Project “Respect” Camaro

In a perfect world, most people would prefer a nice pair of ceramic-coated long tubes over shorty headers. They make more power but can pose problems on a street car. They can be hard to install, and in some cases require significant changes to the exhaust system. While coatings add expense, they also promise longer header life and lower temperatures under the hood. Since we had a chance to swap out a set of shorty Hooker headers on our Project “Respect” Camaro in favor of Hooker’s new Darkside ceramic coated long tube headers, we thought it would be a good opportunity to see if our preconceived ideas about long tubes and coatings were correct or not. Read along as we will show you the difference in installation as well as on the dyno.

Dirty. Red. Neglected. Those three words best describe what we saw when we found this 1991 RS Camaro. The paint showed the car had spent the last 17 years in a driveway instead of a garage, but the body was in great shape with hardly a scratch or dent, and as you might guess from the nickname, the price was right, So far, we have installed a complete MSD ignition, Hooker shorties, a Hooker cat-back, and a NOS nitrous kit. Thirsting for more power on a budget, we decided to make the switch to long tubes.

Shorties Versus Long Tubes

We had previously installed a set of Hooker 1-5/8″ shorty headers on our Camaro. While a header isn’t always the most enjoyable part to put on, shorties allow for a relatively painless install, at least in terms of modifications you have to make to the vehicle. Shorties are generally designed to mate up with the remaining stock exhaust system to give them an OEM-type fitment. And while speaking of OEM, long tubes eliminate the factory catalytic converters, voiding warranties (not an issue on our Camaro, of course) and not allowing you to pass smog (which is a big issue here in California). Because a lot of shorties are designed with stock emissions plumbing and don’t eliminate or relocate the factory cats, it’s still possible to get them certified as 50-state legal. Not so with long tube headers.

The downfall of the shorty headers is inherent in its design. The short runner configuration can cause turbulence in the collector thanks to the proximity of the exhaust ports, while long tubes channel the exhaust gases independently and progressively to a collector under the bottom of the car for a smoother transition. Long tube headers also make it possible to optimize primary tube length for proper exhaust scavenging in a realistic RPM range, which is something that no shorty can accomplish. In our particular case, the fact that we were going to upgrade to 1-3/4” primaries will help with flow as well.

Hooker’s Darkside Long Tube Headers

265-400 Chevy 82-92 Camaro – Part #: 2460-3HKR

• 1 3/4” Primaries
• 3” Collector
• Removable passenger primary for dip stick tube installation
• Works with angle plug heads (short plugs required)
• Coating resists up to 1700 degrees Fahrenheit

The concept behind a header coating is pretty simple – it reduces the amount of heat in your engine bay and also prevents the header from rusting. Typical uncoated mild steel headers will generally have a shorter lifespan due to exposure to the elements, and even condensation on the inside of the tubes. Previously, Hooker had only offered the familiar silver ceramic coating style, but now they have designed a coating that gives people the option of a more ‘stealth’ look. More importantly, it resists heat to a higher temperature.

Swapping the uncoated shorties for Hooker Darkside Long Tubes

Since we were already working with shorties and not the stock exhaust manifolds, our day was a little easier. We were also doing a K-member swap to a tubular version from Spohn at the same time, and killed two birds with one stone. Though removing the K-member does make a header swap easier, it’s not necessary, though you will need to remove the engine mount bolts and jack the engine up some from the bottom to gain clearance

After pulling the negative cable from the battery, the first task was to label all the spark plug wires with their respective cylinders, remove them, and then all the spark plugs as well. Next, we got underneath the Camaro and removed the three collector bolts off each engine bank. Lastly we removed the clamp that holds the Y-pipe to the exhaust.

Removing the bolts on the shorties or the stock manifolds is pretty simple, until you start heading towards that back of the motor where things get a bit tight. We alternated between a 1/4” socket and a standard wrench to get all the bolts off. The driver’s side header will come out from the top

The passenger side needs to be taken out from the bottom after you remove the dip stick tube. This was made easier since we had the crossmember out. Make sure you follow the standard advice to disconnect the battery before you get started because the last thing you want to do is rub the header against the battery terminal on the starter while it is being removed.

Before installing the passenger side header, remove the stock knock sensor that is right in front of the starter. It will be crushed by the header if you don’t remove it (don’t ask how we know). There is a spot on the block on the driver’s side that you can thread it into instead, though you will need to extend the wire to the other side. The passenger side header will go in from the bottom and features a removable fourth runner to ease the installation around the dip stick tube. We utilized the new header gaskets and bolts that Hooker included with the kit.

The driver’s side header slips right into place as well from the bottom, using the new header gaskets and bolts to secure it in place. Before you start wrenching down the bolts, make sure you get all of them in finger tight first, to assure proper alignment of the header onto the mounting surface. Due to the design of the primaries’ short turn, you will need to use the short “peanut”-style spark plugs if you have angle plug heads – standard length plugs won’t even thread in place.

With the new headers in place, we feather-footed the Camaro over to the local exhaust shop with open pipes, where we tasked them with making a Y-pipe better than the dreadful stock design and plumbing our long tubes to the existing cat-back system. If you’ve ever taken a look under one of these cars, you’ll agree that just ditching the crazy stock Y-pipe layout has to be good for a few horsepower all by itself.

Proving the Point

With the new headers and exhaust in place, we noticed that the Camaro sounded a bit more aggressive, and the seat-of-the-pants acceleration was a night-and-day difference. To see how much power we actually picked up, we strapped the Camaro down to our Dynojet and had a run at it. This little 305 picked up an amazing 26 horsepower and 48 ft/lb of torque to the rear wheels! Our “before” horsepower reading of 172 HP and 238 ft/lb of torque gave way to 198 HP and 286 ft/lb of torque – all through a simple header change.

Lowering underhood heat and making more power should be on anyone’s agenda. With the new Darkside coating, these headers can withstand temperatures of up to 1700 degrees, and the insulating effect helps keep heat down and exhaust velocity up. While shorties are great for those that are emissions-minded, the long tubes have once again proven their worth in waking up our Camaro’s V8.