Cheap Shorty Stainless Headers
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#1: Cheap Shorty Stainless Headers Author: 39deluxeLocation: Edgerton Ohio PostPosted: Tue, Mar 06 2007, 2:04 am
I have my engine looking fairly nice in my pickup project but the old rusty iron exhaust manifolds left a lot to be desired. I didn't really want to go the full tube header route for several reasons and short headers that were coated or stainless were out of my price range for this budget project. Then I remembered that my wife's '81 Corvette had stainless tubing short headers that were the same dimensions as the cast iron ones. I found a pair that a friend had removed from a project car and brought them home for less than $50.

Once I got them home I removed the shields from them. In the picture they look rusty but it's just discoloration. These are stainless and 27 years old. I then cut off the AIR tubes with a cut off wheel. There is a portion of the AIR tube that extends inside the header tube that needs to be ground out also. Then the holes can be welded up. The factory welding is not show quality by any standard so some time spent with a grinder will be in order for a smoother look. This stainless is not polish quality so a sanded or media blasted finish is about the best you can hope for. You could also coat them if that is the look you like. I used a flapper wheel to start to clean them up and in the last picture the holes aren't welded shut yet but you can see that with a little elbow grease you can have a pair of good looking stainless headers for a fraction of the cost of aftermarket ones.

One thing I found out several years ago when I had the manifolds off of my wife's Corvette, when I had to replace the AIR check valves, was that they use the same old metal and fiber composite exhaust gaskets that used to come with every small block top end gasket set. On the Corvette they never come loose or leak so they should do as well on a hot rod. For some reason GM wants a fortune for these gaskets but you can go to NAPA and get a 1981 Corvette Exhaust manifold gasket set for a few bucks.

When looking for these the 1981 Corvette used a 2 inch outlet just like the iron manifolds. In 1982 they went to 2 1/2 inch. Also the same basic thing was used on the C4 Corvettes starting with the 1984. They are usually plentiful at Corvette swap meets. Don't pay too much for them. Most people that take them off just throw them away.

Photo 1: The old iron manifolds.

Photo 2: The Corvette manifolds with the shields removed. The AIR tubes were removed with a cut off wheel and will be welded closed.

Photo 3: The headers are not any wider than the old iron manifolds and will fit in close to the engine. They do point straight down and don't tuck in like block huggers but they should fit a lot of different applications.

Picture 4: Here they are after spending a few minutes with a flapper wheel. The holes are yet to be closed up. I'm thinking I will get them media blasted and then go back over them with a Scotch Brite wheel to shine them up again.

Picture 5: Here is the gasket that I mentioned above.


#2:  Author: enjenjoLocation: Swanton, Ohio PostPosted: Tue, Mar 06 2007, 10:37 am
You are right about the quality of the stainless. It is type 704 Stainless, which will get a surface discoloration, which is rust, but juat a light coating. Polishing the surface will reduce it, but not stop it. Paint lasts nearly forever on them, but coating is the best cure.

#3:  Author: 39deluxeLocation: Edgerton Ohio PostPosted: Tue, Mar 06 2007, 1:14 pm
I have some Eastwood Stainless Steel exhaust manifold coating I will try on them. It should do the job.


#4:  Author: enjenjoLocation: Swanton, Ohio PostPosted: Tue, Mar 06 2007, 2:09 pm
That will do it. It will outlast the engine then.

#5:  Author: CrosleyLocation: Aridzona PostPosted: Tue, Mar 06 2007, 9:17 pm
I've used the eastwood coating for header / exhaust parts. Porper prep and it has lasted a long out here in the dry country.

#6:  Author: 39deluxeLocation: Edgerton Ohio PostPosted: Mon, Mar 12 2007, 7:02 pm
I tuned up the heat in the shop today and then never got out there to work on those headers. I'll admit that I'm worthless on Mondays. I did get a few things done in the house though.


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