How Its Made: We Pull Back The Curtain At Kooks Headers & Exhaust

How a car sounds is almost as important as how it looks, that’s why most gearheads are very particular about the exhaust that’s bolted up to their vehicle. Kooks Headers & Exhaust has been cranking out headers and exhaust systems since 1962, so they are well-versed in how to make exhaust parts that work. We take a look at what goes into making Kooks headers and exhaust systems.

A Brief Kooks History Lesson

George “Pop” Kook started Kooks Headers & Exhaust over 60 years ago in Long Island, New York. Pop built his first set of headers using a gas torch in a garage for his family’s race car. The headers he built not only looked nice, but provided a notable increase in both horsepower and torque. The performance drew fellow racers to Pop and they wanted him to build headers for their vehicles. And just like that, Kooks Headers & Exhaust was born.

Kooks has grown to a level far exceeding what Pop could have imagined. The company is now helmed by George Kook Jr and his wife Danielle, along with several other family members assisting company operations. Kooks not only makes a wide range of headers and exhaust systems for numerous vehicles, it can also build custom headers, has GREEN catalytic converters, and offers other exhaust-related manufacturing services.

Kooks puts in the work to make sure all of its products fit better than OEM units.

Becky Sliney, the Sales and Marketing Manager for Kooks talks about what it’s like to work for a company with such a rich history.

“I consider it an honor to work with a family-owned company that started at a grassroots level. Each day I go to work, I’m helping them continue their legacy by providing our customers with some of the best performance products in the industry.”

Kooks Facility And Capabilities

Kooks embraced its growth by moving to a massive 45,000-square-foot facility located in Statesville, North Carolina. The Kooks building is filled with high-tech equipment that’s used to make all the different products you’ll find in the company’s catalog.

There are several CNC mandrel-bending machines that are used to precisely bend tubing for exhausts and headers. A host of three and four-axis CNC mills, along with a CNC lathe that’s armed with live tooling can be found at the Kooks facility. Kooks also has a CNC press brake that’s used to make sheet metal parts and a CNC wire bender for all the 3/8” and ½” solid rod parts the company uses.

Kooks has armed itself with the right equipment and people to ensure its products are of the highest quality.

Need to cut some material? Kooks can do that with its six kW laser that slices up stainless steel, aluminum, and carbon steel. You’ll also find a tube laser in the shop that cuts tubing, pipe, and channel material up to six inches in diameter. There are plenty of welders around the shop used to assemble products, including a MIG welding robot for precision jobs.

Amazing equipment is useless if you don’t have good people behind the controls. Kooks has built a top-tier engineering team with years of experience under its belt. The engineers work on Kooks’ custom jobs, private label projects, and developing new products. New technologies like 3D scanning and printing are a part of the workflow at Kooks as well. There are over a dozen welders on the manufacturing floor at Kooks that specialize in the MIG/TIG welding of stainless steel, carbon steel, and aluminum.

Technology plays a big role in how Kooks designs and produces its products.

According to Sliney, Kooks dedication to having a solid staff has resulted in big partnerships and the production of high-quality parts.

“As a result of our dedicated engineers and R&D department, Kooks can guarantee the best fitment and performance on the market for your headers and exhaust. Kooks is proud to manufacture not only the best performance products for early and late model domestic vehicles, but also to offer our services to other industry leaders like Ilmor, Ford, Multimatic, US Legends, and more.”

How The Parts Are Made

Kooks’ products are made with precision and care. The production process begins with a vehicle that’s brought into the research and development area of the Kooks facility. Once the team has the vehicle, the hands-on design process begins for each product. There’s no “best guess” engineering being done at Kooks, each product is created based on that specific vehicle.

Just about everything that Kooks makes starts out life as flat material, straight tubing, or a combination of both that’s made of T304 stainless steel. The flanges for headers or connectors are cut on one of Kooks’ flat lasers from 3/8” stainless steel stock. Each of the primary tubes or exhaust tubes are cut to the appropriate length before they’re fed to the mandrel bend machines and laser-scanned for accuracy.

There are no corners cut at Kooks during the manufacturing process.

The collector tubes are laser cut and them formed to Kooks specifications for a one-piece design. After this process is complete, they are either flow-drilled or weld-on bungs are added. The completed components are sent to the army of welders at Kooks who assemble the pieces with a specially designed fixture. These fixtures are designed and built by the engineers at Kooks to ensure each product is precisely assembled. The parts are all fully welded, leak-tested, and inspected by the Kooks quality control department. If everything checks out, the parts are sent to the warehouse for packaging and distribution.

Kooks Director of Operations Tyler Sandahl summarizes how the company views its approach to creating products.

“You can find cheaper headers and exhaust, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything better than Kooks. The investments in technology that we have made over the last 10 years have allowed us to increase our production volume without sacrificing the custom, hand-built quality that we are known for.”

George Kook started his company to fill a need in the racing community and it has blossomed into something much bigger. Now, Kooks uses cutting-edge technology to design and build its full range of exhaust products for enthusiasts and racers. Make sure you check out all the videos on the Kooks YouTube channel and Instagram page to see what goes into making all of the products the company offers.

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About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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