Images Courtesy of Schmuck Built
When it comes to improving performance, reduced weight and additional power are two attributes which satisfy nearly every performance automotive enthusiast’s appetite. A higher power-to-weight ratio is accessed most easily through the use of lightweight materials and enhanced exhaust flow, achieved by unlocking the restrictive original-equipment exhaust. When you combine both of these upgrades into one product, the results are sure to be beneficial. Such is the case for this one-off Schmuck Built titanium exhaust for a customer’s twin-turbocharged Infiniti G35.
Schmuck Built History
In 2016, Jason Schmuck of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania had a strong desire to build his own exhaust manifold, so he bought an S2000. He made the decision to install a turbocharger, then designed and built his own manifold as he envisioned. After posting some pictures online of his setup, customers were already lining up to pay for his work. He started out fabricating custom parts on the side until it grew enough to become a full-time gig.
He subsequently opened the doors of the Schmuck Built shop and hasn’t looked back since. Although he’s been TIG welding for around six years altogether, he’s been 100-percent self-employed for nearly three years now.
Free Reign Begets Art
According to Schmuck, this customer approached him requesting titanium material construction and more power. In a matter of words, the customer basically said, “I want Ti exhaust. Here is my car. Have fun!”—which is just about all the coercing any fabricator needs to go all-out on a one-off custom exhaust system.
“The previous exhaust [on the car] was pretty restrictive, and prohibiting the car from making the power he wanted it to make,” says Schmuck.
For this build, Schmuck utilized nothing but Vibrant Performance titanium components. These included straight tubing, twin resonators, pie cuts, and V-band assemblies all measuring 3.0-inches in diameter, along with half-inch hangers.
“I’ve always been a huge fan and have a great relationship with the Vibrant [Performance] guys,” says Schmuck. “So I try to support them as much as I possibly can.”
To route the new titanium setup, Schmuck started fresh. The old exhaust was a dual parallel setup with a small-diameter H-pipe. To create a completely new design with better flow, Schmuck opted for a real X-pipe to start. Vibrant’s pie cuts allowed him to construct the titanium tubing in a configuration to prevent the spent gases from turning any harsh corners, which helps to increase flow. The X design not only offers an easier breath for the exhaust, but also changes the overall tone. This new system will bark in a higher pitch than the deep muted tone of a typical H-pipe.
Welding titanium exhaust pieces together requires a specific method of back-purging gas to ensure clean, uncontaminated welds. Back purging will prevent reactive metals like the titanium used in this project from responding to the heat and atmosphere surrounding it. A common reaction from the metal is to oxidize, also known as sugaring. This is bad; it prevents penetration of the weld into the base material and will eventually crack and break, causing the weld to fail.
In order to remedy this issue, the oxygen inside the tubing being welded needs to be flushed out, and the gas that fills the piece cannot react with the metal. For this, the most common approach is to pump Argon gas through the tubing, which eliminates the corrosion and oxidation from the atmosphere. For this solution, Schmuck fashioned his own purge caps on a turning machine, and bolted them onto the tubing. This resulted in clean, perfectly penetrated welds fit to match the quality of Schmuck’s fabrication work.
Rolled Tips From Scratch
As a means of raising the aesthetics of the already attractive custom system, Schmuck wanted to finish it off with flair. So he got creative, using a combination of 3.0- and 4.0-inch-diameter piping. This time he entrusted the turning machine to create a conical-shaped billet die. The die was then pressed into a piece of 3.0-inch tubing to expand one half of the piece, and then seamlessly welded to a larger piece of 4.0-inch-diameter tubing to create a perfect rolled tip.
As if that wasn’t enough, Schmuck took a torch to the newly crafted tips and carefully applied heat from the edge through the halfway point of the rolled tips. This process causes a reaction from the application of heat to the metal, and injects a vibrant splash of colors into the titanium. Similarly, once the twin-turbocharged car is equipped with the finished exhaust system and put through its paces, the entire length of the system will change color because of the heat generated by the engine in anger. It’s a fascinating slice of science that imparts a striking finishing touch on the whole product.
The Final Product
After nearly 40 hours of fabrication, the system was completed. While only a small portion of time was spent on the physical fabrication and planning of the route, the majority of Schmuck’s labor entailed physically fusing the pieces together with his intricate TIG welding practices. He explains that titanium is very time-consuming to weld.
Although there are no official weight loss numbers tallied, Schmuck estimates, the titanium dual system’s weight totals less than 20 pounds. This is a stout improvement over the 60 pounds of stock exhaust normally found on the car, and also the slightly lighter stainless steel aftermarket system that was removed from the car.
In addition to the weight loss, the car was tuned again with the freer-flowing Schmuck exhaust onboard, and the new system improved output dramatically.
“It netted a 30-horsepower gain up top, but the big part is, it picked up over 100 lb-ft of mid-range torque,” said Schmuck.
These are great numbers procured from routing the exhaust to be less restrictive. An additional bonus is that it is now constructed from the much-lighter titanium material. And the final bonus is that Schmuck’s customer has a beautiful one-off handmade exhaust system specifically crafted for their personal car, and that’s the best bonus of all.