Every car-guy loves a good road-trip.
So when my brother told me my niece was having her birthday at Water-World in Denver, I knew I had to drive the 55 out to Colorado.
I had been dying to do a road-trip ever since I had co-hosted the Hot Rod Power Tour with my buddy Clarence Barnes back in June.
I didn’t bring the 55 on the HRPT because I was working.
I was chauffeured from Madison, Wisconsin to Baton Rouge, Louisiana in a 2015 Chevy Suburban fresh off of its Indianapolis 500 duty.
It was Summit White with magnetic ride suspension, air conditioned seats and Hot Rod Power Tour Official Vehicle stickers emblazoned all over it – I rode in style.
So… I went on a road-trip, but the 55 did not.
To get the 55 ready for our maiden road-trip I gave it a once-over.
I put it up on jack-stands and crawled underneath to give it a visual.
Then I got out my grease-gun, crawled back underneath, and one zerk fitting at a time I lubed up the front end and wiped it all down.
Most people always think I’m nuts for keeping my engine and running gear clean.
Yeah… It looks nice, but a clean engine makes it easier to spot a leak.
That’s how I spotted I had a cracked radiator years ago.
There was this ugly fluid on my sparkly chrome valve covers!
Where the hell was it coming from?!
Good thing I spotted it in my garage and not in the middle of nowhere.
When I was done lubing up the front-end I lowered it back down and got all of my tools organized for the trip.
I’d bring my 1 ½ ton floor jack, a can of fix-a-flat, Tire plug/patch kit, road side flares, 3 quarts of motor oil, 3 quarts of transmission fluid, a funnel, various sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, wire and butt connectors, wire strippers & wire cutters, electrical tape, some shop rags and a whole lot of other stuff I’m forgetting about.
I put it all together in a pile in the corner of the garage.
Now I just needed to change the oil…
The next morning after the skate-park I got home and since I had just driven the car, the engine was still warm, it was the perfect time to change the oil.
So I put it back up on jack stands and popped the cork.
Out with the old oil and in with fresh Royal Purple 20w-50 synthetic and a new oil-filter.
The 55 was ready to rock.
I lowered it back down and packed it up.
The next morning I got up early and showered.
I got my cooler together and gave everything a once over to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.
Then I headed out to fuel up.
I was just getting on the 10 freeway headed eastbound with a full tank of fuel when my phone rang.
It was 5 minutes after 4 am PST.
It was my brother in Colorado, on his way to the gym, checking on my progress.
I told him I was just leaving Santa Monica and I’d keep him posted.
At 7:12am I got to the Nevada State Line.
I blew thru Vegas and fueled up about 30 miles beyond.
The 55 had been running great.
I made it to the Arizona state line by 9:19am.
The Arizona and Utah borders are so close I just blew by the Utah state line sign.
I didn’t want to stop again, and I knew I could get a picture of it on the way home.
When I got into Utah I was greeted with an 80mph speed limit.
It was on.
I had the 55 boogying between 80-90mph thru Utah.
But the temp gauge was reading 210 degrees so I didn’t dare turn on the AC.
I just kept my eyes on the temp & oil pressure gauges to make sure nothing got out of hand.
After I fueled up in Salinas, UT and wolfed down some Carl’s Jr. I was at the Colorado state line by 2:55pm.
I was almost home and the 55 was running like a champ.
I got it wound up to 80mph going up Vail Pass.
On the way down from Vail Pass into Copper and Silverthorne I watched as the temp gauge dropped down to 160.
I pulled into Keystone a little after 6pm, just ahead of my sister-in-law.
Whew… What a day!
The next morning I followed her back up to Copper Mountain to surprise my nieces.
They had never seen the 55 and they loved it.
I followed my Sister-in-law and nieces from Copper down to Denver.
When we got there she told me how impressed she was that the 55 could keep up with her going thru the mountain passes.
I was pretty impressed too.
I didn’t realize that Eisenhower Pass is over 11,000 ft.
And the 55 didn’t complain one bit.
The 55 and I had made it to Denver, Colorado!
Time to hang out with my nieces and nephew.
I love being Uncle Jeff.
I hung out with them for almost two weeks.
It was paradise.
I gave my niece & nephew their first ride in the 55 – I think it was more special for me than it was for them.
And I introduced the 55 to my first real car: my old 1969 Corvette – together for the first time.
Finally it was time to go back to LA.
I packed up my stuff, checked the 55’s fluid levels, hugged my family and I headed out to my Pop’s place.
When I arrived he was waiting for me with his garage door open.
He moved his truck and let me park the 55 in his garage.
He’s the best!!
We hung out the next day and after a late lunch at my favorite place in Evergreen: The Little Bear, I headed out.
The 55 was boogying up I-70 and the bright Colorado sun was almost blinding me with it reflection off of the 55’s hood bird.
I exited I-70 at Loveland Ski Area and got onto Highway 6.
I was going to drive the 55 over Loveland Pass – The Continental Divide – Elevation 11,990ft.
On the way down Loveland Pass I watched the temp gauge drop again down to 150.
I stopped by Arapahoe Basin to reminisce for a bit and then headed into Keystone for the night.
Early the next morning it was cold for August, but the 55 fired right up.
I filled up in Dillon and hit I-70.
We went up and over Vail Pass and the 55 was running cool.
When I pulled off the highway into Fruita, CO for fuel I noticed a strange quiet.
There was something missing…
The 55 was running so cool that the electric fan didn’t even come on.
After fueling up I had an hour or so before I got to the Utah/Colorado border for picture time.
I had noticed a high-pitch screeching sound that started low and then went away once I got up to speed.
It was weird and annoying and I couldn’t figure it out.
But the oil pressure & temp gauges always looked good so I proceeded.
After fueling up at the CA/NV state line, traffic came to a stand-still.
The 55 was running at 210, so no AC for me…
But we made it home safe and sound.
The next morning I put it up on jack stands and crawled underneath to inspect it.
I found that the harmonic balancer was rubbing against one of the motor mounts.
When I crawled out and looked under the hood I saw that two of the motor-mount bolts had shorn off!
No wonder there was a screeching sound.
Thank goodness the motor didn’t fall out at 90mph going thru Utah!!
I got the motor mount bolts pulled out and replaced, but the 55 was still running hot…
I did a little research and found Mattson’s Radiators.
When I gave them a call, Jack Jr. answered the phone.
After he gave me the low-down he told me to come by his shop in Stanton, CA.
He gave me a tour of the shop and introduced me to the guy who’d be making my new set-up.
It took only three weeks for them to fabricate a custom aluminum, cross-flow radiator with dual fans, a transmission cooler, overflow tank, AC condenser, all the lines and everything needed to install it.
It fits perfectly.
It looks fantastic.
And the 55 is running cooler than ever.
It’s been running 155 degrees on the freeway ever since with the new cooling system.
Now I can’t wait to give the AC a run for its money next year when I blast back thru Utah at 90mph for my nieces birthday party.