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Trying to get it mostly right the first time: A 5.9 Magnum, 46RE swapped and tummy tucked daily driver TJ

Dan_Goodwin

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Birmingham, AL
I am scrapping my old build thread and starting a new one that’s a little better thought out and more to the point, so this might look familiar to a few people. To those who are newcomers, welcome.

The quick backstory: I’ve been into off roading since I was taken on my first trail ride in 2001 and have been hooked ever since. My actual wheeling experience had been limited to web-wheeling and riding shotgun with friends up until I graduated from Auburn in 2016 and bought a clapped out 2004 Yamaha Rhino with a +6" long travel setup. The Rhino was fun, but I’d still always wanted a Jeep and a friend’s 1997 TJ came up for sale in May of 2019 so I jumped on it.

This first post will bring you up to date from over 2 years of ownership and what led me to the build that’s about to start. There’s not too much real ‘tech’ to be had as much of this has been maintenance related and added creature comforts, but there’s a place for those things as well. If you want to take a look at the old thread that goes into more detail, HERE is a link.

Spoiler Alert: Just so I don’t lose anyone right off the bat, the Rhino has been sold and there is a literal pallet full of parts and a 5.9L Magnum waiting to go onto the TJ as I’m typing this. But first, the history of my TJ:


I drove from Birmingham to Carrolton, GA with an empty trailer and pocket full of cash to pick the Jeep up in May of 2019. The Jeep was a 132k mile 97 TJ SE with the 2.5L and 5 speed. The PO had owned the Jeep since 2004 and had been mainly used as a grocery getter and hunting rig. The only modifications it had was 31x10.50 Kenda Klever MTs, 2.5" RC lift and a 3" body lift. Overall it was a pretty clean rust free TJ that needed some TLC. Here it is the day we brought it home:

01e49fa2c069f8b3431953826213538c4bb92fa3d7.jpg


015e8822cccc81d4ab447c4d7a696dc6990876abad.jpg


01dd46d9c26e652a66022f58850cc2c90b0cbb80f3.jpg



I originally intended for this to be a reliable stock-ish daily driver and mild weekend toy. In my pursuit of that, the following has been done to the Jeep:
  • ZJ rear disc brake upgrade to replace inoperable rear drums.
  • Replaced 3” body lift with 1.25” body lift
  • Painted the fender flares with Krylon Fusion satin black
  • Busted radiator fan shroud replaced with a Mishimoto electric fan
  • Barnes 4wd rocker guards and custom slider installed
  • Added a Superwinch TS9500 on an Amazon winch plate
  • Installed flush mount LED pods in the rear bumper
  • Installed new JVC KD-X35MBS
  • Installed Noico 80mil sound deadening
  • Replaced the horrendous Rough Country shocks with Rancho RS 5000X
  • Installed Polk DB652s in the dash and sound bar
  • Installed Moab wheels with 305/70 Toyo MTs
  • Bought and sold a hard top
  • Replaced the 9 year old Smittybilt top with a Bestop
  • New Cooper 305/70/16 STT Pros installed. (Best tire ever, IMO)
  • Installed Rugged Ridge Dash Multi Mount System
  • Installed Savvy transfer case shifter
  • Rebuilt the front drive shaft
  • Installed 1.25” Spidertrax wheel spacers
  • Installed Amazon Truck-lite knockoff headlights
  • Installed a full center console
  • Replaced the intermediate steering shaft
Here it is now:

01416e24fcd6421390326d2c6a79a0d70b7b6b9ea8.jpg


Post #2 incoming.
 

Wildman

Over Analyzer Extraordinaire...............
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I am scrapping my old build thread and starting a new one that’s a little better thought out and more to the point, so this might look familiar to a few people. To those who are newcomers, welcome.

The quick backstory: I’ve been into off roading since I was taken on my first trail ride in 2001 and have been hooked ever since. My actual wheeling experience had been limited to web-wheeling and riding shotgun with friends up until I graduated from Auburn in 2016 and bought a clapped out 2004 Yamaha Rhino with a +6" long travel setup. The Rhino was fun, but I’d still always wanted a Jeep and a friend’s 1997 TJ came up for sale in May of 2019 so I jumped on it.

This first post will bring you up to date from over 2 years of ownership and what led me to the build that’s about to start. There’s not too much real ‘tech’ to be had as much of this has been maintenance related and added creature comforts, but there’s a place for those things as well. If you want to take a look at the old thread that goes into more detail, HERE is a link.

Spoiler Alert: Just so I don’t lose anyone right off the bat, the Rhino has been sold and there is a literal pallet full of parts and a 5.9L Magnum waiting to go onto the TJ as I’m typing this. But first, the history of my TJ:


I drove from Birmingham to Carrolton, GA with an empty trailer and pocket full of cash to pick the Jeep up in May of 2019. The Jeep was a 132k mile 97 TJ SE with the 2.5L and 5 speed. The PO had owned the Jeep since 2004 and had been mainly used as a grocery getter and hunting rig. The only modifications it had was 31x10.50 Kenda Klever MTs, 2.5" RC lift and a 3" body lift. Overall it was a pretty clean rust free TJ that needed some TLC. Here it is the day we brought it home:

View attachment 294798

View attachment 294796

View attachment 294795


I originally intended for this to be a reliable stock-ish daily driver and mild weekend toy. In my pursuit of that, the following has been done to the Jeep:
  • ZJ rear disc brake upgrade to replace inoperable rear drums.
  • Replaced 3” body lift with 1.25” body lift
  • Painted the fender flares with Krylon Fusion satin black
  • Busted radiator fan shroud replaced with a Mishimoto electric fan
  • Barnes 4wd rocker guards and custom slider installed
  • Added a Superwinch TS9500 on an Amazon winch plate
  • Installed flush mount LED pods in the rear bumper
  • Installed new JVC KD-X35MBS
  • Installed Noico 80mil sound deadening
  • Replaced the horrendous Rough Country shocks with Rancho RS 5000X
  • Installed Polk DB652s in the dash and sound bar
  • Installed Moab wheels with 305/70 Toyo MTs
  • Bought and sold a hard top
  • Replaced the 9 year old Smittybilt top with a Bestop
  • New Cooper 305/70/16 STT Pros installed. (Best tire ever, IMO)
  • Installed Rugged Ridge Dash Multi Mount System
  • Installed Savvy transfer case shifter
  • Rebuilt the front drive shaft
  • Installed 1.25” Spidertrax wheel spacers
  • Installed Amazon Truck-lite knockoff headlights
  • Installed a full center console
  • Replaced the intermediate steering shaft
Here it is now:

View attachment 294804

Post #2 incoming.

Awesome another V-8 swap 1997 Tj. We need to start our own little group soon. There's 3 that I know of for sure and might be a few more.

Look forward to your posts.
 
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Dan_Goodwin

Dan_Goodwin

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Early 2020 is where the Magnum part of this begins. Not long after buying the Jeep, my lovely wife makes a comment that she wishes it had an automatic transmission in it so she could drive it (she can drive a 5 speed but doesn’t really enjoy it). Like any good gearhead husband, I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to kill multiple birds with 1 stone and upgrade in the process. I pitched a V8 and automatic swap and was met with “Well, what are you waiting on?” Remember when I said I wanted to keep this Jeep mild-ish?

To be fair, the 2.5L and AX-5 is a reliable combination for a stock-ish Jeep and is good for backroads cruising but is painfully slow no matter which way you slice it. Initially, I wanted to swap in the spare 5.3 LM7 I had in storage, and while it had the ‘sexy’ appeal, it was a bit cost prohibitive (to do a bare bones LS swap decently well STARTED at $3500. The LS swap also doesn’t integrate with the Jeep electronics at all, so a lot of ‘adapting’ was needed to marry everything up. My research led me to the Magnum V8 Discussion thread on the other forum and the slippery slope that thread is. Combine the low cost of donor vehicles and the almost seamless integration of electronics and a lot of other OEM parts and I was immediately sold on the Magnum swap.

Since my Jeep is a 97 with the CCD bus, I was looking for 97-00 Rams, Durangos and Dakotas and even entertained Grand Cherokees. I preferred a donor Ram since I wanted to harvest the front axle for a solid axle swap I have planned on another vehicle, but had trouble finding one for a reasonable price.

I kept watch on FB Marketplace and found a 1999 5.9 Durango that ran and kinda drove for $500 in May of 2020.

013873e2b369a5c9fa19a621be2e2cd0047072b8ef.jpg



014cf48875abe1f239f06879f1430de63f1996a343.jpg

I was in the middle of a bathroom renovation, so the Durango was delicately unloaded in the back lot at work and parked while I got my ducks in a row (okay, at least in the same pond) for the swap.


After a few months my parking spot for the Durango had expired, so I needed to make it disappear. A perk of my job is access to equipment. A few sawzall blades and body bolts later:

01b2ac16eed7d9c29ace5216006fc136993c1142e8.jpg


Off to the scrap yard it goes! I wish I had the space to store the Durango and part it out but this was the best option.

0108726a165fc559c68560a49b68beccb360abef91.jpg


I labeled and removed the wiring harness and PDC (power distribution center) and only cut the harness where it passes through the firewall. I am planning to use the Durango harness as the base for the swap since I am going from a manual to automatic transmission.

012bb0c1a71a4c58f9af6938edb4420318681d1976.jpg


The trans has ‘12/04’ written in paint pen, so I am assuming it was rebuilt swapped in with a junkyard unit at some point and the missing bolts have me skeptical of its longevity. Y’all…my wife is a saint and lets me get away with far more shenanigans than should be allowed. The engine lived in our carport for a few days before I had a chance to take it to the farm to put in storage. I figured it needed time to get acquainted with the Jeep anyway.

014a1b347dbba99043a936223b1b367659db739539.jpg


I had plans to use my 2020 tax return to fund the swap, but the .gov decided I owed money that year, so the swap was put on hold and the Jeep went back to getting regular maintenance while we put some miles on it. We took it backroads cruising to the lake:

0140cadb7f4cd02c544924eae6e975f3fed72f025f.jpg



We also took it down 600-1 in the Talladega National Forrest on the way to our anniversary weekend getaway at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, AL. I didn’t get many good pictures since we caught the sunset and did most of the trail in the dark (not my smartest move, I’m aware).
015cae65b4dfafb75abf78ae927d30252e54c2c9e1.jpg


013fa2709e647a8de907ce544202eff0e101d80a58.jpg


Don’t worry, it’s about to get good.
 
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Dan_Goodwin

Dan_Goodwin

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As a slight aside, I wanted to take time to thank Chris for providing such a great forum and to all the regular contributors for sharing their knowledge here. This build is 100% a result of the knowledge contained here. Forums are where the real tech is and I have spent hours looking at build threads, from mild to wild, taking notes, soaking up knowledge and getting ideas for where I wanted to take this Jeep in the coming years.

My original plan was to take my annual bonus and swap the Magnum in around January 2022. This scope was limited to swapping the drivetrain and any required modifications in order to get it running and driving. But in August of 2021 I decided to sell off my Rhino, flip another Rhino and sell a CLEAN Honda Fourtrax 250 in an effort to build the best daily driver / weekend wheeler I could with that ‘pot’ of money. With my budget now close to 3x what I originally planned on, I now had the opportunity to set this TJ up as a capable DD now, but equip it to be taken to the next level later.

Will the TJ replace the Rhino in terms of capability? Absolutely not, and it isn’t meant to. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I was realistically going to use the Jeep and have let that guide my plans the entire way. This Jeep will be 90% daily driver and 10% weekend wheeler and I decided for my design criteria to be focused on using as many off the shelf OEM parts as possible so that it can be easily repaired in the event of a breakdown. I also chose to build around 33” tires and 4” total lift, which meant I could utilize the stock axles with without too much fear of breakage and they already had 4.10 gears, which should be perfect for this combo.

With the intended use, lift and tire size decided, here is how the build plan shook out. I’ll elaborate further on each item once I start that specific item:

  • Swap in the 5.9 magnum and 46RE. Inspect and refresh as required. Upgrade as necessary.
  • Install transmission and power steering coolers and a transmission temperature gauge.
  • Install a SYE. Brand / style TBD.
  • Keep the stock short arm suspension and install adjustable control arms.
  • Install a Rockjock Anti-Rock sway bar.
  • Lift springs are TBD. I’ll weigh the TJ once it’s complete to figure out what I need.
  • Install new track bars, both fore and aft.
  • Tummy Tuck using either a Barnes or UCF skid plate with a custom transmission crossmember.
  • Install a full Bedrug carpet kit and Mastercraft Baja RS seats.
  • Upgrade the stock front bumper to either Barnes 4wd or Motobilt.
  • Install a subwoofer in the center console (because why not?).
  • Install a rear cargo rack and organize tool, cooler and luggage storage.
Admittedly, I love a spreadsheet so I created one to both keep track of this project and to hopefully serve as a good resource for someone else looking to do this swap. The latest draft can be found HERE.
 
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Wildman

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I'd wondered about your build and what had happened to you since it had been a while since you'd posted.
Sounds like you have this build pretty well mapped out now.

Are you going to beef up the Dana 35?
 

pc1p

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I haven't swapped a Magnum into a TJ, but I've got plenty of Magnum experience from over the years, including building a hefty 408 stroker not too long ago... even helped a few YJ bud's get theirs wired up!


Can't wait to see how it turns out! If you need FSM/wiring diagrams, just let me know...
 
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Dan_Goodwin

Dan_Goodwin

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I'd wondered about your build and what had happened to you since it had been a while since you'd posted.
Sounds like you have this build pretty well mapped out now.

Are you going to beef up the Dana 35?
The short answer is yes. My plan for the immediate future is to carry spare axles and an oil spill kit in the TJ so I can fix it on the trail. If that doesn't work, plan B would be a Super 35 kit, unless I happened up on a deal for an 8.8 or Dana 44. Long term I fully intend to do a custom mid arm setup and since I don't want to set the brackets up twice I'd probably swap it out at that point.

I haven't swapped a Magnum into a TJ, but I've got plenty of Magnum experience from over the years, including building a hefty 408 stroker not too long ago... even helped a few YJ bud's get theirs wired up!


Can't wait to see how it turns out! If you need FSM/wiring diagrams, just let me know...

I certainly will! I'm a Chevy guy, but that 408 swapped Dodge Ramcharger (?) is nasty.
 
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Dan_Goodwin

Dan_Goodwin

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I intentionally waited on Black Friday deals to post since my budget needed all the help it could get. While browsing FB Marketplace one Friday at work, I happened up on this:

Facebook.JPG


This was a deal that I knew I couldn’t lose on so a guy did the right thing and grabbed some cash and the trailer and headed to TN to pick up another TJ. This was a clean titled, rust free 98 TJ with a 5.2L Magnum and 44RE transmission that had kinda been installed and then abandoned.

012e22e9b8db110e25172a2227644060fe4c454cdb.jpg


Why on earth did I buy this?

My TJ gets driven at least 50% of the time and is backup to my 2003 Silverado so I didn’t really want it down for months while I figure the swap out. This would allow me to mock the entire swap up (and probably get it running) before I put in my TJ. With the current state of the world I didn’t want to get halfway through the build and have something hold me up for weeks on end because its floating off the coast of California. I might even swap in the 5.2/44RE it came with and sell it as a running and driving Jeep. Probably not, but we’ll see. Worst case I can see the 98 TJ for what I paid for it.

Black Friday rolls around and I managed to snag some better deals than I expected since most of this stuff really doesn’t go on sale. Everything I ordered was either required to get it running and driving or was too good of a deal to pass up since I’d be buying it later anyway. The parts list I now have sitting at my house is:

Out of that entire list, only 1 package was lost (GC steering bracket) and the 2 Rock Jock items were a few weeks backordered. Everything else came pretty much on time.

Every forum I posted this on immediately asked when I was upgrading the Dana 35. Point taken. I decided to quit ignoring the fact that my Dana 35 rear was going to have a short life and found a 4.10 geared 8.8 local to me that I’m picking up on Friday. I weighed the option of a Super 35 kit against the 8.8. I decided the 8.8 was the better option due to cost and aftermarket support
 

Notime2d8

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Hey, I'm in Alabaster, AL. with a 5.2 and nv3550 swap. Same color TJ but with a black top. One thing that i loved on my swap was getting a newer intake from the junkyard and polishing it. It had a better vacuum port layout and wasn't painted. I also replaced the plate and gasket on the bottom of the intake at that time with the aluminum upgrade. I also switched to new 6-hole injectors. This really made a difference, but i don't know if it was hole count or new injectors. Then my OCD'ness made replace a lot of the ends on my harness with ones from a newer magnum like 2001ish. I needed to so I didn't have to use adapters for the new injectors, but they were also all labeled. The injectors, map, tps, etc all had sleeves and white ID labels. But I hope you get rolling soon, you're going to love it....passing cars and being able to merge.
 
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Wildman

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Out of that entire list, only 1 package was lost (GC steering bracket) and the 2 Rock Jock items were a few weeks backordered. Everything else came pretty much on time.

Every forum I posted this on immediately asked when I was upgrading the Dana 35. Point taken. I decided to quit ignoring the fact that my Dana 35 rear was going to have a short life and found a 4.10 geared 8.8 local to me that I’m picking up on Friday. I weighed the option of a Super 35 kit against the 8.8. I decided the 8.8 was the better option due to cost and aftermarket support

Dang wish you were closer. I have a 8.8 & a Barnes 4WD truss & bracket kit sitting here.

I have a GC power steering bracket if you need it still. This is the bracket I have. I'd thought about changing mine out to the GC setup but I could have had to buy a new pump and I'd just had mine rebuilt.

 
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Dan_Goodwin

Dan_Goodwin

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Hey, I'm in Alabaster, AL. with a 5.2 and nv3550 swap. Same color TJ but with a black top. One thing that i loved on my swap was getting a newer intake from the junkyard and polishing it. It had a better vacuum port layout and wasn't painted. I also replaced the plate and gasket on the bottom of the intake at that time with the aluminum upgrade. I also switched to new 6-hole injectors. This really made a difference, but i don't know if it was hole count or new injectors. Then my OCD'ness made replace a lot of the ends on my harness with ones from a newer magnum like 2001ish. I needed to so I didn't have to use adapters for the new injectors, but they were also all labeled. The injectors, map, tps, etc all had sleeves and white ID labels. But I hope you get rolling soon, you're going to love it....passing cars and being able to merge.
Good info, thank you. You're just down the road from me - I'm in Hoover right off 65. Do you happen to know what vehicle the intake came off? I'm all for a little eye candy.

Dang wish you were closer. I have a 8.8 & a Barnes 4WD truss & bracket kit sitting here.

I have a GC power steering bracket if you need it still. This is the bracket I have. I'd thought about changing mine out to the GC setup but I could have had to buy a new pump and I'd just had mine rebuilt.


No doubt - Shipping from your neck of the woods for the axle would be a little steep, but I am interested in the truss. Shoot me a PM if you want to part with it. That's the same bracket I bought that finally came in. I'm impressed with the quality.

I picked up a 4.10 8.8 this weekend for $250. The local Pull A Part wanted $150 (and I had to pull it) and since the 4.10 ratio isn't super common the 'extra' $100 was well worth it.
 
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Notime2d8

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I think I got it off of a 2003 Durango as that was the newest and cleanest. The part number is 53031884AC and it pulls up for a 98-03 Ram, Dakota, Durango, and van. But I know that some have more or less vacuum ports and the port by the thermostat, blocked or threaded. I also used the air hat? from it to keep the air cleaner in the stock location.



20190704_123614.jpg





20190611_213645.jpg
20190619_214608.jpg
 

Paparock1

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Perfect timing for me! 97 SE, I live close to Dothan Alabama.
My remanufactured Ax5 just lost second gear syncro so I am upgradding. This Saturday driving to Montgomery to pick up a 98 ZJ. I am like you and drive my jeep daily. I am hoping to have it up and running by June at the very latest. Will be following along closly.

The plan is to swap in the automatic transmission 46RE and 242 transfercase with the 5.9. I am debating and will look to see what it takes to swap in the 44A/44HD rear axle. I know and have read the housing is week but also from those who have done it and use their jeep as I do it has held up very well. We will see as I go.
 
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Wildman

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Perfect timing for me! 97 SE, I live close to Dothan Alabama.
My remanufactured Ax5 just lost second gear syncro so I am upgradding. This Saturday driving to Montgomery to pick up a 98 ZJ. I am like you and drive my jeep daily. I am hoping to have it up and running by June at the very latest. Will be following along closly.

The plan is to swap in the automatic transmission 46RE and 242 transfercase with the 5.9. I am debating and will look to see what it takes to swap in the 44A/44HD rear axle. I know and have read the housing is week but also from those who have done it and use their jeep as I do it has held up very well. We will see as I go.

Is this GC in bad shape? I know you are wanting a swap rig but it's a shame to rip up these 1998 5.9 GC's as they were the only year made and are getting very hard to find.

Good luck with the swap and make sure to look at the thread I linked in the other swap thread. That thread on JeepForum has a TON of information in it.
 
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Dan_Goodwin

Dan_Goodwin

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Perfect timing for me! 97 SE, I live close to Dothan Alabama.
My remanufactured Ax5 just lost second gear syncro so I am upgradding. This Saturday driving to Montgomery to pick up a 98 ZJ. I am like you and drive my jeep daily. I am hoping to have it up and running by June at the very latest. Will be following along closly.

The plan is to swap in the automatic transmission 46RE and 242 transfercase with the 5.9. I am debating and will look to see what it takes to swap in the 44A/44HD rear axle. I know and have read the housing is week but also from those who have done it and use their jeep as I do it has held up very well. We will see as I go.
Cool to see another swap happening local to me.

I'll post a link to all the pictures, PDFs and forum bookmarks I have in a Google Drive. I have a few.
 

Paparock1

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Is this GC in bad shape? I know you are wanting a swap rig but it's a shame to rip up these 1998 5.9 GC's as they were the only year made and are getting very hard to find.

Good luck with the swap and make sure to look at the thread I linked in the other swap thread. That thread on JeepForum has a TON of information in it.
Yes it has been used as a trail rig. But it works to my favor.