1993 Ford Bronco ATK Engine Upgrade - Iron For The JuicePosted in How To on October 22, 2008
By the time we'd had The Juice (our '93 Bronco) for a few weeks, it had become apparent to us that something would have to be done about the engine. The original 351 Windsor V-8 leaked both coolant and oil. It constantly ran hot and a regular clicking noise had us guessing that there was a problem in one of the cylinder heads. We'd been excited to start making suspension and body mods to the Bronco, but common sense dictated that we get the thing running right first-it wouldn't be very cool to have long travel suspension and fancy fiberglass but still get stuck out in the middle of the desert with a blown engine. We thought it was time for an engine rebuild.
Then, we stumbled across ATK Engines. Turns out they're the largest private label crate engine remanufacturer in North America, supplying engines to many of the large auto-parts chains across the nation. Better yet, they stock direct-replacement engines for over 60,000 vehicle applications, so we had no problems getting our hands on one that would pass California emissions standards. ATK is the only remanufacturer in the nation that holds a TS16949 certification, which means they're rated as an OEM-quality engine supplier. Each engine they sell comes with a 3-year unlimited-mileage warranty on parts and labor. ATK doesn't sell engines directly to the public, so we ordered ours from Gearhead Engines, an online powertrain retailer that sells ATK.. We were really surprised and grateful when the engine showed up in less than a week (the story was due soon).
When we were ready to tackle the engine swap, we headed to the venerable Off Road Evolution shop in Fullerton, California. It was time to get rid of the old and bolt in the new...er, remanufactured....
To us, the stock replacement ATK engine looked beautiful (it represented a running truck!). But we've already started thinking of more parts to bolt on. Edelbrock is headquartered in Torrance, California, a short drive from Off Road Evolution, so we paid the fine folks there a visit and picked up some shorty headers along with some cool vintage-style valve covers. Now armed with everything we needed, we started dressing the ATK engine in preparation for the install.
The next few hours were spent attaching transplant accessories from the old engine to the ATK one. This included hooking up the fuel lines, flywheel, spark plugs, distributor cap, oil pan, and several emissions-related parts. The large and unsightly intake plenum was bolted on the very top of the intake manifold, and when all was attached, we hoisted the engine in order to drop it back in the Bronco.
It's worth noting that all of the items from the original engine were carefully cleaned before we bolted them on the new one. Dirty residue left over from years of use was visible on the old parts, and there was no way we were going to let this stuff get in the ATK engine (in fact, it would void the warranty).
It took some twisting and turning to get the engine back under the hood, and it was definitely a two-person job (a third helper would have been welcome). When we did have the engine sitting squarely on the mounts and the flywheel as bolted to the transmission, we started re-attaching all of the engine accessories to the vehicle. Some of these accessories were easy to plug back in, but some (especially the emissions-related equipment) were a little more tricky. Luckily, we had taken some photos of the original engine before we yanked it out, so we studied those in order to make sure everything got hooked up as it was before. We set the timing and fired up the engine. To our satisfaction, it purred like a kitten.
The next morning we fired up the Bronco and got it on the road. We can't tell you what a pleasure it was to drive the thing without problems after dealing with so many for so long. With great satisfaction we looked at the engine temp gauge and saw that the needle wasn't in the red. No puddles gathered under the vehicle after we parked it. It was almost like having a brand new Bronco.
Looking back, the ATK engine swap was the best solution to our problems. Sure, we could have rebuilt the original engine, but due to the fact that we needed the Bronco to pass a smog test, we wouldn't have been able to really use any wild performance-oriented internal parts. Plus, when we think about the time and cost involved with taking apart the old engine and assessing the condition of each part, we start to get anxious. For our purposes (and perhaps yours), getting a low cost, direct-replacement remanufactured engine was the way to go. It's not like we plan on keeping it completely stock anyway-in addition to the Edelbrock headers, we plan on installing a new intake and maybe even a California-legal supercharger in the near future. In the meantime, our engine (our foundation) is ready to propel The Juice through the desert or down the freeway. Let's just hope this is one Bronco you'll never see on the news with police cars in pursuit!