As much fun as it is to tinker with an engine, sometimes the stock powerplant just won't cut it anymore. Maybe the usual modifications won't give you the torque boost you need to muscle up and over the really big rocks. Maybe it's horsepower you seek, to get some serious speed (and air) in the dunes. Or maybe you're just tired of messing with a motor with too many miles on it and want something fresher. Or one that won't leak. Imagine that.
If it looks like your engine's days are numbered, consider a crate-engine transplant. Swapping a weak motor for a strong new heart can wake up a Jeep like nothing else. And these days the swap is easier than ever, thanks to the number of companies offering engines in a box and all the adapters on the market to make the motor fit in your Jeep. All of the Big Three Detroit automakers offer crate engines through their performance parts divisions, and there are plenty of race shops (and even new-car dealers) that traffic in motor transplants. The following list will get you started on your crate engine quest.
The folks famous for Atlas transfer cases and V-8 engine adapters now sell engines too. Advance Adapters offers General Motors small-block V-8s ranging from the 300 hp, 300 lb-ft Vortec 4800 to the Vortec 6000 (shown), which puts out 340 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. These are spanking-new turnkey engines, says the company, and they're available with or without the factory ECU. Prices range from about $5,000 to $7,000, depending on your choice of engine.
A crate engine from Edelbrock has all the good Edelbrock components -- cylinder heads, manifold, water pump, and induction -- mounted on a brand-new GM Goodwrench block. You can choose from a number of power levels, from the 310 hp, 375 lb-ft, 8.5:1, carbureted Performer engine on up to the 440 hp, 425 lb-ft, 9.5:1 Performer RPM fuel-injected E-Tec based on the GM ZZ-series short-block. You even have a choice of as-cast or polished finishes on the manifold, heads, and water pump. All of the Edelbrock crate engines are assembled by Edelbrock's Torrance, California, team, and the engines are shipped in a reusable plastic box. Components on the engines that aren't sourced from Edelbrock include MSD distributors, ARP fasteners, and Milodon oil pumps and pans. Prices range from around $5,000 to $9,000, and all engines include a two-year, 24,000-mile warranty.
It seems like Mopar's crate Hemi engines are snagging all the attention these days, and we can certainly see why. They've got all that musclecar history behind them, not to mention the tons of power that can be pushed from a monstrously big motor. Hey, you can have a Hemi for your Jeep, too; just start hacking away the engine compartment and be prepared to shell out anywhere from $13,000 to $16,000 for the privilege. OK, now ready for something a little more real world? How about a fuel-injected version of the 5.9L Magnum engine? Mopar Performance (as well as several retailers) offers this short-block assembly as a starting point for an MPI 5.9. It includes a 0.020-inch overbore, a 9.595-inch deck height, a hydraulic cam with 0.458/0.467-inch lift, and a crankshaft and connecting rods that have been properly clearanced. The short-block retails for just over $1,300.
Ford Racing Performance Parts
The 5.0L Cammer small-block V-8 shown here is no doubt the most exotic crate engine available from Ford Racing Performance Parts (FRPP). But at $15,000 for 400 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque, is it right for you? No, don't be silly. You'll do way better nabbing the standard 5.0L 302 Mustang long-block (PN M-6007-F50) and installing Ford's GT-40 intake and injection system. Larger engine bays may enjoy the '03 F-150 Lightning crate engine (PN M-6007-L54), complete from oil pan to throttle body, including the supercharger and intercooler. At factory boost it makes 380 hp and 450 lb-ft. Then there's always the old stroked-version standbys of the 302- and 351-inch engines. At streetable compression levels and with accessories that include Performer and Victor Jr. intake manifolds, GT-40 heads, hypereutectic or forged pistons, and cast cranks, these engines can produce in excess of 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, all for a more realistic $5,000 to $7,000.
Ford Racing Performance Parts
GM Performance Parts
The mother of all crate-engine suppliers has a seemingly endless inventory of motors in a box, from the mighty ZZ572 big-block to the LS1 small-block and down to a V-6, called the HT 3.4, that's a 160 hp bolt-in upgrade for your tired 2.8. Shown here is GM's HP290/350, what the General calls its "value-leading crate engine." Capable of making 290 hp and 326 lb-ft of torque from 350 ci, the engine is built with four-bolt mains, PM steel rods, cast-aluminum pistons, iron heads with 76cc chambers and 1.94/1.50 valves, and a cam with 0.450/0.460-inch lift. The short-block retails for around $1,600.
GM Performance Parts
If GM Performance Parts is the mother of all engine suppliers, then JEG'S High Performance may be the mother of all crate-engine retailers. The list of engines it sells is huge and includes motors from Edelbrock, Ford Racing Performance Parts, GM Performance Parts, Mopar Performance and World Products. The company Web site is very informative, listing a detailed description and specs on every engine in inventory. Shown here is one of its offerings from Mopar Performance: the 360 Magnum/320HP. Yes, there is also a 390-horse 360 Magnum from Mopar, but from what we understand, that's truly a race-only engine. The 320 hp version features all-new components consisting of Magnum R/T heads with high-swirl combustion chambers, 2.02/1.625-inch stainless steel valves with heavy-duty springs, and a 250/264-degree, 0.385/0.401-inch-lift hydraulic roller cam. JEG'S and Mopar say this engine is good for 320-plus horsepower and more than 385 lb-ft of torque, and it retails for about $3,200.
JEG'S High Performance
Scoggin Dickey Chevrolet
Scoggin Dickey may be a Chevrolet dealership in Texas, but its umbrella also includes the Scoggin Dickey Parts Center (SDPC), a high-performance store with a full selection of crate engines. Its inventory includes Ford, GM, Mopar, and Roush engines, plus its own street-performance crate-engine line. Among the interesting GM Performance motors we found at SDPC was the ZZ383/425HP small-block. This stroked 350 delivers 425 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, thanks to GM's "fast burn" aluminum heads with 62cc chambers and 2.000/1.550-inch valves, a 0.509/0.528-inch-lift steel camshaft with 222/230 degrees duration, and a forged steel crank for strength. Plan on paying around $4,700 for this torque monster.
Scoggin Dickey Parts Center
MTS Cadillac 500
We've been saying it for years, but only a few of you seem to be listening. At 575 pounds with an aluminum manifold, the Cadillac big-block weighs roughly the same as a small-block Chevy. Maximum Torque Specialties manufactures replacement and performance parts for the big Caddy 472 and 500 engines, as well as parts to swap them into your Jeep. The company offers parts and components for Cadillac big-blocks, short-blocks, long-blocks, and turn-key crate engines based on the 500 Caddy block, with prices starting at around $3,100 with exchange. MTS can deliver a pump-gas bruiser to your door that makes 450 hp and over 600 lb-ft, all under 5,000 rpm.
Maximum Torque Specialties
Get Your 4.0L Freak On
Ajax Auto Parts
It's not a crate engine exactly, but this late-model, used 4.0L sold by Ajax Auto Parts will replace your tired 4.0L or update an older engine bay. Improvements to the '99-and-later 4.0L engines bumped their output to 193 hp and 231 lb-ft of torque. In addition, they're fuel injected, so you don't have to hassle with carbs starving when you're on a steep ascent or descent. You'll need a new gas tank, fuel-line plumbing, and the proper engine computer to complete the swap, but John Kearny at Ajax has plenty of satisfied customers that will attest to this swap's viability.
Ajax Auto Parts
While not available at the time of this writing, 505 Performance is said to be working on its own line of 4.0L and stroker crate engines to augment its line of bolt-on turbo kits for 4.0L engines. The company is also working on a fuel-injection system for Jeep engines. Check its Web site for availability.
If 4.0 liters are good, then 4.6 liters are better. Golen Engine Service offers a stroker 4.6L long-block that will bolt right in place of your tired 4.0L. The power specs are 260 hp at 5,000 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The stroker crank is polished and the oil holes are chamfered, the compression is 9.0:1 for use with 91-octane fuel, and a Comp Cams cam tickles the valves. The 4.6L engine will tap your wallet for $3,299. Golen also offers lots of parts to make your stroker work better with your existing fuel injection, like an adjustable MAP sensor, a 66mm throttle body, an adjustable fuel-pressure regulator, high-flow injectors, and more.
Golen Engine Service
Hesco has a long-respected name in straight-six Jeep performance. Now the company is offering stock and performance engine packages from 4.0 liters to 4.7 liters. We can't imagine anyone going for the stock package when they can have a supercharged 4.7L stroker-six with Hesco's new aluminum cylinder head, H-beam rods, and dished blower pistons. The new heads feature a 1.91-inch intake and 1.50-inch exhaust valves and don't require a valve-cover spacer for use with roller rockers. Expect a supercharged, aluminum-head 4.7L stroker to punch out over 400 hp. The price was not available as of press time.