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2016 Exhaust and


Emission Controls


Exhaust and Emission Controls Source 2 The Blank Canvas ...........................1 Failure is Not an Option ..................2 Making It Your Own .......................4 Generating New Business in Today’s Economy..........................5 The Sky is Falling, the Sky is Falling! ........................................6 Direct of Universal...........................8 Ground Zero .................................10 On the Lighter Side .......................12 Advanced Exhaust’s Intergenerational Success ...........13 Legacy and Change on the Cusp of the 4th Generation ................16


10 13


The Blank Canvas By Ed Hanson

would be placed in the same location in the underbody of the vehicle. The true symmetry usually starts after the mufflers, due to the exhaust manifold outlet locations. Do not use this article in place of your Ambien or ZzzQuil. I really am not trying to put you to sleep, but remind those other professionals how they got where they are, so they can teach others. The one thing my father’s exhaust techs could teach me was to take on the most difficult side first. They pointed out to me how the lines of the frame flowed and to build a system that could follow those lines, keeping in mind all the obstacles in my way. There are very few cars, if any, that have equal clearance on each side. There is that confounded gas tank that is offset, so you have to take that into consideration. Then there are the offset shock absorbers that will throw off a nice mirror image pair of tailpipes. Then there’s the spare-tire carriage that likes to sit in the way of your second tailpipe location. And if you think all that is a challenge, you get into a hotrod, whose owner never even considers where your exhaust will go. Right where you have to route your tailpipe over the axle they have planted a fuel pump. They will place their upgraded power-brake booster right where you would normally run your driver’s side exhaust pipe or muffler. If that is not enough, you may even find a battery tray mounted on the opposite side, but further back, along with all those cables that used to go in the engine bay. Yet, this is your “canvas,” your artwork, that has to flow through all those obstacles, and when that customer takes his or her first look, they see your “Mona Lisa.” This is your canvas – your creation – that your client now owns. You know you have done your best work when you put your name on it! ■


hen I first started in the exhaust trade some 50-plus years ago, and finally had my training wheels off, I made many mistakes that I had to correct. I wanted to be as fast as my father’s experienced installers and would tear into an exhaust system like a bull in a china shop. Oh yeah, I could get the job done in a reasonable amount of time, but there was something I was missing that those other men had. All my welds were nice, the mufflers were in the same place, the system was properly supported and my exhaust systems sounded like their exhaust systems. There was something beautiful about the flow lines of their pipes. They had symmetry and I did not. How can I get where they are when there are so many different obstacles on each side of the vehicle? It finally hit me one day in art class. I stared at the “blank canvas” in my art room and imagined where I would put the lines of brush strokes. How my painting would look, even before I first touched my brush to it. That was it, I said to myself. I have to see the job done in my mind, before I even remove the old exhaust. My canvas was the underside of the car, my brush strokes traced the routing of the pipes. I could hardly wait for the next opportunity to apply my new-felt passion. I was resolved to set speed aside to create my first “masterpiece” – my first symmetrical dual job. I must have studied the underside of that car for at least an hour before I stripped the old single exhaust off of it. I learned that my tape measure would be my best friend. In the ’50s and ’60s we would tack weld metal clothes hangers together to use for our patterns and later use them for our welding rod. Once I had my rod tacked together, I measured it before I started to bend it. This way I knew how much tubing I would need. I took out my best friend and measured frame to frame and frame to center of transmission. I looked at any clearance problems around the transmission to the muffler inlets. Taking the most difficult side first (usually the linkage side) I made my wire pattern to the first muffler, knowing that both mufflers

Ed Hanson is the former owner of Ed Hanson’s Muffler Service in Spring Valley, Calif. You can reach him at [email protected]


Failure is not an Option It is an opinion By Ed Hanson

Mustangs were growing on trees, but with many hours on the road and phone, I finally found one that was affordable. As I explained before, Make-A-Wish cannot purchase vehicles for children, but they sure have been a great support team in the vehicle makeover once they found out we had one. That being cleared up, I raised the necessary money to buy what I thought was a fairly solid car. Oh boy! We were in a bit of a hurry to acquire a vehicle, because of Brycen’s situation, so I bought the bestpriced 1966 coupe I could find. So, it had been touched lightly in a few places, no problem. OK, truth be known, it was smacked in a few places, but it ran. OK, the owner told me it ran a couple years ago, no problem. I took the car anyway, knowing or hoping that my relationships in the auto community might be able to help me. With four flat tires, no brakes, a few too many dents, but a young man’s dream to fulfill, I decided that failure was not an option. My very first call was to Ryan and Jennifer Ogden who own Asmar’s Auto Care and had purchased Ed Hanson’s Muffler Service from my wife and me last year. They jumped on board with both feet, offering not only their automotive expertise, but additional money, to help fund the project. One of our local custom car builders and airbrush artists, Benny Flores, told me he would do the sheet metal work, if I could get the parts. Our budget for the build was tight, so I was able to get some deep discounts and donated parts from several manufacturers. Again, it is the relationships that we built that I called upon. Benny informed me that all we would need would be all four fenders, the hood, a trunk, a new roof and of course floors and subframes. When he took it apart it looked like a “Fred Flintstone” car, with holes in the floor and no roof. I thought, what did I get us into? But failure was not an option. What came next was another phone call. Imagine this car without one fender, no hood or trunk and roof cut off and holes in the floorboard. The call I received was “Could Brycen see his car for the first time?” I have to send you back a month before when Brycen was in Radys Children’s Hospital on Christmas Eve undergoing major chemotherapy after two surgeries. Brycen had received three packages. The first one was a book about the classic 1966 Mustang. The second one was photos of this ugly white 1966 Mustang coupe. The third was a small package that contained a pink slip. Young Brycen had to ask his father, Rick, what a pink slip was, and his father along with our lovely Make-A-Wish ladies ex-


hether you are starting up a business, beginning a project or setting a goal, if you have the drive and a good support group to back you, failure is not an option. There will always be others who want to hold you back with their opinions, making statements like, “Don’t try it, I’ve tried it and failed!” If you have a strong desire to succeed, you will, so try to live those dreams. I can attest to this, especially if that project deals with individuals from the automotive service industry. In a previous article I wrote “All Aboard the Relation-Ships,” you may recall I mentioned that building good relationships in your business is like taking an oceanic trip in a water-tight vessel. You will never know when those relationships will play a big part in your life or the life of someone else. It all started with my cell phone ringing and on the other end of the line was a friend of mine from a popular San Diego radio station. Miles Himmell is the producer of our beloved “Mike Slater Show” on KFMB 760 a.m. radio station. Miles and Mike are friends of mine and we have established a great relationship due to my involvement with the Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station. Miles called me on behalf of a 15-year-old young man with brain cancer. Brycen Newman is an only child of Nicole and Rick Newman in San Diego. Miles explained that Brycen’s dream was to build a classic Mustang with his father, but due to his illness, it would not happen in the near future. Rick Newman had contacted our local MakeA-Wish office for help with his son’s dream. Make-AWish is a wonderful organization that grants wishes to kids dealing with life-threatening illnesses. Word got to KFMB and in turn Miles Himmell contacted his “car guy,” me. “Do you think you could find a 1966 Mustang for this child with brain cancer?” Of course, was my response, but little did I know how Brycen poses with his just-painted Mustang. hard it was He is joined by Ryan Odgen, owner of Ed going to be. I Hanson’s Muffler Service and Asmar’s Auto thought 1966 Care. 2

count, but he refused to charge me, and they were at my doorstep in three days. • Peter Rogers, from the Mustang Shop, donated hard-to-get original parts. • Jim Alexander, a supplier of Crest Leather, sent off a video of Brycen to Crest Leather Co., which in turn donated all the leather necessary to redo the upholstery. There are so many people who have helped make this possible, too many to mention, so please forgive an old man if I have not mentioned you personally. We still needed a painter, so I went to my friend, Bob Lubke, SoCal Paint Works, Santee, Calif., with my tin cup in hand and asked if he might paint the car at a discounted rate. Bob said he’d be glad to help because of our strong relationship. Bob turned to Meza Paints and they donated all the paint. I know what Bob Lubke had just done was a miracle to me, but this vehicle was the world’s best medicine for the ill 16-year-old. Brycen’s cancer has come back, but he is a fighter, and he has this 1966 Mustang that he has to ride in to an All Star baseball game with one of our Padres players on July 12. We have a goal to finish this vehicle before that date and there are still lots of small stuff to do. I have some tools to dust off as I come out of retirement to build one last exhaust system. I can hardly wait to see his face when he rides off to the game with cutouts wide open, and a smile on his face that he won’t be able to wipe off for weeks. I would very much like to thank my friends, new and old, for the gift they have given me. The opportunity to lead the greatest group of people – my old friends Miles Himmell and Mike Slater who gave me the call; and my new friends at Make-A-Wish, Lisa Paul Hill, Suzanne Husby and Dana Vandership, who have been wonderful allowing me to lead their wish granting for Brycen. Will we have it ready? Yes, we will have it ready because failure is not an option! P.S. Never forget to hug your loved ones. They are only on loan. ■

Brycen Newman and Ed Hanson at radio station KFMB 760 a.m., San Diego

plained that he was the proud owner of that car in the photos, but it was going to be beautiful when finished. Now that the stage has been set, I am picking up Brycen and Rick, with Nicole following in their car. He is about to see his car in person for the first time looking like a mess. How can I present it to him like a prize jewel? I told him, “Brycen do you know what we call “rust” in our business?” “No Mr. Hanson, what do you call rust in the automotive business?” I responded, “We call it ‘cancer,’ and I want you to know that you saved this car’s life, because you chose it. It would have died in that man’s driveway if you had not picked a 1966 Mustang. We now have your car at some of the best ‘auto oncologists’ I know in San Diego County.” I had planted the seed of optimism in that child’s mind. When he saw his car, he saw the jewel it was to become with much help. I went deaf to the naysayers with their opinions that I had taken on too much, but we were a team now and we were headed toward the finish line. Failure is not an option! Our team really has grown. So many shop owners heard what we were doing and they wanted to play a part in helping Brycen. • The very next call I received was from James Wright, from Kali’s Finest Automotive. James is one of the best in the sound system arena in San Diego. He donated a beautiful stereo system and volunteered to install it. • Because of James’ relationship building, we met Matt Couper, Autoworks International, who donated many parts, but most of all, his expertise as a project manager. • Miles Warsh, Acme Garage, donated an engine. • Greg Boehm, Valley Transmission, donated a C4 transmission. • Julie Olmsted, Hilltop Classics, donated several parts. • Neal Wichard donated the differential. • Steve Zimmerman, San Diego Gear and Axle, spent many hours rebuilding that driveline part. • NAPA Auto Parts donated many parts to the project. NAPA came on board due to the relationship they have with Ryan and Jennifer Ogden. • I turned to my friend Barry Adler at Quicktime Performance for a set of electronic cutouts at a dis-

Editor’s note: Ed Hanson is a veteran mufflerman who “says” he’s retired. He can be reached at [email protected]

Jereme Mena, a metal fabricator, volunteered work on the rusted 1966 Mustang.


Making It Your Own By Ed Hanson


some obvious signs that we must take notice of. Is the vehicle totally original? You may notice aftermarket rims, a different sound system or new suspension. These are indicators that you have a client open to suggestions that will appeal to them. I said, “appeal to them,” not us, so take a good look at how they are dressed. Does the vehicle have a sporty look? What kind of music did you hear when you drove it on the lift or pit? Some of these things can be a good guide to help you help them make a decision on the type of exhaust tone they will enjoy. If you just let your client direct you in the decision making, they will more than likely be disappointed. Some of my first-time customers come in with the idea that the stainless steel tip makes the vehicle sound better and cause it to have more power and mileage. They normally start the conversation off with, “do you carry 4inch stainless steel tips?” I always answer that with, “Yes we do. Do you just want it for looks, or did you want better sound and performance?” You may have just gone from a $75 job to a job more than $300, which includes a tip of their choice. You are the expert and that is why they are in your shop. Communication is an amazing tool to guide your customer in the direction that will build trust with your new client and more business for your shop. Don’t you think most drivers want to “make it their own” when they buy a new vehicle, or do you really think they just want to blend in with all those other cars just like theirs? I see it in the faces of my customers when they drive away with their new exhaust. One of my favorite things I tell my new client is, “When you leave my shop, you are going to have to slap that smile off your face!” They now own it and love it and are your best advertisers!■

aybe I will be speaking from my own viewpoint, but whenever I buy a new vehicle I just have to change it up a bit. My very first vehicle was a 1957 Ford half-ton truck with a 6-cylinder, worn-out engine. It sure beat walking, but not by much. I could get it up to about 45 mph and it would smoke and shake. It was the summer of 1967 and I needed a vehicle to get to college and work, so my father found this old telephone company truck with more than 200,000 miles on it and presented it to me. I was now a proud owner of a vehicle, and I loved it no matter how bad it looked or drove. Change it up, you ask? Sure, I did that very same summer. We transplanted a Corvette 327 engine with 375 horsepower into my prized possession. That was step one. Step two was the body work and a decent paint job. Of course step three was a set of deep-dish chrome rims with baby-moon caps, and I was ready to cruise our local “Whittier Blvd.” Now, that could be just my way of thinking, but I don’t believe I am alone. Our customers have those feelings lying in wait, just to be brought out by someone who knows his business. Most of my customers come in for some sort of an upgrade, but they are not the experts, only the ones with some kind of a plan. There are usually

Ed Hanson is the former owner of Ed Hanson’s Muffler Service in Spring Valley, Calif. You can reach him at [email protected] 4

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Publication 0311

Generating New Business in Today’s Economy By Ed Hanson

swered is: “How do we attract the everyday person?” This answer is a little bit more convoluted. I advise that you get involved in at least one or two local automotive service councils or one of your automotive advisory councils. Once you are active, you can network with other automotive businesses and refer clients to another shop with integrity. You may specialize in one area (like exhaust) that they do not want to do in their shop. I have owned a specialty shop for many, many years. If you specialize in one particular field, hold an occasional technical session with demonstrations if possible. Invite some of the shops in your area along with members of your automotive organizations. All mechanics are drawn to a tech session if food is promised. Technicians are like Kirby vacuum cleaners when food is put in front of them. Car clubs! So many car clubs to choose from. You don’t have to join them, but every car club has monthly meetings and during most of those meetings they have guest speakers. Contact the person in charge of getting speakers and offer your time. Afraid of speaking in front of groups? Just remember that you know more about your business than they do. You don’t have be concerned about their type of classic car. You know that they have an everyday vehicle that they drive and every one of those people have family and friends outside their club. I believe it is time for a Sunday drive, don’t you? ■


o many times in the past I have said, “So many cars, so little time!” Now the question is: How do we attract some of those vehicles? Hoping and praying for new business is not the key. ACTION is the key to drawing in the new client. Let us throw out a few ideas for our industry. The first thing I recommend is to have either a recorder with you or someone else in your vehicle as you are driving down the highway. Notice any business advertisements on the side of the trucks that pass you by? Get the name and number of the business. Someone has to be in charge of subletting his or her service work on those vehicles. Anyone with a fleet of vehicles, whether it is just two or 200, the guy or gal

in charge of keeping them on the road does not want any one of them to break down. Downtime of any vehicle, in any fleet, means loss of income. I always tune in for exhaust leaks or drooping tailpipes. It is a health hazard to have an employee driving around with an exhaust leak, which causes carbon monoxide to enter the cab. The next step is to bring it to the attention of the right person in charge of delegating repairs. Make an appointment to speak with them and promise to be short (I recommend only 15 minutes). Show them that you respect their time and don’t go over the allotted time, unless they want more information on your services. Follow up within a week, via a phone call, just to remind them. If they have a fleet of similar vehicles, get to know some of the possible problems that might occur on those makes and models. Every one of those vehicles has to pass some sort of state inspection. They all need to maintain the best fuel economy. Look first at this company’s profitability, not yours. They want to hear how you can make them more profitable by keeping their fleet on the road. The next question you might want an-

Ed Hanson is the former owner of Ed Hanson’s Muffler Service in Spring Valley, Calif., you can reach him at: [email protected]


, g n i l l a F s I The Sky ! g n i l l a F s The Sky I By Ed Hanson

to work on is its Class 8 Semi (Figure 1). This vehicle sports not just one but two 200-horsepower electric motors. One of the most noticeable things is the torque. You step on the throttle and the truck takes off like your sedan, no delay, and none of that motor noise of an 18wheel tractor. This Class 8 tractor puts out zero emissions as it is, but in its current design has a range of only 80-100 miles with an 80,000pound payload at 65 mph before it needs a


hen we hear more and more about electric vehicles, we start hearing that little voice of “chicken little” running around predicting the end of the world as we know it. I see it as another opportunity. Let me explain away my insanity. I was contacted by a local company called Transpower. Transpower builds electric vehicles, ranging from yard tractors to school buses to Class 8 semi trucks. The vehicle I was called Figure 1


recharge. This can work for local pickup and delivery but not well for over the road or longer distance. Now, in the previous paragraph, I not only did not convince you I am not crazy, but provided you with proof of my insanity. “Where does an exhaust shop come into play” you may want to ask. Well, Transpower’s plan is to install a “gen-system” that will help extend the batteries’ use before recharge. This generator will run off of natural gas or, as we know it best by, a CNG fuel. For now they are using Ford’s 3.7-liter 300-plus horsepower engine to do the job. This generator/engine is placed directly behind the cab, setting transverse, and within a specially built box for safety reasons. This is where we at our muffler shop come into play. None of the original exhaust can be used in the confines of this box. It is kind of like putting 10 pounds of manure in a 2-pound sack. You guys who do this every day know exactly what I am talking about. OK, this is where a small part of my insanity kicks in. I am excited to build this system for them, knowing I will play a very small part in their success. My Superman cape is coming out of retirement and I get to put on my thinking cap. Being that this is a prototype setup, I have a little more free range. We still want to install a couple light-off catalysts, but we can use some aftermarket instead of the factory originals (Figure 2). The aftermarket allows us more

room, whereas the original will not fit in the area we have to work with, within the box. Clearance and heat issues are solved with the aftermarket catalyst design I chose. I feel like a chocoholic who has been accidentally locked up in a Hershey’s factory overnight! Yes, I love these kinds of challenges. Transpower allowed us the use of their 3.7liter engine to build our very first Y pipe, without catalyst, just for their testing purposes. The actual Y pipe with catalyst will be built off a fixture we built at the shop. There were several trips back and forth from our shop to their shop for adjustments and there may be more before the final roadworthy system will be placed into a working environment. Do I think the electric vehicle will replace our fossil fueled vehicles? Well, I don’t think any of us will be around to see the day that our hot rods or gas-powered daily drivers leave the highways. I have been around in this exhaust industry for well over 55 years and have heard that our business would be hurt with “new” technology. So, I say to our little feathered friend, “chicken little,” go back into the barnyard, our automotive world as we see it will not end for a long, long time. ■ Ed Hanson is a veteran exhaust-system technician and former shop owner. You can contact him at [email protected]

Figure 2


Direct or Universal By Ed Hanson

Figure 2

When do you install a universal catalyst and when do you install a direct-fit? For most general-repair shops without fabrication skills, I would always recommend a direct-fit approved catalyst, especially when installing a pre-catalyst (or recommend at least two exhaust shops to send them to, like ours). There are many general-repair shops that have great welding skills and can cut the existing catalyst out of the vehicle and weld the universal catalyst in its place. I must quote Airtek/Catco when installing a universal catalytic converter. This is a very important note to keep on hand in order to instruct all your technicians: “When using a universal converter in place of a direct-fit, make sure the post converter O2 sensor is in the same position on the replacement as it was on the original converter. Measure the distance from the outlet end of the converter substrate, on the original unit, to the O2 sensor port location (that is the post or rear O2 sensor). When installing the new universal converter, make sure to install it so that the O2 sensor will be at the same distance in relation to the outlet end of the new substrate as the original unit was.” There’s one more step, widely known but crucial: Check for any exhaust leaks surrounding your newly installed catalyst. Any leaks can cause emission failure and it will not be the catalyst manufacturer’s fault! I had a comeback to replace a catalytic converter that we had just replaced, due to a NOX problem. The NOX level was higher than allowed and I first thought it was a light load in the catalyst. Why? Because it could not be our fault, could it? Well I had to be humbled a bit, because we rushed the job for the customer, when he asked us to hurry, and skipped our normal inspection process after the


o build or not to build, that is the question. Here in California, we have stricter emission laws (as if no one knows!). The California Air Resource Board (CARB) has really simplified its website to help our shops find California-approved aftermarket devices, like headers, intake systems, carburetors and catalytic converters. As an exhaust-only shop, we are concerned with upholding the laws relating to our business, so using a California-approved catalyst is high up on our list. It was within the past five years that CARB established an easy-to-use website. Search is easier when you know the make, model year and engine size and for OBD-I and for OBD-II. The choices are laid out by the engine-family number for our OBD-II vehicles. Just as a side note for California shops, if you have an engine family number that does not match, check to see if it is a federal vehicle. You will know this because your emission sticker will state it at the bottom. If you have a federal vehicle, you may choose any approved California catalyst that applies to that year, make, model and engine size. Document it! I will repeat myself, document on your invoice that this vehicle is a federal model. You can take it one step further by taking a photo of the emission sticker and the VIN (another way to find out if it is a federal model is by researching the VIN). Proper documentation will always protect you and your business. Now that we have cleared up some of the nasty, necessary paperwork, we can go about the install.

Figure 1


pipe with two catalysts and proper oxygen-sensor locations. The universal part for this application (Figure 4) is Walker’s part number 82529. It can be used in many applications ranging from Audi to Pontiac. Shops have to be aware, before they quote a universal catalyst, that there are some universals that are on the California Aftermarket Database, and are approved for their application, that are too large to fit in the available space. They are approved, because they have enough load to reduce emissions on that engine and many more manufacturers with the need for that particular reduction. Air Resource Board does not check fitment. That is the job of the shop before they quote a universal. There are those rare occasions that you either go to the dealership for your direct-fit catalyst or install universals in place of the original manifold-approved catalyst, such as the ’04 Toyota Highlander 2.4 engine. There are two catalysts on the manifold and they are placed side by side (tight quarters indeed). Check out the price the dealer charges you before you start a universal application. Sometimes we can be surprised by the price they charge for their direct vs. the grief and cost of the universal application. Save yourself some time and save your customer some money. Sometimes we take on the grief when we need some relief, and there are those times that the choices available direct our choices. I have seen Kevin and Joe at my shop do some of the most difficult installs, because the only available catalyst for our customers was a universal. Even the dealer parts were discontinued, so to keep our customer’s vehicle on the road, our team pulled off some of the most incredible installs I’ve seen. How about sending in some of your trick installs and some of the nightmare installs you have encountered. We could use your outside tips and a few chuckles from photos of those nightmares.■

Figure 3

job was considered complete. A small leak in front of our repair was noted by the shop doing the inspection, and they were kind enough to call us on it before running the official test. They gave us a printout of the non-official test, with the leak present, and sent it back to us for completion of our job. I inspected the job, like I should have in the first place, noting the leak, and did the repairs, thinking all along, “How could this small leak affect the test so much?” I gagged on the crow I had to eat when I received the smog printout results. A passing test with a large reduction of NOX! I consider crow a delicacy now, because it has taught me to be humble. Now, when do I want to install a direct-fit catalyst? Most pre-catalysts we install are manifold/catalyst combinations, where the catalyst is built into the exhaust manifold. Sure, there are some universals that are approved, but in most cases the approved universal is too large to safely install in place of the original catalyst or the wrong shape (oval instead of round or round instead of oval). Take into account your time to build a fixture and fitting the universal in place, versus a direct-fit replacement. Providing a fast and efficient installation on your client’s vehicle is usually our best choice. Here is a common example that Walker Emissions Control (Tenneco) has helped us illustrate with photos of its catalytic converters. The Walker direct-fit part number 82681 (Figure 1) is the downstream catalytic converter for a 2001 Honda Civic EX with a 1.7-liter engine. The Walker universal part for this application is an 82614 (Figure 2). Most shops with welding experience can cut and fit the universal into place, but they must be aware that the front pipe in this application may be double walled and the inner wall must be secure so it does not rattle loose and cause damage to the new universal. The universal fits additional applications, while the direct-fit only fits a Honda. Here’s another example for a 1996 Ford Taurus with the 3.0-liter engine. I would recommend most shops without daily experience in exhaust fabrication to purchase the direct-fit from their supplier for which the Walker part number is 82593 (Figure 3). This application fits and is a Y

Ed Hanson is the former owner of Ed Hanson’s Muffler Service in Spring Valley, Calif. You can reach him at [email protected]



Figure 4


By Ed Hanson

Ground Zero G

round-up restorations start off with a bang, then life gets in the way, as anyone who has started one of these projects knows. Even if it is what you do for a living, you will find that your project gets put on the back burner, in order to pay the bills – and my friend Benny Flores is no different. In our local hotrod community, Benny is a legend for his fabricating and painting skills, including airbrush Picassos. The rest of the country may recognize Benny from the Discovery Channel program “Lord of the Car Hoards.” Just like the Benny in real life, he does lots of the background work on those restored beauties on the program and does not boast about his work, so I feel it is my job to let you know about him and the project he started on some 10 years ago. Before I tell you about Benny’s project I feel it is necessary to tell you how I met this good man. I was doing some work for a local business called The HotRod Shoppe and Benny was its painter. Jeremy Levy (the owner’s son) introduced me to Benny. I walked into Benny’s office and the first thing I noticed were these beautiful oil paintings of someone’s loved ones. There were wedding scenes, marriage scenes and children scenes. I asked him, who did these paintings? Benny told me he did, and they were just some of his airbrush works of his family, using automotive paint! I was just blown away at his craftsmanship, but most of all how humble he was. This was more than 20 years ago and the man still amazes me. I have one of his pieces of artwork on the back of my vehicle (Figure 1), which I am very proud of, and he was nice enough to pose by the painting on my car. I had hoped to be able to do a project for him per-


sonally, and when 1 Benny started his 1965 Mustang project more than 10 years ago, I told him I would love to be part of it with an exhaust system from Ed Hanson’s Muffler Service. What started out as a 1965 hardtop Mustang was being turned into a convertible (Figure 2). Benny has decided to not only change it to a convertible, but to “airbag” it as well. That is where part of the title “Ground Zero” came from. Not only is it a ground-up restoration, but it will almost lay on the ground when the suspension is dropped using his airbag-suspension system (Figure 3). The motor was kept simple by keeping it a small block (Figure 4), slightly built, for drivability reasons. Benny does not spare the details. He uses soundproofing on the floors (knowing Ed was going to do something sporty in the exhaust), and reinforces the subframe 3 for safety. Benny gave me free reign with his exhaust design, and of course I would have no self-respect if I did not find a way to incorporate an X pipe in the system (Figure 5). Now I also want to install a set of “Quicktime



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Performance” electronic cutouts (Figure 6), so I contacted Barry Adler at Quicktime, and he suggested a set of his newly designed mufflers (Figure 7) with the cutouts being part of the mufflers. What an ingenious idea for this project since I have limited amount of ground clearance now that it is “bagged” (figures 8 & 9). Most of you know that I recently retired. I had waited 10 years to get this done for Benny and I am a man of my word, so Kevin Peterson (Figure 10), one of my two technicians still at the shop, took it on in my place. What a nice job Kevin did, and the look on

Benny’s face when he opened up those cut-outs was worth the wait. That part of the business I will truly miss, making “pipe dreams come true.” By the way, Benny will be finished with this ride in the very near future and tells me he will put it up for sale. I wonder what his next project will be and maybe, just maybe, he can convince me to come out of retirement for one more “ground zero” project! ■ Ed Hanson is a veteran exhaust-system technician and former shop owner. You can contact him at [email protected]





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On the Lighter Side By Ed Hanson


here are those days when we all need a good laugh, and sometimes our customers deliver the best lines, even if they don’t know it. I am sure you have quite a few stories to tell that can cause us to bust a gut. Here are a few of my own stories. A lady comes into our shop, extremely upset, almost in tears, blubbering something about an accident. This poor woman says that she has run over a cat with her MGB and could we remove the hair off her exhaust, so she doesn’t have to be reminded of what she has done. I reluctantly put the vehicle on my rack, knowing what a nasty job I have on my hands. Once I raise the car up, to my delight I see that she has a large hole in her rear muffler and the glass wool (from her glasspack muffler) is hanging out. I can see where she might think it could be the hair from a cat. Well, I go into the office with my news. I say to the woman: “Ma’am, the cat did not suffer one bit, but when you hit it, it put a very large hole in your muffler.” Problem solved and muffler sold! Here’s one of the good ones that most of us hear when a client comes in for a catalytic converter. “Sir, my Cadillac converter needs replacement.” Or how about: “I need a new cataract converter.” And then there is the prizewinner: “Could you check my capitalistic perverter?” That one holds the record at my shop and I think it is more “right on” than any of the others! Oh my, the things we are asked to do that make you just want to hang a note on the person saying: “Here’s your sign!” One of the things we have been asked to do is weld the exhaust flange to the exhaust manifold. Now if they just let us fix the problem in the first place, they would not be so frustrated that they would go to such extreme measures. How about the one we had in the shop that started to solve his own problem but could not complete the job. He actually started to weld the exhaust manifold to the head but just could not get the bottom weld and asked us to finish it up for them. I just wanted to ask him if he ever heard of gaskets. Have you ever had that customer call you up and ask for an estimate by describing the sound the vehicle makes? Well, you can have a lot of fun with this one! “It kind of makes a brrrrr-whap. In your profes-

sional opinion, what do you think it is? No, no, no, sometimes it goes rickety, rickety rack. What would it cost to repair?” Well, in that case I say in response, “Sir, I believe it could be your fallopian tube hitting your muffler bearing, and that could be very costly. How about bringing it in so we can give you that free estimate. In fact today we are running a special on our free estimates. They are only one dollar!” Sometimes customers just won’t take no for an answer. Here’s the one about the young man who comes into the shop and asks me if I did welding, and I say yes. He says he would like me to do a simple weld about one inch long, so I put the vehicle on the rack and immediately upon going under it I could smell the raw gas. I explain to the young man that he would have to repair his fuel leak before I could do the exhaust weld. This fellow tells me it was his gas tank that he wanted to weld and if I was any kind of welder I could repair it with a weld. I thought about it for a moment and said: “OK, I will weld it, if you hold it!” No, I did not get that job. Of course, I save the best for last. It is kind of like dessert and just as sweet. Into the shop arrives an old Ford truck, a late-’60s model, driven by a “good ole boy” with a wonderful southern drawl. This gentleman must be in his late 70s and as nice as can be. He says he has an exhaust leak and could I find it and give him an estimate. I get under this gentleman’s farm truck and locate the problem pretty quick. He has a cracked exhaust manifold, which is common on that 390- cubic-inch engine. I bring him under his truck to show him where the problem is. I am pointing out the crack in the manifold, but this old gent seems distracted. The next thing out of his mouth just baits me to use my humor. “Say boy, whar do you think all this oeel is coming from?” Well, that truck is covered in dirt, oil and grease from all those years of use on the farm, so I do my best. I reach up with my index finger and swipe it across one section, rub the sample between my index finger and thumb, bring it up to my nose and smell it, then I touch my tongue with my index finger and turn to my customer and say “Arabia.” ■ Ed Hanson is the former owner of Ed Hanson’s Muffler Service in Spring Valley, Calif., you can reach him at: [email protected]


Carrying on the tradition, the Meltons – father Lowell and son Doug – work together on the bending machine.

Advanced Exhaust’s Intergenerational Success By ElizaBeth Cain

Doug Melton completes a custom built direct-fit catalytic converter.

Advance Exhaust, owned by Doug and Lowell Melton, was founded in 2000 and services commercial and retail customers.


hen I met my husband and became a Melton, I had no idea I was going to become a member of a “car family” and that one day I would work alongside him at Advanced Exhaust, our automotive exhaust shop in Cedar Hill, Texas. He cares for our vehicles like they are our children. I say I married into a car family because Doug is a second-generation mufflerman. Lowell, the patriarch of the Melton clan, has taught Doug all he knows. We call him Pop. When he’s in the shop customers get the treat of hearing some “ol’ car stories,” like when he was on the racing team for Knutstrom Chevrolet or selling benders for (Gerry) Huth. But the real gems are when he tells you about his first automotive shop in Dallas City, Ill. • How he met his beloved wife and began his family. • How the bank turned him down for a loan to buy the garage he wanted to open. • How he was so disappointed because he knew he was not destined to work on his family farm but rather to work with cars. • And how, as he walked down the bank steps with regret, a family friend met him by chance and wrote him a personal check for the full loan amount. Doug is the youngest of four children and a constant force at Pop’s side. He recalls sitting in school and daydreaming about what he was going to do at the shop. He would spend hours there making go-carts and other motorized vehicles. He interacted with customers and employees, loving every minute. It is no surprise the two are still especially close. 13

ized equipment, which reduces overhead. We attract customers who value specialization and will pay a little more for expert work. Customers are drawn to cost savings by not having to replace an entire system due to one component. To maintain this expert status, we now it’s imperative to stay current with the industry. Cars have become more complex and technicians work in an increasingly technologydriven environment. Staying abreast of the laws and standards of the industry is absolutely necThe shop performs standard exhaust work and high-performance custom applications. essary. Emissions and exhaust systems are comPop’s guidance laid the foundation for Advanced plex and have numerous state and federal regulaExhaust to prosper yet remain a family business. tions. Competition is fierce in the Dallas/Fort Worth area so every tip he can give us is priceless. Pop gave Doug Don’t Put All your Eggs in One Basket advice on how to stop working for others and start At Advanced Exhaust we have four distinct cushis own exhaust business. In 2000, Advanced Exhaust tomer bases. We focus our marketing on the general was born. public, general automotive shops, fleet work and enAdvanced Exhaust provides all aspects of exhaust thusiasts repair and replacement. Doug is an emissions-system seeking cusexpert and has all the equipment in house to modify tom work. or restore any system to its original specifications if Each one is desired. He does custom work and is a favorite of local car clubs. He provides complete diagnostics and marketed differently check-engine lights. He does everything from stanwith techdard exhaust work to high-performance custom apniques that plications. Custom work includes complete work for fabrication, cat-back dual systems, domestic and foreign, stainless to aluminized – all with warranties and that target group. First guarantees on parts and labor. we marketSo what makes us different from other shops? I ed only to would say it is the advice given to us by Pop. ElizaBeth Cain painting the HUTH logo back the general onto the bender at Advanced Exhaust.

Be the Best in Your Area First, Pop told Doug to specialize rather than open a general automotive shop. There are pros and cons to both. Specializing has provided us with some distinct advantages. There is a demand for quality exhaust technicians with the stringent emissions regulations. Doug has honed his skills over the years, becoming an exhaust expert. He can make an accurate diagnosis and explain it in layman’s terms. By focusing on exhaust work, we have less inventory and special-

Muffler materials adorn the waiting room at Doug and Lowell Melton’s Advanced Exhaust shop.


Advanced Exhaust. Who knew so many of the general public know what a good weld looks like!

Honesty Breeds Success The automotive repair industry has a bad reputation for up-charging customers. As a small business, we care what our customers think. We treat our customers how we would want to be treated. That over-charge or up-sell is not worth the bad feeling the customer gets. Pricing needs to be competitive but fair. One example that baffled me when I joined the team was Doug often refers a vehicle out to have other work done before Go-carts and various small vehicles, depicted here in a picture from 1975, replacing at catalytic converter. This made the Melton shop a lively place. causes the customer to drive away public, and business was often cyclical. If we had a without a sale. I thought he was nuts! His answer is slow month, we felt it. In response, Doug and Pop de- always, “They will return because I was honest and veloped referral relationships with local auto-repair people respect that.” Doug makes this choice so the shops, generating our second customer base. We do customer is not in a position to burn up the cat if they detailed and specialized work, replacing only redon’t get the needed repairs done. This avoids more quired components, for other shops at a contracted expensive and repeat repairs. And I have to admit, rate so they can refer to us, keep their customer and more than 75% of customers return. still provide expert work. The third customer base, As Advanced Exhaust begins its next 15 years, we fleet work, emerged from the second as we developed have new challenges and new opportunities to grow relationships with larger organizations, including and succeed. Today we are grooming our third generused-car lots and local governments. Fleets provide a ation of a Melton Muffler Man and are giving him the steady flow of work, allowing us to predict cash flow. foundation Pop has helped us build. We are commitLastly, word of mouth is essential in marketing to the ted to honoring and living the four simple tips listed car enthusiast. Trust is required. Having a clean shop above. We will continue to specialize and remain exis required. Excellence is required. This is Doug’s faperts in our field. We will remain on the cutting edge vorite group, from which he gets to do most of his of equipment, skills and trends. We will continue to custom work. look for new and viable customer bases. We will love what we are doing and show it in how we treat our customers. Most important, we will continue to be Love What You Do and Be Proud of It honest and treat our customers like family. Hopefully We have all heard this, but it really IS true. Doug the Melton men will continue to share their stories loves doing automotive exhaust work. It allows him and more gems will be found for our future mufflerto solve problems on the go and overcome numerous men. ■ different challenges. He is an artist. His welds are clean and sharp, his cuts even. As an artist myself on paper, I know what it means to get lost in Advanced Muffler your creation and see it come to life. Pop taught 625 Jealouse Way #122 him to be proud of his talent and skill, and to let Cedar Hill, TX 75104 his pride show. Customers find themselves 972-291-8440 drawn to watch him, so we are now working on a safe way to provide viewing access. In addition, one of the most obvious and simple ways we show our pride is in how the shop looks. Keep a clean shop! Display your work through social media. Many of our customers tell me that looking at pictures online of Doug’s work made them pick Wheel Horse red lawn tractors were part of Lowell Melton’s first automotive shop in the 1960s and ‘70s in Dallas City, Ill., as shown in this photo from 1975. The shop expanded and he began selling used cars and he filled his new showroom with Wheel Horse red lawn tractors. The Meltons still keep a Wheel Horse and a key ring from that period that says, “Need a Car, See LR.”


Smith Muffler Complete Automotive Care

Legacy and Change on the Cusp of the 4th Generation By Ed Peaco Undercar Digest Associate Editor

Smith Muffler occupies two large buildings in downtown Covington, Ky. The business is near the Roebling Suspension Bridge and several other bridges, providing easy access for customers over the river in Cincinnati.


mith Muffler, a nine-decade family business in Covington, Ky., stands in the light of the secondgeneration owner, Lew H. Smith, whose strong will remains palpable two years after his death. He grew up in the distress of the Depression and the devastation of the 1937 Cincinnati Flood leading to destitution and hunger. His son, Mike Smith, and Mike’s wife Sandy now provide complete automotive care for customers in Covington and across the river in Cincinnati. The sprawling operation has a staff of 15 technicians working in two buildings containing 35 service bays. After the exhaust boom of the 1980s and early ’90s, Lew and his sons Mike and Alan navigated toward new and profitable services. These days, ownService Manager Todd Adams pulls a pre- ers Mike and bent tailpipe from the upstairs of the second building. The shop uses pre-bents but Sandy are nurturing the still uses tube benders for custom per-

fourth generation in the ways of the business. The couple together discussed Smith Muffler’s history, operations and future.


Joseph Scribe Smith, Lew’s father, started a junkcar operation in 1924 in Covington, selling parts off the vehicles and scrapping what was left. The family lived in Dayton, Ky., northeast of Covington on the Ohio River. When the 1937 flood hit, Lew, then 6 years old, watched the family home disappear underwater. In the aftermath, Lew learned what it was to go without food. “He used to tell me, ‘You don’t understand what it is to be hungry. I stood in soup lines to get something to eat.’” Mike said. Sandy heard the stories, too: “You gotta work if you want to eat.” As a young man, Lew served as the most productive worker in his father’s business. Lew served in the U.S. Army for two years during the Korean War. In his absence, the business reached the brink of failure. When he returned, he built it back up.

Off to the races In the early ’50s, the shop added some repair services. Mike heard a hopeful story from that time: Lew replaced a cylinder head for a customer, a $200 repair, which was a lot of money in those days. “And he said, ‘I’ve been off to the races ever since.’” The shop moved to its current location in 1966, with eight bays and two employees, focusing on mufflers and brakes. The business grew in the 1980s with Lew’s sons coming on board.

formance exhaust replacements.


John Racke replaces an evaporator core for the A/C on a Ford F-750 truck from a fleet customer as Service Manager Todd Adams observes. John had to remove the dash to reach the heater hose and then install the heater core.

The shop team poses outside the shop. They include (from left) Sandy Smith, Mike Smith, Darren Litteral, Steve Huddleston, Terry Flach, Rick Harsley, Tim Frederick, Casey Warfield, Allen Genoe, Bill Schill, Mitch Gibson, Jeff Chappie, John Racke, Rick Buechel, Jack Fagin, Ted Kreinest, Joe Vaughn, Ryan Smith, Todd Adams and Sean Cole.

“The exhaust business was still huge back then, just booming,” Mike said. “The Ford Tempo pipe, 88091 was the (AP) part number. We used to buy 400 at a time. … I could remember as a kid we were open on Saturdays. We would come in and line up the cars, get all the parts. It was a domino effect. In those days, we could turn 100 cars a day. It was just quick work. It’s not like that anymore.” During the exhaust boom, Lew acquired distressed exhaust inventories, often by the semi load, including 17 semis that Mike and a friend unloaded as a summer job after high school. Moreover, Lew acquired the entire Sears & Roebuck Co.’s stockpiles as the retail giant quit the exhaust business, Mike said. The Smiths added a second building at the same location in 1996. “We built that with the thought of doing more heavy work, like engines, because we could see the exhaust business was certain to decline,” Mike said. “We hired a couple of really good guys. Bought all the proper equipment. Started advertising. Letting people know we do what we do. And it worked out,” he said. Two years ago, they rebranded the business to emphasize complete auto care, keeping “Muffler” in the name due to local recognition.

pleased to show customers what things cost. “It’s too easy to be honest,” he said. “That’s why I laugh when people ask me, ‘Why is it so much?’ Well, come here; I’ll show you what I have in it,” he said. “I gotta pay my electric bill. I gotta make money.” Currently, the second building is filled with engine diagnostics, engine repairs and related services. Some technicians are moving to the second building where they’re needed to perform heavy repairs. The shop handles most vehicles (roughly 60% cars, 40% trucks) except for exotics, up to F-450 trucks and an occasional F-750. About one-fifth of the business is from fleet contracts, and they would like to do more, Mike said. Fleet contracts include dealers, plumbing and electric companies, and a local TV station’s livenews rigs. Most customers come from a radius of 30 miles, with as much as 60% of the company’s business from Cincinnati, made convenient by its location near the Roebling Suspension Bridge and several other bridges. One loyal customer who moved 150 miles south returned to Covington to have his “exotic pickup” worked on at Smith Muffler – not trusting anyone else, as Mike recalled. As part of the trip, the customer also stopped at a supplier in his area to pick up a special part Mike needed.

Customers and services

Blood and expectations

Fair pricing and honesty are bywords of Smith Muffler. Mike is

Service writers (from left): Rick Buechell, Mitch Gibson and Darren Litteral

When Lew died in March 2014,

Lew extracted a set of chandeliers from a building he sold and installed them on the shop ceiling. To Mike’s knowledge, it’s the only auto repair shop with that type of lighting.


Waiting room chairs are stadium seats that have come from Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium. Sandy is planning on remodeling the waiting area this year.

running parts, she said. • He put up a sign expressing his views on lending: “The bank is never your friend. Lew Smith is not a bank. No loans.” • During his later days, he set up a chair on the shop floor, using a megaphone – and later a cell phone – to bark orders. • Per Lew’s wishes, his ashes are kept in a metal box attached to the ceiling, overlooking the shop with his own words painted on the box: “Ask not what the Company can do for you but what you can do for the Company. Work, work and more work.” That said, Sandy grasped the softer side of Lew. Despite what he wrote about loans, he lent money to Joe Vaughn cleans a brake rotor while replacing pads and rotors on a 2010 BMW. everyone who asked. “He had this rough exterior, but really the brothers carried on, but by the end of that year, he had a heart of gold.” ■ Alan chose to sell his interest, leaving Mike as the sole owner. Smith Muffler Complete Automotive It was a sobering yet exhilarating moment. “I was a Care nervous wreck. I have to do this on my own?” he re435 Main St. called, then quickly added: “Greatest thing I ever did Covington, KY 41011 in my life.” 859-431-5728 Mike and Sandy’s three sons want a stake in the www.smithmuffler.com business. Lewie, 18, plans to pursue a degree in business management. Tommy, 16, known for his ability to fix anything, possesses strong mechanical intelligence, his mother said; he’s aiming for a technical education. Twelve-year-old Charlie, a seventh grader, has plenty of time to determine his role in the business. Mike wants to establish a smaller shop in a nearby city, in part to give the boys opportunities to work independently. Lew Smith set high standards for work ethic and shop procedures. One important rule was that “blood” – owner-family members – had to be on the premises at all times. During their absence, Mike and Sandy prefer to have one of their sons on site during business hours. The couple is gradually learning to take some time off and leave their top staff member in charge. “Lew was a hard-nosed person to work for. If he didn’t like you, you knew it,” she said. “Everybody remembers that about him. Mike has a softer side than his dad did – but he’s a lot like his dad.” Lew’s values and practices are alive in the air, on the walls and on the ceiling of the shop, the Smiths said. • Lew recognized Sandy’s work ethic as a partLew Smith was the second generation of ownership at timer earning money for college, scrubbing toilets to Smith Muffler. 18

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Alert: Serviceeering problems

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Alignment Tech/Talk – Eight pages every month of cuttingedge information that keeps your technicians well informed and the alignment rack profitable. Authored by an ASE Master Technician, Alignment Tech/Talk concentrates on full-color procedural coverage with explanations covering questions of what, when and why. Special Alert Bulletins are published each month as well. If your shop has an alignment rack, it should have Alignment Tech/Talk. Available in print or digital format.

Brake Tech/Talk – Eight pages every month of concise and easy to understand information covering both traditional and ABS braking systems. Color diagrams and photographs accompany the procedural instructions provided by a brake industry veteran technician. A well-informed brake technician can make a true bottom line difference in any retail shop. Special Service Bulletins are included in each issue. Available in print or digital format.

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