After waiting patiently for 2 month I finally decided to ditch the muffler and straight pipe. A fairly simple and common upgrade, yes? My goal was to spend no more than 1/3 of what a full system would cost. Well, I decided to do it a little different and, in the end, wound up spending almost 2/3 of what a nice 4" would have cost!!!
Here's my story:
The first problem encountered- there's no such thing as "straight piping" a stock exhaust. There's about a 4" rise from inlet to outlet (thanks, Ford). Naturally, possesing the "let's just get it done, but done right" mentality, I finally found a shop in my area that specialized in pipe 3.5" and up. My original plan was to just get 36" of pipe and have it angle cut to fit between the pipes and be on my way. Total cost for this would have been about $15 for the pipe and $50 for install. Not too bad. Then the friendly counter guy suggested that I follow him into the back to see if there was anything else I needed. BIG MISTAKE!!!
It was like Walmart, K-Mart, Home Depot and Lowes all rolled into one! They had every sized pipe, bend and angle known to man, along with lots of really cool tools and toys you can't find anywhere but online. I just couldn't help myself. Figuring I could make this install look neat and maybe flow a little better I naturally grabbed 2 90's and headed for the counter. Total, along with a 12" piece of the 3.5 straight pipe, came to $72 (getting expensive, but still manageable).
Finding a reputible shop, I had them cut out the muffler, cut the elbows down to size, and weld everything back up. I had to wait about 2 hours but kept telling myself it would all be worth it. Cost: $120. Total: $192 for 3 pieces of pipe and labor. As I said, for another $40 or so I could have gotten a full system and put it in myself.
The results: at idle it sounds really close to stock, with a slight rumble. At full throttle it has a definite roar. At cruising it's a little louder than stock, but not bad. Fuel economy may have gone up 1 or 2 mpg, as well (hitting the road Wednesday to FL. I'll know when I come back). A decent upgrade with one regret: I should have just cut the muffler and outlet pipes off and rolled. Cost would have been a couple of bucks. Pictures follow as soon as I get a new USB cable (keep checking my garage for pics).