About two years ago a friend put a 5.7L Hemi in his JK and another friend John B (96 Classic on NAXJA) put an LS1 in his XJ. I drove and rode in both of these Jeeps and immediately had engine envy. Prompted by this envy I began an 18 month quest to put a 5.3L in my XJ. Frank Z was doing the swap at about the same time as me
). And my Instrument Cluster Swap to Auto Meters
About 6 months into the 5.3L quest reality started to set in and I started thinking there would need to an axle upgrade to go along with it. I was running a D30 with an OX and 4.56 gears and an 8.25” with a No Slip lunchbox locker. Stock shafts were in both axles.
I studied a couple threads on NAXJA, some on Pirate and few other sites I could gather information from. Many thanks to:
Mr. N http://77cj.littlekeylime.com/web_rs44.html
And a bunch of others who have taken the time to document what they did.
My intention was to narrow the axles and run them at XJ width. I decided I needed a pre-’78 F150 or F100 as a donor. Up to ’75 has the drum brakes and ’76-’77 has the disc brake D44 and both have the weld on wedges. I started cruising Craig’s List and there were tons of the ’78 up stuff around here and quite a few of the ’75 down stuff. I kept looking for the years with the disc brake front. In the end it turned out to be time wasted because I decided I was going to use the Chevy D44 Flat Top Knuckles for this swap. I found a pair from a ’75 F100 I found on Craig’s List for $250. Aren’t they sexy? Bright red and GIANT skid plates!
I figured the D44 was going to the challenge so I started on that first. I cleaned it up and stripped all of the mounts off of it.
I was really worried about my abilities to cut and turn the knuckles. I studied and stayed awake at night thinking about it! I ended up following Cruzin’s thread to get the XJ width I wanted. I would spend a lot less time and worry on it the second time around. It really was not that difficult to do. You just need to take your time and measure everything to ensure it is correct. My Jeep gets less than 3000 road miles a year so it becomes even less critical that it’s perfect.
I wanted to use the TNT truss for the D44, it seems like a good product and it includes everything you need. A little pricey? Yeah. But I do think it was worth it.
Now it was time to start searching for my Chevy Flat Tops. There are several possibilities to use depending on what you want (see Mr. N’s page), but for my case I was looking for a ’73 to ’76.5 K5 or K10. I am very patient when it comes to waiting for the right deal to show up on Craig’s List. However, this endeavor took me three months; I wasn’t sure I would ever find the knuckles. Then one day they popped up and it was only 20 miles away. I ran right over with my money in hand. The guy wanted $100 for the whole thing; it had no axles, no rotors, and only 1 caliper. What it did have was the knuckles I wanted, the caliper mounts and the spindles. I was able to talk him down to $50 and I turned the housing into a 12 pack of Miller Lite.
The way to run the Chevy Flat Tops with Ford 5 on 5.5 outers was the most difficult information to find/decipher. With the help of Mr. N’s website I did prevail, but even so when I bought these I wasn’t 100% sure this was what I needed.