolds provide a more direct, straight path for that air and fuel mixture to enter the combustion chamber without resorting to a tunnel ram that pokes through the hood. Not that a massive, tall tunnel ram isn’t cool. (They are.) For a drag race or Pro Street engine, they’re often the right answer, delivering the performance and the proper look. However, for a hot street car with more of a road-racing vibe, like a day-two build inspired by Trans Am racers, a cross ram is tough to beat.
Smokey Yunick developed an early version of the small-block Chevy cross ram that Edelbrock cast, known as the Smokey Ram. It fed all eight cylinders from a common plenum and used a single four-barrel carburetor. Edelbrock later massaged the design, creating a different lower plenum and a new top for dual four-barrels. The factory manifold used by Chevrolet on the first-generation Z/28 302 is very similar.
Those manifolds were known to be temperamental at low engine speed and it took some know-how to tune them properly. With a larger-displacement small-block, like a 383 or 406, to tame them, and any one of a number of aftermarket throttle body injection units to help the drivability, thanks to improved fuel atomization at lower rpm and much easier adjustment of the “pump shot,” these manifolds might be made much more drivable.
They can be found on eBay, but their prices are a bit high for an intake.
Hemi “Rat Roaster” Cross Ram
Yeah, it’s another cross ram; you really shouldn’t be surprised at this point. What other intake can even compete with the shock and awe of a 426 Hemi’s presence under the hood of a muscle car? This one has been for sale on eBay for years, which means that there must not be too much demand for a $4000 intake manifold. Big surprise. Maybe a newer version with a retooled lower plenum could bridge the gap between its cool vintage looks and the improved power of more modern designs, or maybe Edelbrock will just dust off the tooling and whip some out for the nostalgia racers. March Meet would be even cooler with a few of these screaming down the quarter mile.
Autolite inline four-barrel carburetors
When the SCCA limited Trans Am engines to a single four-barrel carburetor, Ford decided to place its four barrels in a row so that the air/fuel mixture wouldn’t have far to travel before entering each port. The inline four-barrels, introduced in 1970, used a lot of two-barrel parts, so they’re not terribly exotic inside. The early racing models that went to Ford-backed Trans Am racers as well as privateers are very rare and they didn’t include an idle circuit. Later production versions did, making them more friendly for street use, although they too left production decades ago.
We’d love to see these four-barrels make a comeback, but, of course, they’d also need to be paired with their cross ram intake manifold, the Cross Boss. (Best name ever? Best name ever.) It would make the perfect accompaniment to a Boss 302. A carb and intake combo sold for more than $7000 on Bring a Trailer in January, so there may even be a market for more of them.