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Budget C5 Headers - Lifting The Corvette Tax

Texas Speed's C5 Headers Add 28 rwhp On The Cheap

Randall D. Allen Jan 20, 2008
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Thanks to the burgeoning market for C5 performance products, assembling a suitable exhaust setup for one's '97-'04 Vette has never been easier. On the downside, we Corvette enthusiasts often pay a premium for our speed parts, simply because we're perceived to have the means and the inclination to do so.

Enter Texas Speed & Performance, a Wolfforth, Texas-based business that specializes in developing high-performance parts for LS engines. After cutting its teeth on LS1 F-bodies, TSP turned its attention to Corvettes by introducing 131/44-inch long-tube headers for the C5. Featuring a 3-inch collector and ceramic coating, the headers and complementary exhaust components are quality pieces that sell for a fraction of the cost of some of the other big players in the market.

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Installation begins with the disconnection of the negative battery terminal. Next, to achieve sufficient space to remove the factory exhaust manifolds, the alternator is removed.

TSP co-owner Jason Mangum explains the thinking behind the parts: "Having owned a C5 and a C6, it amazed me that headers and exhausts for LS1 F-bodies sold for hundreds less than the equivalent Vette hardware. Contrary to popular belief, not all Corvette owners are flush with money.

"[With] C5s becoming more affordable, consumers want a more affordable header that can compete with the best the industry has to offer. After extensive testing of other brands and multiple prototypes, we settled on a long-tube design that was constructed out of 16-gauge steel, rather than stainless steel, in order to save money and take advantage of the advances in ceramic coatings available today. Overall engine-compartment heat is reduced...and the coatings are very durable and long-lasting."

Follow along as we install a set of TSP C5 headers and a matching mid-pipe on an '01 C5. Mangum and co-owner Trevor Doelling, along with Lead Technician Joseph Potak, will be performing the work. After wrenching and replacing the parts, we'll strap the car onto TSP's chassis dyno to see how much power was added.

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Here's how the engine compartment should look after the installation is complete.

With everything installed and torqued to spec, the vehicle was started and checked for exhaust leaks. When none were found, the C5 was strapped back on the dyno and turned over to TSP co-owner Mangum. After defeating the rear O2 sensors to prevent "check engine" lights, Mangum used LS1Edit to monitor the engine's air/fuel ratio during the dyno pulls. Since this customer was planning to add a Texas Speed camshaft in the near future, no tuning was performed to optimize the exhaust changes.

A total of 28 horsepower and 33 lb-ft of torque was coaxed out of the engine at the peaks. More importantly, the average horsepower and torque from 2,300-5,800 rpm increased by 21 hp and 27 lb-ft. Although the off-road version is a bit louder than stock, the sound isn't raspy or obnoxious, a fact due in part to the Borla cat-back system that was already installed on the car. For an as-tested price of $929.98 (minus labor), the complete off-road system takes a big bite out of the aforementioned Vette tax and performs like the big names to boot.

"Although the headers put out tremendous gains, computer tuning would have netted additional gains on the order of 12-15 rear-wheel horsepower. Since the stock PCM had a slightly rich air fuel ratio of 12:1 and a conservative timing table, gains of more than 40 horsepower [would likely have been possible]. Custom tuning on our Dynojet chassis dynamometer is available, and for customers who don't live in the area, we offer mail-order tunes.

"Using the connection pipes-rather than the off-road X and mid-pipe-typically results in a 4-to-5-horsepower decrease. For those on a tight budget, however, the power gain and resulting sub-$650 price tag are hard to beat. For enthusiasts who want to retain all emissions equipment, the prototype headers with AIR tubes and the catted versions of our X-crossover pipe are showing almost zero horsepower and torque losses over the off-road version tested here."

Texas Speed can handle the installation, tuning, and dyno testing in a day. A highly skilled enthusiast should be able to complete the install in 6-8 hours, but follow-up tuning (either by mail order through Texas Speed or at a local shop) would still be required to extract maximum power.

The Vette tax has been lifted, C5 owners, so get ready to add some big power to your ride.


Texas Speed & Performance
Wolfforth, TX 79382



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