If there is one sound that stirs the soul of every car guy out there, it's the sound of a well-prepared engine. Particularly in the 1960s, when said well prepared engines were thumpin' V-8s of the muscle car era. Young men discover this when they are young, and when you are young part of your driving imperative is to get noticed, which might make you more attractive to the girls. Of course owning a muscle car with a thumpin' big V-8 is likely to get you challenged to races, which you'd prefer to win. At the track class rules even everything up, but on the street anything goes. Racers have long known that the secret to high performance is breathing, a term when applied to the internal combustion engine is the ability to flow fuel and air in and out of the engine, thus making more power.

There are lots of ways to make an engine breathe better but one of the simplest and cheapest is to remove any bottlenecks in the exhaust system. Standard exhaust manifolds are designed more for low production costs and reliability than efficiency. Installing a set of headers can be give you a big power boost without touching anything inside the engine. Another big bottleneck is the muffler.

Mufflers are legally required almost everywhere cars are run. Unmuffled engines are loud, and draw angry three A.M. calls to the homes of sleepy mayors and city councilmen. Even the SCCA sets sound limits for its racing competitors so track owners aren't harassed by angry neighbors. Many race cars run muffler to reduce their sound output during competition, with the spec determined by the track. But again, most stock mufflers were designed more for low cost then efficiency. Chrysler designed the first reasonably efficient turbomuffler for the legendary 426 Hemi, but for the most part stock mufflers formed a big bottleneck. But the turbomuffler was heavy and expensive, and most young hot rodders were looking for fast, cheap and dirty.

Enter the Cherry Bomb. Cherry Bombs were first advertised in 1968 as a high flow alternative to stock mufflers. Mostly they were loud. Really they were nothing more then a bit of baffling, but their presence made it possible to demonstrate to Mr. Policeman that your car really was muffled, and thus met the letter of The Law. An original Cherry Bomb was a bright red, capsule-shaped tube, easily seen when someone looked under your car. Horsepower gains were minimal, but a set of cherry bombs would get you noticed when you passed.

Cherry Bomb is still in the muffler business today, with their classic 'glasspack', though they offer a number of more modern products, including complete exhausts from the catalytic converter back. The original is very much the grandfather of the aftermarket muffler industry. The Fast and the Furious films (plus actual competition) has increased demand, with big mufflers readily evident on the back of many a street Honda or Ford Focus. They add a bit of power and they are loud, making it easily possible for wet-eared young men to go about the serious business of developing cred.