Wes Vance doesn't want to reopen old wounds, but he would like to clear his company's name.

The president of exhaust at Arvin Industries Inc. says his company was unfairly blamed for horsepower deficiencies identified by owners of Ford Motor Co.'s '99 Mustang SVT Cobra.

Owners complained that the Cobra didn't generate the advertised 320 hp, and Ford attributed much of the problem to excessive backpressure in the exhaust system, supplied by Arvin. The Cobra apparently was coming up 40 to 45 hp short.

Mr. Vance admits there were problems with the exhaust system, but he contends they were out of his company's control. Last-minute changes were made in the engine design, and Arvin had to retune and repackage the exhaust system.

The new system created more restrictions in the exhaust, but Ford engineers did not anticipate the magnitude of the difference. Once complaints started surfacing, Arvin supplied a fix by way of a less-restrictive muffler.

Suppliers found responsible for faulty products generally face financial obligations to correct the problem. Mr. Vance says Ford has not approached Arvin for compensatory damages regarding the Cobra. He says Ford was pleased at how quickly a remedy was found and continues to award new business to Arvin for high-performance exhaust.

The problem ultimately extended beyond the exhaust system. Ford voluntarily recalled all '99 Cobras to replace intake manifolds because they had excess flashing that was hindering air flow. The new, less-restrictive mufflers also were installed.