A Guide to Exhaust Systems and Components
Some like them loud and rowdy, others prefer a mild volume with a deep tone, yet others just want a quiet cruiser. But we’re not talking about stereo systems and music selections, rather the sound of your hot rod exhaust systems!
Exhaust systems actually have a lot in common with audio systems, as they set a tone for your car or truck, giving off a sort of personality through sound. There’s the subtle sleeper with a low rumble covering up big power within, the smooth, quiet custom cruiser that crawls by, or the boisterous, shaking rumble of straight-through pipes echoing “Look at me!” from the street. But there’s more to exhaust systems than simply the emitting tone. You also need to consider your engine’s performance, managing the heat created under the hood and under the floor, where and how to secure the piping for a rattle-free system and the materials or coatings to use.
Mufflers and headers are almost as varied in size, shapes and forms as the different wheels you choose. If you’re looking for power, large-diameter pipes with free-flowing mufflers and long-tube headers are on the list. Should you go with long-lasting stainless steel for a system that will likely outlast your car? For open engine bays, vintage-style exhaust manifolds may be the route to go and for tight engine compartments there are different heat protecting wraps or shields to help manage temperatures.
The choices are yours and there are plenty of innovative manufacturers at your fingertips to help point you in the right direction. We gathered some of the latest exhaust components from the hot rod industry to see what was new and popular to help find the best headers, mufflers, clamps or system to fit your muscle car, classic truck or street rod.
For years, Mopar fans had it tough in terms of late-model engine swap components that stay true to their heritage. Only recently has the aftermarket been really coming through with products designed specifically for Mopars. One company that has embraced its inner Gen III Hemi swap research is Hooker Headers.
Hooker BlackHeart recently announced the release of its Gen III swap systems for Mopar D100/D150 and B-body applications. Whether you’re a D-series Dodge pickup fan or a member of the B-body faithful, Hooker has released all the components necessary to properly locate a Gen III Hemi engine into your engine bay. From the engine mounts and transmission crossmembers all the way to the stainless headers and 3-inch stainless exhaust, they’ve got you covered.
Master of Flow
When you think of high-powered street machines, the first muffler that comes to mind is Flowmaster. The company’s latest mufflers, called the FlowFX series, produce a moderate performance tone that differs from their traditional “chambered sound,” yet features the performance benefits that you expect from Flowmaster.
The FlowFX mufflers feature a fully MIG-welded 409S stainless steel housing for long lasting performance and corrosion resistance. The bright finished assembly features a large 3-inch stainless steel perforated core surrounded by high temperature sound absorption materials to deliver a deep, traditional-yet-mellow tone.
Flowtech is ready to help you finish your late-model engine swap into a classic muscle with a number of engine swap headers. One of their most popular setups is their stainless turbo headers. They offer these headers for LS, small-bock Chevy, and Ford and Coyote engines.
Specific-fit headers are available for a long list of applications and are available with 1 ¾- and 1 7/8-inch primaries (not the Coyote models) and are available in natural, polished, black, or a heavy-duty ceramic coating for long life.
Tune the Ratio
Have you ever thought to tune your engine by measuring the air/fuel ratio through the exhaust? FAST makes it easy and convenient with an app-based wireless system you can use on any iOS or Android device!
The FAST Wireless Air/Fuel Meter Kits uses an under-hood-mounted Bluetooth module, connected to an oxygen sensor in one or both of your engine’s exhaust outlets. With the dual sensor unit, you can read both wide-band O2 sensors individually or average them together for super accurate readings of the engine’s true air/fuel ratio. The app includes a built-in data logger that records up to two minutes of air/fuel and RPM data so you can review the data then dial-in your carb or EFI system. Calibrations are included to measure gas, ethanol blends, methanol, diesel and more.
Tips of Art
Unless you’re putting your car up on stands with mirrors underneath it, there’s no good way to show off all the work you put into your exhaust system. If you can’t show it all, you darn well should make the exit as nice as possible and Lokar is here to help with their trick exhaust tips.
These two-piece billet aluminum tips feature cutting-edge styling, allowing you to add a smooth, modern finish to your exhaust. The tips are available in machined or polished finishes for a 3-inch exhaust with universal mounting options and are v-band clamp adaptable.
Deeds Engineering Exhaust Hangers
We all understand that the small details add up to make a huge difference in the overall finish and feel of a hot rod. Deeds Engineering sweats these details for you with their distinctive line of exhaust hangers and accessories.
Deeds offers a variety of billet machined clamp-on style hangers, link-type “dog bone” hangers, and a range of brackets and tabs to help you not only secure your exhaust, but to do it with style and quality. All Deeds Engineering components are designed and machined in the USA.
Tired of taking your project car to a muffler shop only to have kinked bends, uneven pipes, or driving home with a new rattle? Maybe it’s time to tackle the job yourself with the help of a Street Rod/Muscle Car Exhaust Kit from JEGS.
JEGS has put together a kit of 409 stainless steel tubing with a number of different lengths, bends, and angles. Each piece is expanded on one end to provide a slip-fit connection for clamping or welding. Kits are available in 2¼, 2½- and 3-inch diameters and include four of each: 4-feet straight pipes, 45-degree elbows, 90-degree elbows and 180-degree U-bends.
It’s a shame that you can’t mount mufflers in plain sight because these MagnaFlows look just too good to hang underneath your car. MagnaFlow offers these stainless steel mufflers with a 2 ½- or 3-inch inlet/outlet and builds them to deliver all the performance you need with the exhaust tone you want.
The performance mufflers feature a free-flowing, straight-through perforated stainless core and mesh wraps with an acoustic fiber fill to deliver a pleasing, deep tone to finish your custom exhaust system.
X’s and H’s
Many exhaust system kits are available with H-pipe or X-pipe assemblies, either as optional upgrades or standard elements of the kit. The engineering theory behind both of these crossovers is that they aid in performance by equalizing exhaust pulses from the engine. The ultimate goal is improving exhaust scavenging, which is when those pulses are tuned in a way that essentially creates a vacuum that better evacuates spent gases from the cylinders.
Generally speaking, X-pipes do a better job of exhaust scavenging and will usually generate higher peak horsepower, while H-pipes are known for improving low- and mid-range torque. The benefits of either one will depend on how well matched the exhaust diameter is to the engine, proper placement of the crossover, and how well the system is matched to other performance upgrades. There is usually a sound difference, as well, with H-pipes being known for a low, throaty rumble and X-pipes often providing a more aggressive tone.
As we all know, heat is an enemy of horsepower and even contributes to the premature failure of parts. One effective way to reduce underhood and under-vehicle temperatures is by coating your exhaust system (or other engine components) with ZyBar Heat Dissipation Coating. ZyBar is a do-it-yourself heat dissipation coating that not only reduces radiant heat by 90-percent, but also has a great-looking custom finish.
ZyBar is a patented spray-on coating designed for use on the inside and outside of headers, exhaust tubing, turbochargers and even intake manifolds. The material provides a thin, lightweight coating with a durable, smooth finish. The material is available in cast metallic silver, midnight black, or a bronze satin and can be applied through a standard style spray gun for a complete DIY project.
Wrapping your headers with Thermo-Tec will help lower underhood temps while increasing the scavenging of the exhaust. With Thermo-Tec’s Thermal Conduction Technology (TCT), heat continues to be conducted across the wrap’s surface to control heat buildup and dissipation.
Thermo-Tec’s Rogue Series of wrap has a high-tech carbon fiber appearance with titanium-like strength. This design utilizes hammered lava rock called basalt and can withstand up to 2,000-degrees Fahrenheit in continuous contact. The wrap is extremely pliable and resistant to discoloration. Available in 1- or 2-inch widths in 50-feet rolls and made in America.
Summit Racing Equipment
New Ram’s Horns
Looking for a classic hot rod look to start your exhaust system of your small-block Chevy? Look no further than Summit Racing’s Rams Horn Exhaust Manifolds.
Unlike the restricted factory manifolds, Summit offers theirs with a 2¼-, 2½- or even 3-inch collector flange to increase the exhaust flow. To get the right look under your hood, they’re available in natural, chrome, black ceramic, or silver ceramic finishes. Gaskets and hardware are included so they’re ready to bolt on right out of the box. If you’re going the route of an LS engine disguised in vintage trim, Summit also carries cast iron manifolds for GM LS engines.
The fasteners used to secure the exhaust manifolds or headers to the cylinder head live through some horrendous heat cycles and have their work cut out for them. Plus, is there anything more annoying than a pesky header leak due to a failing bolt?
ARP offers stainless steel bolts and studs that are engineered to provide long-term sealing under the most demanding conditions. The bolts are rated at 180,000 psi tensile strength, 20-percent more than Grade-8 hardware, and are available with a hex head or 12-point head for tight spots. Black oxide finished chrome moly steel bolts are also available for nearly any engine.
Hedman knows headers and they understand that full-length headers are not ideal for lowered muscle cars, especially ’64–’67 GM A-bodies. This is the reason they designed a set of mid-length headers that allow the exhaust to be tucked up between the frame rails for big-block equipped Chevelles, GTOs, Skylarks and other models.
Built in their Whittier, California manufacturing facility using mandrel-bent 1¾-inch primary tubes, sturdy 3/8-inch header flanges are added and then finished with a 3-inch ball/socket style collector. The larger, free-flowing tubes improve exhaust scavenging to produce horsepower and throttle response from your rat motor while providing much better ground clearance compared to long-tube headers. Optional finishes include black or polished silver ceramic coatings.
Pypes Performance Exhaust
Looking for a complete, ready-to-bolt-in exhaust system for your classic truck, muscle car, or modern daily driver? Pypes Performance Exhaust has you handled. Pypes offers components and systems made from high-quality mandrel-bent stainless steel for American muscle cars and trucks from 1955 through new models.
A Pypes system will include an X-Pipe or their new H-bomb H-pipe, a pair of mufflers, a set of tailpipes, and all of the clamps and hangers required to install the system. Pypes also performance matches your system with a choice of their own distinct mufflers to best suit your horsepower and the performance tone you want.
Open headers can be a literal blast at the right time, such as the race track or an occasional rumble through a cruise night. Thanks to Doug’s Headers, you can easily uncork your exhaust with a push of a button!
A set of Doug’s Stainless Steel Electric Cut-Outs are available for tubing ranging from 2¼-inch up to 3-inches in diameter and are easy to install. The compact cut-outs feature a high-torque 12-volt gear-reduction motor for quick action and feature a leak-free seal for quiet operation when they’re closed. The cutouts are built for durability from 304 stainless, are pre-wired and supplied with a wiring harness, gaskets, Y-pipe and band clamps.
Patriot Exhaust Products
Side pipes not only change the look of a hot rod, they also produce a distinct exhaust note. Patriot Exhaust Products offers a set of Classic Shielded Side Exhaust pipes. The exhaust is available in 50-, 60-, 70- and 80-inch lengths and is flexible during installation with built-in 360-degree rotation at the inlet and outlet.
The large inlet (2–2½-inches) opens up to a 3-inch outlet creating low back pressure while a six-sided louvered core produces performance and a power tone that perks up the ears from any enthusiast. The vintage-style shield keeps legs touch-free of the pipes while adding that period correct look and feel.
Getting the Bends
You might hear the term mandrel bending when companies refer to their exhaust pipes or headers. What exactly does this mean?
Many of us will remember the old days of exhaust systems built by local muffler shops using tubing benders that crimped and compressed the bends. This not only affected the look of the pipe, but also affected performance by disrupting and restricting flow. Mandrel bending involves using a rod – or mandrel – inside the tubing when it is bent, which prevents creasing and collapsing, resulting in the pipe diameter remaining consistent throughout the bend. This not only ensures the best performance, but looks great, too!
Speedway Motors offers a complete exhaust kit that allows you to craft your own custom exhaust system. The tubing, which includes straight sections, 90-degree, 45-degree and 180-degree bends, has an anti-rust coated finish and is available in 2¼-, 2½- and 3-inch diameters.
Speedway also includes a pair of fully welded two-chamber mufflers. These compact mufflers measure just 9.75x13x4-inches to fit nearly any application and feature an offset inlet and center outlet. Designed to eliminate the interior drone, the twin baffles reduce noise while providing an efficient scavenging for performance.
Looking to lower your underhood temperatures? Design Engineering, Inc. can help with their Titanium Exhaust Wrap. This heavy-duty material is embedded with pulverized lava rock then stranded into a proprietary woven material.
The Titanium Wrap is very pliable, creating a tight, secure wrap that can withstand 1800-degrees Fahrenheit direct and up to 2,500-degrees of intermittent heat. Pre-wetting the roll is not necessary for installation and the material is highly resistant to oils spills and vibration breakdown. You’ll be amazed at the lower temps created in the engine bay.
Everyone experiences a header leak at some point, generally due to using an inferior gasket. Hopefully, you learn from your mistakes and do the job right with the SCE Gaskets’ new High Temp Graphite-Kevlar Reinforced exhaust gaskets.
SCE designed these gaskets to compress and conform to uneven, pitted or warped surfaces. The gaskets are .150inch thick and can be compressed down to .062-inch to conform and seal the header flange to the head surface. The gaskets have 75-percent graphite content and are reinforced with Kevlar-Aramid fiber to create an effective seal that will not break down, making them ideal for header flanges, collectors, turbo flanges, or cast iron manifolds. See the complete line of offerings at scegaskets.com.
A Clamp Above
There are muffler clamps, then there are Juliano’s muffler clamps – the Pro-Clamp. Juliano’s revolutionary take on the muffler clamp provides a clean connection while making it super easy to make subtle adjustments in the system.
Machined of polished 304 stainless steel, the three-piece clamp consists of a male and female 37.5-degree flare along with a locking nut that tightens the connection. When assembled, the clamps cannot and will not leak (plus there are no gaskets to contend with). The clamps can easily be removed with a standard spanner wrench for vehicle maintenance or updates while providing an over-the-top professional look to the undercarriage of your hot rod.
Due to tremendous heat cycles, varied metals and gasket materials, header fasteners seem to always need to be tightened. Exhaust leaks at the header or manifold are annoying, but for engines running fuel injection, even a small leak can lead to drivability issues due to the oxygen sensor picking up a lean value from the added air entering the exhaust.
The experts at Stage 8 offer an easy-to-use locking system that provides assurance against fastener failures at the headers or other important areas. The system uses a grooved bolt or nut that is installed as usual. Next, a teardrop-shaped locking retainer is placed over the bolt head and is retained by an E-clip. If the bolt tries to move, the locking retainer hits the abutment and stops any rotation. The three-piece locking fasteners are application specific and available in either six-point hex or 12-point bolts, metric and standard sizes.
Wrapping up your LS swap? Depending on your application, you may be in for a challenge when it comes to finding a perfect fitting set of headers. Kooks Headers and Exhaust helps you get over this hurdle by supplying builders with a set of engineering drawings to help you measure and determine fitment prior to ordering a set of their trick stainless steel headers.
Kooks offers universal mid-length header kits that perform as good as they look and fit. The header piping is offered in either 1¾- or 1 7/8-inch primaries and flow into a 3-inch collector. They also feature ball-and-socket flanges which makes finishing the exhaust on a tight-fitting swap even easier.
Ultimate for LT4/5
When the latest Gen V LT engines were introduced in the C7 Corvette, it didn’t take long for hot rodders to plan for their next engine swap. Ultimate Headers jumped right in by engineering a line of headers to fit many aftermarket chassis and some stock chassis.
Ultimate headers are equipped with their patented investment-cast flanges with tight-radius elbows and are crafted from 321 stainless steel. This material withstands higher operating temps for more resistance against material fatigue or thermal cracking. With the serious power that the LT4 and LT5 series engines are capable of making, Ultimate designed their headers to support the power and fit right while lasting a lifetime.
Sealed for Silence
The point of contact between the cylinder head and manifold or header experiences extreme heat as the spent combustion fumes are pushed out of the combustion chamber. Adding to the high temps are the difference in the materials of the heads and exhaust where different rates of expansion occur, which makes it an extremely tough quest for a gasket to do its work.
Cometic Gaskets has the experience and technology to keep the exhaust ports sealed with a number of options for gaskets. They offer a high-end MLS stainless exhaust gasket for most any domestic V8, including classic small- and big-blocks along with later-model LS, Coyote and Hemis of all generations. If you’re working on a custom build, they’re ready to work on special products as well.