This month marks the reappearance (again) of our '96 LT1 Corvette, a car whose halting progress toward the goal of achieving C5 Z06-quality acceleration without pauperizing its owner has been unfolding seemingly since the days of the optional whitewall. To date, the Polo Green coupe has been the beneficiary of a number of cost-effective modifications, ranging in scope and difficulty from a comprehensive valvetrain upgrade to a quick-and-easy (and surprisingly effective) ultrasonic fuel-injector cleaning.
In this installment, we'll tackle the car's exhaust system. Given that replacing the OEM rear-section exhaust setup is typically one of the first alterations made by any mod-inclined Vette owner, you may be wondering what took us so long to reach this point. The answer has to do with the limitations imposed by a dwindling C4 aftermarket and our longstanding predilection for covering only the latest, most notable performance hardware whenever possible.
While converter-back systems for the C4 abound, long-tube headers-critical for making maximum power in a high-output Gen II engine- are about as common as yeti sightings in Cozumel. When we learned late last year that Stainless Works was cooking up a full, header-to-tips system for the '92-'96 model, we signed on to be the first to install and test the new parts. The highlights of the daylong job-performed once again by the inveterate Vette nuts at AntiVenom EFI in Seffner, Florida-follow, along with some subjective impressions and post-install dyno results.
With all the parts in place, a quick testdrive revealed a freshly invigorated sonic palette sure to appeal to all but the most hard-core of Vette enthusiasts. At idle, the Stainless Works system evinced a deep, mellow burble only marginally louder than stock. Cabin drone-the bte noir of Corvette performance exhausts-was imperceptible at highway speeds, with only the faintest hint of popping evident during high-rpm deceleration. At wide-open throttle, the tone transitioned to a horripilation-inducing howl reminiscent of an old NASCAR stocker.
On the AntiVenom chassis dyno, the Vette cooked up 295 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels, bettering its previous best marks by 9 hp and 1 lb-ft, respectively. That's a bit less than we would have expected for an all-encompassing exhaustsystem upgrade, but perhaps not all that surprising given the lightly modded nature of the car. Doubtless the extra flow offered by the SW setup will prove even more valuable as we get deeper into our power-building regimen. Until then, the reduced weight, improved looks, and enhanced sound characteristics of the system make it a worthwhile addition to our no-nonsense '96.