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Old May 1st, 2014, 09:40 PM   #1
CJorDie
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Default Roadkill CJ-7 - The 5.3L Swap Adventure/Countdown

I recently became a fan of the show Roadkill on the MotorTrend channel on Youtube and if you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically two guys that cobble together parts from their half-running muscle cars to make a road trip out to a cool drag or track event several states away from where they live. They usually pick the event on the fly and barely make it there but that’s the whole point of the adventure. If you’re familiar with the show you’ll know that an adventure like this is not an adventure unless there are super-short deadlines, questionable fabrication techniques, and a general disregard of the distinction between your checking and savings accounts. What follows is my own personal Roadkill episode with my CJ-7 that all stemmed from starting a 5.3L swap in my driveway.

The Guinea Pig



The upgrade from the 4.2L inline six in my CJ-7 to V8 power has been an on and off again project for the better part of the past decade, ever since I first bought it. After letting an 84 SBC engine sit in my garage for 4 years in anticipation of swapping it in, I changed my mind again and decided to jump on the GM 5.3L bandwagon and go the fuel-injected route instead. With the 5.3L swap not even started, I got it into my head that I also wanted, no NEEDED, to do something similar to an episode of Roadkill with my CJ. I started by gathering the ingredients for this disaster by following the 3 commandments of Roadkill: no time, gratuitous redneck fabrication, and lack of credit card restraint.

Old Reliable - I could always depend on the old inline six. The only upgrades I ever did were putting on a Weber carb and doing a TeamRush upgrade for the ignition system.



Lawn Ornament - As long as this SBC has sat in my garage, it would have gotten more use from planting flowers in the exhaust ports.



New Hotness - 5.3L LM7 from a Silverado. Not the cleanest engine but prettying it up isn't on the schedule for this build.



Planning the Adventure

I’d been browsing the trail ride section on GL4x4 for a while and saw that in about 5 weeks’ time there would be a nice 3-day trail ride up in Grayling, MI. While not an overly short deadline, it would still be difficult to get the 5.3L swapped in and get my CJ trail-worthy in that amount of time while balancing a full-time job. Still, I wanted a challenge so I just dove headfirst into the swap and took pictures as I went so everyone could share in my scramble to get it done in time for this road trip. As of right now I am 36 days out from the convoy to Grayling and I'll try my best to document my progress each day on here.

I'll start the build off by saying.... Grayling or Bust!
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Last edited by CJorDie; May 1st, 2014 at 10:18 PM.
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Old May 1st, 2014, 09:54 PM   #2
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I'm definitely watching this one.
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Old May 1st, 2014, 09:58 PM   #3
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Awesome : thumb:
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Old May 2nd, 2014, 03:29 AM   #4
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I will be checking in on you.
Best of luck.
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Old May 2nd, 2014, 06:28 AM   #5
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Good luck.... I'm also doing a sbc swap into a cj7 and hoping to have it done for the grayling run.
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Old May 2nd, 2014, 07:56 AM   #6
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Awesome plan! I like it, though I hope you're able to do it right instead of cobbling it.
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Old May 2nd, 2014, 08:32 AM   #7
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Sub. I believe it can be done with the right preplan of parts and a competent tuner. Good luck.
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Old May 2nd, 2014, 09:09 PM   #8
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Countdown - 35 Days Remaining

Setting the Scene

Thanks for all the words of support! Like I said, Iíve been pondering and doing research on this type of swap for almost a decade so I hope my last post didnít come off as me telling everyone a swap like this is no big deal. First off, Iíll show you where I currently stand since I have been ordering parts and prepping a few things before I got the Grayling roadtrip idea in my head.



The Heart Transplant Patient

Besides the engine swap I also need to address several maintenance things I should have taken care of a looong time ago. Right now, the old engine is out as well as the trans and t-case. Both the trans and t-case are getting a rebuild treatment since I donít think anyone has touched these outside of oil changes since they left the factory. Iím also sure that the 2nd gear synchro has been slowly eating itself since I bought the CJ; getting it into 2nd is getting more and more difficult. Probably two of the big ticket items that I need to tackle to get this project running smoothly. The steering shaft is toast and the gearbox leaks constantly so those are getting replaced.

Pile Oí Parts

In preparation for the swap, I ordered almost everything I thought Iíd need from Novak Adapt. After this build Iím going to do a review thread on the parts I got since most of the confusion I ran into with swap research was the constant back and forth on whether Novak or Advance Adapters was the better company to buy from. Hopefully reviewing the individual parts will help out anyone else thatís having the same dilemma. The pile below is the huge order I made and got in last week.



With all of this stuff I had covered a good amount of the bases I needed for a hassle-free swap.

- Mating the 5.3L to the T176 trans
- Fuel supply
- Clutch components from the pedal to the flywheel
- Exhaust
- T176 and D300 rebuild kits

Electronics

Speaking of piles, when I bought the 5.3 it came with the entire truck wiring harness. Not just the engine harness but the chassis harness as well. I managed to thin out this nightmare later and got it down to about a quarter of the size it originally was.



Since I wanted to get my Jeep up and running well and not have to deal with the hassle of chasing down electrical gremlins I opted to send the harness and PCM to Wayne Hartwig from 150tunes.com on the Pirate4x4 forum. His company makes the harness a standalone system and he reflashes the PCM to work with the swap. Good pricing? Check. Good reviews? Check. Done and done. However, this part of the swap is causing me the most anxiety since I sent it to them when it was 7 weeks away from Grayling and they said they had a 6-8 week turnaround as busy as they were right now. Definitely Roadkill timelines.

Problem #1 - Exhaust Debacle

No swap is going to be problem free and mine started with the exhaust parts I had ordered. I ordered the set of headers that Novak had on their website which turned out to be Sanderson street rod headers. At first glance everything seemed alright; thick flange, tubes to collector, new bolts, the basics to get exhaust gas away from your engine.



However, closer inspection exposed quite a few rough areas that I felt could have been easily remedied in the fabrication process.





For one thing, there was a good amount of weld spatter on the inside of the tubes themselves. It also looks like the tubes going into the collector weren't even deburred before being welded in. Despite these flaws, I will still undecided on whether or not I would use them. Maybe I was just being too much of a perfectionist and unwilling to ignore a few flaws.

The nail in the coffin for these headers was when I put a flashlight on one side of the collector and could see light peeking out behind the edge of one of the welds. Also, putting the flange surface on a thick table showed that it was ground nowhere near flat and had good gaps in areas that should have been flat to the table. I called Novak and they were willing to send me a new one and a shipping label to send this one back but considering all the problems with this one, I didn't think I'd be happy with the replacement either. I'm just going to return them and go another route

Salvation

I'm very lucky to know people who are as obsessed with Jeeps and cars as much as I am so a friend mentioned my exhaust problem with someone he knew and he lent me all the goodies you see below to do an exhaust test fit in the CJ to see which one would be best for my swap.



From top to bottom are exhaust manifolds from a C6 Corvette, a Cadillac CTS-V, and an LS3 Camaro. This swap is starting to get classy. I'm going to mock up the engine in the frame this weekend and try out each set of manifolds to see which one I like but I couldn't resist just bolting them all on to see how they looked.



C6 Corvette Manifold



Cadillac CTS-V Manifold



LS3 Camaro Manifold. You can see just how much space this one puts between it and the Novak engine mount compared to the other ones. This will probably be the best candidate for the swap based on what I've seen on other peoples' builds but the Corvette manifold is so cooool.

That's all the progress I made tonight. Tomorrow will be busting to get the Dana 300 rebuild finished and start on the T176 transmission rebuild. I'm really enjoying documenting this as I go since I can point out problems that I never saw mentioned in other swap threads and hopefully help out someone doing the same swap I am. As always... Grayling or Bust!
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Old May 2nd, 2014, 09:16 PM   #9
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This got interesting. Not in a bad way either.
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Old May 2nd, 2014, 10:20 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbsjunk View Post
This got interesting. Not in a bad way either.
Agreed.
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Old May 2nd, 2014, 10:38 PM   #11
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Sweet!
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Old May 3rd, 2014, 07:28 AM   #12
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Neat!
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Old May 3rd, 2014, 08:49 AM   #13
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I've got a used CJ steering shaft if you want it. Pretty sure it's still in good shape, but I can go check it out and confirm if you're interested. $20 and it's yours.
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Old May 3rd, 2014, 07:48 PM   #14
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I run 2011 camaro manifolds on mine. You could of read all about how shitty those Sanderson headers with some research.Novak blows also.I gave up listening to what they want you to spend big money on.I have a 5.3 with a nv4500 behind it.all gm parts.that i figured out what works. no custom Novak over priced billet flywheel or there junk adapters.you have some good parts.hope it all works out for you.
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Old May 3rd, 2014, 08:21 PM   #15
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Looks like a fun project! Keep the pics coming.
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Old May 4th, 2014, 12:35 PM   #16
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Done yet? .........

Looks like a good project.
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Old May 4th, 2014, 05:38 PM   #17
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Countdown – 33 days remaining

No post yesterday because I didn’t really get that much done which was fairly annoying. While I was pressing new bearings onto the t-case components I did manage to crush one of the cages on the tapered roller bearings pretty good so I’ll have to hunt around for a new bearing come Monday.

Clearance Checks

Today was ten times better in terms of progress since I got over being pissed off that I crushed one of the bearings plus I had a friend from work come over and help me out. The goal for today: get the engine on the frame and check for any interferences between components.



I started off by bolting in the Novak mounts and getting all the Jeep wiring up and out of the way. I really do like the Novak mounts; they’re good and thick with nice welds plus they bolt right into the stock engine mount location. The downside was the Grade 5 bolts included in the kit. Even if the mounts cost a little bit more for being sent out with Grade 8 bolts, I would have still bought them. Grade 5 bolts might be sufficient but I just feel better having Grade 8 in there.





Also, without the lock washers installed, the bolts only had 2 threads sticking out past the nut. With the proper washer and a nyloc-nut on the end I’d be down to 1 thread at the most. This might seem like a trivial detail but I don’t ever go less than 2 full threads past the nut; ask me why sometime. Time for a trip to the hardware store.

On to the fun stuff. Step 1: get the engine in the Jeep. I got the 5.3 off the engine stand with the picker and a leveler and bolted on the bellhousing to make sure I wouldn't have any clearance issues with the firewall. If you're planning on doing a swap like this an engine leveler makes it a thousand times easier to get the engine where you want it. $50 from harbor freight is well worth the investment.



I also bolted on the engine side engine mounts. You can see that the Novak ones have adjustment holes to move the engine 1/2" forward or backwards from the center position. I put them on the center holes and I'll adjust down the road if I have any problems.



Problem #2 - Hydraulic slave cylinder mount

My first interference problem happened before I even got the engine close to the mounts. As you can in the pictures below, the mount for the slave cylinder can't be tightened down to be flush with the bolt bore faces on the bellhousing. There's a thick boss on that side of the bellhousing which I believe was for a mechanical linkage. Nothing that a dremel won't fix but I got the bellhousing from Novak and they told me that it was already set up to accept the hydraulic slave cylinder with no problems. Meh.





Success!

I don't have any pictures of my friend and I constantly adjusting the picker and leveler but after the right amount of shoves and pulls the 5.3 was sitting happily on the engine mounts. I was very surprised when I looked down at my watch and saw that only 1 hour had passed since we started working. My friend said that he's had a much harder time getting stock engines installed back in the cars they've come from then we've had on this swap. These engines fit like a glove in a CJ's engine bay. Seeing the engine in the CJ really boosted my confidence that I could get this done in time.





I will tell you that you'll probably have more instances of your equipment having interference problems than your engine. The engine leveler was constantly hitting and scrapping against this hood lip but you can't see it when the hood's on so no big deal.



Radiator Clearance

First thing I checked was radiator clearance. Firewall clearance was good with about 1" between it and the bellhousing so I decided I didn't want the engine to move back any further than it was. I have more than enough room for a 3" radiator and shroud with the stock mechanical fan or an electric fan which most companies tell me would be 7" thick overall when attached to the radiator.



Power Steering Clearance

The pictures below may make it seem like the power steering pump was fairly close to the frame and steering shaft but it had more than enough space. The lines were snugged up against the steering shaft at first but I rotated them out of the way by loosening the flare nut on the pump a little bit.





Driveshaft Clearance

I snapped a couple perspective pictures trying to get an idea if the driveshaft would hit the oil pan but right now it's a tossup since I don't have the driveshafts yet. The engine has the stock truck pan on right now and if there's an interference problem I doubt I'd have a problem getting a shallower one to put on.



Exhaust Manifold Clearance

I'm really glad that I didn't make any decisions on the exhaust based on the pictures from my last post. While they gave me a good idea of where the exhaust would have to hook up they didn't give me any insight as to interference problems.

Like last time, the C6 Corvette manifolds were first up to bat. Despite being the most compact manifolds out of all three they only had 1/4" clearance between the heat shield and steering shaft. They also hit the engine mounts well before being tightened down to the head all the way. No bueno.







Next up: Cadillac CTS-V manifolds. I had an instant problem trying to get these on; the heat shield contacted the steering shaft and prevented me from even getting the manifold flush with the head. Even without the shield, the manifolds were barely 3/16" away from the steering shaft and I could definitely imagine these contacting with a little engine flex. No go. On the plus side, I did like where they had the exhaust pointed. The 45 degrees from horizontal position would make exhaust installation a piece of cake.





The Winner! LS3 Camaro manifolds. Before I did these interference checks I was biased towards the Camaro manifolds anyway since everyone I've talked to has used them. Their popularity is not without reason as you can see below. They exit well near the back of the block, straight down into the void between the frame and the oil pan. The second picture is the drivers side and while it does overlap the frame a tiny bit when looking at it from below, it shouldn't be a problem getting a pipe and flange to it.





I also mocked them up with the hydraulic slave cylinder when the engine was out of the Jeep. Close but it will be fine as long I keep the hydraulic lines out of the way.



Phew! This post was a little long-winded but I hope everyone enjoyed the pictures and the info. Now that I see how smoothly the engine installs I'm going to be busting my ass this week to get the trans and t-case rebuild done. This weeks checklist includes:

- Finish part ordering
- Finish Tranmission rebuild
- Finish Transfer Case rebuild
- Install clutch components and bolt drivetrain together

As always... Grayling or Bust!

Last edited by CJorDie; May 4th, 2014 at 05:45 PM.
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Old May 4th, 2014, 06:19 PM   #18
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Beyond cool.
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Old May 4th, 2014, 06:57 PM   #19
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Cool.
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Old May 4th, 2014, 07:40 PM   #20
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Keep at it!
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