Brain Storm Headers

[4/25/2001] Reviewed by: Anonymous

Applicable to: '99 + 1.8 liter

I love Miatas, and I wanted to increase the power and exhaust music (ok, noise) level of my 1999 red PEP package so, upon Miata Magazine's recommendation, I ordered a header from Brainstorm (BSP) in California. The mag said it was easy, and though I had never installed one before, I was eager to learn and have a new experience with my car. I asked all the questions I could think of before the order, especially the two big ones, "Do you include install directions with the product and will you help me if I have problems?" "Yes" was the answer to both questions so I placed the order. BSP disputes they said yes to either question. The product came with no directions except a form sheet saying if I had any questions to just call and I would be helped. I did then call and was told there were no directions because it was considered a PROFESSIONAL INSTALLATION PRODUCT and that I should take it to a PROFESSIONAL INSTALLER and BSP would help them over the phone to install it. But they refused to help me personally. So, now I had to make the choice of either doing it myself or sending it back because I really looked forward to learning about my car by installing it and hadn't planned on paying a few hundred dollars more for the product by having it installed by someone else. It was beautifully made, I was told its power was awesome, it supposedly made great noises and it was in my hot little hands. It was so nicely made and designed that I thought "This should be in a museum somewhere." (Over just a few weeks it gets all crudded over but is still very nice, very pleasing to look at. Whitney and Griot sell some really nice looking, bright silver high-temperature manifold/header paint that can be used if one so desires.) I proceeded with the install. There were lots of problems that I never expected. I appealed several times to BSP but they always refused to provide information, saying that Miata owners so often damaged their own cars by trying to install their own header that BSP would only provide information to a professional installer. After hours and hours of wrestling with parts here and there, trying to figure it out with my brother-in-law's help (he'd done headers before), I relented and took the thing to a Midas muffler shop (which claimed to have done many headers). Sounded good to me. Midas could not figure out how to get the front pipe loose from the manifold (bad angle in there and apparently they didn't have a wobble extension) so they torched it in two, and, in loosening the manifold they damaged the manifold nuts with an impact power tool, and actually lost one so that I had to replace them (I later put on a full set of genuine Mazda nuts to assure absolutely equal torques, at about $28), and Midas could not figure out how the bracket between the header and the bell housing fit so the professional installer threw the bracket in the trash bin. I love my car and felt really bad about this whole thing. Driving the car, it seemed like something was not connected down there so I looked and noticed that the header pipe was hitting against the bell housing. I emailed BSP and the same guy who said he wouldn't help said there had to be a connection but it was some vague thing about a bracket. I went back the next day and had the professional installer look for a bracket which he found in the trash bin, and then I watched in amazement as he and another mechanic kept saying "That'll never fit! It just won't fit!" So much for professionals. Just looking at it, it was pretty obvious that it was going to fit. The day before, I had told the Midas guys that they could call BSP if there was a problem and BSP promised to walk them through the install but you know how egos go. They would not call. I think it was not good of BSP to not provide help to me, and instead insist on a professional installer. A lot of professionals are not professional. You don't know who you've got till you get into things sometimes too deep. Before the install I had asked BSP for the name of a reliable installer. (My dealer, Morrie's Mazda in Minnetonka, MN has a reputation among my friends who own Mazdas of terrible service and I have had several samples of their expertise also including swirl marks in my paint before I even took delivery. I was too excited about the new car to notice it before awhile had passed.) So, where to go for a header installation? I'm in Minneapolis. I told BSP I would drive as far as Milwaukee, Chicago, anywhere within quite a distance to get this installed if they would just give me a name of someone good that one of their customers or themselves had dealt with. BSP's answer was that they knew of no one. The Minneapolis metro has 2 million people. Milwaukee has probably the same. Chicago has what? 4 million? A bit hard to believe that BSP hadn't heard of anyone in that human pool who knows how to put one of these things in without dismantling half the car.

Once I saw how everything came apart and then fit together, it is ridiculous to say it is a hard installation. I could do it now in 1 hour if I just had ramps (WalMart has nice Rhino ramps for $25 a pair, BTW), or hour if I had a hoist. It is so very, very easy.

The header was $500 plus a bit for shipping, plus $28 for the nuts that were ruined, plus tons and tons of aggravation, plus $149 for the installation. Plus possible purchase and reinstallation of an original type manifold should I sell the car to a person who doesn't like the noise.

After I got home from Midas I got to wondering if Racing Beat would send me directions for their installation even if I didn't buy their header (which had just then come out for the 99 model). I called them, said I was interested perhaps in their header and the person said "No problem." Within 1 hour I had the directions by fax. I paid BSP $500 and they treated me like a bum. I bought nothing from Racing Beat (though I certainly will in the future!) and they treated me with respect. Prior to this purchase, BSP has always been very nice and helpful, and I like to think that my bad experience was an aberration and perhaps that unhelpful person no longer works for them. One would hope they change their shortsighted policy of no installation information for headers, and that the other service personnel are more open than the one I had the misfortune of dealing with.

My car already had a Borla muffler and a BSP Powerstack, both of which I liked a lot. The $100 Powerstack (actually an R Active) is a nice unit though I found the same identical thing for $50 through Sports Compact Car from R Active. I checked R Active's web site when looking for a replacement filter for it. It's a K and N type which can be serviced every 10k or so with a K and N kit but I wanted to make absolutely sure it was a K and N because BSP was vague when asked what it was exactly. BSP does not sell replacement filters they said, so you have to go elsewhere for them. Summit Racing at summitracing.com has the same thing for $39.95 according to their "Early Spring 2001" catalog, page 11. Item number for carbon fiber look is TCN-SF007CF. I do worry a bit about the design of the Powerstack allowing splash water in, and plan on making an aluminum housing for it in the spring like K and N now markets and similar in design to one I saw in Sports Compact Car a couple of months ago. Menard's sells aluminum sheeting for $7.) The Borla cat back by itself and also with the Powerstack made a glorious sound but seemed to be mostly just from the back with a small amount from the front, and I wanted something that made the whole car sound more unified, if you know what I mean. Glorious and wonderful all over, I guess. The BSP header does make the car sound more unified or whole and is a definite improvement in that regard but you do lose that delightful growl from the Borla, and even more so as the atmosphere warms up or the drier the air. With the top down, whenever you accelerate, there is a sound of crackling bacon. That's not a sound I associate with the Challenger taking off. It's not a powerful sound. But I've gotten used to it and now I kind of like it. Power is up a bit with the header but it is not a big increase at all. Top end is now 130 with the top up, essentially zero wind, with the Powerstack, Borla cat back, BSP header, standard fluids, dry, cloudless day, ambient temperature 50 degrees and a very flat surface (North Dakota, yah, you bet). I won't tell you who the driver was but that Schumacher fella better watch out. Mazda has quoted 123 top end for the 99. The Powerstack gives no discernible boost in power, the Borla gives just a little bit, and the header gives - by the seat of the pants - about double what the Borla gives (not a lot - not as much as I expected). Overall though, I think this header (or someone's similar) is a benefit to the car.

Sport Compact Car of April 2001 published some figures for the 99 Miata with the BSP header and some kind of more open air intake (R Speed - like the R Active). At the rear wheels they got 127 HP and 114 foot pounds torque. In December 2000 they published for a stock 2000 Miata (same car basically as the 99), at the rear wheels: 111 HP and 106 foot pounds of torque. That's 16 HP more and 8 foot pounds more torque for the combination of the header and the intake. Generously (to the header) subtracting 2 HP and 1 foot pound from those figures gives us 14 HP and 7 foot pounds increase over stock, both at the rear wheels, with the BSP header alone. I can believe those figures for torque because my butt tells me "Yah, that's about what it feels like." HP is harder to figure. HP relates more to top end and making torque at higher RPM. (As I understand it.) The top end does not jibe with a 14 HP increase as you can calculate by the top end speed of 130 (some of which came from the Borla and a very small amount from the Powerstack), but then again, if you look at HP graphs from a dyno, the improvements in HP with a performance boosting item tend to disappear at very high RPM. Due to the delay in getting the installation done in the fall of 2000, I didn't have a chance to check the car in an autocross yet (Minnesota gets white stuff on the ground, you know, and so racing closes up in the winter). I expect a slight improvement in time but not nearly as much as going to a really good set of sticky tires.

My car has always had an extra bad exhaust smell, but it got horrible after the header install. It's now much better than originally since I added Bosch Platinum 4s and Racing Beat street wires (the red ones for $94 or so). The plugs made 20% improvement in smell level, and when I checked the gaps they were way off and looked all chewed out. The wires made a huge, 70% improvement in the stink and the car runs much, much better, so I think the header just allowed the lousy stink to make a hastier exit. 10% stink is left but it's not bad at all. Makes me #%^&@%#^%##@ to think that my brand new Miata probably had crummy, cheap, junk for wires from the get-go.

The BSP header came with a (relatively non-essential) header-to-back-pipe gasket but BSP failed to include the all important header gasket (for it's attachment to the motor). Add $10 to the cost and an unwanted trip to the Miata dealer. And, of course, originally no instructions from BSP that the gasket had to be replaced. No instructions at all, as you recall. (That gasket would be up to a professional installer according to BSP - my professional installer did not have a gasket in stock.) The professional installer (Midas) said the header gasket wasn't necessary but, from all I had read and people I had talked to, and the three manuals I had, a new gasket is mandatory for a first class installation. Ufffda.

I like to write and originally wrote a much longer review (this is only a couple thousand words) complete with more about the top speed tests, etc., etc. but was advised it was too long. I was motivated to write because it bothers me that in America a person should have to go through what I did. I hope this saves others from the same fate. I don't think that a person who pays for a car should be denied any knowledge that would allow them to improve it. If I make the money to pay for the thing, then let me wreck it if I want rather than watch some professional installer wreck it. I could not figure out what to do even with a $100 shop manual (that I got for $50), and Rod's and Haynes' manuals but once you see it done and understand what's going on, it is so simple that you'll just say "Oh, I see! That's simple!" It is that simple. It takes no special visit from the IQ Fairy. It really is that easy. All you may need is someone who has the desire to be helpful.

Would I buy the BSP header again? I like the header, the design, the looks, the bit of added power, the feeling of wholeness it gives the car, even the noise (though it cut out the nice growl of the Borla). If you know how to put in a header or don't mind paying an extra $196 more or less for installation, then go for it. (I paid $149 at Midas but wouldn't recommend them - the next lowest was $196 at a Miata dealer - all other Miata dealers in this area refused to put in an aftermarket header. And a whole pile of muffler dealers also refused.) This combination of being treated like a little kid (I'm a 52-year-old doctor with two board specialties) and the agonizing feeling of being poked in the eye with a sharp stick is an experience I can do without. I get better service and more understanding at Dunkin' Donuts. But, my past dealings with BSP (presales information only, except for the Powerstack) have been excellent, they have been very nice except for after I bought the header, their products seem to be first rate (from the looks of their ads, anyway), they have a wonderful variety of interesting and seemingly useful products, and I would hope that their misguided trust of professional installers is just a passing phase. Let bygones be bygones, I feel. BSP would dispute some of what I have said here. Vigorously, I'm sure. Whatever. You don't know me from Adam, so as far as you are concerned, let me just say to be cautious and leave it at that.

Time to uninstall (and replace the original manifold and pipes): 1 hour, with ramps (once I buy another front pipe to replace the one destroyed by the professional installer).

Over 30 minutes to remove completely


Brainstorm Ceramic 4-1 Header

[3/9/2001] Reviewed by: David Galindo - davidgalindo@hotmail.com

Applicable to: '99 + 1.8 liter

Brainstorm ceramic 4-1 Header. Adds about 10-14 claimed hp. Cleans up the look of the engine bay and saves about 20 lbs. over the stock cast exhaust manifold and cat!

After hearing about lengthy installs, I opted to have my header installed by Brainstorm. I made an appointment, and the car was finished as promised. WOW, there is a lot more power! Throttle response is really improved and there is more power everywhere in the rev range. Down low, up high... Can't keep my foot out of the gas! The sound is grumbly and purposeful; louder but not insane. The car even seems to run bit smoother. After 2 months of loving really hard driving, I became concerned when the exhaust suddenly became MUCH louder. A deafening sound was now coming through the floor... Turns out the header had sheared and torn at a bracket mounting point. The bracket didn't account for the expansion of the part with heat. Brainstorm REPLACED the entire header promptly and w/o comment. This time, they apparently installed it minus the offending bracket (I now have it in a plastic bag). 2 weeks with my new one and loving it!

I am a loyal Brainstorm customer, and this experience hasn't much diminished my opinion of their fine products and service. I wonder if any other customers have/will have a similar experience with the header.

Over 30 minutes to remove completely


BRAIN Storm Chrome Header

[3/28/2000] Reviewed by Philip Salibello - psalibello@yahoo.com

Applicable to '99 +

Brainstorm 4-1 Ceramic Header for M2.

I have a supercharged M2 California car with the front catalytic converter. I was at Sears Point for a track day when I apparently fried the front cat. I decided to get the BSP header instead of replacing the front cat. It was even cheaper. It came a few days later. A 4 into 1 ceramic coated (in & out) header for a M2. I have to admit it wasn't easy getting the old manifold out and the new header in. Once done, I had to splice the front and rear O2 sensor wires and extend them. Not tough. I used a soldering iron, plastic sheathing and wrapped the whole thing in tape. I had to do some creative fastening of the now longer rear O2 sensor that screwed into the midpipe. (I also have BSP's midpipe and tailpipe). OK, all hooked up. Turn the key. Wow. What a grumble. The car is definitely louder. Its hard to say how loud it is b/c I don't really hear it over the rush I now get.

I thought replacing the midpipe and tailpipe gave the car more power. It did. I further thought adding a JR supercharger would add even more power. Definitely did. I had no idea what the header was going to do. OH MY GOD!!!! I can honestly say that adding the header gave the car a huge bump in power. Across the board, the car has power and tourque that were never there. This thing really flies. I don't care whether you buy BSP's (I happen to really like BSP's stuff) or another vendor's, but I will tell you that a header on a M2 will do wonders for you.


Reviewed by: Vince Wu - vwu@bc.sympatico.ca

Simply put (hehe), a bunch of pipes that collects down to one big pipe that connects from your 1.8l engine to your cat converter. It improves airflow, gives you more HP and torque.

The header had no (real problems) when installing it onto my miata. Removing the stock manifold was straightforward. It was a case of unbolting it into smaller pieces and disconnecting the oxygen sensor. Sliding the one piece header into place was straightforward too, although it took a bit of pushing and shoving to get it in there. Connecting the end of the header to the cat was a slight problem...there was a slight angular gap between the two and I had to use the welder to heat up the header and bend the pipe into place. In all, installation took me about 3 hrs (going real carefully) and two gaskets. my experience (powerwise)? I love it!

When Andy Cork at BSP told me that his header (presumably hand made) will make a difference in/for my mia, he was right. HP figures are not precisely known, but if I felt something good, it must be at least more than 10 HP gain. I put mia into 1st gear and pulled onto the road. immediately, I felt something different. The car accelerated more quickly, acceleration was crisp, and the car seemed waaaay smoother on the whole. The 1st day when the new header was installed I had too much fun driving mia. Every chance I got, I felt like flooring mia and putting her through her paces.

...and somehow, the car sounds a bit more purposeful too...no more hearing a cat's meow through the hood.


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