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August 2005 4x4 Tech Questions - Techline

Willie Worthy | Writer
Posted August 1, 2005

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Question: Could you please tell me what the most durable and best performing aftermarket limited-slip differential for a Jeep TJ with a Dana 35 is?
Sgt. Cortland D. Marix
U.S. Army Transportation Corps

Answer: I wouldn't really recommend spending the money on putting a limited-slip in your Dana 35. It is not a very strong axle to begin with, and the limited-slips don't really offer that much of a traction gain. Superior Axle & Gear makes a special set of axles for the 35 that can be combined with the Ox Locker, Detroit, or an ARB Air Locker. The price is kind of high for the total package, but a lot less expensive than going to a Dana 44 rear axle and then adding a locker-which in my opinion is really the way to go.

Question: I have an '88 Jeep Grand Wagoneer with an AMC 360/727 combo that I would like to replace with an overdrive automatic transmission. The motor needs to be rebuilt, and I would like to do this at the same time. I was wondering if you could lead me in the right direction on what options are available to me. Is there a conversion kit available, or would a Ford small-block/AOD trans swap be better? What would be a good transfer case to use with one of these two options? Is it possible to use the factory case if it's adequate for this vehicle's purpose? I really like this vehicle but would like a little more mileage out of my daily driver.
Randy Jones
via e-mail

Answer: I believe that Advance Adapters and Novak Conversions have an adapter plate that will allow you to hook the AMC engine to a GM-pattern transmission. The easiest conversion would be the 700R4. You're also going to need an adapter to the transfer case, which either company will also have.

It wouldn't take much work to use a steering column out of a GM pickup, Blazer, or Suburban, so you would have the right shift linkage, or you could go with an aftermarket floor shifter. You will need a special plate between the carburetor and manifold that holds the throttle cable as well as the TV cable that controls the transmission's shift points. TCI has these available through Summit Racing. My guess is that you will have to move the transmission-mount crossmember rearward somewhat, as the 700R4 is a bit longer than the Chrysler-built 727, which also means some driveshaft modifications. Overall, it's a pretty easy swap.

Question: I am 19, and my dad and I have always enjoyed going out on four-wheelin' trips. Since I can remember, there has always been a Jeep in the family. We had an M38A1, two CJ-5s, and now a decked-out Wrangler TJ.

I decided to get into the frenzy and was able to get my hands on an '85 Jeep Cherokee. I was planning on putting in a still-good 4.2L from a friend's CJ-7. What I didn't know was that the 4.2L wouldn't fit in the engine compartment of my Jeep without a lot of fabricating. I was told it had a 2.8L V-6 in it at one time and was wondering if you guys had any ideas as to where I could get one of these engines so that I can get it out on the trails. For what I got this Jeep for, I can spend some money on a "replacement" engine.
Andrew Headley
Chandler, AZ

Answer: Cherokees can make super trail vehicles. As you have found, they are also reasonable in price. Swapping in either the 4.2 or the later 4.0 isn't impossible, but it's not the most practical swap for your early Cherokee. When Jeep went to the 4.0 inline-six, they made quite a few body changes, and while they are not that noticeable, they are substantial enough to make a big difference.

I would totally forget about finding a 2.8 motor. Even though they were used in the early Chevy compact pickups, they never were a very good motor and developed crank-sealing problems, as well as not really making a lot of power. Chevy made some 3.4L versions of this engine that solved these problems, and they can be bought as a "crate engine" through any GM dealer-they actually are a good replacement.

However, the transmission in your Jeep really isn't the strongest, and I would not recommend using it. What makes a great engine swap is one of the 4.3 Chevy V-6s. I would really suggest that you buy the complete package. That would include the engine, computer, wiring harness, transmission, and transfer case. While you're at it, get the driveshafts too. I have seen this done on several Cherokees, and the best word to describe it is "sweet." Yes, it is going to cost you a lot more money than I'm sure you expected to pay, but the results will be well worth it.

The later-model vehicles use a pulse generator to establish a signal to the electric speedometer. I believe someone makes a special adapter to change it over to a cable-driven speedo like your Cherokee has; however, the name of the company eludes me at this time. According to Robert Schleppy of 4x4 Used Parts (970/224-1133,, you can just as easily swap the output shaft and rear housing from your present NP231 transfer case for the one on the Chevy-version 231 case. In fact, he made a Chevy-to-Cherokee swap like this several years ago.

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