Less Bark, More Bite: Quieting Down Ernie’s Racing Cobra

One of the biggest challenges for vintage racers at tracks such as Laguna Seca and Lime Rock Park is meeting the strict noise requirements that are in place without drastically reducing power. This was a problem that Ernie Nagamatsu, DDS, was running into with his incredible original 1964 Shelby Cobra coupe. The exhaust system that he had on the car originally did little to cut down the howl of the Ford V8 under the hood and frequently left Ernie’s ears ringing after a heat. To help combat this, Ernie took his priceless Cobra to the Orange County shop of Jimmy Shine where in addition to a new exhaust, the car was set to receive an overall freshening up to get it ready to race once again.

Ernie’s Cobra, CSX 2203, is an early example of a 289 car and proudly wears one of two known aluminum hard tops designed for Shelby’s racing efforts at Le Mans. Dr. Nagamatsu races the car all over America and indeed, the world. There is footage of him racing the car as far away as Australia. The car has had more than a few bumps and scrapes over the years, as might be expected of any good old race car, so after a brief period of inactivity, the time came for it to be made race ready once again.

The exhaust system that was on the Cobra when Dr. Nagamatsu brought it to Jimmy Shine was clearly a custom setup with unusual square mufflers of a baffled design. They definitely sounded great, but this setup would never meet the stringent dB requirements in place at some of Ernie’s favorite tracks. Jimmy Shine felt that the best solution would be to place a call to MagnaFlow to have them build out a custom stainless steel system.

The MagnaFlow system begins by replacing the custom collectors with a pair of off the shelf 4-into-1 units. These then mate to short sections of pipe and dump into a pair of special 16” straight through mufflers with specially designed diffusers at the exit to further reduce sound without increasing resistance to flow. The system terminates in period correct looking tips.

With the custom MagnaFlow system built and installed with the help of MagnaFlow’s own Rich Waitas, and the rest of the freshening up done to the vehicle, it was time to take the car to Willow Springs International Raceway, aka “The Fastest Road In The West” for a day of testing. During the lapping sessions, Dr. Nagamatsu discovered that an unusual spike in power that had been present with the old system was now gone and the whole vehicle felt much more linear and predictable. As an added - and much welcome - bonus, Ernie’s ears weren’t ringing even after an entire day of thrashing around Willow Springs.

“It’s always a pleasure to be asked to collaborate on such a historic car,” said Rich Waitas, senior manager/spokesman for MagnaFlow. “The challenge with Ernie’s car was of course packaging, but also meeting some very strict noise targets without losing power. I am confident that we did just that and that Dr. Nagamatsu will love the way it sounds.”

If you’re at any number of top tier vintage racing events in 2017 keep your eyes and ears out for Dr. Ernie Nagamatsu’s ‘64 Cobra coupe and make sure you admire the always-excellent work of Mr. Jimmy Shine.