The 55 Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve given you an update on the 55.
Here it goes.
Earlier this year Lucky put the 55 on a strict no-carb diet and installed a Holley Sniper Electronic Fuel Injection system with an AeroMotive Phantom 340 in-tank fuel pump and an MSD Pro-Billet Distributor and coil.
The 55 starts and runs great, but it was the fine tuning of the Sniper EFI that was a little overwhelming for me at first.
Lemme start at the beginning.
The first time I drove the 55 out to Colorado the temperature gauge was reading 220 so I didn’t dare turn on my air-conditioning for fear of overheating the engine.
After my trip I called up Jack “The Fan Man” and had ‘em set me up with one of their big-nasty cooling modules.
It comes with everything down to its own core support and it fits like a glove.
Now with my big-ass cooling module my little 350 runs super-cool.
And by “super-cool” I mean that my analog water-temp gauge usually reads about 155 when we’re moving.
Sitting in hot LA traffic with the AC running it rarely gets up to 180 degrees.
So here’s the thing – the Sniper’s ECU is programmed to start learning when the Coolant Temperature Sensor reaches 160 degrees.
Since my engine never sees 160 the Sniper never started to learn.
Thank goodness for the Holley online Forums.
Those guys know their stuff.
So does Holley’s tech line – I spoke with their rep Jeff Teel – who is awesome!
He took the time to listen to my story then he had me email him my Snipers current tune off of the SD card.
In less than an hour I had an email back from him with a new file attached.
I uploaded the new file into the Sniper’s ECU and went for a drive.
It stalled once like it used to but after that it ran nice and smooth.
It’s amazing to me that you can completely change your cars attitude by manipulating a few numbers.
I also discovered that once I downloaded the Sniper software I could go in and adjust the settings to a specific coolant temperature where I wanted the system to start learning.
Once I learned how to manipulate the learning tables, I got it to start learning at 120 degrees.
Problem solved!
Next we recently installed Wilwood Front Disc Brakes and Master Cylinder in the 55.
There’s a night and day difference in its stopping ability.
Originally my 55 came with 4-wheel drum brakes.
When I got the car it had a Summit Racing front disc brake conversion already done to it.
I was amazed at how big a difference there was going from the Summit single-piston calipers to the Wilwood 4-piston calipers.
I love the Wilwood brakes, but in order to get the brakes on I had to replace the 2-inch drop spindles up front with stock 55 spindles.
So, to me, the 55 is sitting flat now.
And it’s killing me!
It used to have that real nice rake with the front end dropped down in the weeds and the back end raised up a little bit to give it that aggressive stance.
During the Hot Rod Power Tour I told Bill from QA1 my recent dilemma about the brakes and the front end and he told me that their QA1 adjustable coil-over shocks for 55 Chevys would lower the front end down a little over two-inches.
When I went to install the new coil-overs I couldn’t get the spring compressor I got on loan from AutoZone in thru the lower control arm.
I went back and got the other kind of spring compressor.
And guess what?
It didn’t fit either.
I’ve been told I need to get the car up on a lift, and after the lower ball-joint is knocked loose set a floor jack under the lower control arm and let it down slowly until the spring comes out.
I’ve also heard that this way can kill you…
Maybe I’m being over-cautious.
I dunno.
I texted my buddy Lucky to see if I could use his lift.
And as it turned out – it really wasn’t that bad.
We got the QA1’s in, no one got hurt and they look super-cool!
Not only do they look cool but they work.
When I left Lucky’s shop I had the shocks set on “3” and I drove it back home.
After I got home I dialed ‘em up to “6.”
The next morning after I went to the Venice Skatepark I dialed ‘em up to “9.”
When I got back home I dialed ‘em up to “12.”
On “12” the 55 wagon feels really solid.
I’m especially amazed at the QA1’s rebound.
After going over a big dip in the highway at speed, I was ready for the bouncy rebound, but the QA1’s sucked up all the impact and set the big 55 back down almost immediately with no drama.
I am stoked!
I’ve gotta set of their single-adjustable coil-overs for the rear on order now.
I just wish they made upper & lower control arms too.
Lemme know when ya do QA1!
This last thing has been driving me nuts for awhile.
And it happens intermittently.
Last year on my way to Colorado, I stopped in Barstow to gas up before I started out into the desert.
I got back in to start the 55 and it just went “click.”
The electric fans came whirring on.
The radio came on.
And the Speedhut / Redline GPS Speedometer came on and swept its needle across the face of the gauge, so I knew it was working too.
But for some odd reason it wouldn’t start.
It just clicked.
And it continued to click for about 45 minutes until it started again.
When it did start, it started like nothing happened – it just fired right up.
Since then it’s happens every so often.
Sometimes it’s the first start in the morning.
Granted, the times it happens first thing in the morning, it starts on the second turn of the key – but I think those are the exceptions, not the rule.
It usually happens after I’ve been driving awhile and it’s hot.
I stop to get gas or whatever, turn off the car, and when I’m ready to start it up and go…
Again, everything still comes on: the electric fans, radio and the speedometer…
But the car will not start.
It just goes “click.”
And it goes “click” until it’s ready to start.
It actually happened once in front of a mechanic buddy of mine.
And that never happens right?
After we opened up the hood, the 55 started again before we could figure out why it wouldn’t start.
It’s like it’s got a mind of its own and it’s messing with me.
I just installed a heat-shield from Summit to put over the starter.
They’re supposed to protect the starter solenoid from heat-soak.
But after driving it out to Las Vegas last week, it wouldn’t re-start after I parked it.
It was 109 when I pulled into Vegas and I was running 75-80mph with the AC blasting the whole way out from Los Angeles.
With the AC “on” the hottest the CTS read was 190 while the analog gauge read 205.
That was both going up a grade at speed and after getting stuck in traffic off the freeway.
The 55 was stopped in traffic but my heart was racing sitting there waiting at those ultra-long Las Vegas stoplights.
At least if we’re moving I’ve got some air moving thru the radiator, but sitting at a stand-still, I’m relying solely on the electric fans to keep it cool.
It was super-hot outside and I’m driving a 62 year old car with the AC on.
That’s why I’ve really gotta hand it to Mattson’s.
Their cooling module kept the coolant temperature under control in a worst case scenario.
And the AC kept me cool too, which was the whole point to begin with.
After driving to and from Las Vegas with the QA1’s on “12” I decided to back ’em off down to “10.”
On a smooth road I’d probably dial it up to “13” but on public roads that aren’t always smooth “12” is a little too aggressive for me.
If I change the setting on ’em again I’ll let you know.
While I was out in Vegas I talked to Keith at Holley about the clicking / hot-start problem and he suggested a Mr. Gasket mini-starter.
I’ll put that on next week after I’m back from hosting the F-Body Nationals in Memphis, TN and see if that solves the problem.
There’s the current status of the 55.
I’m thrilled that she’s running like a champ.
Especially in the heat of Death Valley.
I do love this car…

Lemme know if you’ve got any questions, suggestions or comments.
And thanks for reading.

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