Original created Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Header Pipe material (I will use solder), Electrical heat shrink tube in any color (for insulating wires when soldered together), Round styrene, Flat styrene. Super glue, Heat source (Lighter will work fine)
And a fair bit of patience!
I won't get too much into sizes of material because you can use what ever you find. The solder I'm using is a bit on the big side (.098 inches or 2.5mm) as I can't seem to find just the right size, slightly smaller would be better.
I like solder because it bends easy. You could use thick wire if you like; what ever you can get your hands on that bends easy. Styrene is another option but is a little harder to work with as it doesn't bend into tight curves easily.
Making headers is a lot of test fitting, and it is tedious. You will need the car mostly assembled so you can get an idea how much clearance you have and where to route the headers. I like to drill the block out and push the header pipe right into the block. This way if I need to adjust the header slightly (And it can be done with solder) I can tweak the angle or length a bit.
I don't usually use a header flange on the head itself probably because the diameter of the header pipe is too large. This makes the flange too big and it doesn't look right. Once I find a better diameter pipe I will start making this flange. This should be able to be done quite easily and can be made from sheet styrene or by flattening some solder, shaping it and drilling your holes through it. If you drill the holes in the flange and the head of the motor at the same time everything will align perfectly. (Drill a hole, put a piece of pipe in the hole to keep everything aligned, and drill the next etc.)
What are Header flanges, collectors, collector flanges and runners? Here is a drawing so we know what these terms are.
Technical side! Now if you want to make a correct header all the runners must be the same length (headers above are not correct!) Why?? If one runner is too long or too short this can make one cylinder have more or less back pressure than the other making it not perform to its potential. Now this is where it can get tricky yet this is how you can get the cool design of the header itself. The most forward pipe (to wards the front of the car) you want to make it go down to the collector as quickly as possible, as above. The rest of the pipes you will need to make fancy bends so you end up with all four pieces at the same point, they can be slightly off. Trust me it's harder than it sounds!! If you have a lot of room this makes it easier.
I let the space available in the engine compartment of the car decide whether I make a proper header or if I cheat a little. By cheating I mean you want to make an attempt to bend the pipes to use up the material so the headers appear to be correct. This is personal taste. The headers above look fine yet they are not correct. See how the last pipe goes straight down? This pipe would be way shorter that the rest. If this does not bother you then you have no worries. To be honest I have not been able to make a lot of "Correct headers" as there usually just isn't room!
OK back to our headers. With your holes drilled into your head you can start by cutting 4 lengths of solder. Leave them long we will trim to size later. Start with the front most runner and bend it into shape in a path that would be the quickest to the collector as mentioned above. Get it so it stops where you want and cut off the excess. Cut the same amount off the rest of the runners. Now you have all four runners the same length. (Keep in mind you will need to build the other side as well, Cut 4 more to this length) Next you need to try and bend up the others so they all meet at the collector. Do lots of test fitting in the car as you go. I wish I could give you more of an explanation of how you go about bending the runners but every model will be different and therefore will be approached differently. You know what needs to be done: to get from the head to the collector and make some cool bends along the way. If you can't get the pipes to meet at the collector just trim them down as needed. Again it really doesn't need to be "correct."
When your pipes connect at the bottom in the collector area make sure you make a nice box as tight as you can.
You will also notice in the picture above the acid core (If you are using acid core solder). You will want to do one of two things here. One, take a paper clip and while running warm water use the paper clip to push out this acid core. (Do this before any bends are made) OR you can seal the end up with super glue. YOU MUST do one or the other. You Do Not want to leave this acid exposed as it will make a mess if not dealt with. (It can and will corrode.) Try not to get any on your hands! Wash thoroughly if you do.
Keep in mind there are a lot of different style of headers. "Shorties", Regular headers (as shown above) or Fender well headers to name a few. Also keep in mind you can make 4, 6 or 8 cylinder headers. All the basic rules apply so no one is left out here!
Once you have the header Flange (optional), the runners ran down to the collector, and a nice tight box pattern we can move onto the collector itself. What you need here is a piece of styrene that is very close to the same size as your 4 runners (In the box pattern) then a piece of the electrical shrink tube to get the look we are going for. Cut the end of the 4 runners flush (If they didn't quite all line up) so the ends are all even. Glue the collector pipe to the ends of the runners and slide a piece of shrink tube over the collector and the ends of the runners. The amount you slide the shrink tube on and the length of collector is personal taste. The car may also dictate how long it is. Very carefully with a heat source heat the shrink tube being careful not to get it so hot you melt the solder. Move it frequently and go slow until the shrink tube is tight around the collector tube and runners. Make a collector flange from some sheet stock or anything that is flat, an old hood or what ever you can get your hands on and glue it to the collector tube. You don't necessarily need the collector flange. If you are building a set of race headers you won't be using an exhaust so no need to have the flange (The flange is used to bolt on exhaust pipes)
Here is a picture to try and better describe what I'm talking about.
Well that should do it! Now the hard part is getting the other header to look the same. Here are some shots reference pictures for you of a car I'm building right now with fender well headers. They are not correct as I did not have to room but they look cool none the less.
My collector flanges could have been a bit bigger but the car is so low they would hit the ground. Again I'm letting the car decide on some things.
It can really give a car some attitude!!
Some others I have scratch built exhaust systems for....
On the right is a combination of Soldier and styrene.
For me exhaust systems can really add to the "look" of a build.
You can make Zoomies with Solder too!!!!
This was my first attempt at solder headers. Not as nice and tidy as I would have liked but practice does make perfect!!