'97 ZJ 5.2 Budget Performance Build - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 16 Old 10-19-2011, 03:37 PM Thread Starter
JrMechanic
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'97 ZJ 5.2 Budget Performance Build

I just started in on my newest project for a friend of mine. We picked up a very clean and very promising '97 Limited with a blown 318 for $750:




This thread should be appeal to anyone who is interested in "best bang for your buck" modifications as well as smaller, inexpensive things you can do along the way.

The objective: Build a good running daily driver while waking up the new 318 with a little extra power, and improving/cleaning things up along the way while staying on a budget. This DOES NOT mean this project will be slapped together! The basis is inexpensive, not cheap. Anyone expecting 400hp will be disappointed because serious power doesn't come without high costs. However, what you can expect to see is a huge improvement in low end torque, passing power, and the ability to run with stock 5.9's at a minimum.

I will begin taking pictures as the project moves along, but here's what we have so far:

We picked up a complete '96 5.2 with 87,000 miles for $300 and proceeded to tear it down to the short block for inspection. It looked like you would expect an engine with 87,000 miles to look like. Bearings look great with minimal wear and clearances are tight, visible crosshatch pattern on the cylinder walls, and no ridge to speak up at the top of the cylinders. In other words, this is an excellent start to our project.

Planned modifications include an aluminum plenum plate along with the kegger mod and gasket matching on the intake, a couple modifications to the TB, some mild porting on the heads, a double roller timing set, camshaft, and exhaust. We will also be replacing all of the usual items such as the oil pump, gaskets, head bolts, water pump, mounts, etc. Hopefully the budget allows us to get the heads into the machine shop and have them gone through.

-Camshaft: I haven't completely made up my mind yet. The towing cam from Hughes is an excellent choice for this build, but we're tempted to go a little bigger, with the HER0814AL. The lift with stock rockers puts us just over what is considered to be okay with stock springs. Way over if he decides to add 1.7 rockers in the future meaning we will have to install a new set of springs as well. I've also considered a custom ground cam between the two. I'd like to keep the duration of the larger cam but take the lift down to the .500 range. Possibly even a 112 LSA to make the cam a little more responsive.

I know cam selection is a mystery to many of you, so I'll try to go into as much detail with the cam and installation as possible.

Once the engine is done, the transmission will get a Fairbanks shift kit, I'll build one of my 242's for it, and we will be adding a 2" BB and 31's.


Want to swap an NP242 or NP231 into your ZJ? Here's how:

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post #2 of 16 Old 10-19-2011, 04:25 PM
Benja
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Looks interesting ! good luck

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post #3 of 16 Old 11-06-2011, 08:55 PM Thread Starter
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About time I update this I'd say. We ended up with the Hughes HER0814AL cam, Hughes 1110 valve springs, and 1278 retainers. I don't think he'll ever regret the bigger cam. Once he gets a SCT tuner down the road, this Jeep is going to be an animal.

We've made quite a bit of progress. The short block is all cleaned and things are starting to go back together. The new rear main seal is installed along with the new oil pump and the oil pan, as well as the cam, double roller timing set, and timing cover and the block has been painted with 3 coats of gloss black high-temp enamel.

The heads are back from the machine shop, sadly I'm going to spend quite a bit of time massaging the ports and gasket matching as well as swapping the valve springs and retainers. I also began modifying the manifold. The center divider is gone and I started to cut down the runners but I need to pick up some new blades for my sawzall.

The goal is to have the engine completed by the end of this week and start pulling the old one out this weekend. Here's some pictures, please excuse the mess. I've had 3 other projects going on including another engine swap, and between work and school it's difficult to keep a clean garage.

New cam going in:


Double roller timing set:


New oil pump:




All painted and ready for the top end:

Want to swap an NP242 or NP231 into your ZJ? Here's how:

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post #4 of 16 Old 11-06-2011, 09:26 PM
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Sweep that floor, haha
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post #5 of 16 Old 11-06-2011, 09:56 PM
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Looks interesting, be following this build for sure.

98 Deep Slate Niner- 6''s on 35's ---11 F150 Platinum Pearl White- Modded Tiny V6 with Two Turbos. ---93 Black 5.2 limited- Slowly dying in my Parents Driveway
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post #6 of 16 Old 11-07-2011, 03:14 PM
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Totally following your build. I haven't found a motor with less then 200,000 miles for less than $600 here in las Vegas. Planning on doing the same build in my 97. Wrist pin went and I'm dying without the jeep up and running.
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post #7 of 16 Old 11-24-2011, 09:31 AM Thread Starter
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Heads are ported, Hughes 1110 valve springs and 1278 retainers are installed, and painted. They're also torqued down on the engine with all of the valvetrain installed. I just have to clean up the runners on the intake and the new engine is done, the plan is to get the old engine pulled this weekend and get ready to drop the new one in. More pictures to come.

Want to swap an NP242 or NP231 into your ZJ? Here's how:

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post #8 of 16 Old 12-05-2011, 07:15 PM Thread Starter
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I need to go back and update this thread quite a bit, but the engine is in and the Jeep is done. There's a lot of words to describe it, but I feel "nasty" is a good one. Idle quality is great, throttle response is instant and strong, it revs much quicker than a stock 318, and it pulls HARD! Punch it from a stop and you'll be past 60 before you even think about letting off. On wet roads, it loses traction when you punch it in 4wd.

Overall, my buddy is extremely satisfied. It's currently running on the stock PCM without a tune, we're eager to get an SCT tuner and really see what this thing is capable of. Tuned, I would say without a doubt this ZJ would hit low to mid 14's in the 1/4 mile.

Want to swap an NP242 or NP231 into your ZJ? Here's how:

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post #9 of 16 Old 12-05-2011, 09:23 PM
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We need pics! nice to see the ZJ is going fast

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post #10 of 16 Old 12-06-2011, 10:58 PM
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I'm excited for the update and would love to see some vid as well. If you dont mind I'm interested in a cost breakdown as well if possible.
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post #11 of 16 Old 02-27-2012, 09:04 PM Thread Starter
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I dropped the ball on updating this thread... I'll just throw up some pictures:













Want to swap an NP242 or NP231 into your ZJ? Here's how:

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post #12 of 16 Old 02-27-2012, 09:13 PM
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Man, that engine sure does look purdy. Have you dyno'd it yet?

94 Grand Cherokee 5.2 33in. Federal Couragia M/T's on Procomp Steelies, np231 swap, IRO Hack n Tap SYE, Carolina Driveshaft, 4.5 in. lift, RE front upper/rear lower ca's, RC front lowers, Ironman rear uppers, IRO 4.5 coils in rear, 3.5 and 2" bb (no isolators) in front, Bilstein 5100's, Clayton/JKS adj. track bars, KOR rad support and SS, Magnaflow/Flowmaster exhaust, clear corners, custom light bar w/ Hella 500's


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post #13 of 16 Old 02-28-2012, 06:28 AM
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Did your buddy ever end up going with a bigger TB and FMS 24 or 30 pound injectors? Seems like a motor like this would have benefitted from both, especially considering it could all be done for under $200. Also, will it be keeping factory exhaust manifolds or going bigger?

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post #14 of 16 Old 02-28-2012, 07:39 PM Thread Starter
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The TB was smoothed with a Dremel, and it's still running the stock injectors without a tune. The stock manifolds flow plenty well enough for what it is. The rest of the exhaust needs upgraded however, it's currently breathing through a 2.5" Thrush Welded muffler (FM 40 equivalent) with no cat (because the cat self destructed and a high flow unit hasn't been installed yet).

It does need injectors and a tune. Those two things would make a HUGE improvement. He's thinking about selling it though, so we may not get that far. Overall though, we're both extremely pleased with it's performance. It's faster than a stock 5.9, and is capable of going sideways on dry pavement in 4wd. When we play around with it and my 4.0, he's typically letting off at the 110 mark while I'm just hitting 70.

Want to swap an NP242 or NP231 into your ZJ? Here's how:

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post #15 of 16 Old 04-09-2012, 06:45 PM
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Thank you for posting the pictures and everything. I've been looking where a few ground wires go, and luckily ur pics showed them. I rebuilt my sister's 97 ZJ 5.2l V8 318ci and these ground wires are the last thing I have to do. I'll post pictures of mine soon
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