It’s been a few issues since you’ve last seen our Project 2012 Camaro SS, and we apologize for that. Trying to build eight other cars at once can be draining, and pretty time consuming. We’re now going to make up for lost time by bringing you the latest update. Recently, we installed a set of Kooks long-tube headers and complete exhaust system into the Camaro, with the help our friends over at AntiVenom Performance.
We’ve been rocking an i-1 ProChager on this LS3-equipped 5th-Gen since last summer, and despite the fact that it put down 585 hp to the rear tires with no other modifications other than the ProCharged-supplied blower and tune, we were ready to get the car to breathe a bit better. Running the SS at the Georgia Half-Mile in August made it desperately apparent that the stock exhaust manifolds and exhaust system were restricting the car’s true potential, and we felt that our Camaro was ready for the next round of modifications.
Knowing, however, that our Camaro sees a ton of action throughout the summer at local track events in the Southern states, we’ve elected to send the headers out to Jet Hot Coatings shortly after their arrival to our Tampa, Florida facility. Jet Hot is one of the leaders in ceramic coating, and we specified their 2500 Series for our Kooks headers.
While we were under the hood and had to remove the OEM plugs and wires for the header install, we swapped them out for a set of MTI Racing plug wires and a fresh set of NGK TR6 plugs. We also changed the oil with Driven’s LS30 blend of 5w30 full synthetic. It was long overdue anyway, and with the car up in the air, it only made sense to cease the opportunity. Our friends Greg Lovell and Kyle Miller of AntiVenom Performance were able to help us out with the install and the dyno-tuning, courtesy of AntiVenom’s in-ground Dynojet and tuning with EFILive. So let’s get started!
1. The first order of business was to pop the hood, get the car on the lift, and give it an appropriate amount of cool down time after our 30-minute trek to AntiVenom’s shop. In order to access the header bolts, we had to remove the engine cover. In this instance, we’ve just decided to eliminate it completely. It’s ugly, it traps heat on top of the engine, and it adds a couple of pounds of unnecessary weight. As we all know, 5th-Gens can use all of the dieting that they can get, and if removing this useless, plastic eyesore will help the cause, we’ll take it. Plus, it’s a waste of time taking it off and putting it back on every time we want to work on the engine.
2. With the Camaro up in the air, we were able to see what we were up against. For an OEM exhaust system, it’s not really that restrictive for a stocker, and it does provide a decent amount of rumble and flow for the average consumer and casual enthusiast. Except we’re neither of those, and more power and grunt is never enough for people like us. So off it goes!
3. Kyle starts by loosening the clamps connecting the catalytic converters and midpipe on each side of the car. Then he moves pulls the oxygen sensor from the pipes and removes the four bolts holding the tunnel brace on.
4. Out back, Kyle lubes down the exhaust hangers holding the muffler hangers on, as it aids the ease of removal. We’ll spray these down again later when it’s time to put them back on. If you have ever tried to remove these when they’re dry, then you know it can be a real PITA. This is the correct, and easy way to do things. With a little “grab and shake,” Kyle wiggled the exhaust pipes off with little effort. Truth be told, we probably had everything off in less than 20-minutes, mostly because this was a Florida car with only a few thousand miles on the ticker. Had it been 10 years old and daily-driven in the Midwest, we would probably still be at this stage… In all reality, the Zeta-chassis Camaro is a real easy platform to work on.
5. With the midpipe and mufflers removed, Kyle lowered the car back down to shrinkwrap the front end to protect from nicks and scratches while leaning over the car. Fender guards work just as well, obviously, but this is also a quick, simple, and affordable alternative.
6. With the Camaro’s front end fully protected from certain destruction, Kyle leapt in and removed the bolts from the exhaust manifolds. Since the low-restriction air filter that comes with the i-1 kit was in the way, we pulled that off as well. Of course, he pulled the OEM plug wires and spark plugs from the engine bay too, since this is a necessary part of the procedure. With them removed, he’ll be able to pull the manifolds and catalytic converters in one fell swoop…
7. …and he did! The “downpipes” and catalytic converters came down in one piece (each), and we set them aside to make way for our Kooks components. We’re not ditching catalytic converters, either, since we want to show you, our readers, what kind of gains you’ll see with Kooks’ “Green” cats, while remaining 49-state legal. That’s right, California said no. While Florida isn’t that strict on emissions equipment, places other than California can still make your life difficult if your car doesn’t comply with their strict laws.
8. Here’s the passenger’s side Kooks header that we’ll be using. It’s Kooks’ 17⁄8-inch long-tube that’s designed for high-horsepower, LS-powered 5th-Gen Camaros in mind. We could have ordered the smaller, 13⁄4-inch versions, but with the huge amount of power and additional boost that we have planned for this car down the road, the 17⁄8 was mandatory. Prior to the install, we had them sent out to our friends over at Jet Hot Coatings for their 2500 Series level of coating. In case you aren’t aware, Jet Hot offers several levels of ceramic coating for their customers, with the 2500 Series being the most heat resistant—they’re specifically designed for high-temp applications, such as turbocharged and supercharged engines. While at their facility, we had them apply their logo, along with the GMHTP logos.
9. You can see the difference between the OEM exhaust manifold and the Kooks header, and there’s no denying that there’s going to be an improvement in exhaust flow. We installed them using the supplied header gaskets and hardware. In order for us to get the driver’s side header in, though, we did have to disconnect the steering shaft so the huge collectors would clear. Once bolted to the head, we were able to reinstall it. Inside the collector, you can see Kooks’ scavenger spike, which directs exhaust flow efficiently and effectively.
10. Kyle attached KOOKS’ Green high-performance catalytic converters to the header collector using the supplied clamps. These revolutionary new cats weigh very little, and flow so incredibly well, that there is little to no loss in power as opposed to running an “off-road” exhaust system. Next, we installed the oxygen sensor extension. Since the O2 sensor bung is mounted further back from the OEM location, this is a necessary step.
11. With the headers on the engine, we were able to install our NGK TR6 plugs (gapped at .042) and MTI Racing wires. TR6s are perfect for boosted applications, as they are manufactured as a plug that rates one level colder than the OEM plugs. Realistically, we should have changed these out when we installed the blower, but at the time, the goal was to see how much power we could make on the i-1 with little change as possible. We’re well beyond that point now, and the stock plugs had their fill of boost. And instead of swapping the stock wires back in, we’re stepping it up with a set from MTI Racing. The 7mm “Hot Spark” heat shield racing wires were designed with headers in mind; they make it easier to remove, since the boot is smaller than stock, and they offer a built-n protective heat sleeving for high horsepower and high heat applications. These work perfectly for all LS engines—boosted or not—from stock, to heavily modified.
12. Bolting up the exhaust system was just as straightforward and simple as it was removing it, for the most part. Whenever you’re piecing something together, it usually takes a bit of cunning and manipulation. Greg jumped in and gave Kyle a hand holding up one end of the exhaust while Kyle tightened it down—which gave us a few minutes to admire some of the incredible quality of the components that Kooks makes, along with spotting some of the unique details that each Kooks component carries.