On the Road Again – Jeep Part 4

img_1004 With the Jeep unloaded and parked in John’s garage, I wanted to take a little time and do some fine tuning. The carburetor was still being a bit of a pill and I think it was due to the normally aggressive nature of Holley units. This model series having started it’s life back in the late 50’s as a racing carburetor for the NASCAR boys probably has a lot to do with it too. We knew that the timing was off a bit, that the lifters were making a bit of noise and that we also had a minor exhaust leak going on. The leak in the exhaust tubing was quickly found but there appears to be an exhaust header gasket that might have given up too. We adjusted the timing and made some carb adjustments that seemed to help the idle quality but left a little bit to be desired just off idle. We also had a problem with the idle speed climbing as the engine warmed up, having to manually adjust it down. Mind you these were not major changes but just a little worrisome. The next thing to tackle was the lifter adjustment. When I built the engine and installed the valve train, I went through the firing order cylinder by cylinder adjusting the lifters by rotating the pushrod until it would not do so, then giving the adjustment an additional 1/2 turn. My thought was that I must have been a little light on one or two as I could detect some tapping. To adjust the lifters this time, I wanted to do it with the engine warmed up and running. We made up some cardboard to keep the oil from splashing on the headers and went through each one loosening it until it clattered then tightening it down until it was quiet and giving it an additional 3/4 of a turn. With the valve covers back on, we fired it up again and I was stunned that I could still hear some tapping but very minor in nature. But, when we dropped it in gear, the tapping became far more pronounced. Trying this a few more times, we thought the sound was coming from the lower back of the engine. We shut it off and checked underneath to make sure nothing was hitting anything but that was not the problem.

img_0995We decided that it could possibly be an issue related to one cylinder so we disconnected the number 8 plug wire as that cylinder is the rearmost one and tried it again. Other than the misfire you would expect, the sound was gone. We reconnected the plug wire and sure enough the sound came back. Whatever the problem was, it was the number 8 cylinder. After some quick work to find a set of rod bearings and some gasket material, we proceeded to dump the oil and remove the oil pan. Surveying the engine’s internals we could not see anything wrong with the rod or the bottom of the piston – that was a huge relief. Removing the number 8 rod cap and looking at the bearing, you could see that the witness marks showed that there was something going on at the top of the rotation and the bottom of it. Basically it was the instances where the piston is stopped at the top and bottom of the connecting rod throw. For some reason, the rod was actually moving up and down, however slightly on the rod journal. This is normally referred to as rod knock. I didn’t have any measuring tools with me and the rod journal itself looked to be in good condition. All I could do at this point was install a new bearing set and hope that it would take care of the issue. We put everything back together, letting it sit overnight so that the sealant around the oil pan could dry. The next morning was the moment of truth. We fired up the Jeep, tested the number 8 cylinder again and the noise was gone. I have to admit that I was very relieved that this was the case. I think overnight all I could think about was having to take the Jeep back home, pull the engine and go through it again.

I have lost count of the number of engines I have assembled over the years. I have now learned a new lesson and that is to make sure and check every bearing clearance twice. This is something that I do on every one of the race engines, but on a basic rebuild I would normally just check a couple of rod bearings and main bearings. The reason being is that I normally know the condition of the crank as to whether it is standard size or not and obviously would be putting in bearings that matched that size. I have never had a bearing set that was machined wrong as this one was. It now appears that this rod bearing set was marked as a standard size but was actually about .010 undersized which allowed the rod to move at the top and bottom of its stroke. Just to be fair, this one was not the fault of the Chinese. This bearing set was manufactured in Turkey.

Our next issue was really one of engine manners. The Holley carb was simply not the right piece for this build and while we got it a little bit better, we felt that switching to a carburetor more suited for the street would be a positive thing to do. So we picked up a 600 CFM Edelbrock carb and installed it the next day. Purchasing the carb was definitely a three-ring circus as it seems that Advance Auto refused to honor their so-called 10% off everything Black Friday sale.  I see it as false advertising but apparently they don’t care. Between this and the problems I had with the solenoids, I think my days in Advance Auto Parts are about done. Anyway to install the new carb, I had to manufacture a new retention device for the throttle cable and move some vacuum lines but tuning wise it only took a few minor adjustments to get the carb to where it was very well mannered. We took the Jeep out for a test run and my only concern was the timing again. The new distributor which was a GM HEI unit was providing too much advance via the vacuum control unit. I decided for the time being to remove the vacuum source to the control unit and just rely on the timing setting and the additional mechanical advance provided by the distributor. An additional test drive indicates that this was the right move to make.

This wraps up the Jeep Project, at least for now. And like most projects I learned a few different lessons along the way. If I were to ever do something like this again, there are a few things I would do differently like pulling the transmission out and setting up the engine/adapter/transmission in a dry run. There were painful issues with the adapter although it all eventually worked out but mocking it all up where I could get to it would have helped a lot. I would also make sure to check every part, especially anything electric or electronic right after it arrives. I lost too much time to chasing bad parts on this build and that added to the frustration. And lastly as much as I like and understand Holley carbs, sometimes they’re just not the right piece. The Edelbrock carb was a snap to setup and I am sure it will provide excellent service.

Overall though, I think the Jeep Project turned out pretty good. It’s a neat little hot rod now.


The Road to Success – Jeep Part 3

This was turning into some kind of Chess match, myself versus the Chinese.

In today’s global economy it has become very difficult to purchase American made automotive parts. Most of that work has been shipped off-shore due to the lower cost of personnel. I dare say if you walked into any of the major parts chain stores with a list of 50 automotive items, 90% or better would be manufactured outside of this country. The real downside to that is the quality or lack thereof that comes with those parts. This actually becomes a hidden expense in wasted installation time and the time spent obtaining the part in the first place. So far on this project, I had lost out to a starter solenoid and a defective ignition distributor. There was more to come.


Standard Ford 4-Pole Starter Solenoid

In my part of the country the UPS is now handing off packages to the US Postal System for delivery. Not all packages but quite a few are coming this way now. As the days dragged on, I kept watching the Big Brown Truck drive right by my garage, no delivery. In fact I started to think the driver was just screwing around with me, the package was on the truck but he just wasn’t going to deliver it. I was running out of time. Our schedule called for us to be on the road the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving Day heading to Florida. Along on that trip was supposed to be an open trailer carrying a Jeep. There were now 4 days left before leaving and I had a Jeep that wasn’t running. I checked on the shipment of the distributor and yes it was on it’s way but there was no indication of when it would arrive.

The following day as I watched the UPS truck drive by once again, I noticed there was something leaning against the mailbox post. I went to check and sure enough, it was the distributor and it had been delivered sometime that day by the postal service. They just put the delivery at the mailbox, it could have sat out there all evening long. Anyway, I was anxious to get it put in and see if the engine would fire up okay. And it did, it was a little rough as I noticed I had some issues going on with the hydraulic valve lifters so I wanted to be sure and check those clearances again. But the engine wouldn’t shut off, not until we stuffed enough rags on the carburetor to gag it. We looked around, we checked wiring and couldn’t detect anything that seemed to be in error. So we started it again and the same sequence occurred, I now had an engine that would start and run but wouldn’t shut off. So we got out the light probe again and started breaking the problem down. The first thing that we noticed was that with the ignition in the on position, the wiring harness leading back to the cabin was getting extremely hot. To the point where the ignition wire going to the solenoid was not touchable. So we cut the harness open looking for something that was causing the problem. We traced it all the way back to where it enters the cabin and goes into the steering wheel shaft. It didn’t make any sense, this had not been a problem with the old engine and certainly if something was crossed up before, the wiring harness would have melted and possibly burned. Finally we narrowed the problem down to the starter solenoid – again. While this one would at least operate and allow the engine to be started, apparently something inside it was not releasing plus keeping a high resistance on the ignition wire. I really did not want to go get a third Chinese solenoid. I had one option on this, I had a real American built starter solenoid that I had purchased about 10-11 years ago and it was part of my spare racing parts stash. I did not want to let it go, who knows if I can ever find another good one? My son finally convinced me that we had to at least try it and see if that was causing the problem. So after installing this solenoid, the ignition wire going back to the switch remained cool to the touch, the Chinese had won another round. But after we started the engine again, we were still faced with the same problem – it wouldn’t shut off! So here we go again, breaking the problem down and trying to figure out where the ignition was getting power from after the key was turned off. After making a number of test hits, it turned out to be feedback from the alternator field wiring. With the alternator spinning, it was producing enough voltage to power the distributor and in turn keep the engine firing, even without a connection to the battery in place. I had to take apart the wiring harness going to the alternator and place a diode in the circuit that would allow us to “energize” the alternator to get it working but keep the voltage from feeding back to the distributor. With that in place, the engine would now shut off as it should.

img_0795I now had a little over one day left to sort out any remaining issues. I could still hear something in the engine but decided that I would be better off getting all of the systems topped off with fluids, other items dressed and tucked away plus re-taping a major portion of the wiring harnesses. I also had to get the Jeep loaded on the trailer so I really needed to take it for a short drive. That was done without much of an issue although the lifter noise was starting to be bothersome and I also had too much ignition lead. I loaded up the Jeep and then put some additional tools in the truck that I felt I would need to resolve the remaining issues. I would be in Florida with the Jeep for almost a week – certainly enough time to correct a few minor tuning issues. Ha, shows what I know.

Next: Who’s knocking?




The Big Freeze – Jeep Part 2

Time, that’s all we need is more time.

I had reached an interesting point in the project where the engine was in, some of the accessories were bolted into place and I was faced with a lot of wiring decisions to make and execute. Usually on a car project you can start feeling pretty darn good at this time as once wiring is done, its usually only a few more steps to firing the beast up and sealing the deal.

img_1217Anyone that was in the mid-Eastern United States from about the end of July to late September can tell you that this was a brutally hot and humid weather period. On a normal summer day, I might go through a couple of t-shirts but this time around 4-5 was more the norm than not. And anyone can tell you that it takes a ton out of you just to bend down and check the air pressure in a tire when the temperatures and humidity are staying that high too. So things slowed down a bit. I tried my best to either work on the Jeep early in the day or sometimes late at night, but that didn’t always work out.

But the real show stopper was another project. This one has been in the works for a very long time and is an upstairs area that was a walk-up attic. I started putting walls up, finishing flooring, installing electrical and insulation years ago but with other things taking a higher priority it was always a situation of working on it when I had some time or was just in the mood to mess with it. The finished area is about 750 sf and has a central room, dropped bedroom area and a small storage closet.

One of the things that was needed was finishing off the wallboard for the ceilings and the bedroom area. We had an opportunity to hire some people to take care of that and the snowball effect kind of took over. Unfortunately the people we hired were not very good at the actual finish work and while I am not great at it, it had to be done. There were endless days of putting mud on and sanding it off trying to get everything straight. Then more time for painting and finishing up a few electrical outlets. Next it had to be trimmed out along with getting that trim painted so that the carpet could be installed. Overall and pretty much right in the middle of this crazy weather, we spent about 8 weeks getting it to the carpet stage. This was also 8 weeks that the jeep project didn’t make progress.

So we fast-forward back to the Jeep and it’s a mad dash to figure out the new wiring that had to integrate with the old stuff. A lot of wire tracing and probing with a light tool was going on with sometimes the results just not making any sense. I finally reached the point where everything “seemed” to be ready to go, so our initial test was just spinning the engine over – and it did, continuously. The Chinese had struck again, a brand new starter solenoid sourced from Advance Auto Parts would engage, but not release. Each time I tried it the starter stayed engaged until I pulled the battery cable. So it was back to the store to exchange it for another one. The new one worked and I moved on to attempting to get the engine started. I filled the carb bowls with fuel, gave it a few squirts and hit the key, nothing. No pop, spit or any kind of attempt to fire up. Okay, we need fuel, air, compression and spark – that’s it and I was sure of the first three. So I took the number one spark plug wire and connected to my little homemade spark tester (an old spark plug welded to a ground clamp), spun the engine over and nothing. No spark – brand new Pertronix distributor out of the box. I decided maybe the coil was the issue, it too was a Pertronix piece to match the distributor. I borrowed a known good MSD coil and still – nothing. So I marked the distributor where I had it installed to make it easier to line it back up and pulled it out. I went through the wiring on it to see if anything had been knocked loose but no luck with that either. I then decided to set it up on the bench and test it there to see if I had made a wiring error but that didn’t produce any spark either. So it was arrange for the return of the defective one and obtain a new one. Round Two to the Chinese.


While waiting for the distributor to show up I moved on to finishing up the new gauge installation. I installed mechanical oil pressure and water temperature gauges replacing the factory supplied electric units that were basically non-functional. I also had the exhaust system to install. The engine was equipped with a set of Hedman Headers for the engine conversion and I obtained a 2″ exhaust kit from Speedway Motors and Turbo style mufflers from Jegs Automotive. There was some cutting and welding to be done getting things lined up and in place but overall the worst of if was finding room along the transaxle on the passenger side. It’s tight even for a two inch piece of pipe. The next piece that had to be reworked was the shifter mechanism. With the additional width of the V-8 engine, the original piece that translates the movement of the shifter to the transmission was about 5-6 inches wide. I cut it down to about 3 inches and welded it back together plus made a plate to hold the lever for the engine side.


At this point, everything that needed to be done was done – I just didn’t have any way to fire the engine.

Next: Where is that UPS guy??


And There was This Jeep

img_0795It all started as a bit of a lark really. I was helping my son-in-law John with an oil leakage problem on his new toy a few years ago, an older CJ5 Jeep. Looking at the engine compartment, I mentioned that what we really should do is just give up on the straight six cylinder and put a small block Chevy in it. Nothing much came of it at the time. We did what we could for the oil leak, but the carburetor on it was worn out as were the piston rings. The cloud of oil smoke coming out of the valve cover filler hole was evidence to that fact. The engine either needed a complete rebuild which from certain witness marks appeared to have already been done at least once in its life or it needed to be replaced. Jump forward a couple of years and we talked again about what could be done engine wise for the Jeep. We originally talked about finding another suitable 6 cylinder engine to rebuild and then swap the refresh for the worn-out and call it good. Then we moved as every hot rodder does to something a little more fun. I went back to my suggestion of a small block Chevy motor and now I had the perfect candidate sitting on an engine stand at home. The Monza had come to us with a, well what was supposed to be a .030 over Chevy 350 “roller motor”. Now let me explain some of the terminology in that description. “.030 over” would mean that the cylinders had been cut 30 thousandths of an inch larger in size and doing the math should result in a new engine size of 355 cubic inches. “Roller Motor” in drag racing parlance means that the engine is equipped with a roller type camshaft and roller lifters. These items normally add substantial power to an engine as the valves can be lifted higher and longer. Modern factory hi-performance cars over the last 12-15 years have used this roller technology. Well, as it sometimes goes, the engine wasn’t exactly what we were told it was. It turned out that the engine was actually cut .060 over making it a 358 cubic inch engine and it didn’t have the roller camshaft and lifters. We were disappointed of course but the engine had served its purpose for us and had been replaced with a fresh power unit.

img_1003John agreed that this was the route we would take and on a visit in the spring, I loaded up the Jeep and brought it to Virginia from Florida. I started out the initial work by getting the block, rods and crankshaft over to my machinist friend, Chester Houghtaling. If you ever need precise, on the button machine work, a racing engine or just a rebuilt engine for your favorite ride, he’s the guy to see. (Contact me for his contact information) Right off the bat we had a problem, the crankshaft was junk, shot, done – finished. We had to find another one and something on the cheap to keep the project within the budget. It took a few weeks but we finally something that would work for us. It cleaned up with just a polishing so we were able to use standard sized bearings but it did have to be balanced to match our rod/piston combination. Next on the list was the top of the engine. I had already sold the Vortec heads that came on the engine along with the racing intake manifold. I didn’t have a carburetor either. I was also going to need things like a pulley for the water pump and another one for the power steering pump. We also needed an adapter to connect the Chevrolet engine to the Chrysler transmission that Jeep had installed at the factory. I needed a new radiator to match the Chevy engine, the radiator hoses and an electric fan for cooling as I did not want to mess with an engine mounted fan. We also needed a method of getting rid of the exhaust from the engine. The parts list became almost endless. I scored parts from Chester for a few items, RacingJunk.com for some and most everything else save for a few pieces I had on hand to toss at it came from catalogs or local parts stores.

Where we ended up was with a 358 cubic inch engine that might be a touch larger than that as we had the cylinders honed to clean them up. We used flat top rebuild type pistons with oversized rings that I hand cut to help keep the compression up, stock factory rods equipped with ARP bolts to keep the big-end together and another 350 crankshaft that was balanced to match them. The heads were mid-80’s units with a new valve job that measured 76cc to get the compression where we could run regular fuel. The camshaft is a mild hydraulic performance cam that is maybe a touch better that the old 350/350hp camshaft from Chevrolet.  The rest of the valve train was stock 80’s stuff, as are the valve covers. The oil pan came from some previous project but fit perfectly and it covers a new Melling oil pump and pickup. On the initial fire-up we were looking at a nice 60 pounds of oil pressure using 10w-30 weight oil. With some heat in the oil we should be around 42-45 pounds – again perfect. The intake manifold is a mid-60’s Edlebrock dual plane unit that is fitted with a completely rebuilt and reworked Holley 650 CFM carburetor. Our first shot at the ignition was a Pertronix unit – later on we will tell you why to never, ever purchase one of their parts – but our second shot was a fantastic HEI unit, and more on that one later too.

With the engine built, it was time to address the Jeep and its 6 cylinder engine. One of the things that we wanted to do was to get rid of this engine. Now, I do have a local trash recycling facility that allows us to drop things like engine blocks and such, but you do have to make sure it is clear of any oil or coolant. You also have to have some method of getting it off the back of your truck and into the metal dumpster that is about 4-5 foot from your truck. I took a chance on the easy option here and ran an ad in Craigslist for the 6 cylinder engine. A couple of hundred for a complete, rebuildable engine that you could hear start up and run. I was shocked that it only took two days for someone to show up and take a look at it. They bought it on a Friday and I promised them that they could pick it up Monday afternoon, which meant I spent a good part of that weekend snatching the engine out of a Jeep.

With the engine gone, I took a little bit of time and tried to clean up the firewall and chassis area some. I say some because after a number of cans of foamy engine cleaner it really didn’t look like I was making much progress. Anyway, I wiped things down with some heavy duty degreaser, sprayed off the mess and let it dry. The first order of business was fitting the new adapter plate from Advance Adapters to the Chrysler transmission. Ha-ha, what fun we had with this one. The instructions are clear but there were several areas due to a lack of firewall clearance that made it more than difficult to mount the adapter and get it bolted up cleanly. I finally managed it but what I thought would be a 15-20 minute job turned into something that took several hours. I had to take the adapter off more than a few times to just slightly open a hole here and there to allow the bolt that they supplied to actually fit. There is also an adapter for the torque convertor that only goes on one way and with four bolt holes that have to be lined up perfectly, the challenge was that at any given point 3 of the 4 would but not that 4th bolt. But as you try each available combination you finally get it right and all 4 bolts fit the way they should.

img_1021Next up was actually installing the fresh engine. This is where I would love to say it fell into place, I bolted it up and everything was done. Nope. I struggled getting the back of the engine to even line up correctly with the adapter plate and when I finally got them mated, getting them bolted together was an absolute nightmare. I ended up making a couple of changes to the adapter plate just to make it a little easier to get a couple of the bolts in and then I found out that with the engine placed in a level position I discovered that the adapter was running into the driveshaft for the front wheel drive. Luckily there was plenty of adapter metal there and I was able to trim off a good sized chunk of it to provide clearance. My next task was setting up and welding in the side engine mounts. Pretty simple affairs that actually use the mounting biscuits designed for a 1932 Ford on a large angle piece of iron plate. Before welding though, I need to fit the exhaust headers and make sure I had clearance room for them. It would have been a real pain to weld those puppies in only to find out that the headers would not clear! With the welding completed, I now had the engine mounted to the chassis. Next things on the list were to start making brackets for the alternator and power steering pump. Basically nothing stock was going to work and all of these parts either had to be hand built or at least modified to work. It took several days to come up with brackets that would do the job and allow the belts to line up properly on the pulleys, then there was the multiple runs to the parts store trying to get the correct length belts to fit those pulleys. Somewhere at some point I think I said hot rodding was fun – I may yet live to retract those words.

img_1024Next time – a major delay