1970 Jeep Wagoneer Project Update – The Engine Has Left The Vehicle!

Once warm weather finally settled in, it was time to get back to work on my Wagoneer project. If you’re new here, catch up here: https://aspiringcarguy.com/2021/04/06/my-1970-jeep-wagoneer-project-so-far/ I knew the next big task was to get the engine out so I could replace the exhaust manifold gaskets. It was a bad feeling knowing I had to pull out an engine that ran just fine. However, the visible gap between the head and manifold told me it had to be done. I started by disconnecting all the wires I could find. Surprisingly, I only broke one connector at the back of the alternator. Then, I removed the accessories. The alternator came off with the bracket still attached. It was later separated by driving out a long, stubborn bolt with a hammer and punch. The power steering pump was easy to dismount from the engine, but my plan to just sit it to the side was derailed when I noticed how petrified the hoses were. They would have to wait until I got the radiator out of the way. I thought the starter could stay on, but later found out it also had to come off to get the engine out.

This connector broke when I got the nuts to dislodge, even after a heavy dose of WD-40.

I pulled off remaining vacuum hoses, fuel lines, and wires I couldn’t see at first as I went. The radiator hoses came off relatively easy, but the transmission cooler lines weren’t quite as ready to let go. I used two wrenches in opposite directions to bust the rubber lines loose from the hard lines. My own red blood mixed with the red ATF dripping onto the floor after one let go and I smashed my knuckles into the oil pan. The rubber lines were somehow more stubborn on the end going into the radiator, so I decided to remove the radiator with them still attached. A jack handle on the end of a wrench persuaded them to come off with the radiator sitting on the floor. I loaded it into my truck after removing the lines, but not before leaving a trail of foul-smelling automatic transmission fluid from my workshop to my truck. Personally, I hate this smell more than differential fluid. I took the original radiator to Tiedt’s Automotive in Madison, TN, one of the few radiator repair shops still open in Middle Tennessee. They had it for several weeks, but I wasn’t in a hurry to get it back. Roughly $50 later, they assured me that my radiator was in good condition. Check this space to see if that is truly the case, if I ever finish this project.

Lower radiator hose removed; transmission cooler line remained stubborn.

Decades of rust and grime made the hoses challenging to remove from the steering box. Fortunately, I was able to use a jack handle for extra leverage to break the ends loose. Of course, the fittings didn’t want to spin independently of the hoses, so I had to use Vise Grips on the metal part of the hose to hold it in place while turning the fittings. Finally, the engine was ready to come out.

This Craftsman wrench wasn’t enough to break the fittings loose on its own. It called for a cheater bar in the form of a jack handle.

I didn’t want to pull the cast iron lump by myself, so I had to schedule a time when my now former neighbor, Jeff, was available to come help. Once we got our schedules lined up, it was relatively easy work using his homemade engine hoist. My own engine hoist I scored at an estate sale for a cheap $100 turned out to be missing the boom extension, so it wouldn’t reach. That’s a project for another time. The only real issue was getting the bolts off the back of the engine. It was hard enough to find them through caked-on grease and oil, then we were shocked to find that several were Allen-head bolts. Thankfully, I have a set of Craftsman oddball sockets that included the correct Allen size. In the unlikely event you’re reading this to learn how to work on your own 1970 Wagoneer, take note that the Buick 350 has a strange adapter plate between the engine and bellhousing. I removed it with the engine, as it seemed to be the only way to separate the transmission from the old V8.

Houston, we are cleared for takeoff. Buick 350 leaving the engine mounts in 3, 2, 1…

Shortly after this, I stumbled across an ad on Facebook Marketplace for an old Jeep and off-road shop that had gone out of business. The ad listed Wagoneers and Wagoneer parts, so I contacted the seller. He was helping his friend who owned the shop liquidate the remaining inventory and parts vehicles. I set up a time to go see what was there, and was astonished to see the state of a lot near downtown Nashville. You could’ve told me I was hours from a city and I would’ve believed you when I walked behind the main building. Weeds, trees, vines, and all manner of chiggers and cockleburs greeted my unprepared legs and arms. I looked at several nearly complete Wagoneers, but ultimately was unable to come up with a cost-effective way to bring them home. I hope they didn’t go to the crusher. I did, however, find three doors in better shape than what I had, complete with the same trim as my 1970 Wagoneer. Two were even the same color! I scored a matching spare wheel as well, and headed home.

Some time went by, and I decided I should get the roof from the shell of a Cherokee S that was sitting on the lot. Most of the Cherokee was gone, but I needed a solid roof section, and it had just that. I went back with the intention to drag the Cherokee out of the weeds, but was thrown a curveball when the man running the sale said someone wanted the tailgate. The tailgate was rusted far beyond use, so I was confused, but determined to get it off. That’s when I discovered it had a power rear window. FSJ tailgates don’t open if the window is up, so I needed to get the window down. I tried forcing it down with prybars for about an hour, but finally gave up and decided to come back later with something to cut the tailgate off. I picked up a fan with more blades than the sad 4-blade unit that was on the Jeep when I got it and another hard-to-find 5×5.5″ original steel wheel. When I got home, I decided to take a crack at the manifolds. I broke about half of them, but fortunately none broke deep inside the engine block. I rounded one bolt head off on the driver’s side, so I will have to figure that out.

Three bolts on the passenger side broke, and about the same for the driver’s side.

While trying to figure out what day to go back, I got a text saying whoever wanted the tailgate changed their mind, and I could take the whole thing. Great! I just have to borrow a trailer from someone! Piece of cake.

There isn’t much left of this Cherokee S, but it has what I need. I’ll have to get that dent out of the roof.

Check back soon to find out why that was, in fact, not a piece of cake.

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