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1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ - Project Teal-J II, Part 14

Posted in Project Vehicles on December 1, 2005 Comment (0)
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1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ - Project Teal-J II, Part 14
Photographers: Vinson Pratt

Project Teal-J II, Intro
Project Teal-J II, Part 1
Project Teal-J II, Part 2
Project Teal-J II, Part 3
Project Teal-J II, Part 4
Project Teal-J II, Part 5
Project Teal-J II, Part 6
Project Teal-J II, Part 7
Project Teal-J II, Part 8
Project Teal-J II, Part 9
Project Teal-J II, Part 10
Project Teal-J II, Part 11
Project Teal-J II, Part 12
Project Teal-J II, Part 13
Project Teal-J II, Part 14

Teraflex developed a kit to transplant a 5.7L Hemi V-8 engine into any Jeep TJ. We scored a slightly used Hemi motor from a wrecked 2004 Dodge Ram pickup. The guys at Mepco of Salt Lake City, removed the old engine and transmission from Teal-J. Then Teraflex performed critical surgery on the stock straight-six wiring harness to ensure it would work with the factory Hemi wiring. Next, Mepco installed two new motor mounts on Teal's frame. The new motor was bolted to a late-model Grand Cherokee WK 5-45RFE automatic transmission that Teraflex found in a wrecking yard. With the engine in place, Teal's Atlas II transfer case received a new input shaft, which allowed it to bolt up to the new automatic transmission. Next, Mepco installed an instrument cluster out of a 2001 TJ. Finally, a drive-by-wire throttle pedal was installed in place of the old cable-actuated unit.

In this story, we address some of the finishing touches performed by Mepco, which worked closely with Teraflex to complete this project.

1.) Cooling a big V-8 with a relatively small radiator requires one of two things: A substantial increase in airflow to effectively transfer more heat away, or a better thermal conductor capable of transferring increased heat with a lower volume of air. We chose the latter because we didn't want to hear a loud electric fan running while out on the trail. As such, Mepco fit Teal-J with a slick-looking aluminum radiator featuring two 1-inch-thick core tubes and a built-in transmission cooler. The unit came from Novak Conversions of Logan, Utah. Novak offers a line of high-performance aluminum radiators--called Radlocks--for Jeep CJs, YJs, and TJs. We like them because they feature a simple clamp-together attachment method instead of traditional brackets that are welded directly to the sides of the tanks. The Radlock system provides a positive clamping force on each side of the radiator while cushioning the radiator with heat-resistant silicone padding. This is nice because it allows the radiator to float freely instead of binding up when the Jeep twists through rough terrain.

2.) In order to plumb the Radlock radiator to the bottom of Teal's new Hemi, we ordered a 12-inch universal flex hose from Summit Racing (PN 390012 and 390001). This kit worked perfectly, allowing us to contort and shape a hose to fit the application.

3.) Another issue Mepco had to resolve with the swap had to do with the emissions control system. Luckily, our donor Hemi and the '05 Wrangler share a similar emissions control system, called Natural Vacuum Leak Detection (NVLD), that detects leaks and fuel vapor loss. In order to get a functional NVLD system on Teal-J, we had to update the fuel system with parts from an 2005 TJ. This included replacing the gas tank with an 2005 model, as well as adding a vapor canister, NVLD pump, and other miscellaneous parts. Had we failed to do this, the emissions system would not have functioned and the "check engine" light would have remained illuminated. So we contacted Quadratec and ordered a complete 2005 TJ NVLD system, including a gas tank. Quadratec shipped these items to Mepco, and within a few days time our Jeep had everything needed to comply with 2005 TJ smog standards. The new vapor control devices are tucked up nicely behind Teal's passenger-side rear tire in a void beneath the sheetmetal. This is the same location Chrysler installs these parts on all 2005 TJs.

4.) Next on the list was the exhaust. Starting from scratch with an engine that never originally came in a TJ made for some interesting fitment issues. First, the regular Dodge Ram Hemi exhaust manifolds wouldn't fit between the engine and framerails. Luckily, Teraflex figured out a compact fix using a readily available exhaust manifold off a Hemi-equipped 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee. These slim-fitting manifolds were perfect for Teal's tight spatial restrictions, and best of all, they look and fit as the factory would have intended. This gave us some much-needed confidence that the technician at the local emissions center wouldn't give us a hard time later during emissions certification. Teraflex custom-built the remainder of the exhaust system using standard weld-together fittings. The entire system was fabricated from 3-inch aluminized steel tubing. It features a high-flow catalytic converter, welded bung fittings for four appropriately matched O2 sensors, and a short Magnaflow muffler, which provides a little too much rumble for our liking. However, given the lack of available real estate and the significant increase in power, we found we could live with the Teal's louder new personality.

5.) Because we swapped out the five-speed manual transmission in favor of the Grand Cherokee five-speed automatic, we needed to find a new gear shifter. We found this sweet-looking Street Bandit billet shifter in the B&M Racing catalog. The shifter is both compact and easy to modify for non-interrupted forward-to-reverse shifts. We wanted this option for extreme rockcrawling situations where an end-over tumble might be prevented by a quick tap on the gear selector. Anyone who's ever been caught in this situation would agree that the ability to quickly grab Reverse and back out of a situation when it gets uncomfortable can be a valuable asset on the trail. We modified our shifter by simply grinding down a portion of the internal shift selector fork, effectively removing small tooth-like interferences between Reverse, Neutral, and Drive positions. For obvious reasons, we don't recommend this modification unless your rig is primarily a trail machine. But for off-pavement use, a trick shifter like this is a great way to get the driveability of an automatic with the quickness of a stick-shift.

6.) Air conditioning was low on our list of priorities, though Teraflex did offer it to us and we do still plan to drive Teal-J over some hot desert trails. Two major problems prevented Teal's A/C from working with the new Hemi A/C compressor. The first was the absence of plumbing between the compressor and the condenser. Because nobody offered pre-made lines for a Hemi-powered TJ, Teraflex had to have Teal's lines custom-built. The second problem Mepco encountered was that the Ram uses a different signal to enable compressor clutch engagement than the one used on 1997 TJs. Because the two systems are not compatible, Mepco had to modify the A/C control wiring so that an actuation signal, triggered straight from the OE dash controls, could power the new Hemi A/C control relay. We can confirm the fix worked well as Teal's A/C now blows cold and strong.

7.) The last issue that Mepco had to sort out on this project was the air intake. The only preference we had was that the filter was under the hood, and equipped with a cleanable filter element. The guys at Teraflex built this intake using 4-inch stainless steel exhaust tubing, a few pieces of rubber hose, and a large K&N filter element. We liked this setup because it was simple, freer-flowing, and easy to remove for maintenance.

8.) With all the appropriate systems connected, the guys at Teraflex started up Teal's new Hemi. Once running, Mepco's service technician scanned the ECU to expose any trouble codes. The Jeep now scanned as an 2004 Ram pickup. Fortunately, no codes were present and the Jeep was ready for a road test.

After the Install: First Impressions
With a punch of the throttle pedal, Teal-J immediately lunged forward and upward. Throttle response was amazing; the Jeep felt more like a high-performance sports car off the line.

Project Teal-J II, Intro
Project Teal-J II, Part 1
Project Teal-J II, Part 2
Project Teal-J II, Part 3
Project Teal-J II, Part 4
Project Teal-J II, Part 5
Project Teal-J II, Part 6
Project Teal-J II, Part 7
Project Teal-J II, Part 8
Project Teal-J II, Part 9
Project Teal-J II, Part 10
Project Teal-J II, Part 11
Project Teal-J II, Part 12
Project Teal-J II, Part 13
Project Teal-J II, Part 14

Sources

Summit Racing
Akron, OH
800-230-3030
SummitRacing.com
MagnaFlow
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
800-824-8664
www.magnaflow.com
Quadratec
West Chester, PA 19380
800-745-2348
www.quadratec.com
Novak Conversions
Logan, UT 84321
435-753-2513
http://www.novak-adapt.com

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