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Cheap Truck CJ5 repairs lead to larger tires and no engine.

Cheap Jeep up a Creek

Joe FernandezPhotographer, Writer

Rob Peterson’s little blue CJ-5 got shoved into a corner after sputtering and stalling its way through the overland Cheap Truck Challenge in 2015 (Jan. 2016 issue). After a few months he was hankering to get his CJ out and cruise around town and hit the local trails. During CTC we had talked about how cool it would be to put a fresh Ford 302ci small-block V-8 into Rob’s daily driven 1967 Mustang and transplant the Stang’s 289ci Ford into the little Jeep to replace the barely running four-cylinder. The 289 leaked a little oil, but it would be perfect for the retro desert-racer-looking CJ that Rob envisioned the Jeep could become.

When the time came to start working on the CJ though, the Mustang was still serving daily driver duty and Rob decided that tearing apart a working chick-magnet/commuter car was not the best idea. The tired four-cylinder in the Jeep would have to do until another daily driver hit the scene (or he found a nice girl to drive him to work while the Mustang and Jeep were torn apart). We tinkered with the Jeep and made some improvements that would not only help the future V-8 swap but also help the four-cylinder run better. We had experienced a severe knock from the old four-banger while on CTC and hoped to fix it over one long weekend. What we found meant our project went from minor repairs to an engineless Jeep awaiting that Mustang V-8. It’s time to find that daily driver so we can fix both projects.

Tired of filling up the rear passenger tire, Rob Peterson went in search of updated rubber with hopes of better traction and air-holding capabilities. He found a set of secondhand 33-inch BFGoodrich mud-terrains mounted on Mickey Thompson aluminum wheels. This wheel and tire combo is great off-road and fits perfectly with the Daystar shackle lift we installed for CTC 2015.

During CTC the Jeep's fuel delivery system was reduced to a drink bottle full of fuel with a hole in the top to fill the carburetor's bowl. Rummaging through the garage we found this Holley electric fuel pump, perfect for both our four-cylinder and the 289 V-8 to come. A block-off plate was made to cover the hole in the engine block where the mechanical pump lived, and the electric pump was mounted inside the driver framerail.

The auto parts store racing seats were a pain while traversing the wilderness and looked silly in our old Jeep. Rob decided to scavenge the seats from his old desert racing truck to add to the retro racer look. These patterned suspension seats are going to look great mounted to some simple cage work. No seat mockup is complete without grabbing whatever is closest to see how they're going to look.

The original four-cylinder ran awfully during CTC. Our original diagnosis was some issue with a valve, and we thought we could maybe smack something back into place or find a broken valve spring. We made sure to order in a head gasket at our local parts house in case we had to pull the head off, and we got to work. As we got further into the F-head we made a terrible discovery: “Well, one piston looks good.” We were both sad to see that our knocking noise was not a bad valve but rather a piston that had lost its rings and was slowly slapping itself apart on the cylinder walls.

Rob decided the F-head was not worth saving. We got to work removing what little was left tying the four-cylinder in the engine bay. We removed the radiator, grille supports, and grille to make our lives easier and to ensure that we didn't smash anything with a swinging engine block. With the transmission tunnel out it was easy to remove the four transmission-to-bellhousing bolts, and we pulled the whole clutch and bellhousing out with the engine. As with many project vehicles, our little Jeep snowflake has snowballed into a blizzard of repairs needed, so don’t expect to see us back on the trail any time soon.