Choosing an exhaust for your Corvette used to be a compromise between sound and sanity. An aggressive, head-turning note often meant having to shout to your passenger while driving down the highway. Fortunately, modern Vettes give owners the best of both worlds by offering dual-mode mufflers. At the touch of a button, the driver can choose either quiet cruising or aggressive acceleration.
But what if you’re looking for a fuller, more powerful sound and additional power from your Corvette equipped with a dual-mode exhaust? Hooker’s BlackHeart exhaust division has the answer: the Hooker BlackHeart Cat-Back Exhaust System with Dual-Mode Mufflers. It’s constructed from lightweight, 18-gauge 304 stainless steel. It emits a mellow, throaty tone when the massive 3-inch bypass valves are closed and an aggressive, competition-inspired sound when the valves are open.
Hooker offers two configurations for the cat-back: a “race-only,” bolt-on option that removes the secondary catalytic converters and a fully street-legal, slip-on option that retains the secondary catalytic converters. (Because the OBD-II sensors are upstream of the secondary converters, the check engine light is unaffected with either system.) Both options include a 3-inch siamese X-pipe and 3-inch over-axle pipes. Four-inch, twin-wall polished stainless steel tips with a laser-etched Hooker logos cap off the system.
To retain the bolt-on nature of our test subject, we opted for the “race only” system that replaces the secondary catalytic converters and bolts directly to the OEM forward catalyst pipes.
Want to see how it works? Let’s get started!
01. While this system could be easily installed with the car on jack stands, we’d be foolish if we didn’t utilize Hooker’s in-house lift to make photos easier. Hooker’s Clint Belcher began by removing the skidplate to access the factory exhaust.
02. Belcher loosened the exhaust clamps forward of the axles.
03. Belcher then removed the nuts from the exhaust flanges on the inlet of the factory mid-pipe.
04. Belcher separated the mid-pipe from the over-axle tubes and set it aside. (A little bit of spray lubricant helped the tubing slide apart.)
05. At the rear, Development Engineer Doug Marino (left) and associate removed the rear valance.
06. With the mufflers exposed, Marino disconnected the wiring harness from the NPP dual-mode muffler valves.
07. Then, Marino removed the vibration isolators from the chassis.
08. With everything disconnected, Marino snaked the over-axle pipes over the axles and away from the car.
09. With the exhaust removed, we could compare the OEM exhaust to the Hooker BlackHeart Cat-Back exhaust. The BlackHeart system is beautifully constructed of lightweight, 18-gauge 304 stainless steel.
10. The “street-legal” option requires cutting the OEM exhaust after the secondary converters and slips over the cut tubes and is secured with the supplied band clamps. However, the “race only” cat-back option includes extension pipes that connect where the splice would be and replaces the secondary catalytic converters. (To allow our test vehicle to revert to stock, we installed the bolt-on, “race only” option.)
11. Marino began installing the BlackHeart system by transferring the exhaust valve actuators from the OEM system to the BlackHeart system.
12. Next, Marino inserted the over-axle pipes into the mufflers and loosely installed one of the supplied band clamps.
13. Marino transferred the vibration isolators over to the BlackHeart mufflers and routed the over-axle pipes through the rear suspension.
14. Belcher reattached the vibration isolators to the chassis.
15. Marino loosely installed the fasteners that tied the mufflers together. (These were tightened later as part of the exhaust alignment process.)
16. With the mufflers in place, Marino turned his attention to the extension pipes. He transferred the exhaust gaskets from the OEM system to the BlackHeart flanges.
17. After sliding on two of the supplied clamps, Marino inserted the extension pipes into the inlet side of the X-pipe.
18. Next, Marino raised the BlackHeart X-pipe into position.
19. Marino loosely installed the fasteners at the front exhaust flange.
20. Next, Marino clocked the band clamps accordingly and lightly tightened them.
21. Meanwhile, Belcher loosely installed the Torca coupler clamps that secure and seal the over-axle pipes to the X-pipe.
22. Next, Marino and Belcher installed the rear valance.
23. Belcher then aligned the exhaust so the tips were properly framed in the rear valance’s cutout, and all the tubing was straight and level. Once he was satisfied with the alignment of the system, Belcher tightened all of the clamps and fasteners.
24. While driving, we immediately noticed a throatier, assertive exhaust note from the Z06. The drive modes opened and closed the muffler bypass valves and allowed us to tune the volume to our tastes. With the valves open, the noise got rowdy indeed.
25. The tone of the Hooker BlackHeart exhaust fit the persona of the C7 Z06 perfectly. It lets everyone know it’s the alpha male. The Hooker BlackHeart cat-back’s 4-inch stainless tips blended in perfectly to the styling of the Z06’s rear valance.
26. The “race only” version of the BlackHeart cat-back adds about 12 lb-ft of torque and 22 horsepower to the rear wheels. Expect a few horsepower less from the “street friendly” cat-back that retains the secondary catalytic converters.