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And just like that, it was over.
But that is the end of the story. Let me back up to the beginning and share the plans and progress that were weeks from completion before sharing the tale of woe that befell our beloved Project Shop Truck.
Cyberspace Automotive Performance (the parent company of EFISystemPro.Com) was offering EFI systems well before the advent of the Sniper EFI System. In fact, we were designing and setting up carburetor systems (primarily Mikuni and Weber Sidedraft systems) when we became the US distributors for FJO Racing Products, which was later purchased by Holley to become what has evolved into Holley EFI. Clearly I'm skipping a few steps here but you get the idea.
Suddenly, we find ourselves in the middle of a firestorm of demand for cost-effective throttle body injection EFI systems. It was by nature an easy transition since these TBI systems were designed to be easier to install and configure than the multi-point EFI systems with which we were already familiar. And our experience with the MPFI systems allowed us to push the envelope on doing things with these TBI systems that nobody was doing at that point. Like introducing progressive linkage. Or offering a 4-foot extension to the Sniper CAN Bus Harness. And providing technical how-to articles on everything from Improving Holley Sniper Ignition Timing Control to Wiring And Configuring Sniper EFI System for Nitrous Oxide.
But, despite the fact that we've been integral in more Sniper EFI System installations than we could possibly track, we didn't have a Sniper EFI System project vehicle we could call our own. Sure, I have a fully functional bench-mounted 550-510 that I keep right here at my desk so that I can walk through issues with customers who call for help, it's not quite the same. Something had to be done. We needed our own Sniper-equipped vehicle.
The idea to do a shop truck just made sense. And while I've never had much history with GM products, if you're a Holley distributor then picking a GMC or Chevy pickup just makes sense from the sheer volume of products available across all of the brands. I wanted to avoid the issues involved with controlling an electronic transmission so that bracketed the year range at 1992 on the high end. And by picking an 1988 or later I could have the convenience of simply swapping the existing in-tank pump rather than having to do anything more expensive or elaborate. So I had a clear enough description of what I was looking for.
It did take quite a few weeks of scouring Craig's List, Facebook Marketplace, and similar resources to find the truck above. An absolutely perfectly straight 1992 Chevrolet C1500 Silverado Extended Cab. Straight as a pin, not so much as a hint of rust, engine and transmission worked perfectly, interior was clean. It even had a new paint job. True, I never dreamed I'd be driving a truck with a hammertone paint job. But that's what you get when you buy in rural north Brevard County, Florida and, to be honest, it kind of grows on you. And for $2900 I drove away like I'd stolen it. I had never owned a full-sized pickup. Never owned a GM product. Never owned a vehicle with a bench seat. Didn't matter--I was really proud of this truck and looked forward to building it into something I could use to show off Sniper EFI Systems.
The first person I visited was my racing partner Wayne Paulin. He chuckled a bit at the hammertone paint but when he heard I had a 305 CID engine he pointed to a 350 CID L98 he'd removed from a 1985 Corvette some years earlier and said I could have that if I wanted. Heck yeah! I loaded that up and headed to the house. I was tempted to simply implement a Holley HP-based MPFI system using the L98's TPI intake but I have plenty of opportunity to work on MPFI systems in our road race cars and that's not where we were going with this project.
Soon after this I ran my idea past my engine-builder buddy Mike Felber. He was immediately supportive. He has built monster versions of just about every type of car, truck, boat, and motorcycle engine out there but he drives a 1996 Silverado so he wasn't hard to convince. In fact, he points out that he has a spare pair of Vortec heads that with just a little bit of exhuast work, and when coupled with a good intake, cam, and exhaust, this could be easily good for the 400+ HP range. And that he'd do the appropriate hand-holding through the engine building process. I've built a few engines in my time but anytime a pro like this offers assistance I take it--if only for what I can learn in the process!
The L98 block has factory forged crank and pistons so I really hoped to keep the original slugs. Unfortunately, after tearing down the engine and taking measurements it was apparent that there was just a tick too much ridge in the cylinder bores to stick with the 4-inch factory pistons. So part of the new build would be new pistons.
EFI System: I know in most cases one doesn't start with the EFI system and then plan the engine build around that but that is precisely what we did here. While the engine we are going to build could operate very well with the standard four-injector Sniper EFI System that doesn't allow me to demonstrate all of the features offered by the Super Sniper. So I ended up choosing the Holley Super Sniper EFI System (550-513). To be honest, the selection of black came after the short block was assembled and I'd selected the colors for the block, heads, and valve covers. Black just seemed to work best. And, of course, I added the HyperSpark Distributor, Ignition, and Coil.
Pistons: While I eventually want to be able to demonstrate every possible feature of the Super Sniper EFI System I have no plans to spray any crazy levels of nitrous or run a ridiculous amount of boost. Therefore, a good Hypereutectic piston is going to do just fine. It is really hard to beat the price-to-performance ratio of the Speed-Pro pistons. I went with the twin-eyebrow flat-top version H631CP in a plus 0.030 inch. Mike has made me a big believer in zero-quench so with this combination I should be running right at 10.4:1 compression.
Intake Manifold: For the intake manifold, I chose the Weiand Speed Warrior Intake for Chevy Small Block w/Vortec Heads (PN 8502). I like the RPM range on this one (1500-6700 RPM.) It takes advantage of the added top-end of the ported Vortech heads but still manages to make enough low-rpm response to be pleasant on the street.
Headers: For the header I knew I wanted something long-tube but I also like the Tri-Y design. Althought I don't have any experience with them the FlowTech Afterburner headers seemed to be the closest to my requirements among the Holley brands so I went with them.
Camshaft: I like my ride to make a bigger statement with numbers than with sound so I wasn't concerned with a a big lumpity-lump camshaft. Nothing against that, mind you, but I am at an age where I appreciate a little bit of stealth. But when it's time to put down power I want to be able to do that as well. There are a lot of good camshaft manufacturers out there but I went with a Comp Cams Xtreme Energy camshaft, PN CL12-242-2. It has an operating range of 1600-5800 that fits nicely inside that of the Weiand intake manifold. The 224 int/230 exh duration at 0.050 inches, .477/.480 total lift, and 110 degrees of lobe separation means that it should produce a bit over 400 HP with the other components and still provide a very docile ride. More than adequate for my purposes.
Other Engine Bits: I won't make a big deal about this but thought it was worth mentioning. Everything else on the engine I selected to provide excellent value and good durability. As an example of what I mean, I opted for the standard Melling oil pump rather than a high volume oil pump. Nothing wrong with a high volume oil pump for those who need one, but all it will do for me is keep the oil in a higher state of shear as I drive the truck the four miles between my house and the shop at an average speed of 35 MPH. I am confident it will provide more than adequate oil for that occasional trip down the drag strip.
Similarly, no fancy-pants bearings. Nothing wrong with a high-end bearing--use those if you need them--but this engine will probably outlive me with Clevite bearings, FelPro gaskets, and a Cloyes True Roller Street Timing Set. In fact, when I realize that the original balancer was probably ready to be retired, I didn't opt for an expensive high-end balancer, nor did I go with a budget brand that offers timing marks. I went with a factory Delphi balancer and will add a timing tape. Again, it should outlive me with no issues.
With all of my components assembled the engine build went smoothly. Everything cleaned up well (though I did note earlier the ridge that caused me to upgrade the pistons.) A bit of hand-polishing on the crank while the block was being bored. Mike did his normal masterful job on the head porting and things came together well. Here are some pictures of the assembly process.
So I took the completed long block over to Wayne's shop and we're just looking for a break in his calendar to do the swap. Wayne does all of our Sniper EFI System installations for our local customers who request it. The owner of a '56 Thunderbird was wanting to get his Sniper installed so I decided to set Project Shop Truck back a couple of weeks.
This gave me time to start shopping for other components. I wanted to drop the truck just a touch so I went with the Belltech 2-inch lowering kit and got that ordered. For wheels, I was working with Danny at American Wheel and Tire to find something in the 17- or 18-inch range. Actually, I'm wanting a narrower front set and wider rear. I know, that doesn't really match the practical slant that the rest of this project has taken but I think it will look cool, hook a little better on the track and give a little less rolling resistance on the highway. Looking for a black wheel that will pair well with the Black Sniper throttle body, black Sniper valve covers, and black open-style breather.
In the meanwhile, I use this truck like it's meant to be used. That means hauling the kayak to the fishing spot, moving equipment for my various remodeling projects--that sort of thing. So it wasn't unusual on Saturday afternoon, February 16th for me to be coming back from a house remodeling project on a 90-minute drive back home. I wasn't on the road 10 minutes when a Mazda RX-8 coming in the opposite direction leaves her lane and hits the front-left corner of the truck nearly head-on. Seconds later I'm sitting in a truck that is certainly totaled with three broken meta-tarsel bones in my left foot, two fractured ribs, and a list of other contusions, hematomas, cuts, and abraisions. This is not what I planned.
And just like that, as I said to start this post, it was over. I know it's easy to focus on the unfortunate aspects of this but I would point out so much good. First, everyone involved is still alive. That alone is a testament to the goodness of God and the impressive abilities of automotive design engineers who crafted both vehicles in such a way as to give life an option. In what seems a much more trivial note I had not swapped the engine, suspension, or wheels and tires yet--much of which would have been lost without adding a cent of value to the truck in terms of insurance value. The doctor expects my foot to heal well and even thinks I'll be running again in as little as six months (very dear to a guy who routinely runs 1000 miles a year.)
And, last time I checked, there are more Chevy C1500 pickups available out there. Maybe I can find a great deal on one that is in exceptional condition but needs a new engine. So maybe Project Shop Truck is not terminated but just postponed. Stay tuned.