It was about six months ago that I received a call from a longtime friend of mine, Mitchell Andrew Needham Quiñones (friends call him Andy), who has been in the exhaust business for most of his adult life. The very first time I met him, Andy was working at American Muffler, and he would drop by my shop every now and then to check-in and see if I had any openings. Believe me, if I had an opening at any of those times, I would have snagged him up for sure.

Andy had all the qualifications I looked for in an employee. He was always clean cut, he would call me and tell me he was coming to visit; and he would show up on time, along with his upbeat personality. Knowing the exhaust business didn’t exactly hurt his qualifications either. On several of his visits, I asked him why he did not just go out on his own, and two years ago -- he made the leap of faith and opened “Andy's Muffler Service” on Mission Gorge Rd. in San Diego, Ca.

The recent call had nothing to do with his shop. Andy's son, Cain, had to present a senior project for his graduation requirement. Cain had decided to build his very own dual exhaust for his Chevy pickup, as his project. Family members could not be involved, so his father's hands were tied.

I first met with Cain at Andy's shop. “Linebacker” was my first impression. Probably 6', 4” tall and nearing 250 pounds, but solid. He was fairly quiet, respectful and polite. I told him I would be happy to be his mentor (or tormentor).

Now fast-forward six months. I arrive early to be prepared for Cain's arrival, but to my surprise, Cain was waiting and ready to get started. The truck was up on a lift, the old system was stripped, the MiG welder in place and the bender was already set up. Andy had found out that my grandson was playing baseball that afternoon, so Andy and Cain wanted to be sure that I made it to the game on time. Definitely not your typical 18-year-old that I would be instructing.

Most high school students understand how to find the area of a circle. The formula is 3.14 (Pi or ?) times the radius squared. So, I always start out my training with how to find the area of the tube you are using. It usually surprises them when I ask how many 2” tubes does it take to make up the area of one 4” tube. The typical answer is two; and then when I don't respond they say three, with a question in their voice. The answer is four, and it always surprises them. I start here to open up their minds to new information. It piques their interest, and Cain was really paying attention. Once I open up that cranial cavity, I can start explaining how his exhaust is all angles and planes, and how to see those angles and planes before you even bend one pipe. “The underside of your truck is your canvass, and you are the artist” is what I told him.

The very next thing I do is introducing him to his “best friend,” the tape measure. “It will save you steps, but most of all, it will help prevent costly mistakes.” Also, for pattern bending, I brought a 5' length of brake line. Brake line is very malleable (easy to bend with just your fingers), and 5' is not too much to handle.

Let the Games Begin!

The primary tubes were already in place and we had decided where we wanted the mufflers placed, so we bent-up two front pipes, up to the mufflers. Normally nothing would be so easy, but these pipes were identical, even interchangeable, so Cain tacked the tubes in place and we moved on to the tailpipes. I explained to Cain that I always choose the most difficult side for my first pattern, while keeping in mind that we were going to build a “mirror image” of that pipe for the other side. Two reasons: First reason is for appearance and the second is for performance. We used the brake line to design the first tube shape. Now was the real test. Cain not only had to bend the first shape, but then mirror-image bend the second tailpipe from the first. All the distances of the centerlines of the bends of the first pipe were written down, so I had Cain mark out the second pipe with those distances. Cain took to mirror image bending like a duck takes to water, as you can see from the superb exhaust installation.

I only had a few hours to spend with this fine young man, but there is a proud father (Andy) who did a great job... raising Cain.

Raising Cain!