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NashGTI New Reader
7/23/22 12:56 p.m.

Well, let's do the cliff's notes version of things. 

Last year I was given an engine, transmission, and transfer case out of a Jeep Gladiator we had engine swapped where I work.  For some reason I looked at this thing and instantly thought race car.  It's a 230 cubic inch single overhead cam inline six, backed up by a 3 speed manual transmission and 2 speed transfer case.  The set was pulled out of a 1964 J-200 Gladiator, but the transmission wouldn't have been available in it and the engine had been out of the Gladiator and rebuilt at least once before.


The rear axle I pulled out of a scrapped 1965 Jeep Wagoneer that had been purchased for $300 in order to grab a bunch of trim panels and the radiator support to use in the Gladiator.  Much later I realized that this also wasn't the axle that vehicle was delivered with as while being a Dana 44 which is right, it's the updated 30 spline version which wasn't available until the decade after that Wagoneer was made.

With a bunch of free junk now in my posession I set about trying to make a car around them.  I haven't done any CAD work since college, so I relied on pencil and paper with rulers and a calculator.  I looked at a lot of pictures of race cars from the 1920s and 30s with specific focus on the 1927 Delage and started doing some math.

With no desire to keep the 4 wheel drive, and little viable options for changing transmissions on my overweight lump of Kaiser modified Continental tractor engine I set about making a single speed transmission to go in the place of the transfer case and locked that in gear to convert the transmission to a rear wheel drive unit.  The giant flange plate will be cut down and used as a mounting location with the powertrain being solidly mounted in the chassis.

Then the leaf spring mounting was cut off the rear axle. The rear suspension is a semi parallel four link with a Watts link for lateral control and suspended on coil overs. 

For anyone interested in something more in depth, I've kept up a build thread elsewhere.

NashGTI New Reader
7/23/22 1:21 p.m.

Months went by without actual building, just accumulating parts and working lots of overtime. Eventually things started actually coming together.  The main lower frame rails are stacked inch and a half tube welded to each other and then a capping piece welded all the way down the outside between the two round sections.  The hope with all that was strength and stiffness, then there would be a ladder section done about that in the hip area.

Next was work on the front suspension.  The rear axle bolt pattern is 5x5.5 so I wanted bolt in hubs for the front that would be in a bolt pattern that would allow four identical wheels.  Also the wheels are 15 inch, so the hubs needed to support brakes that would fit inside those wheels.  This led me to more Jeep parts, specifically to the front hubs and brake disks from a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee.  I needed a brake caliper and caliper bracket that would work with those brakes but still be easy to incorporate into a hand welded spindle and that took me to GM metric calipers, specifically to 1996 Impala SS stuff.  They're easy to get parts for and you can get performance brake pads for them.  The brake rotor diameter and thickness for the Impala and Grand Cherokee are nearly identical too.

Spindle done I made control arms.  It took several days of math trial and error to find control arms that would work with the frame rail width I had to get the camber curve I wanted but eventually found a happy medium of easy to measure and produce while giving desireable characteristics.  Steering was the same, it took a while to find a solution that allowed availability and workability.  I ended up with a manual rack that is said to be for Cobra kit cars or MGBs.

Coil overs in the front too, leaned in approximately 30 degrees to get some anti roll built into the front end.  Camber and caster were designed into the spindles for ease of setup.

Rear suspension is basically a parallel four link with a Watts link.  I made the four link bars long to get the attachment point forward towards the longitudinal center of gravity.  I think the long bars look cool and my thinking was that if you can get the drive point of the rear end to that center of gravity point it should upset the handling balance less during on/off throttle transitions.  That may be completely flawed thinking, but again I like the look.  The bars themselves are slightly triangulated, this coupled with the elevated roll center of the Watts link in the back creates some passive rear steering effect, though it's admittedly minimal measured in tenths of a degree. 

I had a rolling chassis at that point, and that was at the end of 2021.

NY Nick
NY Nick GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/23/22 1:57 p.m.

I'm in. 

NashGTI New Reader
7/23/22 3:36 p.m.
  1. I needed a shifter as with the way things are situated the shifter on the transmission was feet away from where the knob needed to be to actually drive the car.  So I made a shifter to remote mount the part you move with your hand, then a link bar comes forward from this to the shifter that comes out of the transmission which has been modified to connect to the link bar.  It's gated because the gated shifter is the coolest shifter.

Around this time I began work on the steering column and realized the problem of me using the steering rack from a Cobra/MGB in my chassis.  The rack was designed for front steer applications while given the extreme forward placement of the front axle I had made things rear steer to keep the linkage shorter.  I looked high and low for a rear steer rack that had the same combination of width, ratio, and lateral movement, but to no avail and ended up placing a reverser gear inline.
In this picture you can see the offset  of the engine and transmission, having the engine offset allowed the seat to move closer to centerline and thereby narrow the body of the vehicle.  Plus with it being a single seater having the engine offset to the right nicely balances out the mass of my ass in the seat offset to the left.
It may be noticed the the pinion of the axle is offset to the right side as well, the relative offsets of the rear axle and engine combine to allow both to be set to zero degrees horizontal while maintaining a 2.7 degree driveline angle.  It's been a while now but I had basically stuffed as many boxes as I could in positions seemingly close to where the mass would eventually end up and sat the car on corner scales with me in the seat.  Granted there were no fluids or body panels fitted at the time but the weight distribution then measured roughly 51.5 percent front and 50.5 percent right, so for a while bunch of theory and guesswork the result was quite balanced.

Did interior paneling next, there were things left to fit under the hood but that was being held up at this point.  Big swings putting skin on, every piece added made a huge visual difference.

While building the car I'm also trying to do a seat cover, though progress on it is far slower.  I'm not a fan of sewing to be honest and the way I want the seat to look necessitates a complicated cover.  Here is a picture showing the color and lateral block style of the bottom and back of the seat.  It'll have solid panels down on the hips and thighs then bolster pads up in the ribcage area keeping the red color for both.  The seat and wheels match really well by the way.

After the interior paneling was fitted (not done mind you, just fitted I have more welding to do in there) I built the exhaust.  I was of two minds with the exhaust.  On the one hand the performance nerd in me wanted equal length everything, that's the most efficient and where the most power is found.  Also inline sixes sound awesome with equal length pipes.  That's insanely labor intensive though, and the gains really aren't that fantastic performance wise on an extremely low revving old truck engine.  On the other hand was the desire to do the waterfall head pipes to a log dump, or long head pipes to a tapered log dump that would look more like something of the period I'm trying to evoke with the car.

Naturally I ended up doing neither of those things.  So 6-2-1 with long head pipes.  The primaries are inch and a half and quite long.  The firing order of the engine pairs the front three cylinders and rear three cylinders, so no need for crossing over or anything to find companion cylinders.  And each set of three primaries actually pretty close in length with each other, and then each set of primaries are pretty close to each other.  The 3-1 collectors go to 2.5 inch pipe and then the 2-1 to 2.5 as well, then stays at that 2.5 diameter back to just in front of the rear axle.

The thing that was holding me back earlier was having an adapter made to hook a blower drive pulley to the crankshaft.  Did I mention that I had an M90 supercharger for this?  That's a Fox body Mustang power steering pulley bolted to an old Jeep crankshaft to drive the supercharger off a 2000ish Grand Prix GTP.

NashGTI New Reader
7/23/22 4:08 p.m.

About this time there was drama and I lost my spot in that shop for the car.  Up until then most of the work and all the assembly was being carried out in a space owned by some friends (literally right across the street from where I work).  They decided to split the space off as an actual commercial shop though and needed the room that my car was taking up rent free.  I'm just a mechanic and don't have anywhere near the money to be able to pay regular storage at a shop and be able to continue on the car.  Likewise my plans eventually call for a trailer for the car, but with it being nowhere close to finished I hadn't purchased a trailer, nor allocated money for it will all the play money still going toward parts for the car itself.  Things looked really dire for a while  but my boss stepped up and said he'd let me keep the car where I work essentially rent free.  All the sheet metal tooling is at this shop anyway, so the plan was to get the car driving as a chassis and then be able to drive the car over on weekends and do the body work before driving back over Sunday night to not take up business space during the week.  Again though, major thanks to my boss and I'll parrot that every time someone asks.  Without him basically agreeing to take a financial hit for every day the car is in there I was looking at simply taking a massive loss and sell the project.

At the new home I did the wiring and was able to fire the engine for the first time since it was pulled from the truck.  The truck actually drove in on this engine so I knew the engine itself was solid.  It was really cool to have it running if only for seconds at a time.  As of writing this I still haven't made an intake manifold to connect the supercharger to the cylinder head so it will start on the original Jeep intake and carburetor.  I had done that just to hear the exhaust and prove out the wiring.  With it just being the old stuff I haven't run fuel line to it, plus the engine has a wet intake so there is no coolant in it and that limits run time to a few seconds at a time to keep things from going catastrophic.


As far as major events that brings things up to date.  I have some stuff to finish up before getting a proper intake made in changing the PCV system to a catch tank system and fitting a remote oil filter and oil cooler.  Plus I need to make a tensioner system to get the blower drive working.  Finishing the radiator mounting would be good to have done too.  All that is sort of happening at once but none of it is overly photogenic.  I've also painted the rear axle and am in the process of changing the seals and bearings now that I'm done welding on it.  Then there is still a ton of sewing left on the seat being as what I've done so far barely qualifies as having started on it.

I post pictures regularly about the project to Instagram under the same screen name I have here, and then there is the YouTube channel I linked up there.  Plus as mentioned above I have a LOT more in depth content on the other build thread.  I'll try to keep this one going too but likely keep it much more cursory than the other.  I love talking about the project though and will happily answer any questions people have.  Hell even if you want to just tell me I'm a moron for starting this I'm open to the feed back.  For now though, it's back to work.


Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 UltraDork
7/23/22 6:23 p.m.

Wow! That sounds great too!

dculberson MegaDork
7/23/22 8:37 p.m.

Dang man. I had my doubts when I saw it was a jeep engine in a sports car and thought it was an odd choice. Well I'm sold now and I think it'll be amazing. Sounds good already and I bet the m90 will make it sound incredible. 

NashGTI New Reader
7/23/22 8:46 p.m.

In reply to dculberson :

Yeah. It's a big heavy truck engine but it's a cool looking big heavy truck engine. I read somewhere a while back that the dressed engine and transmission weighed 700 pounds which is as much as a 426 hemi. While making.....less horse power.  It's not about big power numbers though thankfully.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/23/22 9:36 p.m.

Well GM has a long history of stuffing truck engines in cars and making them go fast.  It's a long proven recipe.  

maj75 (Forum Supporter)
maj75 (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/24/22 1:06 a.m.

I've got a '67 J truck.  Even Jeep dumped the 230 tornado for an AMC 327. They were not great engines at the time and haven't aged well.  They had severe top end oiling issues which given they were in trucks doesn't bode well in a hot rod,  I'm sure you could have fun in a low mileage low stress build.  You will definitely be the only guy with a 230 in a hot rod at cars and coffee.

wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L)
wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/24/22 8:39 a.m.


Gambit New Reader
7/24/22 10:11 a.m.

I applaud the bead rolling.. gorgeous fab work 

NashGTI New Reader
7/24/22 11:18 a.m.

These were really the last gasp for Kaiser as an automotive manufacturer. The things I have read essentially point to a lack of familiarity and poor roll out causing negative press for the engine followed by the horsepower race killing it off in the US. They raced these in Argentina and have a good enthusiast following down there. The Argentinian arm of Kaiser, IKA, actually took these engines and ran them successfully in the 24 hour race at the Nurburgring.

People poopoo these for oil leaks, and them not having a main bearing between every cylinder, and top end problems and it's certainly possible that those are founded concerns there is also a lot of evidence that those concerns were fixed in the later production engines which this one is.

For anyone not aware these things are weird now, direct acting rocker arms on the cam and a single cam lobe per cylinder. Also the rockers are ball studs and are kept.from rotating off the cam by a finger plate that rides inside the rocker arms. They were the first production overhead cam engine in America though, and Kaiser's first foray outside of flathead engines so they were otherworldly at the time.

They also had a habit of setting themselves on fire because the fuel pump was directly above the distributor....

They were trying to get away from the engine because people didn't trust them so J series stuff went from these to an AMC 327 briefly, then to the Buick 350 even more briefly, then Kaiser just folded up shop and sold Jeep to AMC and it was all AMC engines after that. The wagoneer I got my axle from should've been a 327 being a 65 but someone had swapped a 360 to it.

At the end of the day this is a lot mileage toy so as long as it doesn't immediately blow up or hole the block it's here to look cool and make people go what the berkeley. With the odd autocross or short road course laps occasionally thrown in.

I appreciate the compliments and enjoy the discussionyes

Agent98 Reader
7/24/22 11:37 a.m.

Wow! Great looking project, nice welding...the Tornado was still probably way better than most engines they had in the 1920s , the Golden Age of roadsters....

NashGTI New Reader
7/24/22 1:21 p.m.

In reply to Agent98 :

So I don't have a weight figure for the Delage I mentioned earlier but I do have power figures.  It was a 1.5 liter supercharged straight eight that made 170hp at 8000rpm.  While nowhere near the RPM number as the Tornado connecting rods will fail just over 5000rpm I've been told, I should have comfortably more horsepower and boat loads more torque. At some point down the road when the expense of just building the car isn't taking up all the play money I'd like to have the engine out and have stronger connecting rods and lighter weight pistons made to turn 500 or so more RPM and have some comfortable overrun.  The cam profile just doesn't support any more than that.
My expectations are essentially Fox body swap into a Miata numbers.  Think 225hp 300tq in a 2300 pound car.  On 4.5 inch wide bias ply tires.  But gearing limited to around 110mph.  I got asked a while back what I was going to do if after all the work the car wasn't fast, but "fast" has never been in the cards.  In a perfect world I would've had one of the 4 speed car transmissions that actually fit this engine and enough money to get the 19 inch Model A wire wheels I wanted.  That would have basically been like adding another gear on the top without changing the low end and increased top speed to the 140mph range.....not that the car would likely ever actually see that.  I guess in a super perfect world I would have the money to do like I mentioned and have custom parts made for the engine.  Or the ability to buy and import one of the 6 port Argentinian heads.   Or the gear type limited slip for the rear axle. I'm cheap though....not really cheap as I'd do if for not the lack of funds.

Kendall Frederick
Kendall Frederick GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/25/22 7:07 p.m.

Very interesting!  I also like the bead rolled sheet metal; are you planning a "from scratch" body as well?  

NashGTI New Reader
7/25/22 8:35 p.m.

In reply to Kendall Frederick :

yeah, it'll be labor intensive to do it that way but I think it'll make it that much cooler in the end to have a metal body

NashGTI New Reader
7/30/22 9:46 p.m.

After a lost week and a couple steps back while being ill I made some progress today. Assembled the rear brakes and confirmed I did in fact berkeley up a wheel cylinder last weekend when I really should've been at home in bed. I did get a blower belt tensioner made and fitted today. It's not "right" per se but it didn't squeal or chuck the belt. At this point it's early since the blower is just free wheeling so there is very little strain on the belt but hey it works so far.


MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
7/31/22 8:33 a.m.

This is great. I've wanted to see a Locost / t-bucket hybrid for some time now. The Tornado six makes it even better. And a six cylinder doesn't need seven main bearings to be reliable. wink

Russian Warship, Go Berkeley Yourself
Russian Warship, Go Berkeley Yourself PowerDork
7/31/22 10:02 a.m.

I love the build, and the Tornado is certainly a beautiful engine, but also a horrible one.   

The 230 in my M715 was swapped out for a 440 to better than double the horsepower, torque, reliability and parts availability, while being only modestly heavier.

But a 440 or any other V8 would be an absolutely horrible choice for your build, and I am glad someone found a place where this engine will look at home. 

The build reminds me of some of Jay Leno's bespoke monster engine cars, just (slightly) downsized.


birdmayne GRM+ Memberand Reader
7/31/22 11:07 a.m.

Beautiful work. 

I love the sounds that SOHC Inline 6s make. Especially boosted. This will be very cool!

What resources do you use when searching for parts? Steering racks and wheel hubs being the example on this one. 

I've long wondered where and how real builders (not me) find the correct mismatched components to do a job, short of buying one of everything and just playing with it. 

NashGTI New Reader
7/31/22 11:15 a.m.

In reply to Russian Warship, Go Berkeley Yourself :

That's really a decent point in a way and a conversation I had frequently with guys in person when I started the build.  When it comes to power to weight the Tornado simply is the wrong way to go, realistically if you want speed LS swap the world is still easily the way to go.  In this application though, the Tornado Looks right.  And I think it sounds right too given this type of car.  There was a moment at first where it looked like I may not get the engine even after doing a bunch of legwork looking up parts and information and it was suggested that another American inline six would also work, potentially even sourcing an OHC Pontiac engine.  My issue with those though (and the Pontiac would be significantly better power to weight wise) was this build only works using an inline engine with a cross flow head.

NashGTI New Reader
7/31/22 11:24 a.m.

In reply to birdmayne :

Most of what I've done is just brute force searching, it's possible there is a resource you can use for stuff like that but I'm not familiar with it so it's just a lot of looking at dimensions and doing math.  I suppose it's worth acknowledging that I've got a decent baseline of information due to my job and being used to having to hunt down solutions to parts mismatch problems.  I've got a lot of stuff from SummitRacing and RockAuto, and they're generally pretty decent about giving you dimensions. 
Though I will point out that the steering rack is Flaming River and I really don't like them as a company.  Finding information about their stuff is like pulling teeth from a tree at times.  Some other stuff too, specifically belts, it seems like even if they give you dimensions to order off of the parts don't actually match the dimensions and you end up with trial and error. 

Sgt_Sizzle New Reader
8/4/22 9:51 a.m.

Usually I can't get into full custom builds like this with a lot of math and high level fabrication, my cross in the gargin and I end up getting lost. But this ones is great, well explained and well paced. Can't wait to see where it goes and makes me think of doing something with the Chevy Stovebolt and 3 speed manual I have kicking around from my '53 Belair  

Shavarsh HalfDork
8/4/22 12:26 p.m.

Awesome build, will be following along

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