Champion Cools It Down Before Things Heat Up For Project Snake Eyes

The past few weeks have been pretty exciting for our 1972 Monte Carlo project – Snake Eyes. We got the car on the dyno for baseline testing, and we’ve begun our TorqStorm Supercharger install. The dyno results are still under wraps until we finish the install and reach our final horsepower numbers.

All of that is great and exciting, but we had to lay some ground-work before we could throw boost at our small block. First and foremost, we had to solve a cooling issue plaguing us since we bought the car. So, we reached out to the very knowledgeable people at Champion Cooling, to help sort us out.

We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again – you ain’t gotta be pretty to be fast…or in this case, cool. You see what we did there?

Snake Eyes a cheap no-name radiator swapped into its core support somewhere along the lifeline of the car. The cheap radiator developed a pinhole leak, as they seem to always do…Subsequently, it caused our small block to overheat, which was a huge no-go! It was certainly an issue we had to resolve, and fast, because boost was imminent.

We spoke with Michael Harding of Champion Cooling, who helped us select the parts we’d need to keep our temperature gauge in the optimal range. Below we will show you how we went from a busted old cooling system, to something that really works!

Removal Of The Old System:

The best place to start when performing any repair is diagnosing the problem. We already located the source of our leak, so we knew the radiator had to go. The first step was to disconnect all the lines, hoses, and fittings connecting the old radiator to the car so we could remove it.

Clearly, the old system wasn’t cutting it. From the leak, to the anemic single fan with no shroud, our 383 was hurting!

We took special care when disconnecting the transmission cooler lines from the radiator. It is important to use the right tools for the job whenever possible. We are no strangers to using a socket wrench as a hammer out of frustration and convenience, but some things aren’t worth compromising. Such is the case with flare fittings and the proper wrenches. Using a normal, open-end box wrench on a flare fitting – like the ones that connect the transmission cooler lines to the radiator – is a recipe for disaster.

The last thing you want to do is strip the fittings on your cooler lines, or suffer spending your time bending and flaring new lines. Save yourself the headache and invest in some flare wrenches if you don’t already have some. This is one of those simple warnings which often goes unheeded. Trust us – just use flare wrenches. Rant over.

Here is where the leak developed – right along the seam between the cooling fins, and side tank of the radiator. This is also a great shot of the transmission cooler line bung. Be careful when installing new fittings – they are easily galled.

Other than the flare fittings, the removal of the old equipment is pretty straight forward. We removed the top cover that holds the radiator in place, drained the coolant, disconnected the upper and lower hoses, and ditched the cheapo plastic overflow reservoir.

Prepping The Car And Parts:

Getting all of the old parts out of the way was the first step, but we still needed to prep the new parts before they were installed permanently. It was pretty straight forward, but we also had Michael with us, and he’s installed more of these radiators than he could count.

Here, we mocked up the shroud behind the radiator.

The first part of the prep-process was to set the radiator in the saddle, place our new shroud behind it, and mark where we would need to secure it with some self tapping screws. Once we had our holes marked, and knew everything would go together as it should, we pulled it all back out to start installing the fans.

This photos shows how the tabs included in the fan mounting kit slide into the fan’s grooves. We used stainless steel lock nuts and bolts to secure them once we drilled holes through the shroud.

Once we knew where we wanted the shroud to mount to the radiator, we figured out where the fans would mount to the shroud. We inserted the mounting tabs into their respective slots on the fans as you can see in the photo above. Placing the fans and tabs over the openings in the shroud provided us with our mounting locations.

After that, it was as simple as marking the spots and drilling the holes. This should go without saying, but don’t drill through the shroud while it’s resting atop the radiator. Even if you’re test fitting, use a cardboard box or work bench instead. Once we had the holes drilled, we used stainless steel hardware with lock nuts to secure the fans to the shroud.

That was pretty much it for prep work. Once finished, the radiator was ready to go into the car. Michael had some extremely helpful tips to make it a painless process, so bust out your notepad.

Installation Of The New System:

The most difficult part of the install – for those of us who aren’t electricians, anyway – was wiring in the fan relays, but Mike helped us out tremendously. We asked him a common question many of our readers ask us, ‘what is the right way to wire dual-fans?’

We connected the two fused-power wires from the two separate fan relays straight to the battery to ensure good conductivity.

Michael replied “In the essence of safe-wiring practices, we prefer to use two relays when using two cooling fans  – especially higher-powered fans. This simplifies the wiring process, and also ensures that the harness/circuit isn’t overloaded. We have 10g wiring on the relays, so splicing large wires together can pose a conductivity problem, and a bad connection can generate heat. Installing two relays will combat that potential problem.”

There you have it, two fans should equal two fan relays. Of course, the kit came with well-drawn instructions and detailed wiring diagrams, so we won’t bore you with what wire went where.

The next tip Michael gave us during the install has to do with mounting the temperature sensor.

The kit we opted to use didn’t include a temperature sensor, as it is more of an on-off switch. Here, we removed the temp sensor from our previous setup – it didn’t work…big surprise. This became the location for our “on-off switch.”

“Since our temperature sender is essentially an on-off switch, it cannot be used in place of the sender for the temperature gauge. This means finding a location for the sender, preferably in the intake manifold. The best location is below the thermostat to capture the temperature of the coolant in the engine block prior to the thermostat opening. Mounting it in the cylinder head, like on some GM engines, can give a false reading from residual heat from the exhaust side of the head.”

One good thing to consider when planning your install – mount the temperature sensor below the thermostat when possible.

Another great tip we hadn’t thought of before was about mounting the filter. In fact, we’d never really dealt with a filter like this, but after a few weeks of use, it is something we will always do in the future. The amount of sediment this thing picked up is ridiculous, and our 383 has less than 10k miles on it – something to think about.

While it requires the user to cut their radiator hose to mount, a filter is well worth it. You can see some sediment already starting to collect in the second picture — that was mere minutes into our first startup after installation.

“The coolant filter is great for blocking contaminants and rust that could make their way into the radiator,” Mike said. “The clear polycarbonate housing allows a visual check, and the filter can be removed, disassembled, and cleaned periodically. However, when reinstalling the filter, there is a specific process to assemble it.

“Start with the end not marked with the arrows, install the filter and the center support, then install the glass and the end marked “INLET FLOW”. Installing it backwards could ‘fill up’ the filter and cause blockage. So, the simple way to remember which direction it mounts is to let the coolant flow from outside the filter to the inside, allowing any debris to collect on the larger surface area – or the outside of the filter – where it can be inspected easily.”

Using a coolant filter is a great idea for obvious reasons, and now you know how.

The final tip Michael gave us during the installation was when it came time to fill up our new radiator.

Before we capped off our new radiator, we filled it up with a combination of Prestone’s Concentrated Coolant Mix and distilled water.

“Champion recommends using Prestone concentrated (green, glycol-based) coolant mixed with distilled water in a 50/50 proportion. Distilled water is about .99/gallon at most grocery stores, so it’s actually less money to purchase two gallons of coolant and two gallons of distilled water than it is to purchase three gallons of pre-mixed coolant.

We typically pour one gallon of coolant in the radiator then one gallon of distilled water. With the empty coolant jug, fill it half way with the remaining coolant and distilled water for a 50-50 mix and add as needed. With the remainder, you’ll have a full gallon of 50-50 mix as a spare to keep in the garage.”

Once our mix was poured and radiator capped, we were ready to fire up the Monte and let ‘er rip. We even had another jug of coolant ready to top off our reservoir.

Final Touches And Testing:

With our radiator filled, fans wired properly, filter in place, and beer drank, all there was left to do was drive the car. We did install the overflow reservoir at a later date, but we won’t bore you with how that went – hose clamps, clear tubing, and a really trick mounting location behind the grille are the main talking points.

We installed the overflow reservoir at a later date. We found a great spot behind the grille, and it was a breeze.

By now we’ve put about 1,000 miles on our new cooling system, and it has performed flawlessly. The fans kick on once the temperature reaches 180-degrees, every time. Snake Eyes was okay before, as long as it was moving down the highway at a brisk pace, but put the behemoth Monte in mid-day traffic, and the temp gauge would steadily creep past 200 – not good. Thanks to our new cooling system, we can take it anywhere without worry of overheating.

For more information about everything Champion Cooling has to offer, check out their website, here. Check back with us for more progress updates on Snake Eyes, like our supercharger install.

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About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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