Project Swing ’N Sting gets pipes and becomes reliable thanks to tti, Magnaflow, and help from our friends
Story and photos by John Stunkard
Right now, I really feel blessed. After all, I’ve finally been able to drive my car for more then a week and a half without it breaking down. That may not sound like much to you, but to me, after all the garage time, it’s a milestone. The only big problem I have right now is my gas tank gauge still needs to be fixed and, as a result, I’ve run out of gas several times by misjudging how much gas I have, so I always carry a two-gallon jug with me. Still, the Swinger is running really well right now, especially now that the exhaust system is on it.
As we’ve mentioned in the last few issues, we got a set of ceramic-coated headers. The headers we got from them were made to go on this application, which is a little tight and would not be much fun to try at home without the right tools. For that part of the job, our friend Tracy Hicks at Wize Guys Rod & Custom in Jonesborough recommended Country Side Customs. For our exhaust system behind that, Tracy told us to call Mike Murphy at Murphy’s Muffler and Performance.
So, on a Monday morning, my dad and I drove the Dart 30 miles to Jonesborough to meet Jonathan and Josh McCurry for the pipe install. Country Side is a new shop that specializes in repair and bodywork, and they had a lift, the air tools and the experience to do this; I would help out as they needed me.
After the old stuff was removed, we had to separate the front suspension and lift the engine up a few inches. We also needed to make the upgrade to a mini-starter. Luckily, George at the Advance Auto Parts store is a Mopar guy; he had one in stock from a 318/360 Magnum truck that required no changes to bolt up. Still, the job took a good part of the day; after getting the driver’s side in, it was time for lunch and Jon took us to local county cooking place. It was really good and we all got to talk about bass fishing, which was cool because I love to fish (sometimes I think it’s the only reason why a punk like me gets along with the country boys at my school).
After we ate, we picked up the new starter and got the passenger side header on, which went on without trouble since there is no steering box, starter, etc., on that side; we just removed the 90-degree oil filter adaptor (we are now using a shorty filter). While we could have maybe done this at home, it would have taken a lot longer without a lift; headers on an A-body can get a little complicated. Also while it was up on the lift, we were able to make some needed adjustments to our tranny kickdown kit since we could see exactly how far it was moving. My dad adjusted it and it was ready to go, I hoped.
We lowered the car and I started it right up. By now, there were about a dozen guys in the shop (it was raining hard outside) and the only thing I can say is MEAN. After a few seconds, everybody screamed, “turn it off!” Somebody (OK, my dad) had forgotten to put the filter and adapter back on, and now there is a quart and a half of oil on the floor. Back up the car goes, we put the adapter on and more oil goes in, clean off the headers (the ceramic coating is proving its worth) and let it warm up.
I took it up the road for a test, and it was then that I wished I could keep open headers. The road was still a little wet from the rain, so I only got on it a little, but I knew that four barrel was working and the tranny was kicked down. WOW. It was my dad’s birthday, so I let him drive it through the back roads between Jonesborough into Johnson City (he said he might be able to talk his way out of a ticket easier if we got stopped; I think maybe he just wanted to drive it). We left my car at my sister’s house so when we got up in the morning, it would only be a few blocks from Murphy’s, which is in this very cool old Phillips 66 gas station downtown.
Several months ago, our friends at Magnaflow had sent us their universal Hot Rod Exhaust kit, which comes with pre-bent tube, plus mufflers, an X-pipe, and more. We laid it out on the floor, but as Mike began measuring it, we found out that it would be very hard to get it under the car due to the pipe size (2½ inches) and the room under the car. He proposed we consider using the mufflers and that he would bend two custom pipes from the headers to the mufflers, and then dump them right in front of the rear axle. Going all the way to the bumper was going to be a problem because of clearance around the Hot Rod City tank and frame rails. With no exhaust on the car now and understanding why the kit would be a problem in the case, we quickly agreed.
Mike has an automatic mandrel tubing bender, and he had a set of parallel pipes made for the car in about an hour, welding them together and adding custom brackets. Now I can take off the three header collector bolts and the single bolt on each bracket and have open pipes, but the Magnaflow mufflers really make it sound sick so why do that? The neighborhood is hearing it a lot…
1 These are the headers, TTI340A-C2 ceramic coated for the A-body. Note that the #7 tube is separate and will be installed from the top, while headers go in from the bottom.
2 Having a lift is not mandatory, but nothing will help more when putting headers on. The crew at Country Side Customs is getting to work.
3 Read the extensive instructions that tti has written and provides. This stud for the starter has to go…
4 Jonathan prepped the gasket surface on the head once the old manifolds were off. Note the we also removed the spark plugs to gain room and prevent problems.
5 The engine mounts will need to be disconnected and the motor jacked up to get the headers installed; a lift that supports from the frame rails may have given us more clearance than keeping the suspension compressed by the wheels.
6 With the suspension disconnected as per tti’s instructions, the driver’s side set went in from the bottom. Yeah, it’s a tight fit. Check out how the outfit straddles the torsion bar, which doesn’t have to be removed since the #7 pipe drops in from the top. Slick…
7 From the top, we installed the gaskets and tightened the headers down; various size wrenches like this shorty are a big help when getting to the bolts. We also reused some of the studs from the manifolds, which helps keep the header in place when bolting it up.
8 The big, heavy circa 1971 starter was a core exchange at Advance Auto Parts for this great version used on the Dakota trucks; it is a mini-starter.
9a & 9b These two views show the final install as we began getting it finished; note how the starter fits into the header. We needed to hand-bend the tranny lines for clearance as well.
10 Here are some of the pieces from our Magnflow Hot Rod kit; we overestimated the size of the pipe that would fit and ended up not being able to use it on this project – our fault. Since the car did not have an exhaust system on it and needed to be fixed now, our fall-back-and-punt measure came from expert Mike Murphy.
11 Using a jack to support the muffler where it would be installed, Mike (facing camera) began to carefully bend a tube that would run from the collector back to the muffler opening, measuring and carefully bending the correct angles to make it match.
12 Here is the bender, which Mike is able to control by computer to ensure the bends are exactly the angle he wants.
13 Mike chose this rod-design hanger to support the back of the new exhaust layout; see how it compares to the normal style replacement in the background.
14a & 14b The existing hanger location worked on one side, while a bolt was used to attach the other. Note how the rod and an extension are now welded to the muffler.
15 Since going to the back bumper would be almost impossible with the fitment of the gas tank, Mike hand-fabricated these two turn-downs and they were welded to the mufflers.
16a & 16b The rod extensions were heated and then bent for a custom finish.
17 This is my engine bay now; it looks and sounds great.