Riff Raff Rumbles

I really dig the engine in my ’56 Fairlane.


When I saw the car in a showroom, and learned it had an 390FE I knew then and there I had to have it. My ’67 Galaxie had a 390 in it. I spent a year looking at other cars. I’d go to the Long Beach Hi-Performance Swap Meet, search online, and even in the newspaper, knowing the ’56 was the benchmark. I kept coming back. Then one day I found a worthy contender at the swap meet. That meant I was going to make one offer to buy the Fairlane with the attitude of walking out if they don’t accept it. I held firm. A few failed attempts at negotiating a number and drove the Fairlane out.

Again I digress. I have never been really happy about the way the car sounds. For such a nice motor, the long “Blue Streek” glass packs and thick steel exhaust really quieted it down. And the tips stuck out like 6 inches from the bumper.

I knew just what to get, inspired by the ’92 Ford F-150 NITE I had. It had set of American Made, original Flowmaster Super 40 Series mufflers and 2 and a quarter inch stainless steel U-Fit kit. A slight rumble at idle and a roar when you get on it. Somewhat aggressive, perfect.

Then I got to thinking about my buddy Jack who has a ’57 Pontiac with the 346 V8 and open lake pipes. It’s pretty loud rolling next to him. I dig the idea of cut-outs, but I don’t want to get the cable driven or spin-caps. Then I read about Doug’s Headers electronic Cut-Outs. I call them Firebreathers! They recently re-designed them in all stainless steel with a rugged gear reduction 12V motor and a rotating gate for a leak proof seal. I had to get a set of these. Fortunately for me, they just completed a 2.25” series. These are a real gas. I am having so much fun with the push button control. Check them out at DougsHeaders.com

For this task we went to HB Hot Rods and Hogs to do this right. Ed Syer has been a local fixture in Southern California with his two shops: HB Hogs and Choppers, a full service motorcycle shop and Automotion a performance driven auto shop. A couple years ago Ed combined them both to one full service daily driver, hot rod and bike shop. Many of his Harley clients bring their hot rod or daily driver in for maintenance as well as installation and fabrication.

Dale Garlits, past crew member and nephew of Big Daddy heads up the car side of the shop. He pulled my ’56 onto the lift next to the station where Ed is building his very own Digger. The chromoly tubes are all welded up and getting ready to install the Joe Gibbs spec’d big block Chevy. See more about Ed’s Digger at HBHotRodsAndHogs.com

The first part of any custom exhaust job is to lay it all out. You’d think a mid-50’s car would have quite a bit of room under it. Well not so. Even worse when it is lowered into the weeds like it is. I cannot have anything lower than the frame-rails. So we took some time to layout one side laying the pipes on the ground below the car. After we had it layed out the way we wanted it, we took a sawzall and cut away the old pipe. The Flowmaster U-Fit kit is a 16 piece dual pipe, 16 gauge aluminized steel with slip fit connections.

First section was the head pipe to the Doug’s cutout Y-Pipe. They supply a set of real nice clamps, but we opted to weld them in place. This was the tricky part. Finding just the right place for the electronic cutout. The Doug’s piece is compact, and we noticed they had a L and R designation. We found the right spot just under the front seat. I was hoping to extend pipe from the electronic gate to just before the rear wheel, but it would mean a spaghetti of tubing and some would have to go under the frame rails so we opted to dump the exhaust with each side facing in and a bit down. I like the stealth quality of it.

The cutouts forced the mufflers rearward a bit. We found a perfect spot just below the rear seat where the floor pan goes up a bit and right in front of the axle. Dale did a great job planning the distance to be able to exit the muffler and over the axle. The tailpipe was just a bit short to reach the bumper, so we had to but weld about a 6” extension to get to the rear bumper. A set of sleeves would be a good suggestion for the U-Fit kit. We finished the ends with an angled cut rolled edge polished stainless clamp on tip. Flowmaster has a complete set of different tips to choose from at FlowmasterMufflers.com.

I couldn’t wait to hear it rumble.

We had to wire up the electronic cutouts first. So we brought the car down to the ground and determine the switch location. I didn’t want to cut the dash and in about a month we will be taking the interior apart when we re-wire the car with a Ron Francis wiring kit. The Doug’s Headers kit comes with a simple switch and wiring loom. I was a bit nervous since we installed the kit a bit farther back from the headers. There was ample wire as we pushed it through the firewall where the stock wiring goes to the front from under the dash. Routed it down along the firewall to the drivers side frame rail and across the cross member to each cutout. Snap in place. Under the dash we wired it up to a key switch on hot wire and tested it out.

Now we can start it up!

Dale got in, turned the key as Ed and I were listening behind the car. The throaty sound of the Super 40 Flowmaster Mufflers hit me to the core. Then he hit the switch and the car roared like I have never heard before. I was giddy!

I realize there is a performance difference with the open headers. So I asked Dale how do we tune the car for this set up. He said you have to tune it for one or the other. So we tuned it for the full system, knowing I would only open the headers for cruisin’ and at car shows. It has been a couple of weeks and I really dig this set up. The Flowmasters are awesome and when I want to wake up the tourists as I cruise around Disneyland, I just hit a switch.

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Photos/Story: Tony Colombini