If you’re anything like me you just can’t leave things well enough alone. The old adage, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it just doesn’t apply to us. So, although the small block Ford in my Fairmont was running just fine with an old Holley Contender manifold, I figured it would run even better with the newer Edelbrock Performer 289 I had tucked under my work bench. Not broke, but needed fixing.
The Contender is a basic dual plane manifold, and it came as factory equipment on Mustang GT’s in the early 1980’s. The Fairmont felt great and pulled hard right off of idle, but ran out of breath quickly. The 302 had a nice set of equal length headers and free flowing exhaust already, and I thought the Edelbrock’s taller plenum and longer runners would let the motor pull longer. They do, but my first stab at installing it didn’t work out too well.
For all of the prior automotive repairs and projects I’ve completed I had only installed an intake once before…and it leaked. This time around I read the books, the magazine articles, and the manufacturer’s instructions. I watched the YouTube videos. I felt like I had a good handle on the popular methods and best practices. I cleaned the surfaces well, outlined the water jackets with RTV, set the gaskets in place, tossed the end gaskets and laid a fat bead of RTV, and dropped the intake in place. I torqued the bolts in the recommended sequence to the recommended torque setting. I left it overnight, reinstalled the carb and distributor, and fired it up. The oil turned to milk.
After a few days the frustration wore off and after changing the oil, I tore the intake back off to try again. This time around I did two things differently. First, I used Permatex gasket adhesive to adhere the intake gasket to the head rather than RTV. I still outlined the water jackets with RTV between the gasket and intake, and used a bead of RTV for the end gaskets. Second, I used guide studs in the corners to lower the intake into place precisely, and minimize any chance of the gaskets shifting.
The guide studs are nothing more than bolts with their heads cut off, but they allow the intake to be set exactly right when you lower it down on the gasket and RTV bead. Once the intake is in place you can easily back the studs out and drop the bolts through the holes. I then tightened all of the intake bolts hand tight, then down to the recommended torque setting, in sequence, in three stages. First each was torqued to ten pounds, then fifteen, and finally twenty. After curing overnight the motor fired up with no leaks. Third time’s the charm!