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Wicked Willys Project Finale: Electrics; EFI, Driveshafts, and Exhaust

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on January 3, 2017 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Harry Wagner

That’s it—she is done. Oh, were not really supposed to treat our vehicles like humans, but Wicked Willys definitely has a personality that is stubborn as hell and a bit rough around the edges but is somehow undeniably lovable. What started as a derelict 2WD ’49 Willys bought for a song and a dance has been finally finished into a wicked wheeler. Well, no project is really ever truly finished, but at least it’s to the point now where we can drive it; and the end result is just about exactly what we hoped it would be, a large, obnoxious, powerful, loud, attention-getting Jeep that is capable on the trail and the highway.

For its maiden voyage, we didn’t commit to any pantywaist trail, we agreed to do everything we could to get the Willys ready for the 2016 4Wheel & Off-Road Ultimate Adventure. Maybe you’ve heard of the event? The Ultimate Adventure has hosted several Jp project vehicles over the years, ranging from FSJs, flatties, our ginormous RESQ1 project, and now Wicked Willys. The trip was a blast and a blur, much like the past several months working on Wicked Willys. Here are the details on the last few items we did to tie the truck together and get it ready for a large and this grueling off-road event.

One of the first things we got for this project quite a while back was a 12-circuit wiring harness for a non-GM column from Painless Performance Products (PN 10104, $509.99). We’ve used Painless harnesses on a couple of other projects with great success, and this harness was no different. Our pal, Trent McGee, offered to wire the truck, and with our hands full, we were happy to accept. To help Trent do his job, the Painless harness comes with detailed instructions and color-coded wires that are also imprinted with information about what circuits they serve.

We also got a ClassicBraid Chassis kit from Painless (PN P/N 70970, $189.99) that comes with a variety of braid (ranging from 1/8-inch to 1-inch), heat shrink, tie wraps, electrical tape, and some self-vulcanizing Stretch and Seal Tape. ClassicBraid has a vintage look and protects wiring from chafing, as well as temperatures up to 257 degrees. There was also enough ClassicBraid in the kit to wire more than one Jeep, which was good in case we made any mistakes.

We mounted the Painless Performance fuse block just behind the glove box door on the driver side. Nearby we mounted the Edelbrock E-Street EFI’s computer and various relays. If there are any electrical issues, we can just pop open the glove box and get at these components.

While wiring the Jeep, we also laid out the wiring harness and sump for the Edelbrock E-Street self-learning EFI system. The sump is part of a kit from Edelbrock (PN 3605, $591.99) that allows you to run the throttle-body injection without a high-pressure in-tank pump or a fuel return line, while supporting up to 600 hp. That helps trim down the work of plumbing and sourcing a pump to drive the system. Our engine-driven mechanical pump fills the sump and a second mechanical pump bumps pressure up to 50-60 psi. These sumps are something people have dabbled with in the past, but having a ready-to-go kit, with fittings, filters, fuel lines, sump, and more, was simply awesome.

With the fuel-injection system parts falling into place, we had to finally mount our Dave’s Customs Unlimited fuel cell in the bed one last time. Next to it and clamped in a bed-mounted steel battery box from Summit Racing Equipment is our BlueTop Deep Cycle Optima Group 34 battery. We didn’t forget to wrap the battery cables with part of a radiator hose to keep them from being cut by the edges of the hole we made in the bed.

With the Optima BlueTop in the bed of the truck, we mounted remote battery terminals to the passenger-side front fender. These make wiring under-hood accessories such as the Flex-a-lite fan controller and relays for the two electric fans shoehorned on our Flex-a-fit radiator much easier.

We’ve honed our body welding skills with this project. The key is welder settings and using thin welding wire (.023-inch preferred) in our Miller Electric Millermatic 190 with Auto-Set. It’s not easy to fit 42-inch BFG Krawlers under a relatively low Willys Truck. One place we were able to pick up a little clearance was on the front fenders. We pie-cut the fenders and removed the wedge. Then we tack-welded the outer edge of the fender back to the main part of the fender. This allowed more clearance for the tires when the steering is turned and one of the tires is stuffed.

With the truck mostly wired and the engine getting close to ignition we stabbed in an MSD Pro-Billet Ready-To-Run Distributor, MSD plug wires, and MSD Blaster 2 Ignition Coil. A Summit Racing–supplied Mopar Performance Oil Pump Driveshaft and Distributor Gear Set drive the MSD distributor. We also added a Lokar throttle cable and cable mounting brackets to connect the Edelbrock throttle body to the Lokar Lakester throttle assembly we also got from Summit Racing Equipment. With all that and a little fuel, the Dodge RB fired up pretty easily.

To keep tabs on the vital information of Wicked Willy’s engine, we installed three Auto Meter gauges. A mechanical oil-pressure gauge lets us know the big engine is lubricated properly while a mechanical temp gauge helps us keep things from getting too hot. The real belle of the ball is the Auto Meter Z-Series Speedometer (PN 2680) GPS speedometer with GPS antenna. This unit was easy to install, and we didn’t have to worry about hooking up any mechanical or electronic speed sensors in the big Willys’ transfer case. All the info the Speedometer gets comes through the supplied GPS antenna. The antenna was mounted on what little dash the Willys has. Not shown is a column-mounted Auto Meter Z-series tachometer.

With an estimated 500 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, we knew we needed some strong driveshafts under the Jeep. Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts makes an exceptional product and was happy to help us by building the front and rear driveshafts we needed. We gave them some basic measurements and told them what we were doing with the truck and they recommended and built exactly what we needed. A few days later, the driveshafts were in our hands and bolted in seamlessly. Both ‘shafts have double Cardan joints on the transfer case ends and 1350 U-joints on the axle ends. The front (shown) is narrow for driveshaft clearance as it makes its way past the trans and exhaust up to the front axle. The rear driveshaft uses 3-inch tubing for extreme durability. Despite our best attempts at driving like total jack-wagons, both shafts laughed at the roads miles, silly full-throttle assaults on-road, and trail obstacles during Ultimate Adventure.

To accompany the new driveshafts and CV flanges from Tom Wood’s, we also installed a front 32-spline output shaft to the NP205 with a little more help from Offroad Design. All the parts we’ve gotten from Offroad Design for this project have been top-notch. That includes this 32-spline front output, a 32-spline rear output, NP203/NP205 Doubler adapters, rebuild kits, and a triple stick shifter to control the under drives and front/rear power split. With the Doubler, 4.88:1 G2 axle gears, and the Dodge NP435’s granny gear, the Willys has a crawl ratio of 130:1. That’s a ton of reduction and is perfect for technical rock work.

After firing up the 505ci RB it became painfully apparent that we’d overlooked one aspect of the truck: an exhaust. Luckily, Summit Racing had two 2 1/2-inch Series 40 Flowmaster Mufflers and a Summit-brand 2 1/2-inch dual exhaust kit.

We had to drill a hole in one of the down tubes of the exhaust for the Edelbrock E-Street EFI’s oxygen sensor. The EFI system came with a weld-in bung and instructions on where best to place the O2 sensor. Our impression of the fuel injection system with about 2,000 miles on it so far is that it’s easy to install and offers seamless performance. The engine runs great. We’ve had questions (and doubts) about whether the mechanical pump could feed the sump with enough fuel, but so far had no issues with that. The only problem we had was on the trail when a fitting popped out of the sump. We got it back in place and made sure the system’s vent was not blocked. We suspect the vent was kinked and that allowed pressure inside the sump to build up.

With about 100 miles on the new Auto Meter odometer, we hit the road to Ultimate Adventure. As would be expected with any newly finished rig, we ran into a few issues that only driving the truck on the trail would bring to our attention. Despite an undercharging alternator, actively discharging fans, and a tendency to run hot when the weather was hot, Wicked Willys worked as well as we could expect. What’s next? Correcting these few issues and then wheeling and driving the rig as much as possible.

Sources

Auto Meter
Sycamore, IL 60178
866-248-6356
www.autometer.com
Miller Electric
Appleton, WI 54912
920-734-9821
www.millerwelds.com
Flex-A-Lite
Fife, WA 98424
866-230-5908
http://www.flex-a-lite.com
Summit Racing
Akron, OH
800-230-3030
http://www.summitracing.com
Painless Performance Products
Ft. Worth, TX 76105
800-423-9696
www.painlessperformance.com
Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts
877-497-4238
customdriveshafts.com
Edelbrock
Torrance, CA 90503
310-781-2222
www.edelbrock.com
MSD
El Paso,
888-258-3835
MSDPerformance.com
Optima Batteries
Milwaukee, WI 53209
888-867-8462
www.optimabatteries.com
Rob Bonney Fabrication
602-370-7955
facebook.com/pages/Rob-Bonney-Fabrication/193559750764429

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