We often try our best to get the most performance possible from our engines. In the search for more power, we often remove exhaust manifolds and swap them out for a set of headers. Available in various configurations, such as "shorty" headers, long tube street use, and long tube tuned racing headers gives us many options. Long tube headers are usually favored, even if the vehicle they are going in is a dedicated street machine and not an all-out racer, but some header designs can hang low, causing them to be damaged all too easily. There are headers available that provide us with more ground clearance, but they are usually far from what can be considered budget pieces. Some enthusiasts regret the move to tube headers due to fitment problems, leaks, and other assorted issues.
As of late, there appears to be a trend toward short-tube headers for street vehicles. These shorter tube headers have increased ground clearance, but we have to wonder how much they compromise performance. If you own a Ram or Dakota that is equipped with a 5.2 or 5.9 Magnum, "shorty" headers are almost the only option available to bolt to the stock exhaust. On the other end of the scale, there are street vehicles that are fitted with larger diameter long-tube race headers due to the owner's desire to get maximum performance at any cost. We recently tested a few of these options to see if there is any clear advantage to using a certain design over another in a street performance application. Our budget street 360 was called upon to test the various designs, as stock manifolds and small headers would be a big restriction on an all-out race build. This would also be good for testing a street versus race design in a mild application. This engine is a low compression LA engine with factory iron heads, a Mopar Performance dual plane intake, Holley 670 carburetor and a mild hydraulic camshaft from Competition Cams.
We started our test session with a set of 5.9 Magnum exhaust manifolds adapted to the dyno's exhaust. With a set of adaptor pipes we had made up for us at our local exhaust bender, we were able to route the exhaust gasses out through the dyno mufflers. Using these adaptor pipes and Magnum manifolds allowed us to swap directly to a set of shorty truck headers and keep the tests as equal as possible. We mounted the manifolds and adaptor pipes to our 360, and made our initial test pull. Our test pulls were the same for all testing, with a starting rpm of 2,000, and ending at 5,800. Our peak numbers showed 347.9 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm and 292.8 horsepower at 5,200 rpm.
Next, we bolted on our Pace Setter shorty headers. With 11⁄2-inch primary tubing and such short tubing lengths, we had to wonder if there would be much of an improvement over the manifolds. We were pleasantly surprised with the output, having a nice increase in torque right from the start, and carrying the extra power throughout most of the pull. Our peak numbers were now 355.7 lb-ft at 3,000 rpm, and 316.3 horsepower at 5,200 rpm.