Custom Exhaust for Bubbles, the V12 Mercedes

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The square tips looked awesome, but when they started the engine…

Mercedes OE exhaust systems are overall really excellent. They are quiet, flow well, are made of stainless steel (modern ones) and are durable. But there was something missing. That gorgeous V12 wail.

A few years ago a 1998 Mercedes-Benz CL600 made its way into the Mercedes Magazine fleet as something to have fun tinkering with, it’s been just that. When you think of V12’s the sound of an exotic, intoxicating exhaust note usually comes to mind. The 90’s W140 / C140 didn’t have that sound. Actually, it sounded more like a super quiet inline 6 M104 from which the engine was derived. The M120 6.0 V12 motor was based on combining two M104 twin cam engines. With stock exhaust tips tucked tightly under the rear bumper completely out of sight and a resonator and muffler that weighed about half a ton it’s obvious Mercedes intent was for this engine to not be heard. There was great sound just waiting to be released. This engine after all was the same one used in the original Pagani Zondas. If you don’t know what they sound like, search YouTube then stop drooling.

Researching options for bolt on exhaust replacement showed options were few and far between which was to be expected given the low volume production of the cars. The most common change on these cars it seemed was to put on a Sebring muffler, often branded Lorinser. That would give the square exposed exhaust tips that look great on 80s and 90s MB but still essentially had the sound, or lack there of, that the stock system has. There were a couple other alternatives but they were prohibitively expensive and when buying a prebuilt system there would be no input on our part to the design, aesthetics, and final sound of it.  Custom was required.

Hi-Line Automotive in Downers Grove, Illinois solved the problem. They had a great new piece of equipment to fabricate custom exhausts from scratch exactly to taste and the CL600 would be the first car this new equipment would be used on.

Mitch and Brian at Hi-Line started the process by having a long discussion to determine what the objectives were taking into account things like cost, objectives, requirements, and intended usage of the car. There were 3 requests and the rest left up to the pros.

  • Square exhaust tips similar to other Mercedes of the 1980s and 1990s
  • A deep tone
  • Louder but something that would be quiet when just cruising

They were able to deliver just that. The whole fabrication and installation process took only a day. They were able to use a variety of mufflers from different manufactures and vary the size of the tubing to fulfill the design objective and guaranteed it for life! Even using stainless steel piping the replacement system weighted substantially less than the original system. Not that saving a handful of pounds on a 2.5 ton car is going to make a huge difference but every ounce counts. The final result was running two 3 inch pipes all the way back to a single Magnaflow muffler. The original muffler, pipes and resonator were eliminated. The catalytic converts remain as do the stock headers and mid pipe making this a “cutback” system.

Collecting Bubbles (a nickname around the office for it that seems to have stuck) the evening of the day it was dropped it off was filled with nervous apprehension. Was this a big mistake? The car was parked outside and the rear was visible. The square exhaust tips, just as specified were snugly mounted below the bumper and looked great. Mitch turned the key and with that whirl only a V12 makes when cranking the engine fired to life letting out a deep tasteful blast from the pipes and quickly settled into a low mellow rumble. Taking it for a drive it put the concerns to rest. The CL600 now had the deep satisfying growl it should have had two decades ago when it left Stuttgart but still retained enough refinement and settled down to a muted hum when cruising.

Turning the key is a lot more fun than it used to be and we find ourselves reaching for the keys more frequently.



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