When it comes time to sorting out the exhaust system on that muscle car or street machine, most of us are concerned with two things: sound and performance. But finding that aggressive tone without resulting in so much excessive drone that your fillings fall out can be a challenge. Larger mufflers tend to provide a more mellow tone, but there isn’t always the room to mount such a can underneath that A-body. And choking down that 572ci big-block with the wrong muffler is so counterproductive we don’t even need to mention that one!
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So, like many things in our hobby, designing the right exhaust system to match your vehicle often comes down to a compromise between what you want, what will fit, and what the engine wants.
For a lot of car guys, building an exhaust consists of a trip to the local muffler shop, picking out a pair of chambered cans, and leaving their ride in the hands of the guy with the welder. A dual set of aluminized pipes is usually the result with the mufflers hanging in the easiest spot, without regard to problems like in-cabin drone and increased passenger compartment temperatures due to their location. For most of us, there really isn’t another option, unless you’re capable of welding and have access to a lift. But if those two points are not a hindrance, there are a number of options available that can result in a much nicer exhaust system.
For starters, the option to use a more exotic material like stainless steel makes for a huge upgrade and a much nicer end result. The weld seams won’t rust (a common problem when typical aluminized tubing is MIG welded), and the finished result can be easily coated in a myriad of high-temp coatings or even polished to a near-chrome finish. Personally, taking on the exhaust responsibilities also allows the builder to choose a location for the mufflers that will ensure a more pleasurable driving experience. Moving them aft of the passenger compartment, for example, can help reduce resonance and droning inside the vehicle while also moving a common source of ambient heat away from the occupants. And let’s face it, some of us just have to do everything ourselves.
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If you’re a DIY guy like me, you’ve no doubt considered building your own exhaust. When it came time to address the exhaust system on my 1955 Chevy two-door hardtop, I knew I wanted to tackle it myself, given the particulars that I would be pretty picky about. Thankfully, I only had to look so far as Speedway Motors’ catalog to find everything I needed to fabricate a custom exhaust, from the headers to the turndowns under the bumper. Armed with a handful of part numbers, I ordered up everything I needed from Speedway to fabricate a fully custom, one-off stainless steel exhaust system exactly the way I wanted.