If we were to do a car-guy movie remake of the "bring out your dead" scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there would be plenty of enthusiasts insisting that the small-block Chevy is nowhere near death. Evidence that the venerable Mouse motor still has a strong pulse is when a company like Air Flow Research debuts a brand-new composite intake manifold for street and strip. Not only is this manifold made of 21st century composite material, but its modular two-piece design allows quick and easy changes among three different upper "spider" configurations. The low-rise, single-plane manifold is called the Titan X Street (TXS), while its taller, single-plane cousin goes by Titan X Race (TXR). We didn't get a chance to test the Titan dual-plane (DPR) version, but it nestles into the same base as its single-plane siblings. The beauty is that you could literally change intake designs in your driveway in a matter of minutes because the upper spider requires only a handful of fasteners and you are not bothered by draining coolant or removing the distributor.
Rather than settling for a lame forum story of appearance platitudes and part numbers, we persuaded AFR to let us test this composite intake manifold on the back of a Car Craft mule motor. Resting comfortably on the shop floor was a well-seasoned GM Performance Parts HT 383 short-block that had recently escaped from our Orange Peel '66 Chevelle's engine compartment and was therefore overdue for a flogging. Then Tony Mamo from AFR suggested testing a set of the company's brand-new Version 2 195cc Competition ported heads in conjunction with the Titan composite intake manifolds. By now you've probably already cut to the end of this story to uncover the dyno results. What's not covered in the composite intake manifold comparisons however, is that we bumped the ignition lead 2 more degrees for one last heroic pull and bumped the power another 2 hp to an amazing 561 hp at 6,200 rpm with the TXR lid. Certainly the Comp Cams 288 Xtreme Energy hydraulic roller cam, Holley HP 950 carburetor, and open 17⁄8-inch headers contributed to the overall power. This engine also made well over 425 lb-ft of torque even down at 3,100 rpm, so it's no slouch down low. With such impressive power with our first effort, we're already wondering what a little extra tuning might deliver. Could we push this beast to 575 or more? Clearly our veteran Mouse is still a long way from the graveyard.
The AFR Titan Composite Intake Manifold
AFR's new Titan composite intake manifold series of intakes employs the current composite-materials technology and has retrofitted it back to the classic small-block Chevy. While more expensive to build than a cast-aluminum manifold, this manifold's composite material offers multiple advantages. Right off, the composite is lighter, as much as 10 pounds or more depending on the size of the manifold you are replacing. Moreover, the composite promises cooler inlet air temperatures in street use with its insulator qualities, so the carburetor should remain much cooler, which will help on hot days with vapor lock issues. But the really intriguing part is the two-piece design that allows you to swap the upper manifold portion in a matter of minutes without having to drain water or remove the distributor. The entire composite intake manifold is sealed with rubber inserts that are dedicated for this manifold and are completely reusable. AFR supplies all the seals and intake fasteners with the manifold, making it truly a bolt-on affair.
These green seals fit into dedicated grooves in the intake base to seal the water jackets.
Dropping the base onto our engine required only the addition of RTV for the china wall sea
Bolting the upper portion of the intake in place is simple and takes only a few moments. O