Posts Tagged ‘Engine Upgrade’

I know I usually give these messages retroactively, but I thought I might change things up a bit and let you know that I will be taking a small break from the FrankenJeep build… before too much time goes by and I realize I forgot to write anything here. Okay, I understand that you may have already clued in on the fact that it has already been some time since I was actually working on this project… alright, it has been four months since I have been in the garage. It is not for lack of want but, contrarily, I have failed to get into the garage and work on the little truck due to having… now this is embarrassing, too many projects.

WHAAAAT?!? Too many projects? You?!?

Ha. Ha. Yuck it up. I know. I am still working on this truck; I am just trying to get these other things in order first. The old job situation threw a wrench in all of this, and then I was gaining so much ground in the J20 build, then the new job situation… Anyhow, both the FrankenJeep and the J20 will be on a slight hiatus while I get the shop worked out, we are moving shops and are in the process of reallocating the importance of all builds in progress.

Whether it makes any sense to you or not, I will be working on my 2006 Grand Prix next.

WAIT… WHAT??? When did you get a Pontiac?

I told you about it earlier; I did! During the Quarter Panel Quandary, I specifically mentioned my “inability to focus on a single project … the Grand Prix … etc…” Does any of that ring a bell?

Okay. Okay. In the beginning of spring I was trying to fix the Camry and juggle cars between the drivers of the house. I figured there had to be a better way, and I went looking for a vehicle on the cheap. The wife had her Jetta, the teenager’s Camry was obviously out of commission as it needed head work, and although the Regal worked, it was showing signs of wear. The three of us needed a full time vehicle, but there were only two available. I picked up a sweet Crown Victoria ex-cop car [if only there was a facetious font]… that is, it was a sweet ride until I actually needed to depend on it. I drove it over the long weekend and decided it was going to be my daily driver. I paid for it and the next day it threw a check engine light; I found out that cylinders 2, 4, & 6 had low compression. It turned out they had put in some oil additive to temporarily fix the problem… just long enough for some sucker to come along and buy it.


Alright, perhaps I deserve that one. Anyhow, I spoke with them and told them the situation – basically, I needed a car that worked and was reliable. Having half an engine was not “reliable” enough for me. I have played that game too many times. We came to an agreement and the Crown Vic went back to them, and instead, I got a Ford Explorer for the teenager to drive. So far, he is stoked with his new truck. Awesome.

That still did not account for my Regal that was tired of driving. Cylinder #4 has low compression on the Buick, and I do not want to open up the engine to find out it is a problem I need to rebuild; then I am out of a car. Right now the vehicle drives and gets me from point A to B. Sometimes it even gets me back. There are a whole mess of little tiny problems with the Regal that do not affect the drivability of the car but are very annoying, nonetheless.

  • Rear windows do not roll down
  • Front windows roll down, but the passenger’s side does not always roll up
  • The VATS (Vehicle Anti-Theft Security) system is on the fritz and it will keep the car from starting for three minutes at a time… whenever it feels like it
  • The car alarm has taken to going off whenever it wants (even though I never lock the car)
  • The A/C will not turn off… unless I have a passenger, then they have to kick the dashboard bottom to get it to turn on
  • The Daylight Running Lights do what they want… sometimes they will both come on, other times only one will
  • The CD player and tape deck are broken, I only have AM/FM radio… this is not a problem until I am driving anywhere east of Globe, AZ
  • I cannot get into the trunk… the fob is broken and the key will not work
  • The windshield washer fluid reservoir will not hold washer fluid

I am sure you get the point. None of these make the car inoperable, and it would probably only take me about $150 or so and a solid weekend to fix all of it… but at the end of the day, I am still in a 1997 Regal.

If you hate the car so much, why did you buy it in the first place?

Well, I did not exactly buy a 1997 Buick Regal. I would not have any interest in that. However, the supercharged 3.8L V6 inside of that car, I do have interest in. So, I bought a supercharged engine and got a running car with it.

What did you do next?

I saved my dollars and bought a Suburban.


…you can see why I had no interest in fixing anything on the Regal other than what was required to keep it running for the last year or so.

Why did you buy a Suburban?

Good question! If you read the J20 Build, you will know that a Suburban and my Jeep truck share the same wheelbase… and if you know your Suburbans, you know that I bought the wrong one.

Well, that is not entirely accurate. This is a ¾ ton 4×4 Suburban with a 454ci engine. All of that is perfect for a diesel conversion. What is not perfect, for my application, is Independent Front Suspension. IFS is worthless to me and I need a solid front axle. No worries though, I happen to know a guy that could make very good use out of this truck, and he has just the parts I need. So we trade, but all of that is in the J20 stories. You are wondering when I will circle back to the Grand Prix.

Just a recap – the Camry was down and to replace it, I bought a Crown Vic and then traded it for an Explorer. To get my J20 running, I bought a Suburban and traded it for an older Suburban; and I bought a Grand Prix to replace the Regal.

Yeah, yeah. Whatever! Let’s see this new car!!


This is my 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix. I bought it from a guy off the Craigslist and it turned out to be exactly what he said it was. He had a clean, well maintained 3.8L V6… with a broken transmission.


Perhaps you are right, but this has so far turned out to be an excellent deal…

Wait a minute! You said Grand Prix “PROJECT”… you are not planning on…

Supercharging the Grand Prix? That is already in the works. I will give this build its own mini write-up and you can see how that progress goes over there.

. . .

Do not worry, I will not allow this FrankenJeep build to be abandoned; there is far too much insanity to leave blank pages. My boss, Jack, provided the engine and drivetrain for the little hot rod; he is itching to hear it roar again. He is helping me with the logistics and the fabrication involved in creating such a unique beast, but he also has his own projects, and everything will get done in due time. Once we are settled in our new shop and we have gotten the chance to catch up with our work load, we will be working on these things like mad men.

Yes, you heard right… ANOTHER ENGINE REVISION! As it turns out, there are a lot more logistics to building a hot rod than just “Slap it together and let her rip!!”

As I mentioned last time, there is a shop in town that specialized in AMC, and that is true. But after doing more research, I found out that it was going to cost me anywhere from $3-10k to get where I wanted with the AMC 360. If you remember correctly, that brought me right back to the problem with the 4BT, I didn’t want to spend $3000 on an engine for this build. I have other builds in store for a 4BT, but this one was supposed to be more along the lines of a “budget build/rat rod”, and dropping $3 gees into a motor just does not make a lot of sense.

So, I will be going the way of General Motors. Yep, the tried and true Chevy 350 / TH400 is what will make my little rod go VROOM! I know, I did say I had an AMC 360 and I also have a TF727 (an AMC automatic transmission). The problem came when I went to the parts stores looking for… Parts. I could not find any off the shelf, anywhere! So I asked around to see what I could get delivered. An example follows:

[Me to the guy behind the parts counter at the auto parts store]: “Do you guys have a gasket rebuild kit for an AMC Torqueflite 727?”

[Parts guy taps away at his computer]: “… Nope. We can order one. It is $120.”

[Me]: “Man, $120! For $150, I can order a shift kit from Summit, and have a hop-up kit delivered to my house!”

[PG]: “Yeah, I know. We just don’t carry anything for that. I am sorry.”

[Me]: “No worries, I get it. What about parts for an AMC 360?”

[PG]: “Um… Spark plugs, wires, Oh! An alternator…”

[Me]: “Never mind, I get it. Thank you anyhow.”


That was the beginning. In case you didn’t know, my TF727 came out of my 1984 Wagoneer. The same Jeep I got my AMC 360 from. That Jeep was 4WD, and I need a 2WD transmission, so I started looking for a 2WD Torqueflite. None were to be found, at least none under $300. Then I find one on the Craigslist: “TF727 – $150” and I go check it out.

Of course, the first thing I notice is that his is a Chrysler, and I need an AMC. The starters are opposite. But after some calling around (which we won’t even get into the incompetence I encountered with that call) we finally found out that yes, TF727 is TF727, whether it be a Chrysler or an AMC. All you have to do is switch out the shaft. Sounds easy enough!

IMAG0379 Same lengthIMAG0376 Same tail bolt patternIMAG0378[1] Same shaft

It was about the same time that I got as far as taking off the tailshaft housing on the 2WD Chrysler, when I found this on the interweb, from


Do you see all those little itty bitty parts and pieces? Now multiply it by two, and try to figure out which goes where! I am not saying that it is impossible, but… Why? And, Really??? Is it really worth it to go through all of this, just to make my transmission work? NOPE. Why not? Because after all the trouble I put into making this transmission work, I still need to order parts from a catalog, or get them second hand. Neither of which I want for a flogging machine.

“Well, you are still going to spend money on a Chevy 350!” You are right, but… I got a Chevy 350. For free!! Yep. That beautiful backwards luck of mine, hard at work again. And, I got a 2WD TH400 for $100. And, I sold my AMC 360 for enough to cover the cost of a transmission. AND, he didn’t even want the whole engine, so I ended up with more parts to sell in the end. Thanks Larry!

Since I have converted to a complete GM system (with the exception of my front end), I can go to the grocery store and buy parts for my engine and transmission. Okay, maybe not the grocery store, but those of you here in The States understand what I mean… For those of you abroad – GM, Holden, and Opel are basically the same company. I hope that helps you understand that a bit more. Parts are cheap and plentiful, but still quality. That is why I will be going with the Chevy 350/TH400 set up.

Now, my good friend, Nathan, brought up a good point: “A slap-stick auto, huh? Wouldn’t you rather have a 3 or 4-speed, with overdrive?” Well, Yeah! But, I have a right hand drive, and that makes manual transmission linkages difficult. Yes, I could get a hydraulic conversion kit, but there I am again, spending money where it need not be spent. I will, however, be hanging three pedals, and all of that will come at a later time. Right now I need to get back into the garage and start grinding!

You are probably wondering why I have yet to finish the grinding. Well, mid-frame, I got the idea to start working on the transmission. I stopped grinding and… Well, you got some of the story up there. I ended up with an open engine and three open transmissions. Not really a good place to be sending thousands of red hot little tiny pieces of metal. So that put me in pause mode, then there was the Mazda 6/Neon fiasco.

—— Explanation of Time Lost (a.k.a. The Great Stereo Debacle) ——

Tony is not allowed to drive his car any more. It (the car) is scary. It has 300+,xxx miles on it, the wheel fell off, and it makes too many moans and groans when moving. Basically, he needs the whole subframe of his Mazda 6 replaced. So, he is now driving the Neon, and since I have started work in the Canary Islands, it sits more than anything.

Anyhow, his Mazda 6 did come with a Bose stereo system. We thought it would be cool to have that in the Neon. “This shouldn’t be hard at all… a couple of speakers, some wire, a head unit, stock amplifier…

Uh, no. Not at all. After 20 hours of stripping out the two vehicles, the only thing we got accomplished was a good vacuuming of the Neon. Chris came over and asked what we were doing. We told him, and he laughed at us. Later on, he needed speaker wire, and I asked what gauge he needed. “I am wiring my sub” he said. I took him to the Mazda and showed him the speaker wire we retrieved from that system. He decided it would work and asked what the speakers laying on the floorboards were. “Those are the Bose speakers? Mind if I…” Have at it dude. We are literally going to throw them in the dumpster.

Very long story short(er), Chris ended up with a kick ass sound system in his K5. We learned that it worked for him, because he had an aftermarket amp and was powering the speakers with it, where we were trying to swap the whole system into a vehicle nearly ten years older and failed to realize the Mazda stereo was wired through the car’s computer.

Now, we could have powered the speakers with the aftermarket head unit, but that was not the only issue we ran into. His Bose speakers were too deep to fit into the front doors, and it kept the windows from rolling down. Until we converted it over to electric windows, we couldn’t make the rings come out enough to compensate for it, without hitting the window crank. Then, the rear speakers, for the Bose unit, are 5″x7″. (Actually, they are not. But they are close enough to stay out of an argument over semantics.) The rear speakers for the Neon are 6″x9″. And then we found out that you cannot run the subwoofer, unless you have the stock amp, which does not run without the stock head unit, which you cannot run without the Mazda 6 computer…

Between the Great Stereo Debacle and the Transmission Shaft Swap Calamity, I learned that if you are not going to swap same for same, and use the whole system… Well, stand by, because it will be a bumpy ride!


So, now that I have buttoned up all of the transmissions, and sold the engine, I can now continue on with my grinding. I have one more weekend before I go back to Spain. I will let you know how far I got, with pictures for proof, before I leave.

Until we meet again…


[Edit: I ended up having to pack up earlier than I thought. We did not get done with everything for the frame fabrication, but we did get a great start! I do have a few pictures of the boy doing what he likes to do best – GRINDING!!]

IMAG0354[1] IMAG0356[1] IMAG0355[1]

I finally got back from work, and it has just started to cool off here. It was in the high 90’s today.

My plans for this month:

1) Prepare the frame for suspension – This means that I will be grinding smooth all of the welds on the frame, in order to make it presentable to the public.

2) Get my 12 bolt axle home so I can mock up the suspension – Pretty self explanatory here. The axle currently resides at a friend’s house, it will serve better purpose in my garage.

3) Prepare my engine to go to the shop for upgrades – I have found a shop that is close (enough) to me and is willing to do my engine work. Actually, this shop has greater plans in store for my engine! I was going for a 383 stroker, but he talked me into a 409, I am not complaining. Of course, this here, is the guy that was talked into supercharging his Impala! All that took, was my neighbor buying me a 3800 Series III top end with supercharger using the money I gave to him to buy me some new heads. Eh, who am I to turn down a supercharger? Also, who am I to turn down a better engine build?

As you might have guessed, more horsepower is not a difficult sell to me.

Anything new? But of course!

I got a new (to me) gas gauge! Nothing in this world is truly free, and my “free” gas gauge was no exception. We could look at it like… I spent 336 hours working it off – not including the 30 hours, and 11,050 miles of flight time! Or, we could look at it like… I went on a working vacation and made new friends, obtaining a gas gauge in the process!


My plans are to strip off all of the paint, and then mount this to the rear of the tub, facing outward, and plumb it directly to the fuel cell. I will need a lot of reinforcement for this gauge, as it still weighs over 30lbs!

On our maiden voyage, I will just fill the cell until it is topped off, and then I will drive the hot rod until I run out of gas. After I figure out how many miles I got out of the tank, I will subtract 25-50 miles, and just drive by my odometer.

When you have owned as much crap as I have (of the 30 something vehicles I have owned, maybe ten of them had 100% completely functional gauges), you find it very easy to work around not being able to use things that many people take for granted. Things like fuel gauges, and air conditioning, and steering wheels.

Okay, well I suppose I never had many issues with my steering wheels. Nope, I lied! I had a ’72 Ford pick up truck that had steering wheel problems – the retaining nut came off and so did the steering wheel. So there you are, crap!

Anyhow, I must give a shout out to Elvis Ramirez Torres, and Luis Yavé Ortega Hernández from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. For if it were not for Elvis, I would have not been able to get this top cap welded on, and if it were not for Luis, I would not have been able to tell Elvis that I needed to get this top cap welded on!

You see, while I was at work, I was removing an oil tank. I saw this level gauge, and thought it would make a kick ass fuel gauge. What I didn’t take into immediate consideration is the fact that the gauge weighed about 90lbs!

True story.

Well, I talked with the welder and his interpreter (Elvis & Luis), and we figured out how to cut it up and re-weld the cap to it. I got all the cutting and grinding done, so that Elvis just had to come in and weld it all up. He told me that I need to be careful with it, because it was delicate. He said he tried a different electrode, and the cap just fell off! So he got this one working, but was afraid it might still be too fragile. I tried to explain that it was just a vent cap, and that it would not see any pressure or stress, but he insisted on warning me to be careful with it.

Hell, what do I know? When someone is that adamant about their work, and they are explaining the precautions to you in a different language (than what you are used to speaking), I find that you generally go along with it.

Don’t worry Elvis, I will be careful with it. I would hate to have to go through the airport with that gauge again if I broke it! (Luis, would you please translate that for me? ¡Hola, Por Favor Señior!)

So, I suppose it is time for me to get off the computer, and into the garage. We have a hot rod to build! I will keep you posted on my progress soon.

Until then…

So, what have we been up to lately? Um, not much. It is really gnarly out there! Been in the 100s here and there, and when it wasn’t hot, it was busy monsooning, and when it wasn’t doing that… I was camping with the boy.

I know… He is making excuses so he doesn’t have to work. Well, sort of. Yes. And no.

“Really, what has been going on?” you may ask yourself.

Well, the Navy SEALs have a saying – “Proper prior preparation prevents piss-poor performance.” Suffice it to say that I have not properly prepared for this project, and therefore I have produced piss-poor product. My apologies. Really.

What am I to do about this? Well, I am starting by admitting my fault, writing down my plan of action, and turning to. Actually, I have been hung up on this 4bt turbo diesel. As much as I want one, it is just not in the cards right now.

So, what are my options? I can wait around until I get the money to buy one – as we can see, that is not working out so very well, or I could take this opportunity to use my resources and just get something done – and that is what happened.

I came to a realization after talking with my buddy, David (who has the uncanny ability to make me come to my own realizations and figure out actual conclusions about what I need done, thus putting a fire under my ass – a sort of Jiminy Cricket, if you will). We were talking about a multitude of different things, when the subject of my hot rod came up. I had mentioned that I was hung up on this turbo diesel, but when I came back from Spain, I would have the cash to buy one.

That would be great, but in doing so, it would negate the whole “budget build/rat rod” aspect if I go and spend $3500 on a drivetrain.

That brought me to thinking of other options. As it turns out, I have a perfectly capable AMC 360 sitting in the garage. A smogged, slug of a V8 that currently produces about 160hp. Not really that impressive, but, it is approximately the same weight as a 4bt. This means that I can build the rig, drive it around, have some fun (with my cheap ass rat rod). Later on, when I have the money, I can upgrade to the diesel, even if I have to drive a slug around until I can afford the new motor. Or will I?

Thanks to the internet, and the sick minded (I mean like minded), I have found that my problems have been answered, and I have been proven wrong. I won’t have to drive around a slug!

This engine has been sitting around for no less than two years, so it won’t be a drop in, plug-and-play. I will need to rebuild it. While perusing the interweb for rebuild kits, I stumbled back onto the International Full Size Jeep Association forum, and found a budget build AMC 383 Stroker, starting with a 360, for an extra $650 over rebuild cost.

Thank you Greg! He was able to build a 400+hp bruiser of a motor, for about the tune of $1200! I am definitely capable of swinging something like that. Take a look:



So, this is my new mission. When I come back from Spain, I will be stripping down the motor and getting it ready to use this recipe. Basically, what he did was machine the motor to accept small block Chevy 400 pistons. Here is a quick rundown of how it works:


Screenshot_2014-08-24-22-11-18_1[1] Screenshot_2014-08-24-22-11-28_1[1]Screenshot_2014-08-24-22-11-39_1[1] Screenshot_2014-08-24-22-11-39_2[1]Screenshot_2014-08-24-22-19-49_1[1]Screenshot_2014-08-24-22-16-36_1[1]

For the full write up, go check it out at the IFSJA forum:

So, I have a new direction and some more homework to get done. I did find out there is a disc brake conversion for that 12 bolt, so that is something that will be coming up later on. I also decided that I wanted the edges of the c-notches to be ground down. So I started that today, with good progress!

This just a quick sketch of what the whole thing will look like. I will be getting a couple of 7″ grinders to help cut through the nasty stuff before I come back over it with the 4.5″ and a flapper disc.


I am off to Spain for work, but after I come back, I will have some new updates. That first weekend I am home, we will be having a wrenching party, and I will let you know how it all works out.

Until next time…