Uncontained internal combustion engines are loud, especially V8’s. It is a sound many of us have come to know and love, though we can’t imagine living with open headers on a daily basis. That is why automakers have been adding sound dampening devices, called mufflers, to the exhaust pipes to lessen that raucous sound. It makes the driving experience more peaceful for the average joe.
But early hot rodders didn’t care about peace. They just wanted power. So they hacked off their mufflers for a more natural and bombastic sound. Alas, causing such a ruckus was a good way to attract the fuzz, leading to tickets for disturbing the peace and thus siphoning money away from more modifications. Today though, there are a plethora of aftermarket exhaust and muffler companies just a phone call away.
One of the first mufflers made for the hot rod market was Cherry Bomb, a common upgrade done many muscle cars. Founded back in 1968 at the height of muscle cars, it was a simple product with a catchy name and a red paint job that would bring a new sound to the street. Their two-foot long fiberglass-packed mufflers became the hot ticket for every muscle car owner and drag strip junkie and it was the must-have part during the peak of the muscle car wars. We had a chance to tour their 600,000 square foot facility in Loudon, Tennessee, where they still make a modern version the original Cherry Bomb glasspack, alongside several other new products from the legendary muffler maker.
We spoke with Matt Graves, a product specialist for Cherry Bomb who has been with the company for 15 years. He told us that one of Cherry Bomb’s core strengths is its built-in-America appeal. “One of the things we pride ourselves in is not outsourcing overseas and making our products right here in the United States. We make everything here in Loudon, Tennesee. We’ve been making them here since 1968.” In fact, Cherry Bomb recently added 100 jobs to their massive facility, helping stimulate that economic growth we hear so much about.
While the exhaust pipe itself is an uncomplicated device, there isn’t some magical field where exhaust pipes of different lengths, widths, and bends grow up from the ground. Cherry Bomb builds their tubing 100% from start to finish. About the only thing they don’t do is mine for the metal themselves.
The process of building an exhaust begins with thin, flat steel that is slowly bent and massaged into the tubular shape we are all familiar with, before being welded together. Then, depending on the application, the tubes are either crinkle-bent or mandrel bent. Naturally, if you’re looking for performance, you’ll want the straight, mandrel bent pipes, as those wrinkles tend to hurt air flow. The bending itself is done by a specialized machine that is almost hypnotic to watch. Mandrel bending results in more horsepower and a smoother look, too.
Improvements have been made to the original Cherry Bomb glasspack over the years. These mufflers were prone to rust back in the day, as any old hot rodder can attest to. But now they are made from aluminized steel, which helps prevent corrosion and rust. The classic red color is back too, but powdercoated rather than painted on. The technology regarding flow, power, and efficiency has changed too, and Cherry Bomb has all kinds of high-tech testers to help them get the most out of their exhaust systems. What good is all that equipment without some knowledgeable folks to operate it though?
Paul Stevens, a Product Design Specialist for Cherry Bomb, has been in the exhaust aftermarket for over 31 years. He works in the Research and Development department, where he uses equipment like a super gauge to design and test new exhaust systems. “The super gauge machine we have here is used to measure all of our tubing and wire form and it is a very accurate machine. It is one of our key tools for designing exhaust systems under the car and then getting information to manufacturing.” Another tool Paul uses on a regular basis is the flow bench. “The flow bench measures the volume of air in cubic feet per minute,” Paul tells us. “We test mufflers, pipes and catalytic converters on this machinery.” The flow bench tells them that Cherry Bomb’s classic glasspack muffler flows about 510 cubic feet per minute of air, which is about 100 cfm shy of a straight pipe. That is some impressive air flow.
All of this research and development has helped Cherry Bomb expand its exhaust offerings beyond simple glasspacks, to products for the more discerning gearhead. Their exhaust offerings range from the Cherry Bomb Pro, Elite, Turbo, and the popular Cherry Bomb Extreme. The latest muffler they offer is the Cherry Bomb Vortex, which features special dividers and baffles which provide that Cherry Bomb sound, and a flow rate that nearly as efficient as straight 3-inch pipes, but without the deafening sound of an unmuffled engine.
One of the perks of working at Cherry Bomb is that they get to play around with some pretty cool project cars. Recently, they have been hard at work on a very special project the Cherry Bomb “Disturbing The Peace” Camaro. The name is derived from the citations police officers used to hand out to hot rodders with loud cars. The project consists of a 1968 Camaro, a very recognizable car that came out the same year Cherry Bomb was founded.
Of course, just because it is a classic car, doesn’t mean it has to have a classic drive train. Rather than an old carbureted V8, the power plant will be a modern LSx engine from GM decked out in high quality parts. For example, an 8-71 BDS supercharger tops the already-impressive LSx engine, and should help the Camaro make gobs of horsepower and torque. Backing the engine is a six speed Magnum Tremec transmission upgraded by American Powertrain, which is hooked up to a Moser 9-inch axle with 3.73 gears.
The Disturbing The Peace Camaro has come quite a long way since we first previewed it back in April. The engine has come together and now sits in the body, which is painted a lovely shade of orange and black. As you might expect, this Camaro has one crazy exhaust system, integrating side pipes, electronic cut outs, and some of Cherry Bomb’s own mufflers. It is one wicked ride, and a fitting tribute to a company that has become synonymous with awesome sounding hot rods and muscle cars. We thank Cherry Bomb for inviting us into their facility, and giving us a better idea of the hard work that goes into designing and building a killer exhaust system.