It doesn't seem like it was all that long ago when you could go into an auto parts store and not only locate what you needed, but get help from a knowledgeable salesperson, fill up your tank and get lunch for under $20, and find a local muffler shop that specialized in hot rod and custom exhaust systems. As time marches on, much of what we've taken for granted has faded into history.

With the exception of those old-time parts merchants and corner joints still in business to this day, many of us no longer have those resources to rely on like we used to. But we're still building and driving old cars like we used to, all of which require those same parts, and of course, a proper exhaust. The typical muffler shop is great for replacing catalytic converters and, as their name still suggests, mufflers too. But when it comes to fabricating a complete system, there aren't many left who are capable of doing it in an "appropriate" fashion. (My hat's off to those who can ... and do!)

With the right tools and equipment, the appropriate tubing and accessories, and of course a little know-how, there's really no need for a muffler shop any more-build your exhaust yourself. There's a multitude of U- and J-bend sizes available these days, so you don't need the aid of an expensive tubing bender like the shops use-it takes a little longer to cut and splice, but the end result is a smooth, full-flowing exhaust with no kinks and, hopefully, no nasty welds.

Obviously, there's a huge difference between making an exhaust for a complete car and doing one on a body-less chassis. While the former is best handled with the car properly elevated on a lift, the latter can easily be accomplished in your driveway, garage, or shop. Plan on doing your exhaust around (or sometimes in conjunction with) your drivetrain, steering, and major brake components-but no matter what, don't compromise anything that will ultimately affect the performance or operation of your vehicle.

With the offerings available from companies like Patriot Exhaust and Speedway Motors, everything you need parts-wise is just a phone call or keyboard click away. Make sure the bottles on your welder are full, the blades on your band saw sharp, and have your angle grinders and cut-off wheels ready-then a custom exhaust is only as far away as your imagination and skills will allow.