The re-release of the Dodge Charger in 2006 was a welcome sight for many musclecar fans. Although one of the princes of musclecar royalty began as a mid-size (B-body) two-door high-performance coupe in 1966, it became a “personal luxury car” in its last two years, and was dropped from production after the 1978 model year. It was reborn in 1983 as a subcompact that hardly did the nameplate due service. Thankfully that car went away in 1987.
The Dodge Charger (LX) full-size platform performance sedans brought back that hot-blooded musclecar feel that so many Americans had been longing for. It was now a four-door and could comfortably fit the entire family, but it still breathed musclecar fire, and made owners know it was indeed a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
After a 19-year absence the newly born Dodge Charger scored a huge hit among musclecar fans, and could be had with a full complement of engines including a 3.5-liter V6, 5.7-liter Hemi V8, and in its SRT8 form, the 6.1-liter Hemi V8. However powerful the 5.7-liter or 6.1-liter Hemis are, there are always people looking for more power, and we here at Street Legal TV are among those never quite satisfied with the horsepower and torque a vehicle is currently cranking out.
That hunger for more power is what brought us to check in with JBA Performance Exhaust to see what the company had that we could use to wring out a little more from the new Dodge Charger.
There’s always some power that was left on the table. – Don Lindfors, JBA
JBA Performance started out as a Mustang-only header manufacturer decades ago, and quickly proved itself as a top-flight manufacturer capable of pulling more power out of the pony car, but soon realized it could capitalize on the huge market that existed for other vehicles. Now the company offers hundreds of application. We liked what we saw in the JBA line for our 2007 Dodge Charger.
The JBA headers for the sixth-gen 5.7-liter Hemi-powered Charger, like all of its products, are built from mandrel-bent stainless steel primary tubes, offering 3/8-inch thick CNC laser-cut flanges and extra thick collector domes. The header also offers the patented JBA Firecone collector design, oversized exhaust ports, and factory style emissions connections.
Lindfors told us that these design characteristics, “Provide the best exhaust flow possible for improved power and response, and accommodate cylinder head porting. The thick flanges help to eliminate heat distortion and leaks.”
“One of the biggest challenges we have designing headers for late model cars covered by emissions regulations is that there is such a short distance from the head’s exhaust port to the collector flange because we can’t move the position of the catalytic converter.” Lindfors continued, “That’s why you see headers for these cars with tubes going in all sorts of directions. We are striving to get as much tube length as we can in a short working distance and clear all the components (such as steering columns) that are near the headers.”
“However we can take advantage of the way they were designed for factory installation. There’s always some power that was left on the table.” Lindfors said. “The factory may compromise the length or diameter of a tube that could give them more power in order to make it fit on faster during assembly line production. Or they may have put a squish or dent in the tube to have access to a bolt with the power tools used on the assembly line. It’s all about speed of installation at the factory.”
After removing the plastic shield under the frame, as well as the plastic shields covering the top of the heads, our installation began with spraying a penetrating oil on all the exhaust manifold fasteners and fittings prior to disassembly. We also used penetrating oil on the rubber hangers to help loosen up and slide off the front of the exhaust system. After unplugging the O2 sensors and wrapping them in plastic baggies to keep them clean, the exhaust pipes were unbolted and removed from the car.
The next task to tackle was removing the heat shields surrounding the headers and various components around them. The engine was raised up an inch to provide better access after removing the motor mounts. The brace stretching from the motor mount to the alternator bracket was taken out, and the oil dipstick was removed. Once all that was done, we were able get to the factory exhaust manifold bolts.
Once both factory exhaust manifolds were loosened and removed, we made sure to prep the exhaust port head surface by carefully cleaning off any carbon buildup we found. Cleaning the head will help create a better seal when you install the new headers and gaskets.
The JBA Performance header kit came with new gaskets. JBA does not recommend using other gaskets because those supplied with the kit are specially designed to work with its headers. Sliding the new JBA headers into place from underneath the engine is the only way to get to the job done, as there is not enough room to perform the installation from the top.
With the new headers in place and a few bolts installed by hand to temporarily secure them to the Hemi’s heads, we could go back above the car and start the rest of the bolts. Torquing them down to spec was done from above and below depending upon easiest access permitted to the bolts. The driver’s side was installed with the original stud and new spacer at the dipstick bracket position.
Once the headers were completely bolted up and fastened to proper torque specs, the motor mounts were reattached to the motor. The engine was lowered so the studs attaching the motor mounts to the frame could be reinstalled, and all the heat shields were replaced. We then reinstalled the dipstick using the original nut. Lastly, we reinstalled the O2 sensors in the headers using a dap of anti-seize on the threads.
We then reinstalled the front exhaust pipes that hold the cats, using some O2 sensor safe, high-temp RTV silicone sealer on the flared part of the exhaust pipes. The lower O2 sensors were then reconnected. The stock exhaust system was hooked back up to the front exhaust pipes, and everything was tightened.
Worth The Effort
Admittedly, this was not an easy installation. Or we should say it wasn’t difficult, but there was a lot of work involved with removing parts to get at the stock exhaust manifolds and reattaching parts after the JBA Performance headers were bolted up to the 2007 Dodge Charger’s 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine. With a break for lunch, this was an eight-hour job.
“We tell people that with headers like these it’s an eight to 10 hour install for the average guy because of how hard it is to access bolts and how many parts have to removed. It may take longer than just replacing stock manifolds, but the end result of our design is more power.”
As for power gains, we did see a nice little pick up in the Charger’s giddy-up after the new JBA Performance headers were installed. With any performance upgrade we like to perform before and after installation dyno tests on our in-house Dynojet dynamometer. Before we bolted up the new headers, the 2007 Dodge Charger scored (red line on chart) a peak of 277.3 hp and 321.9 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.
On the road, the additional power and torque can be felt, as well as heard. The throttle response is crisper, and even at higher speeds there is a noticeable increase in power and torque, the car pulls harder and gets to speed a bit quicker than before. The bang-for-the-buck factor is worth it, and noticeable at bottom and top end, with a nice sound at cruising speed.
With the JBA Performance headers in place, we measured (green line on chart) peak hp and torque at 302.5 and 335.4 to the rear wheels. If you look at the dyno chart curves below, you’ll notice a peak gain of 25.2 horsepower and 13.4 lb-ft of torque, and a gain of approximately 20 lb-ft of torque being delivered to the rear wheels all the way from 2,500 to 4,500 rpm. Not bad for a day’s work. We think every minute of labor was well worth it. If you are interested in learning more about JBA Performance headers and what it has available for your musclecar, check out the company’s website or call (909) 599-5955.