What comes to mind when you hear the term, “long tube headers”? Is it extra power? Or is it extra headache?
Long tube headers are unmatched when it comes to maximizing the performance of your engine. Nearly every build can benefit from a set of headers, whether it be shorties or full length. The factory exhaust manifolds that come with most cars choke down your engine and rob it of power. The boat anchor exhaust manifolds that came on our 302 were probably one of the biggest factors in limiting horsepower. They’re made of cast iron, have tiny restrictive ports, and look repulsive. (Shiny=more power right?)
After essentially doubling the horsepower of the 302 in our ’69 mustang, it was only fitting to install a proper exhaust system. The original set of headers are by Hooker; they’re full length headers with 1 5/8″ primaries and a 3 inch collector. Now, they didn’t require any beating with a hammer to fit, but there is one little problem…
The Hooker headers hang low. Really low. Think 1.5″ of ground clearance low. They’ve managed to find nearly every speed bump, pot hole, steep driveway, and moderately sized rock in California. Looking underneath the car, one can see the battle scars from those vicious grocery store parking lots. The primary tubes are rather dented, potentially affecting how much the header flows.
Because the Hooker headers were designed for both a 302 and a 351 Windsor, they naturally hang lower on the 302. The 351 has a taller deck which would raise the collector. The test mule is a 1969 mustang convertible with a 302/4 speed that retains its original Z bar clutch mechanism. It’s been lowered significantly as the car is set up for going around corners (frame rail is 4.5″ off the ground). The car is not equipped with power steering.
- 302 bored to a 306
- Trick Flow aluminum 170 heads
- Lunati Voodoo hydraulic roller cam (.571/.587 lift 231/239 duration @.50 110 LSA)
- Edelbrock Performer RPM intake
- Quick Fuel 650 DP carburetor
- Eagle rods
- Stock crank
- KB311 pistons (10:1 compression)
- Comp rocker arms (1.6 ratio)
This combination of parts managed to put down 345.5 hp and 311 ft/lbs of torque to the rear wheels. It was, however, a little awkward when the headers scraped the dyno rollers when getting the car set up. Think of a rusted nail across a chalk board type of sound.
While looking for an alternative to our current headers, we came across JBA Performance Exhaust. After doing a bit of research, we decided that a set of JBA 36610S long tube headers would make an excellent replacement. The 36610S headers are polished 304 stainless steel as opposed to the high temp black coated Hooker headers.
If you’re not sure what that means, take a look for yourself. The JBA headers are absolute works of art, they’re beautiful! Each tube is polished to a mirror finish and looks stunning.
The first order of business is to remove the old headers. Being a factory 4 speed car, this mustang is a little tight on space—especially on the driver’s side. The 302 is a relatively small V8, but the massive shock towers on mustangs make life much more difficult. The Z bar mechanism for the clutch combined with the steering box make it very grueling task to find a set of headers that will clear.
Once the collectors are free of the exhaust, we begin the daunting task of removing all the header bolts. Unless you have child sized hands, this job is rather annoying. To make life seem slightly easier, we started with the passenger side since it has much more room. While the headers are out, we decided to clean up the engine bay since we some some extra space. Removing the drivers side requires a bit more fiddling due to the Z bar mechanism and steering box.
Let’s take a closer look at the JBA headers before we install them. Other than looking like a piece of jewelry, the ports on these headers are absolutely massive. The mounting flange is also very beefy 3/8″ thick CNC laser-cut 304 stainless to prevent leaks caused by warping. The supplied hardware accounts for the thicker flanges, we wouldn’t have been able to use our old header bolts as they were too short. The primary tubes are also very large at 1 3/4″ to provide an increase in flow over our 1 5/8″ headers.
Yeah, it’s that good. We’ve more than doubled the ground clearance over the old headers! There’s no way the headers could go any higher without coming into contact with the floorboards. Peeking under the car, one would have a hard time telling we’re running long tube headers on this car. The collector flange is the only giveaway as it hangs a negligible 1/2″ inch lower than the frame rails. All the primary tubes tuck up nicely and are not visible from the side of the car.
Here’s a side by side comparison between the JBA and Hooker headers.
The JBA 36610S long tube headers are a perfect match for this mustang. The fitment is outstanding and didn’t require any persuasion or modification of the tubes. With a car that sits as low as our mustang, having enough ground clearance is a must; especially one that’s daily driven! After a trip to the exhaust shop to mate up our existing exhaust to the new headers, we’ll be back on the road.