Tech: Waking Up a C5 with Mid America Motorworks
With the 2014 Corvette C7 just months away from showrooms, more and more secondhand fifth-generation Corvettes are ending up on used car sites. It’s not because the C5’s are bad cars at all, but people today are always after the latest and greatest thing. The next fad, if you will.
Mid America Motorworks Quad Cruiser Exhaust (PN 644-953) Includes:
Savvy enthusiasts however, will notice that with every new car that’s being released, the older models go on sale for bargain basement prices. Although the seller usually takes a hit on the deal, the buyer ends up with exactly that. As a result, older performance cars like F-bodies and C5 Vettes continue to remain relevant in the automotive aftermarket, and parts supplier continue to design and develop parts for these older cars.
Mid America Motorworks, or MAM, is one of those companies that specializes in Corvette restoration and performance parts of all generations, so they know their way around America’s favorite sports car.
So when we went looking for a cat-back exhaust for our 1997 Corvette, we were blown away by the choices that were out there! The options seem limitless, but for a Corvette, we decided to give a call to the guys who are among the best for Corvettes in the industry – Mid America Motorworks!
When we gave them a call and told them what we were looking for, they sent over their Quad Cruiser kit. Now we could have selected either the Quad Power or Quad Thunder instead, but the ‘Cruiser gives us all of the benefits of an aftermarket exhaust; improved sound, performance and looks, etc. – but without being too loud.
To get a better understanding of the design and engineering that goes into every Mid America exhaust, we contacted Butch Claar, Lead Engineer, to bring you the inside scoop.
Midwest America’s Quad Cruiser Exhaust
MAM designs all of their exhaust systems for a direct, bolt-on replacement for the OEM exhaust system. That’s right, not only does MAM sell all of their exhaust kits, but they manufacture them in-house – even casting their company logo in to the tips!
They’ve been crafting their own pipes since the mid-80s, testing them on their own vehicles first, then continually working to improve the efficiency and functionality of each design. As Claar puts it, “The exhaust program here at MAM is primarily driven by aesthetics and sound characteristics.
Performance improvement is typically an offshoot or by-product of the low restriction muffler canister designs we develop from. We’ve simply taken 40 years of customer interaction and feedback into account to develop products that closely parallel our customer’s demands.”
Claar went on to tell us that they looked towards the classic Corvettes of the ’60s for their inspiration for the Quad Cruiser exhaust system. It provides the car’s owner with an aggressive deep tone, that in MAM’s opinion, captures the spirit of the classic Vettes of yore. After we installed it, we fully agreed. But more on that later.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are three different types of catback exhausts that C5 and C6 enthusiasts can order for their late-model Corvette; Quad Cruiser, Quad Power, and Quad Thunder. Which is great, but if you’re unfamiliar with Mid-America’s exhaust systems then you can be unsure which one is best for you. When we asked Claar what exactly the differences were, we let him explain it in his own words.
The Quad Cruiser makes a stock Corvette sound like [what] a Corvette should, yet it is a bit subdued to never encroach on the fantastic touring capabilities of these cars.
“The differences are in the canister size and shape as well as the internal sound control plumbing. Since the mid-70’s the consensus of most Corvette owners are that the factory exhaust is too quiet. The Quad Cruiser makes a stock Corvette sound like a Corvette should, yet it is a bit subdued to never encroach on the fantastic touring capabilities of these cars. The Quad Power pushes the envelope to the edge of the volume level from idle to redline without waking up the resonance or drone harmonics. The Quad Thunder is not for hospital zones,” jokes Claar.
Before we could break out the wrenches, we had to get a baseline to see what kind of horsepower the inaugural year C5 was putting out to begin with. Luckily, we just installed a new Dynojet chassis dyno at our new facility, and the fiberglass sports car was the dyno’s very first customer.
Establishing a baseline lets us know where we are at prior to the exhaust upgrade, and it also shows how much of a difference the MAM kit will make after it’s installed. We made a few pulls just to break in the dyno a little and to get a best out of three result. For a car that only has a cold-air intake and a set of rocker arms, the Vette put down a respectable 318.30 horsepower and 324.99 pound-feet of torque to the tires.
As far as sound quality, it’s essentially standard-issue LS1-powered C5. Sounds good, and has a nice little growl at high RPM, but it won’t set off any car alarms. With the Quad Cruiser, we’ll be getting an exhaust that gives us a bit more roar, but one we can live with everyday if necessary and without scaring old people. You know, we’re looking for that perfect balance.
Baseline testing done, it was time to get the car up on the lift to get started. We started by bringing out the grinder, and cutting the exhaust pipes so that if we ever wanted to, we can easily reinstall the OEM exhaust at a later date. But given the design of the MAM Quad Cruiser, we don’t see that happening anytime soon.
With our measurements and cuts made, we unbolted the factory clamps to further ease the removal of the OEM exhaust. We also had to remove the bolts holding in the rear sway bar to allow for more room to pull out the mufflers and the section of piping that routes over the rear axle assembly.
Again, we wanted to preserve the original exhaust as much as possible in the event that we ever wanted to go back to stock. Of course, if this is something that you’re not interested in doing, you can always just hack the exhaust up, but removing the sway bar still make things a lot easier.
With the old exhaust removed, we installed the MAM X-pipe where the old H-pipe was at. It’s designed to attach to the pipes leading off of the factory catalytic converters. It was a bit of a struggle to get it lined up, but we persevered and we got it on with just a little bit of elbow grease.
Now that we had the X-pipe attached and clamped snugly in place, we started attaching the rest of our exhaust working our way back. It all went together very easy with no other cutting or welding to do. The MAM exhaust was so beautifully engineered, we had it in place in less than an hour.
In fact, the most time-consuming part of the whole installation was getting the quad exhaust tips just right. Since we saved torquing all of the clamp bolts down for last, this allowed us to get the fitment of everything perfect. Once we eventually had the right look, we tightened and torqued everything down.
The final step was reattach the rear sway bar mounting brackets that we loosened earlier, and set the car back on the ground to see the fruits of our labor.
Maintaining Your Mid America Exhaust
Obviously, with the installation of an aftermarket exhaust system comes the task of keeping those shiny, chrome exhaust tips clean. It makes sense, the chrome tips help bring not only a touch of added class to your Corvette, but a higher level of quality to the overall appearance of your American sports car.
…a periodic soap and water scrub and rub down with a suitable product like our MWorks Metal Works Polish will restore a bright, like-new shine.
When we asked Claar what his tips were on maintaining those shiny tips to their as-delivered luster, surprisingly, his answer was short and sweet. “Due to the 304 stainless steel alloy that’s used in the design of this exhaust system, it is resistant to anything that the car will typically experience in the automotive environment. [So] normal engine and emissions system maintenance will preserve the sound characteristics indefinitely. Slight discoloration is possible, but a periodic soap and water scrub and rub down with a suitable product like our MWorks Metal Polish will restore a bright, like-new shine.”
Sounds simple enough to us, and if you’re like most Corvette enthusiasts, you love to clean your car quite often anyway. It’s good to know that with all of the added benefits that the exhaust will provide, maintaining it will come with little to no extra effort on your part.
Final Results and Conclusion
With the exhaust on, and the C5 back on all four wheels, we decided to take the little red Corvette for a spin. The results were impressive. We experienced no leaks, no rattles, and our car sounded great! After it became abundantly clear that there weren’t any problems with sound, fitment, or performance, we decided to take it back to the shop for a dyno pull.
Strapped down, the Corvette made a peak output of 322.00 HP and 325.85 pound-feet of torque to the tires. That’s a gain of 3.7 HP and just under a pound-foot of torque – right in line with what we expected on an otherwise-stock C5. A good deal of dyno-testing LS1-powered Corvettes (including our own Project Y2k) has shown us that where aftermarket exhausts really shine on these cars is when you start turning up the wick with other modifications, and the stock system becomes a bottleneck. Fortunately, with what we have planned ahead for this little red Corvette, we’ve already got that situation handled thanks to the Quad Cruiser.
For the moment, though, the extra horsepower is just a fringe benefit to the improvement in looks and sound. The polished tips look killer, and make the rear look much more aggressive. On the road, the engine note is more aggressive, too, without being annoying at cruising speeds or rising to the status of “dirty looks from the neighbors.”
The fit and finish is superb, and it looks as if they could have been installed from Chevrolet that way. So if you’re looking for an exhaust system for your Corvette, that’s designed and engineered by Corvette owners, then look into one of the exhaust system kits from Mid America Motorworks.