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1986 Vortec Cherokee

Old 10-19-2012, 12:33 AM
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Year: 1986
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Engine: 5.3L Vortec V8
Default 1986 Vortec Cherokee

I've been working on my 1986 Xj for about a year and a half now, so I thought I would share with the world what I've done so far, and what I plan to do down the road. My build is going very slow, but it's coming along bit by bit. It is already a lot more fun to drive than when I bought it.

Here's what I started with:
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1986 4 Door XJ Cherokee
3" Skyjacker Lift
31x10.5 generic tires
2.8L V6 LR2 Engine
AX5 5spd Manual Transmission
NP207 Transfer Case
Dana 30 Open Front Axle
Dana 35 Open Rear Axle
Originally Light Blue, Rattle canned Flat Black
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Old 10-19-2012, 11:51 AM
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Year: 2001
Model: Cherokee
Engine: 4.0L I6
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Whats it at now?
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Old 10-19-2012, 03:04 PM
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Year: 1986
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Engine: 5.3L Vortec V8
Default Current Status

This is the current status of the build. I'll edit this post to reflect changes as time goes on.

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1986 XJ Cherokee, 4 door, Partly blue, partly black, a little bit orange.
2001 Chevy 5.3L Vortec V8 LM7
NV4500, 5.61:1 1st, '95 Chevy input, BH and top, Dodge 23 spline output and Cast Iron TH
Dana 300 , LoMax 4:1 gears , Northwest Fab Flip Ring
Novak Gen III XJ Headers
Champion 3 Row Crossflow Radiator
Generic 16" and 12" electric puller fans.
Bushwacker Flat Fender Flares
Unique 15" D Window Steel Wheels
Cooper Discoverer S/T 33x12.50 Tires
Stock Dana 30 Open 4.10:1 Front Axle w/ vacuum disconnect
Ford 8.8 Limited Slip 4.10:1 Rear Axle w/ Disk Brakes
Unlimited Products PR-53 Six Pack Hood Scoop
Skyjacker Lower Control Arms
Skyjacker 3" lift front coils
Skyjacker rear Add-a-Leaf
1" Rear Shackles
2" Receiver Hitch
Stock Front Hook Brackets (from JY)
JKS Adjustable TrackBar
Late model XJ front seats.

Last edited by CrazyMonkeyBen; 12-06-2012 at 06:33 PM. Reason: added seats
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Old 10-19-2012, 03:22 PM
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Year: 1986
Model: Cherokee
Engine: 5.3L Vortec V8
Default Extra Photos and Videos

I have lots of extra photos in my PhotoBucket album
http://s74.photobucket.com/albums/i2...ec%20Cherokee/

and videos on Youtube
http://www.youtube.com/user/CrazyMon...query=cherokee
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Old 10-19-2012, 05:42 PM
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Year: 1986
Model: Cherokee
Engine: 5.3L Vortec V8
Default Early Stages

I started out with no plans to replace the drivetrain right away. My early efforts were directed toward getting the 2.8L V6 to run right, and to start getting rid of the horribly ugly black rattle can paint job.

One of the first projects was to replace the shift **** which disintegrated the day I bought the car.


I started out painting the hood.


Then I painted the fenders and got some chrome hub caps to dress it up a bit.


After getting a friend stuck in the snow I discovered that a stock XJ has absolutely no recovery points whatsoever. So I quickly got and installed a standard 2" receiver hitch. Then I pulled some stock optional hook brackets from the JY. I cleaned and painted the brackets black before installing.


Then I installed the front Bushwackers.


Around this time I attempted to drive up Eagle Rock and Saran Wrap with some friends. We failed Eagle Rock because of heavy traffic. We failed Saran wrap because I over-reved the engine due to lack of power, along with probable low oil pressure, and thus spun a rod bearing at the first obstacle. We turned around, parked my Cherokee at the bottom and came back with a trailer.

The Cherokee sat for several months as I amassed the parts to replace the engine with something that would not be subject to oiling problems, power limitations and carburetor issues on steep inclines.
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Old 10-19-2012, 06:48 PM
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Year: 1986
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Default The Replacement Drivetrain

The Cherokee sat for 2 or 3 months as I started researching and purchasing the pieces to have a relatively reliable and no longer under powered Jeep.

I decided on a Gen III Chevy small block engine and found a 5.3L LM7 from a 2001 Tahoe at Colorado Auto & Parts for $600 including all the accessories except alternator and AC compressor.


I decided fairly early on to get a Dana 300 so that I could put JB Conversions LoMax 4:1 gears, which were on sale for $400. I found an '81 Dana 300 at FN Jeep for $150 in great shape.


I originally wanted to use a Muncie SM465, then I found a Ranger overdrive box, then I thought of using a NP435 or T19, then ultimately I decided on a frankenstiened NV4500. I found a burt up '95 Chevy 4x4 NV4500 on CL for $400.


I ordered a rebuild kit, new Chevy input shaft (the old one had a burned tip) and new Dodge 23 spline main shaft from Allstate Gear. I ordered a cast iron Dodge 4x4 tailhousing from eBay.


The engine was from an automatic, so I bought a flywheel and new clutch from the local O'Reilly. I found some beautiful stainless hugger headers on eBay. (These ended up not fitting.) I got a thin steel flip ring for the Dana 300 from Northwest Fab. I ordered motor mounts form Novak. I wanted to use an aluminum 3 core Cherokee radiator, but the pre '87 XJ needs substantial sheet metal modification to fit the newer style radiator. So I ordered a generic dual core, double pass 22" aluminum radiator from Speedway motors. This is the biggest radiator that will fit between the right frame and the power steering box.


After I received my new gears from JB Conversions (they were on preorder) I disassembled, cleaned and painted the transmission and transfer case. Flipping the transfercase I had to cut off the shifter tabs. I am using double shift rail seals and have not had a leak from the rails yet.


I had planned to rebuild the engine too and paint the block yellow, but I needed the car to be running ASAP, since it is my daily driver.

Last edited by CrazyMonkeyBen; 10-19-2012 at 08:44 PM. Reason: fixed typos
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Old 10-19-2012, 07:47 PM
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whoa, subbed
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Old 10-19-2012, 09:21 PM
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Default Pulling the Junk

Once I had amassed all of the big stuff, and most of the small stuff (there is a LOT of small stuff in an engine swap) and once I got a new, bigger shop with extra room to actually do an engine swap, I set out to pull all the old scrap metal out of my engine compartment and tunnel.



I got over $100 from the scrap yard for this (s)crap.
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Old 10-19-2012, 09:29 PM
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I can't wait to see this build...
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Old 10-19-2012, 09:38 PM
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Looked through your pics, nice job. Glad you went with the 5.3 instead of the 2.8. If you don't mind me asking, what happened to your arm...?
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Old 10-19-2012, 10:24 PM
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Default Making her GO

With the scrap metal removed and the gear boxes reassembled, I got to work on putting in my beloved little Vortec V8.

First up was installing the motor mounts. The package I got had the wrong bolts, so after a quick chat with Novak customer service to find out the correct bolt size, a quick trip to the hardware store, some drilling, tapping, and bolting, I had nice new motor mounts.



I actually really like the design and build of the Novak mounts, they are straight forward, strong, easy to install, easy to drop the motor in, and offer a bit of adjustability. And I'm pretty sure it would be relatively easy to take them out and reinstall the original motor mounts if one were so inclined.

With the mounts installed the motor dropped right on in.


With the motor secured, I proceeded to install the transmission, test fit the transfer case, discovered that this setup is actually too short, dropped the tranny, modified my floor board to clear the TC, reinstalled the transmission, attached the TC, fabricated a custom crossmember, and filled it all with oil. Note: this all took something like a week. Other Note: This transmission weighs 200 pounds. Other Other Note: I really wish that I had a transmission jack.


With everything relatively secure and full of oil I test fired the engine, which started right up and ran for all of 2 seconds, as expected. I then mailed my computer to Brendan at LT1Swap.com who programed it to my specs, removed the anti theft code and mailed it right back. His site has excellent information and wiring schematics. While waiting for the computer I cleaned up my harness, installed the new radiator, reinstalled the front clip and hood, and had custom drive shafts made to length at Front Range Driveline.


With everything put together I drove it around the building a couple times, then around the block, slowly at first. Once I was sure it wasn't going to explode any time soon, I opened it up a bit.

It may not be the fastest Jeep in the world, but it sure ain't slow!
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Old 10-19-2012, 10:42 PM
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My arm got in the way of coolant that didn't want to be in the radiator anymore. Serves it right.
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Old 10-19-2012, 11:23 PM
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Default Brand New Shoes

With the engine and drivetrain running strong, my XJ resumed it's role as my daily driver. After a couple mild wheelin' outings and with winter coming on I figured the small nearly bald tires needed to hit the road.

Enter a brandnew set of 33x12.50 Cooper Discoverer S/Ts. These are my favorite general purpose trail tire.


Of course now the rear fenders were too tight, since I had to postpone the fender work while I was doing the drive train. So my wife installed the rear flares for me.


Also at some point around then I got front bump stops because the front u-joint was impacting the exhaust pipe. I still need taller rear bump stops since the rear tires rub the fenders.

Now that my engine swap was basically done, I hit a few trails, had some fun, made a few little videos (check youtube).

I got a JKS Adjustable Trackbar at some point shortly after getting tires. That helped stabilize my wobbly steering quite a bit.
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Old 10-19-2012, 11:30 PM
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Nice build dude!
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Old 10-19-2012, 11:37 PM
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Default A New Friend

With my XJ project finally shaping up, I went out and got the most useful off roading accessory there is:

A whole 'nother rig.

On the way getting our new friend home this happened:

(This photo was taken in the middle of the street)

Removed the rear driveshaft, put it in front wheel drive and finished the 30 mile drive home.

My wife's new rig is a 1970 Scout 800a with 304 V8. It doesn't quite run yet, but it's close.
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