June 2002 Rant
"An Exhausting Problem"
If youíve done any amount of work on either old or new vehicles then youíve probably bought aftermarket reproduction or high performance parts. Iíve bought both and Iíve had parts that didnít fit like they were supposed to fit.
I ran across a story about parts that didnít fit in the Fairlaner, a magazine for members of the Fairlane Club of America. The person who wrote into the magazine wanted to warn fellow hobbyists about a set of headers that didnít fit.
Itís been over 20 years since I installed a set of exhaust headers. I either installed them or helped others install headers on GM, Ford and Chrysler products. Some installations were a real mess. I remember hammering pipes until they fit. I can recall some headers that after the engine was started began making their own clearances by banging against something. There always seemed to be one header bolt that wonít go into its hole and there was the problem of the spark plug boots rubbing on the tubing. Add in the occasional blown header gasket and you can see why itís been so many years since I fooled with headers.
The guy who wrote into the Fairlaner bought a set of shorty headers for his 64 Fairlane. One side didnít even come close to fitting. He did what a lot of us wish we could do when we have such a problem. He was headed for California anyway so he decided to drop in on the manufacturer and ask about the headers. When he arrived at the warehouse he got the cold shoulder treatment. They didnít want to talk to him. He asked to see a set of the headers so that he could point out what was wrong with them. The warehouse didnít have a set in stock! He kept asking questions until he got the name of a local speed shop that would loan him a pair and the name and address of the person who designed the headers.
He called the designer and asked if he could come to his shop and talk with him. The guys at the warehouse had already alerted the designer. When he arrived he showed the header designer what was wrong with them. The designer told him that over 400 sets had been sold and he was the only person to complain. I think weíve all heard that one before. The designer then told him that the headers should fit his car because they fit a 631/2 Falcon Sprint. In fact the headers were designed for that car but were listed in the catalog as fitting several Ford products from 63 to 73. After talking with the designer and showing him the Fairlane engine compartment, he admitted that they probably would not fit a 64 Fairlane and that he would change the new catalog listing to state that they would fit 66 to 73 Fords.
This letter stunned me. In the age of computer aided design how could something like this happen? No computer was used to design these headers. They were only designed to fit one year and one model yet were listed in the company catalog that they would fit 11 years worth of various models. The company didnít even do any research on this product. They hired a guy who had a small shop to design them. I guess this is what is called ďoutsourcingĒ.
I now know why too many of the parts I buy have to be ďmassagedĒ to fit. Iíve also noticed that car magazine installation articles are usually shot in a shop with experienced technicians doing the work. What those car mags need to do is let us know if the stuff really fits before they try to sell it to hobbyists.