If you’ve been following the restoration of our CJ-2A, you know we finally have our L134 Willys flathead back from machine shop. After spending some idle time sitting in the garage on an engine stand wrapped in an oily bag, we are finally getting around to the rewarding and much cleaner part of the job—assembling the “Go Devil” engine. Once you start this process it is best to finish it in a timely manner, especially if the climate is less than ideal, as the polished surfaces are now more prone to flash rust. Not to mention that having a lot of important and costly parts lying around can become hard to keep track of in most people’s garages, and we’re no different.
Rebuilding with the right parts can make all the difference in the performance, reliability, and longevity of any engine, so once again we looked to Kaiser Willys Auto Supply (KWAS) in Aiken, South Carolina, for the rebuild kit. Using quality pistons, rings, oil pump, valves, and bearings can also save you serious time and money down the road—not to mention the frustration of pulling apart something you recently assembled! The KWAS rebuild kit came with top-of-the-line parts such as Sealed Power pistons, Hastings rings, a made-in-USA oil pump, stainless exhaust valves, and many other quality parts. You could also spend a tad more and purchase Clevite rod and main bearings, and a copper head gasket, as we opted for. If you don’t already have a service manual for your Willys, now would be a good time to get one from KWAS, as you will likely need to reference it many times during assembly.
Kaiser Willys Auto Supply has been our go-to for this CJ-2A restoration, and we tapped them again for an L134 rebuild kit (L134-HEAD-GEA) for the Go Devil engine using timing gears.
When ordering the rebuild kit you will need to specify the piston size, main bearing size, and rod-end bearing size information you get from the machine shop. Our L134 needed 0.040 oversize pistons, 0.040 undersize bearings for the mains on the crank, and 0.030 undersize for the rod-end bearings. Before we started any of the assembly, we prepped the block by carefully cleaning the oil galleys and blowing out any metal debris left behind by the machine shop. And trust us when we tell you that even though it had been “washed,” it still had metal shavings hiding in many of the cavities. We also used a quality thread sealant specifically resistant to oil, coolant, and fuel on all necessary NPT block plugs when installing them. Follow along as we install the rotating assembly and complete the rest of the L134 engine with timing gears.
We were able to use the same cam that came out of this block as it cleaned up well at the machine shop. Here we installed the cam into the block using liberal amounts of assembly lube.
Once the front retaining plate, cam key, and bolts were in, we then installed the main bearings for the crank.
Before you install the crank, make sure to spec the main bearing clearance with a preferred method (we used Plastigauge), and install the bolts and tapered pins on the flywheel flange as shown. We also used the rubber seals provided in our gasket kit and Permatex #2 on the rubber dowel seals (not rope) as we aligned and installed our rear block cap per the markings.
We then torqued all the main caps to spec, and installed the front engine plate with the provided gasket. Then we proceeded to install the thrust washer, keys, and finally, the timing gears on the front of the engine.
At TDC (top dead center) the gears should be installed with markings aligned, and then the oiling jet installed between the gears to spray them during operation. Note: The assembly had been rotated after install, so this photo does not actually show the markings meshed together.
It is recommended that the oil pump be primed prior to installation to get oil into all the cavities and bearing surfaces for lubrication. We filled a clean drain pan with oil and then rotated the gear to suck in the oil.
With the oil pump ready to install, we inserted it in the block, but not all the way. Then using a long flathead screwdriver, we rotated the pump gear to mesh with the cam gear according to the manual for proper timing, before installing the oil pump bolts using thread sealant. We then installed the distributor as shown to make sure that at TDC compression stroke the rotor tip points at cylinder #1 on the cap.
Using Permatex #2 sealant we liberally coated both sides of the timing cover gasket, the block plate, and the cover. They were installed using a new hardware kit we got from KWAS.
While assembling the four new pistons onto the rods using the supplied pins, we made sure to place the small oiling hole on the lower shoulder of the rod on the opposite side of the open vertical slot area on the piston (visible on left piston).
Before the rings were installed onto the pistons, we made sure the new rings met the manual’s acceptable spec while they were sitting in the cylinder bore. At this time we also installed the new rod bearings onto the rods and all four caps, then checked each spec on the crank using Plastigauge.
Once the rings were placed on the piston per instructions provided in the ring kit, we used a ring compressor to clamp around all the rings as shown, then gently placed them into the cylinder. Next, we installed the rod bolts before installing the rod and piston assembly. Having someone underneath was crucial so they could carefully guide the rod with bolts over the crank and hold it still while we tapped the piston into the cylinder with a rubber mallet. We then installed the matching numbered caps and bolts to each rod.
At this point, it was best to rotate the engine for easy access, inspect caps once again, and torque all the rod bolt nuts to the manual’s specifications.
After the rod bolt nuts were torqued it was time to install the locking nuts to spec in order to prevent the rod bolt and nut from being able to loosen up.
We were able to install our stock oil pickup assembly using a new gasket with Permatex gasket sealant #2 on the base and a cotter pin for the pickup, but only after we disassembled the entire unit and thoroughly cleaned the tube and filter screen.
When installing the oil pan and front engine splash guard, make sure to flatten all holes using a ball-peen hammer and reuse the six spacers as shown that drop it down far enough to make room for the front belt installation. Here we also used gasket sealant #2. KWAS also has the spacers in case any are missing from a previous rebuild.
Install the six splashguard bolts and the rest of the oil pan bolts, and torque to spec, making sure not to over-torque.
Moving on to the valve springs, we installed one at a time by placing the spring over the valve guide, then slid the valve down into position, and then placed a lock retainer on the bottom of spring. Using a valve spring compressor, we lifted the retainer and spring to make enough room to allow both sides of the locks to be placed as shown, and then released the compressor tool.
Just to make sure the small locks don’t go into the bottom of the engine if dropped, it helps to place rags in the lower holes. As you proceed with each valve spring it should start to get easier as the steps become familiar.
Using a high-performance thread sealant, we installed the new head studs we also purchased from KWAS using the double-nut method. There are some different theories here—to torque studs or not to torque studs—but we prefer to torque on the mild side with a non-hardening thread sealant.
We now had a complete rotating assembly, valve train, and crank pulley installed. The block was ready for paint.
One of the tricks we like to use before the high-temp engine enamel is applied is taping up an old or spare exhaust manifold gasket, as shown. We also marked the edges of where the valve cover gasket would lay and taped around it to keep the rust away from exposed machined surfaces later on. Using wire nuts to plug threaded holes in the block also helps to keep the paint out of unwanted areas.
Finding out that Kaiser Willys Auto Supply now sells this brand-new and “Mopar-approved” cylinder head was great news since we had a serious crack in the old head and did not want to risk a costly fix or junkyard replacement. We simply cleaned it with paint prep, plugged the heater opening, taped off the thermostat housing area, filled the plug holes with old spark plugs, and gave it a coat of high-temp low-gloss enamel paint.
With the new copper head gasket in place, we placed the head into position and gently worked it onto the studs. At this point, we’ll refer you to the very first photo in this story in which the air intake crossover tube and the oil filter bracket are now bolted on using the head stud and bolts as shown, and then torqued in a manual-specific 1-to-15 sequence in three phases working your way up to the final spec.
In order to transition the engine from the stand to the engine hoist, we used an inexpensive engine leveler, and a simple sling method using our Mac’s tie-down straps. It worked great and did not cause any strain on the new head.
Once the engine was off the stand we could access the rear of the block, and installed the rear plate first, then the resurfaced flywheel with a new KWAS 97-tooth ring gear, and finally, the new KWAS clutch and pressure plate, as shown. You can use a clutch alignment tool to center the clutch disc and then tighten to correct torque spec. Note: They might be hard to notice at this point, but the crank flange and flywheel have small arrows engraved to make sure they get attached correctly and not 180 degrees out of phase.
Moving to the transmission bellhousing, we prepped accordingly and installed the clutch cable, release fork and fulcrum, throw-out bearing, and a new return spring.
As the engine was slowly lowered on the hoist, we used the leveler to properly locate the engine onto the motor mounts, and back onto the input shaft and snout of the transmission. We had test-fit the pilot bushing in the center of the flywheel to the input shaft snout prior to installation, so we already knew it would fit properly.
Once the engine is in you can tighten all of the bellhousing bolts, and that should easily cinch up the last bit of separation you may have. You can then tighten the lower slotted motor mount bolts, and finally the main mount stud nut with a lock washer.
With the engine securely in the chassis, was time to start installing all the other parts needed, as shown, to prepare the engine to test-fire and make sure it runs like it should, which for us is hopefully real soon.