2016 Camaro SS Headers & Exhaust, Part 2

Photo courtesy of LethalGarage.com

Part 2, Building Headers For This Beast

In our last article, Camaro SS Headers and Exhaust, Part 1, we discussed the two styles of high-performance mufflers our engineers designed for the Chevrolet Camaro SS, as well as the redesigned 3-inch butterfly valves that we built for this performance machine.

In today’s installment, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of header development and talk a bit about the huge crossover we’ve designed for the Camaro SS.

So let’s discuss those headers already:
All Stainless Works headers are made by hand, in our facility in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and they all feature the four same basic components; a laser-cut flange, mandrel-bent one-piece primaries, a smooth die-formed collector, and our industry-leading merge spike. Let’s start with the flanges.

Flanges are flanges, right? Not really. Stainless Works exhaust flanges are precision manufactured from thick stock that provides a flat, rigid mounting surface for maximum sealing to your cylinder heads. They begin as a huge 5x10-foot sheet of  ⅜” thick 304 stainless steel that weighs just over 750 lbs. Our CNC Trumpf Laser Cutting Machine makes light work of this beefy piece of steel, using a 6000 watt laser to cut a perfect pair flanges in about 5-minutes. Smooth cut edges, with no burring, and all within tolerances of 1/250th of an inch. Amazing machine, amazing flanges.

Next come the primary tubes, or primaries, which are the individual exhaust tubes for each cylinder. Primaries help to separate the cylinders so the exhaust pulses don’t fight each other for space. For maximum airflow, each primary tube is smoothly bent on a mandrel bender, and is ideally made from a single piece, with no welds or seams. The primaries need to hit three major points - they need to be the right diameter to flow the appropriate amount of air, they all start in different locations but need to come together at the collector, and they need to physically fit in the engine compartment. Not an easy task.

So then we come to our collector, the gathering point of the primary tubes. Here, the individual exhaust pulses from the primaries are brought together to help scavenge the other cylinders. As an exhaust pressure wave moves through a primary and into the collector, it leaves an area of low pressure behind it, drawing more exhaust gasses from the other primary tubes. This process helps to clear the combustion chambers of excess exhaust gasses, allowing your engine to draw in more fresh air and fuel for the next combustion cycle.

This whole conversation has been about smoothness and flow. And there’s one more ingredient to this cake of goodness - our merge spike. As the primary tubes enter the collector, we include a smooth transition piece, called a Merge Spike - it helps to direct the airflow through the collector, reducing turbulence in this critical area of the exhaust system.

[Get more information on our Merge Spike.]

Designing Headers On The Car:
Now that you know the pieces and parts involved, let’s talk about how a set of headers is actually designed, The Stainless Works Way! Our R&D Team has to build a set of headers from scratch, for every new vehicle that comes in the door. They are built on the car, in the engine compartment, piece by piece. It is an artistic process. Slow, deliberate and fascinating.

Now, we’re going to try to give a simple overview of a very complicated process; routing the primaries. Each primary tube starts at a different exhaust port, but they all need to end up in the same location, the collector. They also need to have smooth bends, not interfere with any moving parts and be compact enough to be installed/removed easily. This requires an engineer that understands not only our manufacturing, but also the principles of good header design. Not an easy feat, but our Engineer is up to the challenge. He measures the space, defines the route for each primary and begins methodically constructing each portion, careful to use angles and paths that maximize airflow. Blending the optimal balance of manufacturability, performance and fitment.

From Prototype to Final Production:
This first version is a functional prototype, but it is hand built, and we need a version that can be recreated on production equipment in our manufacturing facility. So the engineering department takes a 3D scan of the prototype with a Romer Arm, creating a digital blueprint of the header. They go over this digital blueprint and tweak the design so that our mandrel bender can ideally shape each primary from a single piece of stainless tubing. Next, the blueprint is sent to our production department where a sample set of primaries is bent.

These sample primaries are taken to the fabrication department for assembly by one of our Senior Fabricators

From here he assembles the primaries, flanges, collectors and merge spike into a manufactured prototype to be tested. This version is used for initial testing on the vehicle for flow modeling and fitment. The header is refined during this testing period to ensure that all our strict standards are met. This rigorous testing process can take days to weeks (and many revisions) before a final prototype is approved.

Finally after the prototype is approved we'll begin constructing the first production header. This header is built using all the production equipment, fixtures and personnel to ensure that the 500th header off the line has the same performance, quality, and fitment as the first. This first production header is thoroughly examined, installed and run on the R&D vehicle. Performance data is analyzed and a final approval is given for production to begin.

(Got the Fabrication Bug? Build your own set of custom headers with our Header Builder Kits. They include flanges, collectors and a whole mess of J-bends. All from high-quality stainless steel.)

Crossover Central:
We’ll give it up to Chevrolet - the Camaro SS had a pretty damn good crossover from the factory. They just used a tube that was way too small. So our exhaust engineers designed and built a custom crossover out of the same fat 3” diameter pipe used in the rest of the system. A wide channel, smooth TIG welds -  the result is a wide crossover point that moves a massive amount of air and helps equalize pressure within the system.

Our X-pipes are formed by butting two 3-inch diameter pipes together, side to side, removing the center section where they touch and welding the two pieces together. This creates a long pressure chamber of double-wide pipe that allows the exhaust gases to spread out a bit. By contrast, an H-pipe is a different design that still allows for exhaust expansion, but uses a much smaller chamber and produces a lower tone, with a deeper, muscle-car sound.

Photo courtesy of LethalGarage.com

Why Not?
Look, if you’ve managed to get your dirty mitts on a 2016 or 2017 Camaro SS, and you want to wake that sucker up and make it growl like the beast that it is, give us a jingle.  Our sales guys will find the right system to fit your ride. Fully tig welded stainless steel, lifetime warranty. What’s the holdup?
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