How Sticking A Salad Bowl On Your Engine Can Make More Power

The deepest joy of the world of hot rodding, at least to me, is all of the weird old hot rodder’s tricks that seem too strange, too goofy to be true. It is with this in mind that I present the salad bowl that makes more power.

This comes from Hot Rod’s Engine Masters series, the test on this episode being a comparison of different air cleaners. The idea is to see how much they each inhibit air flow into the engine, and thus how much power they rob.


The big trend, as they discovered, was that getting air routed into the engine from the sides largely robbed power, while getting air routed into the engine from above did not. In one test, they took an air cleaner that had both vented sides and a vented top, then taped up the sides and it made more power than it did with the sides open. Interesting!


To see how far this idea would go, these guys cut a hole in the bottom of a salad bowl, stuck an air filter on the top, and made not only more power than most of the other air cleaners in the test, but made more power than the engine made without any air cleaner on it whatsoever.

This is all thanks to the same principle behind velocity stacks, or intake trumpets. Basically, funneling air down and into the engine improves air flow, more air means more fuel you can burn, more air and fuel that you’re burning means more power. Again, velocity stacks don’t just look awesome, they make it easier for air to fly into your engine and make power.

Taking that same idea a step farther, the salad bowl plus air filter combo didn’t make as much power as a dedicated velocity stack without an air filter. The velocity stack is curved in like a trumpet, rather than curved out like the bowl, making it better at directing air into the engine, or, more specifically in this case, the engine’s carburetor. But that only serves to prove the point of how and why the salad bowl makes more oomph.


These are the top results in full, working off of a 752 horsepower, 489-cubic inch (that’s an 8.0-liter) big block Chevy V8.


Man, hot rodding rules. Garage-grade science at its best.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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Once you put a coffee can on the exhaust, too, prepare to see some serious shit.