Kooks Headers & Exhaust is one of the biggest names in headers and exhaust in the performance aftermarket, and it offers applications for numerous early and late model vehicles. So when it came time to put a set of headers on Project True SStreet, our fifth-gen Camaro, we knew exactly who to call. We needed a header and exhaust system that would get us to and from the track with minimum restrictions, be as light as possible, and hold up to some serious abuse.
The story of Kooks starts way back in 1962. The ’60s was a great time for hotrods and drag racing, and George Kook (Papa Kook) was right in the middle of it all. During this time Kook used a gas torch to create his first set of headers for his race car. The business of building high-performance headers and exhaust was born and has continued to grow and evolve over the past 50 years. These days, Kooks is involved with everything from drag cars and road racing to circle track, motorcycles, and even offshore boat racing.
Unlike some of the other headers on the market, Kooks uses only the best materials and practices when it comes to making its excellent products. They start with 304-stainless steel for the primaries and mandrel bend them into shape. The team will then mate them to a 304-stainless steel laser cut flange which is all done in house. The primaries are then Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welded on the outside to the 3/8-inch thick flange and then Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welded 360-degrees on the inside of the mating surface to ensure that a leak-free robust design. Other companies use robots to weld their headers and would be done at this point, leaving the welds raw. Not at Kooks – they take their product a step further and grind them by hand to ensure maximum flow. Tyler Sandahl, account manager at Kooks, states, “We make sure that everything is straight, flat, and crack-free before it makes its way to our customers.”
We make sure that everything is straight, flat, and crack free before it makes its way to our customers. – Tyler Sandahl
The merge collector is another vital part of the Kook design. The merge collector, referred to as a merge spike, was patented by Kooks years ago and rendered better-flowing properties of the exhaust system. Since this time, Kooks has put a lot of research into its stamped merge collector which has allowed it to develop a mass-produced part that performs almost as well a the original merge spike from back in the day. The stamp merge collector offers excellent flow characteristics while keeping the cost down due to the stamping process.
Right Out Of The Box
Kooks has built its name on an excellent product and a process to match. When you pick up a set of Kooks headers, they have look and feel of a high-quality. Brad Zimmerman, the Marketing Director at Kooks, said, “Even though we are building headers and exhaust in high volume, we still treat each product like we are custom building it for your racecar.” Brad’s statement stands true with our experience. When we pulled the set of headers out of the box for Project True SStreet you could tell that a lot of time and energy went into the design and execution of this product. Everything from the materials used, the finish of the header, to the fitment is nothing short of top notch.
For Project True SStreet we opted to use a set of fifth-gen Z28 D-port headers on our LSX 376. We wanted a minimum exhaust system that would take the edge off of the exhaust tone while keeping the exhaust as unrestrictive as possible. We decided to use a set of Kooks stainless steel 3-inch bullet mufflers in conjunction with the headers. These 3-inch mufflers are a simplistic approach to the exhaust system that offers a lightweight straight-through design. Kooks took care of welding the bullet mufflers to the pipes for us. When they showed up to our door, all we had to do was unbox them, install the headers on the Camaro and bolt the exhaust on with the supplied bell clamps.
You won’t need to cut anything or use a big hammer to make our system fit. – Tyler Sandahl
There are a few items that separate a great set of headers from an inferior set, and Kooks has addressed all of these areas. Until you have purchased a set of headers that are of lesser quality, it’s hard to appreciate how great these headers are. It’s safe to say that we have done our share of header installations over the years. Out of all of the problems we have seen, nothing is more frustrating than a header that doesn’t fit properly. If you have taken a ball-peen hammer to persuade a set of headers to clear a steering box, you know what we mean. Other concerns include poor fitment, warped flanges, and cheap hardware.
Fit and Finish
Fitment is everything on a great set of headers. If they are too close to the starter a couple of problems can arise: First, heat and starters cannot coexist for very long. If the starter gets too hot, you could have a difficult time getting the vehicle fired back up until the unit cools off. Sure, you can wrap the headers with exhaust wrap and maybe build a heat shield for the starter, or you could just by a quality set of headers.
Another problem can be starter removal. We have used a set of headers in the past which required the complete removal of the header to service the starter. We had to constantly repair the starter because the heat from the ill-routed primary tubes kept frying the starters, cooking wiring while causing all kinds of headaches.
For the installation hardware, Kooks also provides gaskets, bolts, and Stage 8 Locking hardware. The Stage 8 hardware is an intuitive design that makes it impossible for the header bolt to back off. You will tighten the bolts, position the locking tab, and then put the E-clip into place. The Stage 8 locking hardware will eliminate the need to spend any time checking to see if the bolts are backing off the header flange. It will also allow your exhaust gaskets to last much longer than usual.
The Fifth and Sixth-Gen Camaro Exhaust Systems
The standard package for the Camaro from Kooks consists of a set of headers with the OEM-style bell clamps. This design will work with the factory exhaust. If you’re looking for more out of your exhaust system you could opt for the full exhaust system for the Camaro; this system includes an x-pipe and oval mufflers with your choice of polished or black tips. For the 1LE and Z28’s, Kooks offers both a cat-back version as well as a full exhaust system with quad tips.
No matter which Kooks headers or exhaust system you decide to go with for your project, you can rest assured that their products will bolt-on with easy. Sandahl states, “Our system for the fifth-gen Camaro is designed to fit without any modifications. You won’t need to cut anything or use a big hammer to make our system fit.” “For the sixth-gen, we basically offer the same setup as the fifth-gen, however, it does require a cut on your OEM exhaust system to use the OEM connection. We also have a few more variances for this model. We offer a system that will connect to the factory exhaust to keep the active exhaust mufflers.”
If you’re looking for a top-notch header or exhaust system be sure to check out Kooks’ website — there you can find complete exhaust systems, mufflers, swap headers, and much more. We are excited to get Project True SStreet going so we can hear the new Kooks setup make some noise, so stay tuned.