Making a Custom Street Wedge Air Cleaner
As Elvira will be a 426 Street Wedge Tribute Build it is only appropriate that the engine be topped with a Street Wedge air cleaner. Since these aren't being reproduced by anyone the only option, if you want to purchase one, is to find one at a swap meet or on E-bay. Either way it will be expensive ($300+) and will probably need to be re-chromed anyway.
Since spending that kind of money on an air cleaner is not in my budget I had to come up with another option. So, I decided to make my own. I started out with a $25 swap meet single snorkel unit from a mid '60s Mopar. These are pretty much identical to the Street Wedge unit, however the single snorkel unit is not an un-silenced design. This means the air enters through the snorkel tube instead of from under the top which is how the Street Wedge unit does.
Here is the $25 single snorkel swap meet special. There are basically three modifications that need to be done to turn this piece into a Street Wedge air cleaner. First will be to remove the snorkel and patch the hole.
This air cleaner tops are made of very thin material so caution must be taken when welding in a patch. Ideally TIG welding would be the preferred method but since all I have is a MIG, that's what I used. I also spent a lot of time filling any pits or imperfections with silver solder and grinding/sanding everything smooth. (As it turns out adding the silver solder at this point was a mistake, more on that later.) Here is a comparison of before and after removal of the snorkel and the finished patch.
The second modification that needs to be completed is to cut back the base of the air cleaner so that it can breath from underneath. This is a pretty simple task and was accomplished with an air saw. You could use a cut off wheel but the air saw will leave a neater appearance. The base is made of thicker material than the top but to add a little more strength the cut portion was folded over on itself to add some rigidity. Here is a pic of the base and the cut out section. Determining where to make the cut is easy as there is a flat section where the air cleaner sits and the cut needs to be just outside that section. Here is a comparison of the original size and the cut down size. You may notice some other differences between the two as well.
One of the differences you may have noticed was the carb throat diameter. This air cleaner was designed to fit the earlier AFB carbs and their throat was a bit smaller than the AVS carb I'm using. If you're using an original AFB this mod won't need to be done but for me, it did.
The third mod that may need to be done is to drop the base down so it sits lower on the carb. This won't need to be done if you're using a stock intake, but if you're using a high rise unit as I am it might make the difference between the air cleaner contacting the hood or not. In my case I took almost 2 inches out of the height. The following two pics illustrate the difference.
With all the mods completed it was off to the chrome shop. Here is a comparison of the original top and the finished chromed piece.
I mentioned earlier that filling the weld imperfections with silver solder was a mistake at that point... here is why. The chrome shop sand blasted the top to remove all the paint and in doing so also blasted the silver solder out. If I had removed the paint myself and then filled the imperfections they would not have needed to sand blast the top and this section would have come out much nicer. It is what it is and its just a mater of sticking this section at the back so it can't be seen. This won't be a "show car" anyway so absolute perfection is not required. Here's a pic of how that section came out.
So now its just a matter of installing the unit on the engine. Here is the modified base sitting on the carb. You can see how low it sits and this gives you a good view of the folded back section on the outside edge. Believe it or not folding that edge back on itself does add a lot of rigidity to the base.
Next is the element. This is a stock Street Wedge element available from any of the major parts stores. This one is from my local Car Quest store. Be aware, they may not have it in stock so be prepared to wait a day or two for them to get it. This is a 62 year old part remember. Not something there is a lot of call for, so it probably won't be on the shelf. You can also see that even though the base has been lowered almost 2 inches there is still room under the base for all of the moving parts of the carb to function.
Finally here is the finished product on the dressed up 440.
Here is how an un-silenced air cleaner breaths. Plenty of room for air to get in there.
Now here is a comparison between a stock restored 426 Street Wedge and my tribute 440. My total investment is $150 including purchase of the original snorkel unit and the chrome plating.
While all of this has been going on I've started the disassembly of the car. Check back in a couple weeks to see the progress.
Check back often for more updates...
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