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Speedfreak

White headers, when started and why?

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Is the white a protective coating? When did these start appearing on drag strips?

Thanks!

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Yeah, it was a high-temp coating. Not sure when they first appeared, or when they went out of style, but I know they were pretty much standard--at least in all the car magazines--in the late '60s and early '70s. 

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The first time I recall seeing the headers or even the stock exhaust manifolds painted with high temp. white paint was around '62 or '63. The treatment was little more than a styling statement and didn't offer any advantage beyond that. Problems : On daily drivers the paint would need to be reapplied from time to time to keep it looking fresh. On cast iron manifolds the problem seemed worse than the headers for some reason. Near the exhaust ports the paint would often start to yellow or turn a slight beige color. My thought was that the cast iron held the heat longer than the headers, either way respraying them almost always required removing them from the engine or have a little overspray on the engine. This may or may not have been the reason for that style to fall out of style. Silver or black have seemed to become the standard anymore. There was a time on the '90's that some would use a powder coating in a color that matched or contrasted with the colors being used on the engine or body. Too much information ? sorry. 

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White painted/coated headers were said to run a bit cooler, how true it was is anybody's guess.

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22 minutes ago, High octane said:

White painted/coated headers were said to run a bit cooler, how true it was is anybody's guess.

I have heard the same said of black. I think any paint will have at least a minimal effect. The theory is that the heat from the combustion chamber is held in the manifold.     

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Posted (edited)

I recently did a photo recon on Google (re: my M/SP Corvette build) to verify my memory that white headers were on drag cars in the early to mid 1960s. Yup. They were.

Why? Clean look, cheaper than chrome (which always colors, and sometimes blisters on hot parts).

One theory had it that, like exhaust wrapping today, the white paint would reflect heat back into the exhaust gas (rather than allowing it to radiate out so fast), with the result being a little more energetic exhaust stream helping with cylinder evacuation.

I don't know if it really works.

 

Edited by Ace-Garageguy

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Posted (edited)

Well some body thought it worked if not it sure looked cool! ' Cause they were everywhere. As some of you may know by now I'm building a ' what if ' version of the ' Pepper Shaker ' and want to keep it period correct as much as I can. The headers are white! I'll post pics when I'm done.

Thanks to everyone!

Note: A " what if " version of a car that never existed? Now there's one for Rod Serling! 

Edited by Speedfreak

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Going to the intake side, I was told that painting aluminum intake manifold should not be done as it interferes with the cooling process.   

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I know it was done by almost everyone, but then on the early stock/super-stock the tail down nose attitude was the ultimate.  Then the tail high nose down was vogue for awhile.  All this being said, I never could understand now the outside color of a tube could effect the efficiency of the inside of that tube.

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36 minutes ago, TarheelRick said:

  All this being said, I never could understand now the outside color of a tube could effect the efficiency of the inside of that tube.

That's what I was wondering.

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Posted (edited)

Trends, they come and go with the seasons, some not fast enough. Often these trends are generated by the racing community and the street guys wanting to emulate their heroes.

I read somewhere that hot rodding was a "Monkey see, monkey do " type sport.

It's not hard to believe this looking at the trends discussed here.Along with some current trends,  "artillery  Wheels", race type  steering shafts coming out of the side of the body, and let's not forget the "Stance" wacky suspension geometry.

Everybody wants on the band wagon 😄

Edited by Greg Myers

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4 minutes ago, Bucky said:

That's what I was wondering.

Heat dissipation, thermodynamics, why are radiators painted black ?

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I always figured it was A. To keep them from rusting  B. To make it visibly easier to spot cracks around the flange or collector. That may be too simple of an answer though. You rarely, if ever, see a modern drag car with painted headers. If there was a true advantage to be had by painting them, every one you see would have painted headers.

 

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Posted (edited)

It was VHT spray can paint, used barbecue it looked cool on fabricated headers !

Like a black chassis, or metalflake, or tufted interiors, it was for looks. It was just the style back then.

Headers are frequently made of multiple pieces of tube, bare metal is ugly! There were other colors than white, black was used sometimes, even red, but white was the coolest. 

I believe it began around 1960 or so.

https://www.vhtpaint.com/high-heat/vht-flameproof-coating

Edited by GaryR

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White coating reduces the amount of heat radiated from the exhaust pipes, especially if it's also a ceramic barrier coating (like Zircotec). That means less need for additional heat shielding (extra weight) and/or more tightly packed components in the engine bay, plus the energy stays in the exhaust gases which is good for spinning up the turbos... probably wasn't as well thought-through in the 60s, but there certainly were sports prototypes running in late 60s and 70s with white exhausts pipes...

best,

M.

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Posted (edited)

There's snippets of truth in several of these posts. As Gary says, rusty bare metal is ugly. As I and several others said, white coatings were thought to help contain energy within the exhaust system, supposedly helping with cylinder evacuation (look it up) in the '60s, and directing more energy into the turbines in turbocharged cars later, as Matt mentions. There IS actually some basis in reality for this. Light color headers will be measurably "cooler" on the surface than dark color headers. Not enough cooler to keep from cooking the skin right off your hand if you grab one, unfortunately. I still have a scar on one calf from a Cobra side-pipe.

On "zoomie" headers that are only 20" long or so, it's difficult to see that any sort of coating would have a measurable effect on power. Only very accurately-instrumented dyno testing could possibly prove it either way.

I CAN tell you that "wrapped" headers made from steel (not stainless) will rust out quicker on the street, for a variety of reasons.

Here's the rest of the story.

The earliest coatings for exhaust system parts were "stove paint", the black stuff that was used to paint pot-bellied stoves. More heat-resistant than other kinds of early paint, it still had to be frequently reapplied to stay looking pretty. Builders of air-cooled engines would often use it on cylinder heads, imagining the black would aid heat dissipation. It was actually found to hold heat in if it was put on thick...but that's a whole 'nother discussion.

Another early exhaust coating was "porcelain", basically melted glass applied to exhaust manifolds. Jags used it, among others. Every once in a while, you'd see it on a competition car or custom where the builders had money to waste. Unfortunately, due to differences in expansion characteristics between cast-iron and glass, it would tend to crack off after a while. It was also brittle, and would crack if a tool hit it, or around the nuts that held the manifold to the engine.

Lotsa early competition cars also ran chromed pipes to keep them looking nice and prevent rust. It's considerably more durable than porcelain. The chrome plating "colors" at the hottest points, which I think looks cool, but some people don't and spend time trying to remove it.

But chrome, if not done well, will blister off too. It's also an expense for no performance increase.

The high-temp paints like VHT were a cheap alternative to plating. That's pretty much it. The colors came along a little later.

You can still buy the stuff.  image.png.7b30cdcb93e6a94de85ec62bc9aff5f9.png

And it still tends to burn off at the hottest points...   image.png.87b76a621b810a3c08d04dc7b4d050ee.png    image.png.95636b92db3bff13442317970e512cb5.png

Without ANY coating, non-stainless exhaust headers will look like this pretty quick.        image.png.d86ea28b7cdabf293e200f0e47dbdc7f.png

Edited by Ace-Garageguy

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It started when VHT paint came out and you'll notice that many of the early drag cars with white headers also carried VHT sponsorship decals. It came in a number of colors but if you want to draw attention to your product paint the headers bright white!

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I recall painstakingly painting my Vega headers white. Only to have it burn completely off in the 1st 20 mins. I redid them in black and it lasted years.

 

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When my Model A roadster was only six months old , but after I had done a six thousand mile cross-Australia road trip in it, we entered our first major show, with the car on top of limestone blocks and mirrors underneath.  Unfortunately I was forced to drive through many miles of roadworks and my previously fresh aluminium sprayed headers, that tend to cook to a white colour anyway, were now stained with the distinctive red of the Australian outback!

We were doing quite an elaborate display and had brought a can of ceiling white acrylic paint with us for touch up so my mate said " I can fix those" and promptly brushed the ceiling paint onto the visible lower sections of the headers.  It looked great but I was fearful of how bad the smell was going to be when I fired it up to leave the show.

Well, I am here to say there was no smell at all and that white paint stayed there for years!  Maybe I was onto something? 

Cheers

Alan

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