Back in my college days I used to have a real problem. Not with the Dean’s daughter or with my GPA. I was hooked on junkyards. For some reason, whenever I got the chance I’d hit the self-serve junkyards, pay my $1 entry, and wander the aisles of cars and trucks. To me, it was better entertainment than any movie or playing golf.
However, where there were once rows upon rows of big-block Mopar 383s, Chevy ½-, ¾-, and 1-ton pickups, motorhomes housing rebuildable 454s or 460s, and Q-jets cluttering the ground, something changed. All of a sudden, I started seeing injected 5.0L Cougars, 305 TPI Camaros and Firebirds, and scores and scores of 4.0L XJs. It seems the digital, injected world was wearing out—all the better for us. Here are some killer parts for your Jeep that should be at a junkyard near you.
It’s not often you stumble across a Warn or early Saturn overdrive, but it does happen. This is the second junkyard Spicer 18 we’ve seen with the coveted range box. Look for them in early Scouts, CJs, Willys trucks, and flatties. The tipoff is the four shifters sticking up through the floor. You should also start looking for Spicer 18s because they’re bound to start getting rare. A good, non-rebuilt overdrive fetches around $400 to $500, while a decent Spicer 18 can get $150. The junkyard wanted $95 for the bellhousing, T-90, T-case, and overdrive because it’s just a manual transmission to them.
Carbureted Chevy V-8
Still the staple, just about any Chevy V-8 will up the power of your Jeep. Go on half-price day and you can nab a complete engine from carb to pan with all the accessories for around $90. Look for engines out of mid-’70s pickups and wagons because they were commonly four-bolt mains. To verify a four-bolt main block, check for the casting number (3932388) on the flat portion of the block on the driver side behind the cylinder head.
No Disconnect Dana 30
The high-pinion, non-disconnect Dana 30 housing found in ’89-’99 and some ’00 XJs is a great bolt-in swap for TJs with the low-pinion Dana 30. If you lop the mounts off and weld on spring perches, it makes a darn fine replacement for the CAD-equipped YJ front axle.
GM TBI or TPI 305 and 350
We’re nearly positive you’re not going to stumble across a Holley TPI-equipped engine in the junkyard like this one, but you will trip across dozens of throttle body (TBI) 305s and 350s in late-model pickups and vans. We’re even starting to see TPI-equipped Firebirds, Camaros, Corvettes, and some LT1 Caprices make their way to the great car garage in the sky. Don’t sweat if the harness has been chopped because Painless Performance has replacement harnesses. Just make sure all the sensors and injector hardware are present.
If you’re looking to swap a four-speed into your rig and are running or want to run a 32-spline input T-case, look for an SM465 out of an ’80-’88 GM four-wheel drive truck. These trannies have the same six-bolt round adapter bolt pattern as the NP, NV, Dana 300, and Atlas transfer cases and 32-spine shaft as some Atlas and the left-hand drop GM NV231 and 241 T-cases. The only drawback is the adapter (left) is about 7 inches long.
4.0L Throttle Body
For the four-banger crowd, an inexpensive alternative to an aftermarket bored throttle body is to use the stock 58mm 4.0L throttle body from a ’91-up XJ or MJ or a ’93-up ZJ in place of the stock 52mm throttle body. All the four-cylinder sensors and IAC housing will cross over and the throttle body bolts right to the manifold.
’99-up 4.0L Intake
Earlier 4.0L engines used a more squared-off, log-style intake manifold that hampered flow to the outer ports, especially the #1 and #6 cylinders. Beginning in ’99 Chrysler employed this horseshoe-shaped, high-flow manifold with individual runners. It’s said to be worth anywhere from 10hp to 25hp over the log-type manifold. You may need to convert to the later power steering brackets and move a few vacuum lines, but the manifold bolts to all 4.0L engines. You can also use this manifold as a way of converting from the earlier Renix-style injection.
While they’re not an ideal swap candidate and are a full 1½-inches narrower than a Jeep axle, the Ford 8.8 rear axle found in Ford Explorers has the same 5x4.5 bolt pattern found on the XJ, YJ, and TJ. Look for the ’95 and newer versions because they’re usually found with 4.10 gears, disc brakes, and 31-spline axleshafts. Swap kits are even available through the aftermarket.
Ford U-bolts and Spring Plates
If you need some U-bolts spring plates for 3-inch axletubes, any ’77-’86 Ford F-150, Bronco, or van has ’em. You’re not supposed to reuse U-bolts, swallow gum, or record football games without the express, written consent of the NFL … but we know you’ll do it anyway. Just make sure they are in good shape.
XJ and MJ Dana 44 rear
While rare, we do stumble across the coveted Dana 44 used sparingly in XJs and MJs from ’87-’89, usually in vehicles with the optional tow package. If you see a trailer hitch on a Unibody Jeep in the junkyard, it’s worth sticking your head under to see what rear axle is in it. These 60½-inch wide axles are a great swap for most YJ, XJ, and even TJs.
Disc Brakes for Early Axles
Starting in ’77, CJs got front disc brakes from the factory. If you find a ’77-’78 CJ in the junkyard, you can pull the entire brake system off the front Dana 30 and bolt it on to a Dana 25 or Dana 27 with just a little grinding on the older closed knuckle for clearance. Or you could use Chevy 1⁄2- or 3⁄4-ton calipers and caliper brackets, the 11⁄8-inch thick rotors for a ’77-’78 CJ, and the stock Jeep hub assembly.
For a lot of Jeep owners, swapping in a ’77-’86 9-inch from a Ford F-150 or Bronco makes sense. They’re 65-inches wide (van housings are about 3-inches wider), most have 31-spline shafts, the wheel pattern is 5x5.5, and they have big drum brakes. Look for a big “N” (shown in yellow) in the centersection to designate the desirable stronger Nodular-iron centersection.