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Unread 08-26-2009, 11:37 AM   #1
lockedcj7
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1985 CJ7 
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Anderson, SC
Posts: 182
5.3L swap and CJ-7 build! (long)

Okay guys, I'm in the middle of a long project. First, a little history:

I once owned an '85 CJ-7 with 258 I-6. It was bone-stock when I got it and was running 31s. By the time I sold it, I had swapped in a 4.0L and NP435, lifted it 5 inches and was wheeling 33" MTRs on Moser 1pc rear axles and had lunchbox lockers in both ends. Like most folks, I had also done a lot of little things like discos, currie shackles, slickrock shackle hangers, etc. I had taken it about as far as I could without tossing out mods I had already done. I also had a new baby and couldn't devote the time or money to the Jeep that I felt it deserved.

Fast-forward six years. The "baby" asked me if we could go "mudding" a few months ago. It was like music to my ears.

In the last six months, I've bought, sold and traded a few FSJs. None of them were going to fit my goals very well so I started looking for a SWB and now I have a '77 CJ-7. It was moldering in a field due to a blown motor and I rescued it. The motor was shot and the body is pretty bad. Basically, I'm starting with a good frame and lots of parts to sell or trade.

I'm planning on building it up to be an extremely competent off-road machine while maintaining good economy and road handling. I don't plan on wheeling it real hard or trying to keep up with the buggies. I also drive very conservatively and don't tend to break stuff. I will be using it for moderate, family-friendly trail riding with some rock and mud thrown in. If I have any doubts about the axles, I'll go with alloy shafts and big U-joints 'cause I don't want the weight or ground clearance issues of D60s. I'm also planning on doing as much of the work as I can and keeping the cost under control. Here are the major components for the build:

5.3L LM7 motor from an '03 Suburban.
4L60e or SM465
Dana 300 (possibly w/ 4:1 low)
SOA on stock YJ springs
F-250 shock towers
Dana 44 w/ Aussie locker
Ford 9" w/ ARB and discs
HD High steer
4.10 or 4.56 gears
CV, long spline drive shafts
The biggest tires I can fit with tube fenders and extended TJ flares.

Of course, there are lots of other things that I'm planning to do like the Blazer fan, custom roll cage, nice seats, 4 pt. harnesses, 8-9K lb. winch, etc.

Most everything I'm planning has already been done and I'm looking for advice and input from people who have already done it. For the stuff that is well documented online, I'll probably only mention it and give a before and after pic. For the stuff that isn't well documented, I'll try to give a complete rundown and lots of pics.

The first question I have is about the engine-trans combo. I really like driving a stick, both on and off road. I have an SM 465 that I want to use but everything I've read says to stick with the 4L60e. The reasons cited are that the computer will have to be re-flashed (doesn't it have to be re-flashed anyway?) and the crank is .4 inches closer to the block. Some web sites claim to use a spacer and AA has a custom flywheel. Their kit is $$ and I would still have to buy the adapter for the t-case. I could likely install both myself. I've read the Novak information on the swap and the clutch fitment issues have me a little intimidated. Does somebody already have a list of the parts required and where to get them? I have the bellhousing, fork and all the hydraulic parts from the trans donor.

I would have to source a 4L60e since my motor didn't come with one and I would still have to get the adapter to the dana 300. I don't feel confident installing it in an automatic so I would have to pay for that.

Is it six of one and half a dozen of the other? I'm not worried about installing a clutch pedal and associated linkages. That's the easy part.

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Unread 08-26-2009, 12:14 PM   #2
kickingprop
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I hate automatics but my 4L60E has made offroading much easier...

On the plan to put an aussie locker in front, why not go full case detroit locker? Its sounding like whatever axle you swap up front, it'll have to be re-geared, which possibly means a new carrier for that dana 44...a new carrier and an aussie locker is close in price to just getting a Full Case Detroit locker... Just food for thought.

I sometimes wish I had gone with a manual tranny... this auto from my 5.3 swap is the first automatic I've ever driven...and I hate it around town!
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1985 CJ7 Project
Phase One : 5.3L Vortec/4L60E, Moser axles for AMC20, Twin Stick'd Dana300 - Completed
Phase Two: Bedliner, Rollcage, Seats, BESRK Rear Bumper w/ tire swing, Soft Top, and a few other goodies - Mostly Complete
Phase Three: Waggy 44 front, Scout D44 Rear, 4.56's, ARB's (F/R) SOA with YJ Springs, 35x12.50x15 BFG MT - Not Even Close to beginning

Also a mostly rust-free 1970 Scout 800A That I'll get to start working on someday...

Quote:
Chrome won't get you home...BUT Rattle Can Black may just get you back"
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Unread 08-26-2009, 12:54 PM   #3
lockedcj7
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That's a good point about the front locker. If I can pick one up for a good price, I might go that route. I was hoping that I might find a D44 with 4.10s already installed but that's unlikely. It's increasingly looking like I should be running 4.56 gears anyway.
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Unread 08-26-2009, 01:05 PM   #4
kickingprop
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Also be a good idea to go with a Chevy D44, they are factory sprung over, some will already have flat top knuckles for High-Steer, and they have generally stronger tubes than a Scout 44 will. A FSJ D44 will be just as strong and can have flat tops too, but i dont think it comes factory sprung over. And they arent that hard to find. But I think if you are regearing anyway, a Detroit would be a better expense, since it looks like the rest of this build will be pretty powerful (and strikingly similar to my 85 CJ final product when I'm done!)
__________________
1985 CJ7 Project
Phase One : 5.3L Vortec/4L60E, Moser axles for AMC20, Twin Stick'd Dana300 - Completed
Phase Two: Bedliner, Rollcage, Seats, BESRK Rear Bumper w/ tire swing, Soft Top, and a few other goodies - Mostly Complete
Phase Three: Waggy 44 front, Scout D44 Rear, 4.56's, ARB's (F/R) SOA with YJ Springs, 35x12.50x15 BFG MT - Not Even Close to beginning

Also a mostly rust-free 1970 Scout 800A That I'll get to start working on someday...

Quote:
Chrome won't get you home...BUT Rattle Can Black may just get you back"

Last edited by kickingprop; 08-26-2009 at 01:07 PM.. Reason: hukd on fonics
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Unread 08-26-2009, 01:45 PM   #5
NOVA87Wrangler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockedcj7 View Post
The first question I have is about the engine-trans combo. I really like driving a stick, both on and off road. I have an SM 465 that I want to use but everything I've read says to stick with the 4L60e. The reasons cited are that the computer will have to be re-flashed (doesn't it have to be re-flashed anyway?) and the crank is .4 inches closer to the block. Some web sites claim to use a spacer and AA has a custom flywheel. Their kit is $$ and I would still have to buy the adapter for the t-case. I could likely install both myself. I've read the Novak information on the swap and the clutch fitment issues have me a little intimidated. Does somebody already have a list of the parts required and where to get them? I have the bellhousing, fork and all the hydraulic parts from the trans donor.

I would have to source a 4L60e since my motor didn't come with one and I would still have to get the adapter to the dana 300. I don't feel confident installing it in an automatic so I would have to pay for that.

Is it six of one and half a dozen of the other? I'm not worried about installing a clutch pedal and associated linkages. That's the easy part.
I'm finishing a 5.3 into my YJ right now. I do a lot of highway driving so I actually went with an AX15 to keep 5th gear and stay manual. You're right that you'll need to reflash the computer to eliminate the VATS at least so eliminating the VSS and staying manual isn't prohibitive. I'll say this though, the amount of power to the wheels with a manual is very fun, but takes some getting used to. If I stomp it, the wheels will break loose.

Are you staying fuel injected or going to a carb?
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Unread 08-26-2009, 01:51 PM   #6
kickingprop
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NOVA87Wrangler View Post
Are you staying fuel injected or going to a carb?
I think all the 5.3L motors are fuel injected.... It would be pretty dumb to lose the fuel injection setup and go back to a carb on a motor like that. and his is out of an 03 so def has FI. Do the 2003 Vortecs have the throttle by wire? if so make sure you get that gas pedal too!
__________________
1985 CJ7 Project
Phase One : 5.3L Vortec/4L60E, Moser axles for AMC20, Twin Stick'd Dana300 - Completed
Phase Two: Bedliner, Rollcage, Seats, BESRK Rear Bumper w/ tire swing, Soft Top, and a few other goodies - Mostly Complete
Phase Three: Waggy 44 front, Scout D44 Rear, 4.56's, ARB's (F/R) SOA with YJ Springs, 35x12.50x15 BFG MT - Not Even Close to beginning

Also a mostly rust-free 1970 Scout 800A That I'll get to start working on someday...

Quote:
Chrome won't get you home...BUT Rattle Can Black may just get you back"
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Unread 08-26-2009, 02:17 PM   #7
NOVA87Wrangler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kickingprop View Post
I think all the 5.3L motors are fuel injected.... It would be pretty dumb to lose the fuel injection setup and go back to a carb on a motor like that. and his is out of an 03 so def has FI. Do the 2003 Vortecs have the throttle by wire? if so make sure you get that gas pedal too!
I agree it would be dumb to tear out the fuel injection, but it happens

03 should be drive-by-wire, I had to modify/cut down the pedal arm to make it work in mine.

If you're going to do FI and not going to drop the tank, you can use an external fuel pump from an 89 F250 rather than the Walbro 255. I like being able to pick up parts anywhere.
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Unread 08-26-2009, 05:35 PM   #8
lockedcj7
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I am planning on a Chevy D44 for the same reasons you mentioned. I actually have a FSJ dana 44 with flat-top knuckles but I don't want to do the spring-pad conversion. It's still in a mostly-complete J-10 that I'm trying to sell to help fund this project. I also have a '95 Chrysler 5.9 that I could swap in but the GM motor has so much aftermarket support and so many swappers have already done it, that it's hard to go any other way.

I am planning to use all the refinements of the LM7 motor. I agree that swapping back to a carb wouldn't make a lot of sense. I could easily bolt my SM465 to an older SBC, put a 650 cfm carb on it and call it a day but I've gotten used to jumping in my truck and having it start right up at any temp and elevation.

Kickingprop - did you install the 4L60e-300 adapter yourself or did you have it done? I was quoted $1200 for a bench re-build/update and conversion shaft install if I supply the Novak kit. Since I still have to find a transmission, it would cost $2K before it was even ready to bolt in!
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Unread 08-26-2009, 06:13 PM   #9
kickingprop
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I just got everything I needed from AA (hadnt heard of Novak at that point..) for the 4L60E/D300. I twin sticked mine at the same time... Whenever I stumble across another D300 cheap I'm going to tear it down and build it to the teeth with LoMax 4:1 gears, and HD front and rear outputs. But for now just the regular ol D300 is holding up fine.

$1200 seems a little steep, a lot of people on here have rebuilt D300's with minimal tools and done writeups on it. I'd search around and research some, its probably something you can by yourself pretty easily with the right tools. and then that money saved can go to a 4:1 kit or something!
__________________
1985 CJ7 Project
Phase One : 5.3L Vortec/4L60E, Moser axles for AMC20, Twin Stick'd Dana300 - Completed
Phase Two: Bedliner, Rollcage, Seats, BESRK Rear Bumper w/ tire swing, Soft Top, and a few other goodies - Mostly Complete
Phase Three: Waggy 44 front, Scout D44 Rear, 4.56's, ARB's (F/R) SOA with YJ Springs, 35x12.50x15 BFG MT - Not Even Close to beginning

Also a mostly rust-free 1970 Scout 800A That I'll get to start working on someday...

Quote:
Chrome won't get you home...BUT Rattle Can Black may just get you back"
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Unread 08-26-2009, 06:35 PM   #10
mike4089
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my $.02 i did the 5.3 swap with the auto tranny and LOVE it!!! i had the 6 cylinder, then the AMC v8 carb, then the 5.3 fuel injected...will never go back..also switched from the 4 speed to the auto and will never have it any other way. makes off roading so easy, and driving around town just straight up comftorable...GOOD LUCK on the swap you will enjoy it
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Unread 08-26-2009, 07:25 PM   #11
lockedcj7
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Gotcha. Not enough research on my part. The Novak kit is based on a new output shaft for the transmission and the main case has to be disassembled. The AA kit uses a new input shaft in the transfer case. I've built a 300 before since I adapted one to fit an NP435 using AA parts. The prices of the kits are about the same.

If I can roust up the $$, I may go ahead and do the 4:1 gears at the same time. I'd rather put it in the gears than give it to the transmission shop.

This may mean that I've got a SM465 for sale or trade for a 4L60e.
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Unread 08-26-2009, 07:51 PM   #12
crcj7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kickingprop View Post
I think all the 5.3L motors are fuel injected.... It would be pretty dumb to lose the fuel injection setup and go back to a carb on a motor like that. and his is out of an 03 so def has FI. Do the 2003 Vortecs have the throttle by wire? if so make sure you get that gas pedal too!
alot of people with street rods go to carb on the ls motors cause its easy to set up and make a bit of extra power ... it is not throttle by wire i have a 01 burb with a 5.3 . just put a new one in at 200.000 want to put the old one in a cj8
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Unread 08-28-2009, 08:53 AM   #13
lockedcj7
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Okay. So I read all 23 pages of the 5.3 swap thread over at Pirate and here's what I came up with on the LM7-SM465.

Summit Parts:
Throwout bearing - CTF N1086 - 64.99
Pressure plate - CTF CF360010 - 239.95
Clutch disk - CTF 383735 - 90.75

GM Parts from GM Parts Direct:
Flywheel spacer ring - 12563532 - 31.34
Longer flywheel bolts - 12563533 - 4.06 x 6 = 24.36
Pilot bushing - 12557583 - 9.46

LSX flywheel from a 4.8 or 6.0 - $22 at my local u-pick yard.

Grand total: $482.85 before shipping. Novak has a kit that includes everything listed above for $480.91. It's not in the catalog yet or on the website but I sent them an e-mail and they looked it up for me and gave me that price. AA also has a kit but it's $621. Guess which route I'll be going...

I could probably save a few $$ by using OEM style parts and not using the Centerforce stuff but don't we usually upgrade from stock?
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Unread 08-28-2009, 09:06 AM   #14
kickingprop
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Glad to see you are choosing to go the Manual route! I'm still planning to go back to a manual one of these days...

I'm really looking forward to watching this build!
__________________
1985 CJ7 Project
Phase One : 5.3L Vortec/4L60E, Moser axles for AMC20, Twin Stick'd Dana300 - Completed
Phase Two: Bedliner, Rollcage, Seats, BESRK Rear Bumper w/ tire swing, Soft Top, and a few other goodies - Mostly Complete
Phase Three: Waggy 44 front, Scout D44 Rear, 4.56's, ARB's (F/R) SOA with YJ Springs, 35x12.50x15 BFG MT - Not Even Close to beginning

Also a mostly rust-free 1970 Scout 800A That I'll get to start working on someday...

Quote:
Chrome won't get you home...BUT Rattle Can Black may just get you back"
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Unread 08-28-2009, 09:25 AM   #15
lockedcj7
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Truth-be-told, I probably stole a few ideas from your sig line. I was looking real hard at the 4L60e but I already have an SM 465 and either way, it's going to end up costing about the same. I really like driving a stick and my old Jeep had a NP435. It shifted like a dumptruck but I hear that the SM465 is much better. I also feel confident in being able to re-build it since I've done a few manuals already.
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