Holley Sniper review - The good, the bad, and learn from my frustration

LX Dave

Active Member
Jul 2, 2017
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Said I'd do a review on the Holley Sniper, so here it is.

First off, I picked up a 1984 GT350 a couple of years ago that had most of the original parts in it yet, including the dial snorkel air cleaner. Since I had that, I just had to use it.
The reason for choosing the Sniper:
20200808_123900.jpg


From the beginning of the restoration, I had the Sniper in my mind and built parts of the car around that, mainly the fuel system and electrical.

The kit I bought:

Also for timing control, this distributor:

Ignition coil:

Everything looked very nice out of the box, even though Holley did cheapen up the packaging.
I wanted to go with an in-tank fuel pump, so got one for an EFI car and did some modifying to it for the return line. Picked up a high pressure pump (Sniper requires 60 psi).

On to the first start. Followed the instructions and did a couple of primes to fill the lines and such. Hit the key and it started right up. Ran a bit rough, but soon smoothed out. It was at this point I made two mistakes. First, I picked street/strip for camshaft type. Second, I did the initial start with the air cleaner off, more on those later. Car was running great and throttle response was amazing. After a few heat cycles, I was getting really anxious to take this thing for a rip. That ALMOST happened. Had the car running and up to temp and decided, what the heck. Closed the hood and it sputtered and died. Well, that's odd. Opened the hood and restarted it again. Closed the hood slowly this time and as soon as I got close it started to sputter and die again. Shut it down and started looking around for a short, loose wire, anything. When I couldn't find anything wrong, I knew it was the Sniper system. After some confusion and thought, dumped the tune and went with the street tune. Put the air cleaner on and restarted it. Rough again at first, then smoothed out. This system is really sensitive to airflow apparently. Took the car out for a rip and all was good.

Here is where the fun begins.....

After taking the car out for a couple of short trips, the engine would randomly die for a second and come back to life. Hot, cold, different times into running, made no sense. It did seem to happen more after pulling some rpms though. It started doing this more and more until the car was basically un-drivable. I couldn't even go around the block even on a cold engine. A couple of times I didn't think I was going to get back home. While on one of those test drives, I noticed that when it would die, the tach would drop to zero. First thought was the coil driver.

Decided to start a thread on the Holley forums and get more ideas. Someone noted what coil I was using (E-core) and said I couldn't use that with a coil driver, only a canister style coil would work. My first thought after reading that was GREAT, burned up the driver. Second was, why wasn't that in the instructions?!?! So, instead of buying another coil driver, sprung for a Sniper CDI box. Got that installed thinking it would solve the problems, and guess what, no bueno. Engine still dropped and couldn't drive it.

Decided to call Holley tech support on a Friday. Talked with a guy for a couple of minutes and he wanted a datalog to see what was going on and he would contact me Monday morning. Sent him two datalogs. So, TWO weeks later, no response. Irritated, called again and got another guy. He asked for a datalog too. Sent it right away and he looked at it while I was on the phone with him. He said it looks like RFI. I asked what I could do about it and he gave me some ideas. Ground alternator to block, ground air cleaner to block, put ferrite filters on all the wires. I went a step further on grounding and such and once again, nothing was working.

My next phone call was to Summit Racing. Can I return this pos? Came back since I was a good customer and even though by now, the unit was out of warranty, they would do it. Told them I wanted to try a couple of things first and would call back it they didn't work. Pulling this system off would be a last resort as the fuel system and a bunch of electrical was done just for the Sniper.

After a couple of more weeks trying things and not have them work, I was basically done with this system. So, on a Saturday morning, I went out and was going to pull the entire system out of the car. Opened the hood and hesitated, looking at it. Then, had a thought, one last thing to try.....

20200613_124245.jpg


As stupid as this looks, and seems, IT WORKED!! Wrapped a rag around the distributor, then two layers of tin foil. Grounded the foil in the engine bay. Car ran for 20 minutes absolutely perfect! Decided to take it for a run. Started just around the block, then ventured out further and further. Flawless the entire time. Apparently, RFI IS a problem.

Decided to make a shield for the front of the Sniper unit (computer for it is in the front).
20200808_123945.jpg
20200808_124001.jpg

The shield is grounded through the mounting studs. Since the shield was put on, not a single problem, not one. Car has run perfect every time and has never hesitated or stalled since. So, this is what it takes to put a Sniper on a small-block Ford. Two months fighting, cursing, not getting any help from Holley OR the forum, and a stupid little tin plate.

As we all know, the aftermarket automotive world caters to the bow-ties. Well guys, I'm NOT puttin a Chebby in my Ford, I don't care. And doing more research about this, I can't find a chevy powered vehicle that is having these problems, only Ford and some Mopars.

And to the boys at Holley: Great Job! you build a great EFI system, but completely FAILED at adding some shielding so the computer wouldn't freak out. Heck, a remote mounted computer would be even better. It falls on deaf ears.

So, all in all, this is a great system if it wasn't for the RFI problems. Good price, pretty easy to install. Time will tell as to how it holds up. Read the instructions, then read them again, follow the wiring diagrams and don't expect much help calling tech support.

Yes, I'm still a little salty about two months of fighting this, but am happy it works, and works good now. With a mildly build 351, approx. 400 hp, I can still get 17 mpg with this, and have on several tanks.

Still doing some fine tuning and it keeps getting better and better with good looking datalogs. I now have almost 2000 miles on it and hope it keeps on going.

There is so much you can do with this system, from timing to injector and external outputs, it's actually a well thought-out system. The downfall for not buying the laptop cable for live tuning ($53.00) is you have to pull the SD card, plug it into your computer, tune, save, and then download it to the ECU when plugged back in. I have the cable, but haven't gotten around to doing live tunes yet....hopefully soon.

Maybe add more if I can remember.......
 
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Steel1

Mustang Master
Aug 18, 2017
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Nice review glad you were able to figure out what was causing the stalling issue.
This write up will probably save someone a major headache.
Engine bay looks great, post some pics of the full ride.
 

TOOLOW91

If you're the village idiot what's that make me?
15 Year Member
Nov 29, 1999
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This is a known issue , I see it in the Holley groups all the time . The actual MPFI stuff is Awesome as well as the support from all the various groups and pages . Glad you got it sorted
 

LX Dave

Active Member
Jul 2, 2017
156
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This is a known issue , I see it in the Holley groups all the time . The actual MPFI stuff is Awesome as well as the support from all the various groups and pages . Glad you got it sorted

Just sucks I found this out after the purchase. If I had known this, I just might have gone MPFI....maybe.:shrug:


Remembered some pictures.

Back of unit
20200808_124030.jpg


Hyperspark distributor
20200808_124228.jpg


And where I ended up hiding the CDI box, under the power distribution box - can barely see it under there.
20200808_124239.jpg



Had a thought too, this thing is already out of warranty, so just might look into relocating the ECU inside the car over winter. Guess it'll depend on how things are under the front cover. May just be a matter of extending a few wires, maybe not. The cables on the unit are pretty long so most of them would already reach through the firewall.

Out of the box, the start timing was set at 15 btc, changed that to 8. Idle timing was at 15 also, changed that to 12. Full advance I put at 30 degrees.
Where does a 351 like to run at? Thinking of trying 35 once and see if the engine likes it.

Also had to change the minimum injector open time. When coasting, it would pop out the exhaust once the IAC went to zero open. Went from 1.2 m/s to 1.6 m/s and the popping went away.

Looked into doing a progressive linkage too as some people were complaining the throttle response is too quick. I found this to not be true. Maybe in some applications, but not street use.
 
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Steel1

Mustang Master
Aug 18, 2017
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Just sucks I found this out after the purchase. If I had known this, I just might have gone MPFI....maybe.:shrug:
Yeah that's frustrating but even the people running mpfi systems , including me Pimp XS, can deal with some frustrating issues.
Unless you're some type of computer controlled efi wizard there are usually some bumps in the road when changing from factory
to an aftermarket system.
Although in your case some type of factory optional shielding kit would have been nice.
 

TOOLOW91

If you're the village idiot what's that make me?
15 Year Member
Nov 29, 1999
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There was a guy actually selling a plate like you made for the Chevys that blocked the dist and had a ground wire to go from it to the intake bolt to remedy it as well. Glad it’s up and running
 

jrichker

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Now we all know why the Ford EFI mounted the computer inside the passenger compartment...

The factory fix would have been to vapor deposit a thin layer of aluminum inside the computer box. A lot of control systems and accessories use this method to dampen out RFI.
 

Skind

Member
Jun 28, 2018
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IN
Said I'd do a review on the Holley Sniper, so here it is.

First off, I picked up a 1984 GT350 a couple of years ago that had most of the original parts in it yet, including the dial snorkel air cleaner. Since I had that, I just had to use it.
The reason for choosing the Sniper:
20200808_123900.jpg


From the beginning of the restoration, I had the Sniper in my mind and built parts of the car around that, mainly the fuel system and electrical.

The kit I bought:

Also for timing control, this distributor:

Ignition coil:

Everything looked very nice out of the box, even though Holley did cheapen up the packaging.
I wanted to go with an in-tank fuel pump, so got one for an EFI car and did some modifying to it for the return line. Picked up a high pressure pump (Sniper requires 60 psi).

On to the first start. Followed the instructions and did a couple of primes to fill the lines and such. Hit the key and it started right up. Ran a bit rough, but soon smoothed out. It was at this point I made two mistakes. First, I picked street/strip for camshaft type. Second, I did the initial start with the air cleaner off, more on those later. Car was running great and throttle response was amazing. After a few heat cycles, I was getting really anxious to take this thing for a rip. That ALMOST happened. Had the car running and up to temp and decided, what the heck. Closed the hood and it sputtered and died. Well, that's odd. Opened the hood and restarted it again. Closed the hood slowly this time and as soon as I got close it started to sputter and die again. Shut it down and started looking around for a short, loose wire, anything. When I couldn't find anything wrong, I knew it was the Sniper system. After some confusion and thought, dumped the tune and went with the street tune. Put the air cleaner on and restarted it. Rough again at first, then smoothed out. This system is really sensitive to airflow apparently. Took the car out for a rip and all was good.

Here is where the fun begins.....

After taking the car out for a couple of short trips, the engine would randomly die for a second and come back to life. Hot, cold, different times into running, made no sense. It did seem to happen more after pulling some rpms though. It started doing this more and more until the car was basically un-drivable. I couldn't even go around the block even on a cold engine. A couple of times I didn't think I was going to get back home. While on one of those test drives, I noticed that when it would die, the tach would drop to zero. First thought was the coil driver.

Decided to start a thread on the Holley forums and get more ideas. Someone noted what coil I was using (E-core) and said I couldn't use that with a coil driver, only a canister style coil would work. My first thought after reading that was GREAT, burned up the driver. Second was, why wasn't that in the instructions?!?! So, instead of buying another coil driver, sprung for a Sniper CDI box. Got that installed thinking it would solve the problems, and guess what, no bueno. Engine still dropped and couldn't drive it.

Decided to call Holley tech support on a Friday. Talked with a guy for a couple of minutes and he wanted a datalog to see what was going on and he would contact me Monday morning. Sent him two datalogs. So, TWO weeks later, no response. Irritated, called again and got another guy. He asked for a datalog too. Sent it right away and he looked at it while I was on the phone with him. He said it looks like RFI. I asked what I could do about it and he gave me some ideas. Ground alternator to block, ground air cleaner to block, put ferrite filters on all the wires. I went a step further on grounding and such and once again, nothing was working.

My next phone call was to Summit Racing. Can I return this pos? Came back since I was a good customer and even though by now, the unit was out of warranty, they would do it. Told them I wanted to try a couple of things first and would call back it they didn't work. Pulling this system off would be a last resort as the fuel system and a bunch of electrical was done just for the Sniper.

After a couple of more weeks trying things and not have them work, I was basically done with this system. So, on a Saturday morning, I went out and was going to pull the entire system out of the car. Opened the hood and hesitated, looking at it. Then, had a thought, one last thing to try.....

20200613_124245.jpg


As stupid as this looks, and seems, IT WORKED!! Wrapped a rag around the distributor, then two layers of tin foil. Grounded the foil in the engine bay. Car ran for 20 minutes absolutely perfect! Decided to take it for a run. Started just around the block, then ventured out further and further. Flawless the entire time. Apparently, RFI IS a problem.

Decided to make a shield for the front of the Sniper unit (computer for it is in the front).
20200808_123945.jpg
20200808_124001.jpg

The shield is grounded through the mounting studs. Since the shield was put on, not a single problem, not one. Car has run perfect every time and has never hesitated or stalled since. So, this is what it takes to put a Sniper on a small-block Ford. Two months fighting, cursing, not getting any help from Holley OR the forum, and a stupid little tin plate.

As we all know, the aftermarket automotive world caters to the bow-ties. Well guys, I'm NOT puttin a Chebby in my Ford, I don't care. And doing more research about this, I can't find a chevy powered vehicle that is having these problems, only Ford and some Mopars.

And to the boys at Holley: Great Job! you build a great EFI system, but completely FAILED at adding some shielding so the computer wouldn't freak out. Heck, a remote mounted computer would be even better. It falls on deaf ears.

So, all in all, this is a great system if it wasn't for the RFI problems. Good price, pretty easy to install. Time will tell as to how it holds up. Read the instructions, then read them again, follow the wiring diagrams and don't expect much help calling tech support.

Yes, I'm still a little salty about two months of fighting this, but am happy it works, and works good now. With a mildly build 351, approx. 400 hp, I can still get 17 mpg with this, and have on several tanks.

Still doing some fine tuning and it keeps getting better and better with good looking datalogs. I now have almost 2000 miles on it and hope it keeps on going.

There is so much you can do with this system, from timing to injector and external outputs, it's actually a well thought-out system. The downfall for not buying the laptop cable for live tuning ($53.00) is you have to pull the SD card, plug it into your computer, tune, save, and then download it to the ECU when plugged back in. I have the cable, but haven't gotten around to doing live tunes yet....hopefully soon.

Maybe add more if I can remember.......
I installed a Sniper on my 85 in September, and it ran great. Then 3 weeks ago I installed the ignition parts so the sniper could control timing. Dual Sync distributor, HyperSpark cd box and coil. That's when everything went south... I have tried everything to fix the emi/rfi. Different plug wires, moved wires around, ferrite filters, ect. The only way it'll run ok is without the air cleaner or with some aluminum flashing in front of the sniper. Thought about trying a plastic air cleaner base and top, but really like the original dual snorkel air cleaner, and the cool air it gets from the fender wells. Then I just seen your post and your nice and tighty cover and I think I'll try that.
Did you use steel or aluminum?
Kinda glad to see I'm not the only one with this exact problem.... I've been second guessing my install over and over. Everyone on the Holley forums says it's installer error. Man, I've went over everything over and over, have a tech say I've done everything correctly and they don't know what's wrong either. Must be something about sbf and the ecu being in the front of the Sniper.
Thanks for posting this!
 

TOOLOW91

If you're the village idiot what's that make me?
15 Year Member
Nov 29, 1999
7,403
7,288
234
S.I.NY
I installed a Sniper on my 85 in September, and it ran great. Then 3 weeks ago I installed the ignition parts so the sniper could control timing. Dual Sync distributor, HyperSpark cd box and coil. That's when everything went south... I have tried everything to fix the emi/rfi. Different plug wires, moved wires around, ferrite filters, ect. The only way it'll run ok is without the air cleaner or with some aluminum flashing in front of the sniper. Thought about trying a plastic air cleaner base and top, but really like the original dual snorkel air cleaner, and the cool air it gets from the fender wells. Then I just seen your post and your nice and tighty cover and I think I'll try that.
Did you use steel or aluminum?
Kinda glad to see I'm not the only one with this exact problem.... I've been second guessing my install over and over. Everyone on the Holley forums says it's installer error. Man, I've went over everything over and over, have a tech say I've done everything correctly and they don't know what's wrong either. Must be something about sbf and the ecu being in the front of the Sniper.
Thanks for posting this!
They are prone to Emi.
Hp , dominator , terminator x have none of these issues
 

LX Dave

Active Member
Jul 2, 2017
156
80
38
46
I installed a Sniper on my 85 in September, and it ran great. Then 3 weeks ago I installed the ignition parts so the sniper could control timing. Dual Sync distributor, HyperSpark cd box and coil. That's when everything went south... I have tried everything to fix the emi/rfi. Different plug wires, moved wires around, ferrite filters, ect. The only way it'll run ok is without the air cleaner or with some aluminum flashing in front of the sniper. Thought about trying a plastic air cleaner base and top, but really like the original dual snorkel air cleaner, and the cool air it gets from the fender wells. Then I just seen your post and your nice and tighty cover and I think I'll try that.
Did you use steel or aluminum?
Kinda glad to see I'm not the only one with this exact problem.... I've been second guessing my install over and over. Everyone on the Holley forums says it's installer error. Man, I've went over everything over and over, have a tech say I've done everything correctly and they don't know what's wrong either. Must be something about sbf and the ecu being in the front of the Sniper.
Thanks for posting this!
The shield I made was made out of mild steel, 18 ga if I remember right.

I know how you feel, mine started out running great and went to hell fast. I'm not sure how many times I went through things looking, testing, etc..
Problem is, Holley knows this a problem with the sbf and refuse to do anything about it. It all stems from the ECU being mounted on the front of the unit. If they would've made it remote mount like their other systems, everything would be fine.
Glad this helped you.