The big Swap

52 wagon

Gear Grinder
Aug 24, 2010
Willys Model
Willys Year:
So I have decided to swap out the boat anchor 235 Chevy 6 that's in my wagon for a more modern and reliable v8. What goes in well 289 302 305 350 etc.... I need some opinions and any foreseeable issues and or problems .
Billy, I am niether a chevy or ford loyalist, but when I was playing the V-8 swap a few times I always went ford. Having the distributor up front was nice for easy access when playing with tuning options.

What you might REALLY consider though is a V-6. They fit better. You won't have to modify the front cross member due to the crank pulley position and it won't get as hot under the hood.
The best attack is to find someone who wants to remove the 350 (or whatever) from their Willys - that way you get most if not all the 'extras' that make the swap work efficiently.
Permit me to suggest another idea. If you are not after big hp but just want a newer engine that will work with your Willys, what about a V6 (FI 4.3 Chevy?) or even better, a Mercedes 300Turbo diesel. The Merc diesel weighs 595 pounds which is likely less than your Chev six, will get very good gas mileage, will allow you to pull stumps because of the low end torque. The engine is a magnificent design and will probably lest forever. Of course, there will be some work adapting the engine to your gearbox, but that can be done.

Take a look at this "build": ... C170-Build


I've got a SB chevy 265 v8 and I would give you two points:

1. you would most likely have to cut the firewall to fit the distributor. Mine was poorly done so it's been a pain to deal with until I choose to lift the motor out and get it fabricated. Even then the engine sits pretty far forward and the stock radiator is way too small for the chevy.

2. depending on where you live underhood heat is a real issue during the summer with the v8. I've noticed a lot of 350 conversions go ahead and put some kind of venting in the hood. At the least you would need to insullate your firewall and exhaust as much as possible.

I've come to think the Ford v6 is a good swap but the Chevy 4.3 liter v6 is also pretty common. I've seen a universal chevy motor mount kit on ebay for $100 bucks. The conversion plate for a Chevy to T-90 is also pretty common. Paul at Willys America has a lot of experience and his restoration manual is a pretty good addition to the library if you don't already have it.
As a general question, how mechanically inclined are you? This isn't meant as a slam, just trying to get a handle on your abilities, 'cause it can be REAL expensive if you have someone do it for you.
Try looking into the LS family of GM small blocks, the 5.3 in particular. You can put a carburetor on them and run DIS (distributorless ignition system) and not worry about firewall issues. Also, I believe the Tahoe/Escalade/Blazer HO were all aluminum for weight savings. These motors have been around for quite awhile now, so there should be an abundance of them in the boneyards , and quite inexpensive. Also, there are a lot of "take-out" units on ebay (complete packages w/harness,ecm,trans, etc.). I would imagine the adaptor vendors should have what you need for your application. These engines make good power and have excellent reliability. The hot rod world has welcomed these motors with open arms and there is a LOT of info/parts available

Another idea, if you're creative, would be a supercharged 3.8 V6 from the mid-90's Thunderbird SuperCoupe. It has the "normal" Ford bellhousing flange, so adapters should be no problem, but you have to contend with fuel injection, electronics, and harnessing. You'd be best served if you got a complete donor vehicle for this swap

Just some food for thought...

ok ill play devils advocate. i remember my father had a 1970 suburban with a 250 inline 6. and i wend down the road just fine. granted the one you are speaking of is a little smaller, but ..... i love how they sound , they run forever and there is actually a few guys hopping them up. i wonder if a conversion from carb to one of those throttle body injecton systems might wake it up. not really a suggestion but more of a thinking out loud. i wonder hummm lol
If you decide on the LS carb. conversion, here's a link to what's needed and how it's done. This was a GM Caprice but the details remain the same. Good luck.

Edit: I thought I'd better add that I am not an advocate of the GM vs Ford debate. But in my quest to figure out which way I wanted to go with my Wagon, I found a few facts I should share with you. Facts that I hope are not biased, but for what it's worth. One should keep in mind what the purpose of the drive train is and mine is Daily Driver.


Ford Small block (260-302):, I would have liked to go this route in that the distributor is in front, they have a tighter "V" and weigh about 200 pounds less than the GM version. But none available in my area compared to GM's.

GM inline six: 32.5" long and about 440 pounds according to my search, which I think is a tad on the light side.

Buick 90 degree V-6: approx. 375 pounds

Hurricane 6-226: 40.75" approx 615 pounds (105 HP at 3600, 190 ft.lbs at 1800)

SBC (305-350): 29.42" Lx 20.1"W, approx. 575 pounds (Gen 1). 550 pounds (Gen2), 470 Pounds iron (Gen3), 407 pounds aluminum(Gen3)

Vortec 4.3 (1996-2002)( 190 HP, 250 ft lbs); 25.4"lx 21.5W , approx. 425 pounds

Accordingly, I got a couple of 4.3's for REAL cheap. Very tough to beat the data on these motors. Like some, loved the idea of the sound and simplicity of more modern inline 6 (pick your brand) but weight and $ could not compete with the 4.3. And that does not take into account the science advantage of volumetric efficiency of a V configuration vs an inline. (That last sentence has the potential for "push back" for those can squeeze out mph and HP from an inline). Also, tons of SBC stuff out there so it's an easy pick. I've had Benz diesel experience and they ain't light and do not have the off the shelf adapters for the kind of $$ GM, and to a lesser degree, Ford has. Also, the Novak Adapter Site has some good info on how you can choose that I think is unbiased enough.
Hope that helps and some of my "facts" be off a bit but I hope close enough.
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