Exhaust System Tech: BlownZ Gets It’s Pipes

As progress continues on our Project BlownZ 2002 Camaro, we’re making it a point to select the best products possible to help us in our build. We wanted to show our readers what’s possible for a x275 drag radial car. We’re continuously tuning, adjusting, and keeping ourselves plenty busy with this awesome dragstrip missile.

Parts We’ll Be Using For this Installment 

  • Kooks Race Headers (PN 6501-2R-MC)
  • Vibrant 4-inch Race Mufflers (PN 17975)
  • Vibrant 4-inch Oval Stainless Tubing (PN 131484)
  • Vibrant 4-inch Oval To Round Transition (PN 13172)
  • Vibrant 4-inch V-Band Clamps (PN 1493)

There is plenty of power to be found in exhaust tuning, especially considering we are running a ProCharged LSx on high boost. Supercharged applications can be very sensitive to the exhaust system, and there’s no better way to kill power than to create a restriction.

We don’t want to leave anything on the table, so when it came to our exhaust system we turned to Kooks Custom Headers and Vibrant Performance. Both of these companies construct high-quality, impressively designed exhaust components for optimum performance capabilities. 

Since our Camaro is a ‘strip-only machine, we have forgone the use of any kind of catalytic converters and the rest of the OEM-style exhaust system. So you might want to consider this before you mimic this exhaust during your build if your car is still sees regular street usage.

We are also fortunate enough to have Kooks Headers CEO and company founder George “Jr.” Kryssing, and Marketing/PR Coordinator Donavan Griffith from Vibrant Performance on hand to lend their insight and expertise along the way.

Here are the 304 stainless steel Kooks long-tubes spec'ing in with 2-inch primaries and 3.5-inch collectors (PN 6501-2R-MC). You'll also note in this photo the patented scavenger spikes.

 

Kooks Headers

Kooks has been in business for over fifty years, and is widely used in many applications from street cars to NASCAR. They constantly expanded their markets as the hobby changes, and they even specialize in building one-off headers such as LS-swaps into older muscle cars, and full-on race cars. They make their headers from high-quality 304 stainless and use the latest technology available in the aftermarket to manufacture the best product possible for the racing enthusiast.

The examples we’ll be using for BlownZ (Part# 6501-2R-MC) feature 2-inch primaries that direct the hot exhaust gasses straight into a 3-1/2″ collector for an optimized flow through pattern that limits restriction and maximizes horsepower.

Here's what the scavenger spike looks like once you remove the collector from the end of the header assembly.

Kooks’ spikes help improve exhaust gas flow from the cylinder heads to the exhaust system to increase performance throughout the powerband and torque curve. -George “Jr” Kryssing

The first thing we noticed about them (apart from their overall beauty), is the unique, Kooks-patented scavenger spikes that they put in as part of the collector. “These Kooks patented spikes help improve exhaust gas flow from the cylinder heads to the exhaust system in an attempt to improve performance throughout the powerband and torque curve,” says Kryssing.

The headers are specifically designed for the LS-powered fourth generation F-bodies with the enthusiast in mind. Together, they weigh 35 pounds with all of the included hardware. Depending on your skills, the access to a lift, and your set up, they can typically be installed in around 5 to 6 hours. Kooks recommends that you use their in-house supplied gaskets (Part # 8024) for your install.

We went with the 2-inch primaries and 3.5-inch collectors for the simple fact that these headers will be getting bolted to a 388ci stroked and ProCharged blown Camaro. We wanted as much flow as possible with the 20 psi that BlownZ’ s LSX will be producing. The headers are constructed from an 18-gauge stainless steel and the flange thickness is 3/8-inch.

Vibrant Mufflers, Transition Adapters, and Oval Pipes

Obviously we can’t just run open headers, and for one reason – because they simply aren’t legal at most dragstrips. So we turned to Vibrant Performance. Vibrant is a company known in the aftermarket community for catering to turbocharged and supercharged vehicles from all over the world. Vibrant focuses on fabrication supplies, and helps enthusiasts looking to build their own custom exhaust systems with mufflers, flanges, gaskets, and tubing – making them a great resource for racers. 

For BlownZ, we pieced together our own custom kit to complete our exhaust system. We ordered a pair of 4-inch Vibrant race mufflers (Part # 17975), two 4-inch oval stainless straight steel tubing sections (Part # 13184), two oval to round 4-inch OD round transition adapters (Part # 13172), and completed the package with stainless V-band flange assemblies (Part # 1493).

The Vibrant race mufflers offer very little in the form of baffling, in fact, they’re better described as a resonator. It’s a pure race application that’s not legal for street use, but since it’s illegal to not run some form of sound reduction, it’s a must for our purpose-built drag car. It maximizes flow with the patent “True Straight Through” perforated internals that doesn’t sacrifice horsepower or torque.

We’ve selected the 4-inch oval tubing for the all the same reasons, as their design offers the same amount of flow as round tubing, without sacrificing ground clearance. Since the 4th-gens never came equipped with a traditional dual exhaust system from the factory, body to ground clearance becomes an issue with these cars.

Fabricating BlownZ’s Exhaust 

Here, shop dawg Sean welds the O2 sensor bung for the F.A.S.T EFI into place on the Kooks headers.

This is the fun part: installation. Excited to get our project completed, we promptly removed everything from its packaging and set to work.

“Our headers are designed for optimized performance, and the scavenger spike is a unique part of our design.” -George “Jr.” Kryssing

We began by welding V-band clamp connections to the Kooks headers to mate with the Vibrant mufflers. This helps ensure that we won’t have any exhaust leaks that are common to a race cars, and guarantees a solid connection with the help our our Vibrant-sourced clamps.

Once we had our muffler and header V-band connections welded up, we were finally ready to install the whole system in BlownZ. Installing a set of long-tube headers is typically a challenging and time consuming process in a normal 4th Gen F-body street car; especially one that still has a smog pump, an air conditioning unit, and the factory K-member.

As you can clearly see, it's quite a tight fit on either side of the engine bay. If you look at the photo on the right, you can see how close our steering rack is to our 2-inch primaries. On top each of the primaries, are the bungs that we will be installing our AEM O2 sensors.

However, our installation wasn’t that complex since BlownZ has none of those things. The Spohn Performance K-Member we are using particularly helped with the install. Spohn designed their F-body K-Member specifically for this type of situation, and built in plenty of extra room around the engine block for big headers, and piping for power adders. Combine that with the fact that we have access to a Bendpak lift in our Power Automedia shop, our in-house technicians had them bolted up to our 388 with little trouble within a few hours.

For those of you rocking a stock-style arrangement on your F-body you will need to remove the steering rack, the spark plugs and wires, and more than likely will have to unbolt the motor mounts from the engine block. This allows more room and the ability to move your engine if necessary to ease installation.

In this shot you can see our driver's side header with the Vibrant muffler and the O2 as installed in our Camaro. The tiny muffler then flows into the oval-to-round adapter and then into the 4-inch oval pipe.

When installing headers, it’s always best to use an anti-seize agent on the header bolts prior to installation. This not only prevents the bolts from becoming loose overtime, but it almost guarantees that they don’t become permanently welded into the cylinder head threading due to all of the excess heat. We like to think of it as cheap insurance.

The most innovative part we have in this build, is the V-clamps. Our line of clamps have received the most attention in engineering, as they are installed and uninstalled frequently. -Donavan Griffith, Vibrant

After we had our headers bolted in place with the supplied hardware and gasket kit, it was time to attach the rest of our exhaust. In doing so we would need to install the oval-to-round 4-inch transition adapters. These adapters do exactly what their name suggests by transitioning the round 4-inch Vibrant muffler to the oval-shaped 4-inch exhaust pipes. They provide a smooth, restriction-less transition to eliminate power loss.

This prefacing to transition makes the life of the exhaust builder much easier, since he doesn’t have to waste valuable time fabricating a piece that will fit, and hoping it won’t leak. Plus, it ensures a restriction-less flow pattern and a clean look.

Once the adapters were fitted into place, we grabbed the oval stainless tubing off of our workbench and attached them to the adapters. This is where our stainless steel V-band clamp from Vibrant would come into play. It promises a gasket-less seal to our adapters, while coming complete with a quick-release locking mechanism that ensures a tight fit and easy removal.

In these four shots, you can see how we welded up our Vibrant pipes to the Kooks headers. After a few passes on the dragstrip we added a pair of mounting brackets to quell the few squeaks and rattles we had.

We asked Donavan about the technology incorporated into the design of these clamps, and he had this to say, “The most innovative part we have in this build, are the V-clamps. Our line of clamps have received the most attention in engineering, as they are installed and uninstalled frequently.”

V-band clamps feature what Donavan referred to as a “male/female” design that works very well, in stressful operating conditions that highly modified drag cars see. They are an effective alternative to the typical flanged or slip-fit connectors.

Conclusion

Our completed exhaust system simply looks awesome under our Camaro, and we're more than happy with the components we've selected. We admit it would be a bit much for a street car, so you may want to consider that if you're looking to mimic this setup.

Our Kooks/Vibrant header and exhaust system is completed, and successfully installed into our BlownZ Camaro. The fit and finish of the headers is superb, and the Vibrant components allowed us to finish out our custom race exhaust without a hitch. If you want to copy this system for your car, you need to keep in mind that is a track-only drag car. This car will never see street duty, and that’s just fine by us. Stay tuned for the next chapter as we continue the saga of BlownZ!

About the author

Rick Seitz

Being into cars at a very early age, Rick has always preferred GM performance cars, and today's LS series engines just sealed the deal. When he's not busy running errands around town in his CTS-V, you can find him in the garage wrenching on his WS6 Trans Am, or at the local cruise spots in his Grand National.
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