MOVING YOUR 454SS WITH A CRANE
Most of the information I am presenting here will apply to any similar aftermarket ignition. I chose the Crane Cams HI-6TR ignition as I have not yet been dissatisfied with any Crane products. In addition, this Crane kit comes with everything needed to install the kit in the 454SS, plus a driver retard control. All I had to buy was a few feet of flex-tube wire protector (the stuff that all auto manufacturers runs their wires through). You will need to buy Crane’s MAP sensor if you are running a blower though, but I am not as of yet, so I did not see a reason to buy it. The HI-6TR is a capacitive discharge ignition system designed for street/strip use, and is fully epoxy sealed for use on vehicles that see real-life street use in harsh conditions (fog, rain, moisture, dust, vibration etc). It also includes a rev limiter which I can set below redline (nice feature), and diagnostic software that aids in revealing a problem associated with the ignition components. With the HI-6TR you will want a new hi-performance coil, and a plug-in wire harness which will aid in wiring if you are electrically challenged. The part numbers you will need are as follows: CRN-6000-6466 for the ignition control box kit, CRN-730-0892 for accompanying coil, CRN-6000-8876 for the wire harness. I switched the cap and rotor at the same time, so I ordered a Hypertech cap and rotor, P/N HYP-4060. So, with those parts in-hand, let’s get started.
First thing to make sure with electric work is to take your time and work at a pace you are comfortable with, to avoid mistakes in wiring and the like. Nothing is more frustrating than diagnosing electric problems, especially when they could have been avoided in the first place. No beer drinking while doing this, folks; this is not as simple as swapping a light bulb. So let’s get started.
If you are swapping out the cap and rotor, which I highly recommend, complete this easy task first. No need to outline this here folks, this is something any young shop monkey can do, and something you pros can do blindfolded, in the dark, and with hands taped. Well, almost. Mark your new cap with the proper firing sequence, and before you pop off the plug wires from the old cap, mark those as well (stock wires are already marked). It will be easier if you remove the whole intake system, up to the TBI, when you do this. Leave it off until you complete the ignition upgrade job.
It is imperative that you remove the battery for this task. Not kidding here folks, move that battery out of the truck.
Choose mounting spots for your new goodies. I found it easier to mount all the accessories first, before connecting any wires. It is important to mount the components away from any other wires (especially sensors, TBI wires, wires to/from PCM or ECM) so electrical signals travelling the ignition component wires will not feed or receive feedback from other wires (here is where electric tape and flex tube comes in, to help isolate one pack of wires from the next to avoid feedback).
For the coil, try to keep it close to the distributor. The less distance the spark has to travel along the wire, the less energy it loses (from wire resistance).
As for the box, you want to make sure the box will receive adequate cooling, so select a spot that promotes decent airflow, and away from heat sources, close to the battery as one may not lengthen the power cable without adding a booster (also included in the kit). The unit will support a constant spark in 185* F temps at 8500 RPM, but it still needs cooling for long life. Ditto for the coil. If you will race the truck, Crane recommends that you mount the box on rubber feet. Four small diameter, THICK O-rings did the trick for me.
The retard switch is mounted in the cabin, under the dash. I have no use for this right now as I do not tow, and I have not an NO2 system or blower and so have no need to manually retard timing from the dash.
Now with the parts mounted, let’s tackle the wiring. Start with the box. Plug off the connector on the blue wire and tape it up. This is used only for 6 and 4 cylinder applications. Crimp a large diameter circle connector to the thick red wire, and connect to battery + terminal when the battery is placed back in. One of the same connectors goes on the thick black wire, to connect to a good chassis ground (scrape off paint, grease, etc before attaching it with a sheetmetal screw). Plug in the wire harness and cut as short as you can the purple and green wires that are twisted together, and seal off each separately from the other. There is a long, thin red (pinkish) wire coming off of the harness. To this you splice in the yellow/white stripe wire off of the box to enable the “stage” rev limiter (which can be used as a main rev limiter if you do not put a switch in-line to manually disable the rev limiter from the dash, and set it to an appropriate max rev limit, like 4500 RPM for a stock 454SS bottom end) when the key is turned on.
Power to the coil is supplied by the thin black and thin orange wires. The Crane HI-6 will work with numerous stock/aftermarket coils, but this is the jive for a Crane LX or PS coil: Crimp a male blade connector to the black wire on the coil pigtail, and a female to the orange wire on the pigtail. Cut the black and orange harness wires as short as you can, and follow with a female blade connector on the black harness wire, male on the orange. Alternating the connectors like that eliminates your chance of connecting the black wire to orange in the future. Connect the coil and tape up the connectors real well.
Next to splice in are the wires to/from the distributor. I used Crane’s pre-made wire harness, but you can simply make a 2-into-1 pigtail for both the red and white wires and save some cash for buying goodies like heads. Anyhow, for you do-it-yourselfers making the pigtails, crimp a male connector to the red wire off harness, female to the white (notice a pattern here? Even if it is dark and you can hardly see for example, you may disconnect and connect the wires with little chance of error if you alternate the connector types. Using different types of connectors for each connection will also accomplish the same thing). Take 2 short sections of red wire, strip and twist one of the ends of each together, and crimp on a female connector. Do the same for a white pigtail but use a male connector. On both the pigtails, crimp on connectors that will allow you to plug in the wires to/from distributor to appropriate color coded pigtail wires (red to red, white to white…not too difficult here). Connect the wires appropriately and tape up so as to fully protect the connections from moisture. Your basic wiring is now done. Double-check all connections. There should be no chance that water could get in and short anything out. The brown/white wire connects to the in-dash retard switch. If you are not going to use it, seal off the end with the supplied seal-off connector and tape up.
Finally, double-check all of your connections for errors. Tug on each connector to make sure the connector will not slip off. Set your rev limiter (if you chose to activate it) to a proper limit…a motor with the stock bottom end should be set for 40-4500 RPM. Shield all of the exposed wires in flex tube, wrapping a ring of tape every foot or so to prevent the possibility of wires slipping out. Now would also be a good time to re-gap your plugs to .045”, and check your plug wires for any damage.
Start the motor and check the timing. You might find the need to retard it a few degrees. Due to the hotter spark igniting/burning the mix faster and with more efficiency, the effect will be similar to advancing the timing a few degrees. I had to retard the timing about 2* to get it back to what I had previously set it at.
Field testing: The truck starts much easier now. It seems like it does not have to crank for a few seconds before starting. Turn the key and it cranks once or twice, then fires right up. Once on the road, I found the throttle responsiveness was a little crisper, and the motor seemed to idle smoother and rev easier. Not a tremendous difference, but enough to be noticed. For all of you speed freaks, this is not a big power producing product, but rather, a modification that will help you extract more power out of other mods you have done. Don’t expect a tremendous HP/torque increase from this.
But do expect that this is a fun, easy project to undertake. And that moving your SS with a Crane is something you just might want to do after all.