Header Selection Tip
Header Selection Tip
Header selection isn't just about tube and collector size or even what type of coating you choose. It's also about ease of installation. How easy are they to install? Not all header flanges are easy to get a wrench on. Check fastener clearance with a simple closed end wrench. Closed ends will not always fit all bolts. Sometimes, you must use a box-end wrench. Wrench fit is the measure of a good header. Manufacturers don't always pay enough attention to installation issues. And with some, fit is really bad. Remember, headers call for header bolts, not peanut butter bolts from the hardware store. Header bolts have small heads for flange/tube clearance. Most header bolts have a 3/8-inch head.
Headers and exhaust systems have become something of a cliché because everyone talks about them, yet not enough of us know how to choose them. We select headers for all kinds of reasons, many of them having nothing to do with performance. These days, it's more about how they look against a cylinder head and valve cover versus how they perform.
And contrary to what you might believe, headers don't always improve performance. Sometimes, they hinder depending on design. If you're running the same headers on your 427W stroker that you had on the 351W it replaced, you don't have enough header. You need larger header tubes and collectors to handle the increased exhaust gas volume. By the same token, header tubes that are too large will rob you of torque because there needs to be back pressure to make torque depending on valve overlap.
Another important element to header design, aside from performance and good looks, is how they fit. You want an exhaust header that cannot be seen hanging below the car when you look at a side profile of your Mustang. Headers that scrape speed bumps are a bad idea. If you're building a weekend racer, low hanging collectors aren't as critical. For street use, it becomes annoying every time you broach a parking lot.
When you think of PerTronix, you think of innovative ignition systems and ignition retrofits for classic Mustangs. However, PerTronix also has its own header brand, Patriot Headers, and they have acquired a couple of reputable exhaust manufacturers in recent years-JBA Headers and Doug's Headers, which has been around since 1958 and trusted by untold thousands of enthusiasts, including Shelby American in the 1960s.
We spoke with Don Lindfors at PerTronix Performance Products Exhaust Group about choosing headers for Mustangs.
MM: What kind of header do you recommend for classic Mustangs?
DL: The first question you need to ask is why you want headers in the first place. Are you looking to improve mileage or increase power? Do you have a high-performance engine that needs increased exhaust flow, a different sound, etc.? The next thing is the intended use of the car. Is it a daily-driver, a full-blown racer, a street/strip car, or a lowered Pro Touring-type car. With these questions answered, you can make an educated decision as to what best fits your needs. We look at classic Mustangs separately from late-model Mustangs because there are some very important differences, including the fact that in most states classic Mustangs are exempt from emission laws so you don't have to be concerned with that.
The PerTronix Exhaust Group offers several different types of headers for classic Mustangs. Shorty headers improve performance with excellent ground clearance and are a great way to go for lowered cars and stock or mild engines. Long-tube Tri-Y headers were pretty much invented for Mustangs, and Doug's Headers was one of the first in this segment. Tri-Ys offer big boosts in power across the RPM range and slightly better ground clearance than a traditional four-tube header, plus Carroll Shelby used Tri-Ys on his legendary GT350s. Four-tube, full-length headers are the most common type of header. They make big horsepower gains including at high RPM, but they usually sacrifice ground clearance. There are also specialty headers for engine swaps in classic Mustangs.
Header Selection Tip
Header Selection Tip
When you're shopping header gaskets, never do it on the cheap. Opt for the best header gasket money can buy-Fel-Pro or SCE. Because headers are challenging to service and install even under the best of circumstances, header gaskets need to last a long time. Also, when you're installing headers, make sure all contact surfaces are clean, then torque header bolts uniformly to proper specifications to ensure perfect sealing.
It might be over the top to...
It might be over the top to call the JBA Shorty header legendary, however, this is likely the most popular shorty header ever made because JBA, led by Ford enthusiast J Bittle, was there first with a great idea. Shorty headers eliminate many of the shortcomings associated with long-tube headers. There are no ground clearance issues, no interference with the clutch equalizer shaft, and less underhood heat. The JBAs shown here are ceramic coated in charcoal gray for good looks, durability, and less heat.
This is the #H-8433-1 ceramic-coated...
This is the #H-8433-1 ceramic-coated Patriot shorty header for classic Mustangs with 260/289/302 engines. They offer excellent value for the money.
Check out Doug's D627 long-tube...
Check out Doug's D627 long-tube header for 390/427/428 FE Mustangs. How's this for snazzy plumbing, with crossover tubes for bank equalization? This is the header Super Stockers used in the good old days to take several NHRA titles. Because they're ceramic-coated, heat is not an issue.
Here's a more traditional...
Here's a more traditional long-tube, ceramic-coated header from Doug's for '65-'73 small-block Mustangs. These headers tuck in close to the floor pan for exceptional ground clearance.
This is the Hooker Dark Side...
This is the Hooker Dark Side long-tube header for '65-'73 Mustangs with 260/289/302 engines. Shown here in black ceramic, this is a time-proven design that has been in production for as long as there have been Mustangs.