Install An Intake Manifold

Doing The Aluminum Two Step

Jeff Smith Aug 1, 2001 0 Comment(s)

Step By Step

Edelbrock makes the correct emissions-legal replacement, EGR-equipped Performer intake manifold for our ’87 Q-jet carbureted Camaro. Beginning with ’87-and-later iron small-block heads, Chevy engineers changed the bolt angle for the four middle bolts (arrows) compared to earlier small-block heads.

If this is your first attempt at working on a late-model small-block with all its hoses and wires, it’s best to mark each hose. Chevy includes an under-hood vacuum-hose diagram, but if yours is missing, it’s best to make your own diagram. Drain the coolant, disconnect the upper radiator and heater hoses, and yank the thermostat housing.

The electrical connections are easy, because Chevy designed it so they will only connect one way. You can’t screw up. But be careful disconnecting them—after years of service they become very brittle and can break easily. In our case, there are several sensors connected to the intake manifold. It might be best to make a note here of all your needs. This is the external coil connection for the small-cap HEI ignition.

Pull the distributor cap and bump the engine around until the rotor points straight ahead. Use a Sharpie to note the position of the rotor relative to the distributor body. Remove the distributor hold-down clamp and pull the distributor. Note that the rotor will rotate about 20-degrees counterclockwise as the distributor comes out.

Disconnect all the sensors and vacuum lines from the Q-jet, remove the fuel line, and disconnect the linkage and place it aside. Remove all four bolts holding the carb down and yank the carburetor.

We used a shop vacuum to get rid of the crud infesting the intake manifold so this junk wouldn’t fall into the engine when we pulled the intake. Remember to cover the carb and distributor openings with a couple of shop rags.

Remove all 12 intake manifold bolts and gently pry with a long screwdriver to loosen the intake from the top of the engine. If you have to pry really hard, double-check that you’ve removed all the intake bolts. Thoroughly clean the intake manifold sealing surfaces with a gasket scraper as mentioned above.

Remove the heater hose fittings from the intake if you plan to reuse them. Our original fittings were wasted so we picked up new ones from Kragen Auto.

Our intake had this quick-disconnect air fitting plumbed into the intake for a 1/2-inch water line connection to the heater. We replaced this with a brass bushing and a 1/2-inch brass nipple from the local hardware store.

Tim chose a set of durable Detroit Gasket intake manifold gaskets. He used Permatex gasket sealer on both sides of the gaskets before installing them on the heads.

With both gaskets in position, Tim used Permatex silicone on the front and rear china walls instead of the rubber end seals that can slip out of place. Be sure to put a little silicone under the ends of the gaskets where they meet the china wall.

Carefully place the intake on the heads and line up all the bolt holes. Start all the bolts before tightening. Torque the bolts in a circular pattern moving from the center out. Edelbrock’s torque spec is 25 lb-ft.

Replace the distributor by starting with the rotor positioned 20 degrees counterclockwise from straight ahead, just like it came out. If you’re lucky, the distributor will drop in; if not, you may have to use a long slotted screwdriver to move the oil-pump drive slightly so the distributor will drop in. Reconnect all the electrical and sensor connections.

Replace the EGR valve and the carburetor and be sure to reconnect all the fittings. Be sure to use an OEM-style carburetor base gasket. Some universal base gaskets don’t offer the same sealing surface as the originals. Compare your gasket with the original and with the new manifold. Also remember to hook up the throttle linkage.

Tim also installed a new ACCEL distributor cap and rotor since the originals had over 150,000 miles on them and were a little grungy. Next, fire the engine and check for fuel and vacuum leaks. This is good time to recheck all the bolts and fittings.

Late-model engines require the distributor to be disconnected from the computer to set the initial timing. Factory specs for this Camaro are 0-degrees advance, but we bumped it to 6 degrees to make the engine a little stronger on the bottom. Connect the distributor and fit the air cleaner and you’re done.

If there is a classic bolt-on for a small-block Chevy, it has to be the aluminum intake manifold swap. This story is aimed at the first-time bolt-on artist, and we’ve chosen CHP’s My Generation ’87 305ci Camaro as the test mule.

We bopped over to our local CSK (Checker-Shucks-Kragen) store and picked up an Edelbrock intake manifold, gaskets, a new ACCEL cap and rotor set, and new heater-hose fittings. In a few short minutes, we had all the parts, and we were ready to start wrenchin’.

Even with all the extra vacuum hoses and emission equipment we had to work around, our pal Tim Moore performed this swap with hand tools in about three hours. The key is to work carefully and pay attention to details like vacuum hose routing and how to fit all the brackets. So grab your tools and let’s get started.

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