The 1970 CJ-5 Renegade came from the factory with an optional "Dauntless" V6 engine, a 225 cubic inch (3.7L) 90-degree V6 of an odd-fire design. Up until the mid-60's the Jeep "Universal" models relied on the durable L- and F-head inline four cylinder engines that were adequate to the task, especially off-road, but were never accused of offering "inspired" performance on the street. Kaiser Jeep's primary competition in the small 4x4 utility segment was upping the ante in the form of V8 engines being offered in the Ford Bronco and International Harvester Scout. To remain competitive, Jeep needed an optional performance engine for the Universal line. The acquisition by AMC, and subsequent switch to the excellent 232 and 258 cubic inch inline sixes, was still a few years away, and would require a slight stretch of the wheelbase to accommodate the longer engines. So Kaiser Jeep began looking for an existing compact and powerful engine that would forego the large investment of time and money to develop an engine of their own.
Enter the Buick V6. It had first been installed in the 1962 Buick Special as a 198 cubic inch 90-degree V6 dubbed the "Fireball". This engine was a derivative of the aluminum block 215 V8 from Buick, and was essentially a shortened version of that V8. This is what gave the engine it's unique odd-fire design, so called because of its unevenly spaced firing impulses. Buick increased the bore, bumping displacement to 225 cubic inches, in order to match the bore of another of its V8 engines (the 340). Kaiser bought the rights and tooling from Buick and, in 1966, introduced the engine in the Jeep CJ line as the "Dauntless V6" making 160 hp and 235 ft lbs of torque. The engine was a great match for the Universal Jeeps and offered a dramatic increase in performance. It sold well and continued to fill the role of Jeep's performance engine through 1971, when AMC replaced it with its own inline sixes.
Dismantling the engine began with lifting it free of the chassis with an engine hoist, and then bolting it to an engine stand for ease of disassembly. Having no experience with this engine when it was in running condition, I was anxious to see what condition its internals were in. I removed the external engine accessories such as the alternator, starter, fan, clutch and pressure plate, and exhaust manifolds. I then moved on to the oil bath air cleaner assembly and the carburetor before draining the antifreeze and engine oil.
One thing quickly became apparent after removing the valve covers and oil pan - there was a large amount of metal particles in the engine oil, oil pan, oil pickup screen, and surrounding the rocker arm assemblies. You can clearly see the abundance of shiny metallic flake in the pictures below. This was a clear indication of excessive wear of internal engine components.
Continuing with disassembly, I removed the timing cover, intake manifold, and the rocker arm assemblies. This allowed removal of the pushrods and hydraulic lifters. Next were the heads themselves, and then the camshaft and bearings. Finally, I removed the block plate that houses the rear main seal, and then the crankshaft and crank bearings. With all of the major components removed, the next order of business was to clean off the 40+ years of accumulated gunk and grime. I used a friend's industrial parts washer and, after several cycles, the components were ready for a detailed inspection, which began to tell the story.
The rocker assemblies, especially the shafts themselves, showed excessive wear in the form of deep grooves from the rocker towers, springs, and rocker arms. (This probably accounts for the majority of the metallic particles in the oil.) At least two pistons had cracked oil rings, and several cylinders showed significant scoring as well. But the biggest issue I uncovered, and probably the reason the engine gave up, was that the timing/front housing cover had cracked near the oil pump assembly. This cover is aluminum, so the prior owner had attempted to seal it from the inside with epoxy. It must have held up for a while, but the epoxy had become brittle and pieces were breaking off and being sucked through the engine.
The camshaft and lifters showed normal wear, but would need to be replaced. (Whenever you install a new camshaft, you need to install new lifters at the same time.) The pushrods were all straight and true and, after a little polishing, the ends were smooth and shiny. The crankshaft appeared to be in good shape. The front housing cover, in addition to the aforementioned crack, also showed excessive wear at the oil pump and at the front of the camshaft. This aluminum timing cover is a critical component, as it serves as the mounting base for the oil pump, oil filter housing, water pump, fuel pump and distributor. Obviously it would need to be replaced. The bottom "ear" of the aluminum alternator bracket had also broken off, necessitating replacement.
Now that I had a good idea what I was dealing with, it was time to begin the rebuild process, and this meant starting with the machine work. I had spent a considerable amount of time researching local automotive machine shops through online research and reviews, talking with fellow gearheads, and seeking out recommendations from friends who have built multiple race engines. I settled on a shop located in West Liberty, Ohio, called Wilgus Automotive Machine. The owner, John Wilgus, has been in business for decades building all types of gas and diesel engines for street and race applications. After discussing my application and engine needs, John helped me develop a plan and provided recommendations for parts. I decided to have John order a complete engine rebuild kit, consisting of top shelf parts from manufacturers like Fel-Pro, Hastings, Clevite, Silv-O-Lite, Sealed Power, and Melling. This would be cheaper and more effective than trying to piece together the right parts for compatibility.
I dropped off all of the major components to be thoroughly cleaned, inspected, checked against OEM specs, and magnafluxed (where applicable) to check for cracks. In the end, the block and heads were in good shape. The block was bored 0.030" over due to normal cylinder wear. The heads were treated to a full refurbish including reground or new (where needed) valves, new valve guides and seals, retainers, springs, and hardened seats. This last point is critical for longevity - using the original valve seats with today's unleaded gasoline can cause rapid deterioration. (Remember that in 1970, leaded gasoline was the norm.) I had John reassemble the valvetrain in the heads while he completed the other machine work. When the block and heads were completed, they looked better than new.
The crankshaft was found to be true, and only required polishing of the journals. This would save me quite a few dollars vs. replacing the crank. The piston connecting rods were also true and crack-free and could be fit to the new Silv-O-Lite pistons and Clevite bearings. An interesting note about the connecting rod caps; when refitting the cap to the connecting rod, it must be oriented in the right direction. There is a mark on each half of the cap, and these must be lined up, which will ensure that the oil hole will deliver the needed lubrication (see pictures below). The pistons themselves are a deep dish aluminum design similar to the OEM pistons. This design uses two compression rings and one oil control ring per piston.
With the bare block awaiting, the first order of business was to install the crankshaft bearings. These are indexed for easy reassembly in the correct position in the block and in the bearing caps. It's critical to thoroughly coat the bearing surfaces with Permatex Ultra Slick Engine Assembly Lube or equivalent (engine oil alone won't provide the same level of protection) to protect from excessive wear at initial start-up. Next came the installation of the rear main seal components. Note: the original rear main seal utilized a two-piece rope packing that was meant to accommodate a wide range of machining tolerances. While adequate for the time period, I chose to use a more modern alternative from Fel-Pro incorporating a two-piece molded rubber design. Use extra care on the installation of the rear main seal and follow all instructions closely - this is not a job you want to repeat due to oil leaks. This multi-part seal design requires use of assembly lube, grease, and RTV Silicone in specific locations. Again, you can't be too careful here.
For extra insurance, I used assembly lube on the crankshaft journals as well before setting the crankshaft into place in the block. When working with the crankshaft (and camshaft) be very careful not to nick or damage the polished surfaces during installation. Prior to final installation, it's recommended that you use Plastigage to measure tolerances between crankshaft and bearings to ensure they're within spec. With the crankshaft in place, I bolted the four main bearing caps in place and torqued them to spec.
Next it was time to rotate the engine to its right-side-up position and install the rings onto the pistons and the piston/connecting rod assemblies into the block. I purchased a piston ring compressor tool at the local parts store, installed the rings, then lubed the cylinder walls in preparation for installing the pistons. The tool made it easy to compress the rings sufficiently to slide the piston/rod assembly into the cylinder. The difficult part is ensuring the connecting rod doesn't damage the cylinder wall and crankshaft journal as you slide it into place; having an extra set of hands to assist makes this process much smoother. Once the connecting rod is positioned properly on the crankshaft, and the bearing halves are in place, position the female end of the rod/cap into place and hand tighten the cap nuts. It will be more difficult to access and tighten some of the nuts due to the position of the piston on the crankshaft, but with a little care it can be done. Be sure to go back and torque all of the nuts to spec as the final step.
At this point I decided to button up the bottom of the engine. This meant installing the small oil tray and the oil pickup tube before installing the oil pan gasket and oil pan. Along with a high quality gasket, I chose to coat the block with Hi-Tack sealant to both seal and hold the gasket in place during installation. I also coated the pan side of the gasket with sealant before torquing the bolts to spec.
With the bottom half of the engine addressed, I moved on to the new camshaft. Installation of the camshaft bearings and camshaft was a similar process to the crankshaft and was straightforward, although care must be taken when sliding it into place so as not to damage the machined surfaces. After coating the hydraulic lifters with assembly lube, I dropped them into their holes to rest on the cam lobes.
As mentioned above, I had John Wilgus reassemble the the heads after completing the machine work. I installed the heads with the high-quality head gaskets provided, torquing the head bolts to spec in the proper sequence per the factory service manual. Once installed, I was then able to insert the pushrods and reinstall the rocker arm assemblies. Because the rocker shafts were seriously worn, I purchased all new shaft assemblies for installation. I used assembly lube on each of the rod ends for start-up, as well as the end of each valve, and also liberally coated the rocker assemblies.
The intake manifold, which spans the valley between the engine's heads, was thoroughly cleaned in a hot dip tank along with the rest of the engine parts. The engine kit provided a new gasket set for properly sealing the intake manifold. I was careful and deliberate when seating the manifold to ensure a leak free seal.
A few words are in order regarding the new timing chain cover. I contacted TA Performance in Arizona for one of their reproduction covers. TA Performance is the go-to for Buick engine parts, and their knowledge and expertise on the odd-fire 225 V6 was extremely helpful. They have many parts you can't find anywhere else, and their catalog offerings are extensive. Their reproduction timing cover is machined to exceed OEM tolerances and comes with the neoprene seal already installed. All the components that mount to the timing chain cover (oil pump, oil filter housing, water pump, fuel pump and distributor) aligned and installed perfectly. TA Performance also offers a new camshaft bumper consisting of a spring and thrust washer; I installed this to prevent unnecessary wear on the inside of the timing cover. The engine kit included a new timing chain and new oil pump components. I also purchased a new set of timing chain dampers from TA Performance to replace the originals. TA Performance also supplied a new distributor hold-down bracket and timing cover bolts to replace a few broken originals.
There were a couple of original aluminum brackets I needed to source that took a little searching online. One is the main bracket that serves to mount the alternator. The ear that houses the bottom bolt mount had broken off, necessitating a replacement. The other was the mounting bracket for the power steering pump. The original Dauntless V6 from this 1970 Jeep Renegade didn't come with power steering, so I needed to find and install the mounting bracket that bolts to the block. I found a power steering bracket from a Buick V8 that had the same bolt pattern, and it only required a small section of unneeded aluminum to be cut off the top. It came with the steel bracket that goes between the block mounted aluminum bracket and the actual power steering pump. However, the steel bracket was too narrow, so I had to cut it down the center and weld in a section of flat steel to make it right-sized (see the pictures below). Once completed, the power steering pump bolted right up and could be adjusted to the correct belt tension.
I installed a new OEM fuel pump to replace the original. For the alternator, I upgraded to a modern 110 amp output GM style alternator. I also replaced the original (oil-soaked) starter with a new OEM unit. To help protect the starter from excessive heat generated by the aftermarket headers, I also installed a starter heat shield from TA Performance. For the water pump, I upgraded to a Flowkooler high-flow pump. I've used these in other vehicles with excellent results. They move a significantly higher volume of coolant vs. OEM, and are made with the highest quality components for more longevity. I also installed an OEM-style set of engine mounts to mount the engine within the frame. I found that the original thermostat housing/water outlet was corroded and pitted, so I purchased a new one from RockAuto.com.
I decided early on to ditch the original oil bath air filter assembly. While effective, it took up a lot of space in the engine bay and would be a challenge to shoehorn into the flatfender body. Instead, I purchased a top mounted chrome air filter assembly that accommodates a low profile K&N filter. For the carburetor, I purchased a Rochester 2G rebuild kit and Power Valve, and completely rebuilt the carb.
I wanted to upgrade the original distributor to a late model HEI distributor for hotter spark, increased performance, and reliability. I chose CRT Performance for their HEI distributor kit and a set of 8 mm performance wires. This kit comes with an integrated ignition coil and control module in the cap. The final performance touch was a new set of Sanderson headers from Novak. These headers are extremely well-built with extra thick 3/8" flanges, a block hugger design for easy fitment, and an optional silver ceramic finish. While not cheap, this coating will help to manage under-hood heat and provide long-lasting protection against rust and corrosion.
For cooling purposes, I had to make some changes. One decision I made was to switch from the standard mechanical fan to an electric fan. The driver for this decision was space, or lack thereof. Remember that this is a CJ-2A body installed on a CJ-5 frame, and the flatfender design imposed some constraints on under-hood space. The engine-driven fan to radiator clearance was just too tight. So I modified the CJ-2A grill by trimming some metal from the upper and lower lips, and then welding up two steel cross-braces to which I could mount the electric fan in front of the radiator. The fan came with a temperature sensor-activated switch and a manual override switch as well, which can come in handy during deep water crossings to keep the fan from flinging water around the engine bay. It was a tight fit, but the fan fits snugly inside the grill and I can still utilize the OEM fan shroud.
I originally purchased a custom stainless steel radiator for the Jeep. However, because of the steering conversion I used, there wasn't enough clearance due to the placement of the steering gearbox. So I reverted to an OEM Dauntless V6 replacement radiator. This was smaller overall and allowed me to position it properly in relation to the fan and grill. I fabricated some mounting brackets for the radiator and soon it was installed in its permanent position.
This is the first complete engine rebuild I've done, and it was a very satisfying part of the overall build. Now that it's finished, there are several key take-aways. First, don't skimp on the quality of the engine components. The engine kit I used was made up of parts from the finest manufacturers - Fel-Pro, Hastings, Clevite, Silv-O-Lite, Sealed Power, and Melling - all are well proven over many years. Second, make sure you research the machine shop you choose; you want a shop with years of experience that won't cut corners. I have the utmost confidence in Wilgus Automotive, and have returned to the shop for engine work on other vehicles. Lastly, while you're deep into a rebuild, take the opportunity to upgrade parts for strength, performance, and longevity where it makes sense. The engine's already torn down, so it makes sense to install better parts (water pump, alternator, distributor, headers, etc.) while everything is accessible.