Sarah the Sahara—More expensive than a divorce—LR4—NV3550 Conversion



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Oh, look, another LS conversion in a TJ. :rolleyes: Yes, this thread is about another conversion, but I hope to alleviate and answer alot of confusion and offer some answers or advice. The goal with "Sarah" is to have a capable DD that can be very capable on the weekend. This project has taken a total of 5 years, and the shutdown gave me the time and motivation to finally finish her. Just 3 weeks ago I picked up the short-block from the machine shop, and as of last week I just need to add an exhaust and final tune.

There have definitely been alot of sweat and frustration, but in the end, I love the end result. Was it cheap - no. All of the 'small" items I did not figure in and found into the build added alot to the cost of doing this. The main factor was the LR4 I got. I thought is was pretty good. It came with a standalone harness and basic tune. As I started digging into the engine there was alot of issues and had to have the block decked, crank polished, cam bearings, etc - so a basic full rebuild. I estimate this added $2000-$2500 to the cost of the build.

This build though is very different than most LS conversions. I wanted to keep the NV3550 and dump the NP231 and add a NP241OR. I enjoy the experience of the 5-speed while driving, and I wanted something more robust and different crawl ratios than the 231 offered, so I went with a 241OR. I ended up finding a JK241OR with a 2-Low conversion. Also the main issue with the JK is there is no output speed sensor, as the wheel speed on JK's are at the wheels. The final part is the skid plate I chose, a UCF Zero Clearance Steel Skidplate. My combination, a 5-speed, 241, and the skid I found very little information on builds or information. With this I had to make major modifications to the shifter, and build my own transmission mount to the skidplate.

Also I tried to take alot of pictures as I could not find alot online. Visually seeing a object usually helps in answering questions with builds. I have included a link to the build for the pictures.

Here is the build sheet for "Sarah"

* 2002 LR4 with standalone harness
* Summit #8712 Cam
* BBK SS Shorty Headers #40205
* Complete rebuild, new bearings, rings and seals
* G-body oil pan with baffle
* Standard GM 10.5” Flywheel and Luk #40-205 clutch
* Novak pilot bushing #PB-3901357
* Superior Radiator (TJ to LS) and 3000 cfm electric fan
* Dave’s Custom motor mount kit #LSEMT J-Kit
* Airtex #E7200M Fuel pump - 05-06 TJ fuel pump w/ ⅜” line
* Gates heater hose #28471 and #28480
* Dayco #71316 for lower radiator hose
* NAPA #9840 for upper radiator hose

* NV3550 5-speed
* B&M Sport Shifter #45048
* Novak adjustable clutch release bearing #TB3
* Novak adapter plate #375

Transfer Case:
* JK NP241OR with Teraflex 2 Low conversion
* Novak #SK3XR transfer case cable shifter
* Front driveshaft: stock
* Rear driveshaft: Adams Driveshaft custom build

Front Axle:
* Dana 30 LP
* Revolution Gear 4.88
* Detroit Locker
* Artec Dana 30 truss kit and knuckle braces
* Black Magic Vanco 15” brake kit
* Teraflex front cover
* Custom shock and track bar mounts

Rear Axle:
* Ford 8.8
* Revolution Gear 4.88
* Detroit Locker
* Artec Ford 8.8 truss kit
* G2 Aluminum cover
* Black Magic reverse brake cable mounts
* Custom shock mounts

* Currie 4” lift springs
* Currie aluminum fully adjustable short arms w/ Johnny Joint
* Currie front and rear track bar
* Currie Antirock front swaybar
* Rancho RS9000XL shocks
* UCF Zero Clearance steel skid plate
* 1” body lift
* Outboard rear shocks
* ZJ tie rod conversion

* Smittybuilt XRC front bumper
* Smittybuilt XRC rear bumper
* Smittybuilt X2O 10,000 winch
* Custom fog and spot lights
* Round flush rear tail lights
* Custom cowl intake setup
* Custom hood latches
* Raised rear gas tank 1.5” inches
* Reverse lights in rear bumper

* Auto Meter Gauge Pod - 90011
* Speedhut Gauges
* Pioneer DEH 6600BT head unit
* Alpine KTP 445-U amplifier
* Polk Audio DB 5251 component kit
* Polk Audio DB 6501 component kit
* Alpine MRV-MV250 Amplifier
* Pioneer TS-SW2002D2 8” subwoofer

Link to build pictures:
This thing is awesome, I'm impressed!

So here's the real question (and I think I know the answer since I priced out a full LS swap myself): How much would you estimate your entire LS swap cost you from start to finish?

I had priced it out at being around 18k, but that was with a rebuild engine, rebuilt transmission, all the Novak adapter conversion parts, plug-and-play harness, etc. Basically a turn key swap with everything I needed.
I know I am gonna catch some heat for my 30 up front, but I quite do not have the $$ for a nice 44. The weakest link is the axles and the are common. If I get tired of breaking axles, then I may upgrade. Also the surf boards and plastic will soon go away being replaced with a Metalcloak full flair kit.

Cost, honestly I stopped counting :rolleyes: when I got into the engine finding it needed to be rebuilt. I used as many OEM parts as I could, the only thing that was kept from original engine was block, crank, pistons/rods and intake. Everything else was replaced/rebuilt including the heads. There was alot of small specialty tools needed to rebuilt the engine, and finding more things, - eventually add up to alot. I am guessing I have spent $10-12 just on parts and tools to complete the conversion in my garage. Then there is the hours. From April 1 to last week I have worked on it everyday for at least 8 hours. But I am also very fussy and take my time.
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Dana 30s handle up to 35" tires just fine as long as you're using upgraded axle shafts, so I don't think anyone is going to give you grief for that, not one bit.

Sounds like my cost estimate is about right.

The good news is that you're finally done, and it looks like it turned out great.

So the real question is now, how do you like the extra power? ;)
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Well, 4.88's with 33's is a bit low, and I eventually plan for 35's. Just going up and down the street it feels pretty good. :giggle: Have not had it down the road as due to exhaust and will want to get a final dyno tune. I am hoping to have around 300/300 at crank when I get done.

If you dig in the pictures, I did have a Kenny Bell SC w/ Intercooler before on the 4.0. The power was good, but mileage went in the toilet. It was erratic too, even with the SS controller. Not having much resources on tuning, and a SC that was no longer supported, I decided to change my combination and open pandora's box.
I am going to go into a bit more detail of my TJ, but a little of backstory. My Jeep ownership started in 2001 with a 1993 XJ, white, 2 door. Had that for a couple of years, ran great. Then moved on to a 1999 XJ Classic, red, 4 door. Worked great until I decided to go back to college in 2005 and needed something more efficient. Moving on several years later got the (then wife) a 2002 WJ Limited. That eventually went with the ex-wife and left Jeep-less for the first time. Career became a priority, but I had a goal, when I paid off my student loans, I would get myself a TJ Sahara, white, with camel interior.

That opportunity came in 2013, I wrote the final check for the student loan, and my quest was on for a TJ. At the time I was living in Oklahoma, so this presented a great opportunity to find a clean, rust free TJ. Within a couple months, I found her in Oklahoma City. I went down, spent 5 minutes looking at it, and I knew she was for me. It was all stock, down to the gamblers. (It did have 31" Good-for-a-years and a 1" puck lift). The hardtop was just repainted and also a Best-top frame-less top included.

Then in 2018 I got a camper trailer, and needed a vehicle to tow it. My Taco at the time could not handle it, so my first choice of course was to get another Jeep. I had my heart set on a WK2 Overland, white, hemi. I soon found one, and brought it home. So in the garage is a 2013 WK2 and the 2000 TJ. Sometime I walk in the garage, as say to myself, "How cool is this!"



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Of course, we all start a 'Dream List' and mine soon started. While browsing the classifieds in 2014 I found a listing for an Avenger supercharger kit. This is very similar to the Kenny Bell setup that was sold by them. It had a water cooled inter-cooler that was between the SC and intake manifold. I purchased it and spent a day installing it. At first it did not make any boost. A little T/S led me to the bypass built in was letting boost my, and not let it build up.

A second issue arose, the ignition and fuel management. There is no way to measure the boost, as the stock can only measure vacuum. Found a company, Split Second, that made a plug -n -play tuner that included a 2.5 bar map sensor. This resulted in much better results, and did run much better. It would normally make 6-7 lbs of boost, and there was little whine from SC.

At this time (2014) I did not have big plans for the Jeep, but I knew I wanted larger tires and different wheels. I went with Ion 171 wheels and BFG AT KO2 33" tires. With the stock gearing (3.73) and SC, it still did ok.

Life happened in late 2014, and ended up moving from Oklahoma back to Iowa. Of course the upgrades continued. Some of things I added:
- Derale Fan
- Flowkooler pump
- Smittybuilt XRC front and rear bumpers
- Clearwater cylinder head - 2.02/1.62 SS valves, HD Mopar valve springs
- Melling M167HVS oil pump
- B&M Shifter
- ARP head bolts
- AEM wideband gauge and Autometer boost gauge
- Round LED rear tail lights







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In July 2015 I decided to move to Washington, but there was some things I wanted to complete for the move. Growing up in a family that enjoys everything automotive, I had unlimited access to two hoists, welders, etc. The goal was for a fun DD that could hit the trails on the weekend. I was not fortunate to have a 44 rear end, so I felt an upgrade was in order.

Decided on:
- 35" tires,
- 3"-3.5" lift
- Lockers
- Tummy tuck
- Upgrade rear axle
- Improve front axle

My final list ended up being:
- Savvy 3" Lift Springs
- Savvy Short Arm Set
- Currie front and rear track bar
- Revolution 4.88 gears
- Eaton (Detroit) lockers F/R
- 8.8 Axle upgrade
- Artec Dana 30 kit and Ford 8.8 kit
- UCF Ultra High Clearance Skid
- Adams rear drive shaft
- Ruggid Ridge super short SYE kit
- Black Magic 15" BB Kit
- Rancho RS9000 XL shocks
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Dana 30 build consists of a Artec truss kit, C brackets, Detroit locker, Revolution 4.88 gears, and the 15" BB kit. Also installed was all new bearings, seals, ball joints.








Found a 8.8 at local scrap yard, and it got the same treatment as the Dana 30. Artec Truss kit, Detroit locker, Revolution 4.88 gears, all new bearings, seals, rotors, pads, and calipers. Also installed are Black Magic 8.8 brake bracket kit. I was also able to reuse the sway bar for the rear.






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As the saying goes - "I have it apart, might as well do this". So I out-boarded the rear shocks, moved the rear spring perch, made adjustable hem joints to connect the front and rear sway bars. The fronts I made so they can easily disconnected with a pin.












You have done some nice and interesting mods to your Jeep. And some good attention to detail when needed. The LS swap is great also and I am sure it will give you lots of years of enjoyment. Once my Jeep is back on the trails/road you will have to come up to the Naches area and will show you around.

My sister/nephew & mother live down in Tri-Cities.
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I was concerned about my rear gas tank skid, as there are some exposed parts of the plastic tank. I did not want to go full Savvy, but discovered Jeep did a couple of versions of gas tank skids. I found full coverage skid from Ma Mopar. One of the issues of the 8.8 swap is how close the diff cover gets to the gas tank, and makes things very tight. The light bulb went off, I already had a 1.25" body lift, why not lift the gas tank 1.25" up? It would give more clearance for the 8.8 and more clearance from bashing into rocks. So i carefully measured, and cut the brackets on the skid, and moved them down 1.25". I used stainless hardware to refasten the cut brackets to the skid.






I was never a fan of the TJ tail lights. Boxy, exposed, and ugly, I enjoy the smooth, round look of flush taillights. But with that mod, you give up the back up light option. I found some LED lights and cut them into the XRC rear bumper.

Parts list:
- Reverse Lights
- Light brackets


You have done some nice and interesting mods to your Jeep. And some good attention to detail when needed. The LS swap is great also and I am sure it will give you lots of years of enjoyment. Once my Jeep is back on the trails/road you will have to come up to the Naches area and will show you around.

My sister/nephew & mother live down in Tri-Cities.

Wildman, thank you! I was just looking at your's, WOW! I really would like to explore Naches area. The SO and I love going up 12 or 410 area to go camping, etc. When you get done, PM me and we can set a time.
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