Holley’s Sniper Intake Manifold Has Our ’68 Firebird In Its Sights

Last month, we showed you the first installment of the underhood revamp on our 1968 Firebird project. We replaced the beat-up, stock valve covers with some trick, polished-aluminum ones from Proform. We also used its coil relocation brackets to clean things up even further.

When we swapped out our valve covers and coil brackets, we had to find a solution to using our stock fuel rail and crossover. The stock rail inlet was running into our new coil brackets, thus forcing us to upgrade. We wanted to make a statement, so we started looking for something flashy.

Our Firebird’s LS has been providing good times for a few years now, but it hasn’t been doing anything for us in the looks department. So, that meant matching those valve covers and coil brackets with a sleek, fresh, fabricated-aluminum intake manifold from Holley. 

Our LS was previously equipped with an LS6 intake manifold. Many consider it to be a very capable manifold and prefer it over all the other stock LS options. However, we feel at this point in the game, they’re fairly basic looking. In our opinion, there is always room for improvement – otherwise, why would the aftermarket exist?

 

Back in the day, when people saw a monster carb setting atop the intake manifold of something saucy, they would know what time it was. That engine wasn’t flowing all those CFM for no reason, and a fabricated intake manifold is kind of like that for our LS. When people see it, it has a “bling-factor” that lets them know there’s something nasty under the hood. It also changes things up a bit, and shows people something they aren’t already used to seeing.

Think about how commonplace is is to see an LS with a stock intake manifold, of some variation, under the hood of countless hot rods at any car show. After all, they’re affordable, sometimes free, and for many applications, they work. But, it makes people take notice when you have some shiny or custom pieces under the hood. Go-fast parts always draw attention, and this style of intake manifold is bred from racing. 

That’s not to say our LS6 intake wasn’t capable – in fact, there are many people running well into the 9’s with that intake manifold. Still, there are reasons we made the switch. First and foremost, our LS1 already has a nice COMP Xtreme Energy cam and PRC heads from Texas Speed and Performance. Those parts, combined with the taller gears (3.50) in our Ford 9-inch, prompted us to go for something with longer and more tapered intake runners. 

Doing so enables us to make power right where we want it and keep the Firebird running in it’s sweet-spot. The bird will be used in many applications, and it certainly won’t be babied. Eventually, it will see some long miles on it’s way to car shows and track-day events all over the West Coast. No trailer queens here. 

Our mildly built LS is making somewhere in the 400 to 500-hp range, and we liked the way Holley’s Sniper Manifold looked, but weren’t sure if it was the right one for our LS. We reached out to the experts at Holley and asked them what we could expect to gain from switching to an intake manifold like the Sniper.

“One of the great advantages our fabricated intakes have over a stock composite manifold is their ability to withstand higher levels of boost ” -Holley

Holley told us, “One of the great advantages our fabricated intakes have over a stock composite manifold is their ability to withstand higher levels of boost than OEM intakes and other aftermarket composite offerings. They’re also 100% TIG welded. Outside of the functional advantages, the intakes look great and offer a fabricated-intake manifold to the market at a much lower price point than many of our competitors.”

We told Holley that we weren’t yet sure what our future plans were as far as power adders, and forced induction via turbo or blower, might not be the direction we go. They added, “Well, one of the great things about these intakes being available from a company like Holley is that we support these products with our other brands like NOS, if you would rather go that way.” We checked out some of the accompanying products they were referring to, and we just may end up going with giggle-juice. Check out what we’re looking at, here.

If you can’t already tell, the benefits of an intake manifold like this are numerous, and we’re already foaming at the mouth thinking about what we’re going to feed this thing. And, if we’re being completely honest, we absolutely love the way it looks!

So, by replacing the intake manifold we had, we accomplished a number of things. First, we took care of the ugly, outdated looks of the LS by modernizing it with some “racy” parts. Second, we improved and optimized airflow for our current and future mods, and we were able to accommodate our new coil-bracket location.

If you’re wondering if there is an option for your LS, Holley also told us, “Another benefit to these intake manifolds is we have a full product line of them for various LS applications. Cathedral port or oval port, along with all popular throttle-body openings, means we have the market covered there as well.”

Additionally, these manifolds are a great option for anyone looking to explore a very capable, low-cost fabricated intake. Ours came in under the $600.00 mark, and they even come with the matching Sniper fuel rails, adapters to convert to AN fittings, and a fuel-line crossover – just a few less things you need to worry about.

Follow our install below, and see for yourself how the finished product turned out. Of course, check back with us for future updates on our Firebird’s underhood revamp – where we turn the dirty bird’s grimy engine-bay into a thing of beauty.

We started by removing the old intake manifold. That meant taking off the throttle body and air filter first, followed by removing the intake manifold itself.

It is important to be careful when removing the map sensor and vacuum line to the brake booster before removing the intake. They can be brittle and easily broken (ask us how we know!).

Time for a little spring cleaning...Okay, a lot. We took this opportunity to paint our valley cover black with some high-heat paint that's resistant to corrosion since we're dealing with fuel.

It came time to prep the new Holley Sniper intake manifold, which meant pressing in the supplied gaskets at the base of each intake runner.

After the gaskets were installed, we pressed in the fuel injectors we robbed from the stock fuel rail. Be advised, it is important to lubricate the injector O-rings before inserting them. The sharp edges of the opening could cut them, causing fuel leaks, which is never good.

We hooked up the MAP sensor and vacuum line for the brake booster. The Sniper Manifold has a different location than stock for these connections. It is underneath instead of behind, which creates a cleaner look, but requires the work to be performed before the manifold is installed.

We decided to replace the vacuum line and plug it into a barb fitting that came with the intake. The MAP sensor was also plugged into a short piece of vacuum hose connected to a barb fitting. The other two holes were plugged with 1/8 NPT brass plugs.

Before we installed the intake manifold, we plumbed the fuel rails and mocked them up in the fashion they would be installed.

We went on to install the intake manifold using the tightening/torque sequence included in the instructions.

Once the intake was in place, we fastened the fuel rails to the mounting locations using the supplied hardware.

The final step was checking all of our fittings, connections, and attaching the vacuum line.

We should also mention, this intake didn’t work with the stock throttle-cable bracket, so we ordered a new one. It just barely clears our Firebird’s hood, but Holley does offer a low-profile version. (Also, don’t be like us and break your electrical connectors, be gentle because old plastic can be brittle. D’oh!)

There you have it! One step closer to having an engine bay we can be proud of, and we possibly picked up a few ponies in the rpm range we wanted. Stay tuned for the subsequent dyno numbers when we get this thing tuned.

There will be more to come on this project, so tell us what you think should come next in the comment section below – aside from a new Idle Air Control valve (obviously! oops.) Front accessory drive? Hydraulic brake booster, and new master cylinder? Smooth firewall? What else can we do to take our engine bay from “blah” to “BLAM!”

Already immensely better looking than before. What comes next?

 

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About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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