Break It Down
Pros: Easy horsepower you can bolt on in no time; quality stainless design with excellent flow characteristics; more for the daily driver
Cons: Depending on your point of view, not as baller as the 4-1 design
Install Difficulty: Easy
Verdict: A header is one of those essential go-to items when starting out with an engine build. DC Sports has perfected their craft over the years and their parts equal power.
Since losing to Project Car magazine in an 1/8th mile drag race at the Irwindale Speedway last year, we've been itching to find some ways to improve performance in our Project EF. Of course, we're somewhat limited since we can't build anything internally until we take the car to California's state referee to have the engine swap passed as a legitimate modification, so for now we can only add bolt-ons that are CARB certified. You'd be surprised, but there aren't any intake kits that fit in the realm of smog legal, so what else could we do? There wasn't much but in the way of exhaust upgrades and our friends at DC Sports carry a few different headers that are too legit to quit.
We decided to go for a 4-2-1 one-piece design with a 2.25-inch collector to match the exhaust piping. Why that particular configuration? Well, a 4-1 header helps produce more power on the top end but since ours is more of a daily driver, a 4-2-1 distributes power more evenly throughout the powerband, making it a more useful application. Oh, and by the way, we upgraded the exhaust, too. Before we had a HKS Sport exhaust, but after picking up a rare Mugen muffler (discontinued so don't even try it), we thought it'd be way cooler to have that on instead but had to have a custom B-pipe fabricated since it didn't come with its original piping. While we were at it, we also needed to have a new catalytic converter made since the stock exhaust that came with the car had been welded to the OEM cat and was on its last legs anyway. In this instance, we picked up an OBD1 CARB legal Magnaflow cat to match the setup of our potentially legit B16A swap. After a quick sub-30 minute installation (this will vary depending on the tools at your disposal and your mechanical ability) and a trip to a fabricator, our DC Sports header and custom Mugen exhaust combination resulted in something we love: an ear piercing tone that only Hondas can produce! Very I-love-the-90s if you ask us. Not only that, but our engine bay needed some shine since the rust-look of the OEM header without its heatshields was looking a little bland; the DC header solved that problem and also had no fitment problems with regards to the front crossmember. Those who opt for the 4-1 design may encounter fitment issues.
Of course, we needed to see how much power we'd actually gained by adding a header and a slightly more free-flowing exhaust, so we stopped by SP Engineering to find out since they have our baseline figures on file. In its stock form (with the HKS Sport exhaust), our car originally made 149.3 hp and 104.2 lb-ft as a baseline. With three new passes, we came out on top with an extra 4 hp, translating to 153.6 hp with 105.8 lb-ft, so it even has a little bit more torque now. The gains weren't astronomical but as to be expected, considering the car still has a stock intake. Once we get the car smog compliant, we'll be able to put an aftermarket intake system in and should see bigger improvements. For now, the DC header was a great buy and the Mugen exhaust, simply a cool piece to add on.