Project Jeep Therapy: Fuel Injected 350
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By: Jeff Layton - 5/2000

Since I had found a steal of a deal on a very new NV4500, I wanted to make sure my engine length was as short as possible to minimize any shortening of the rear driveshaft. This, plus my desire for a good amount of aftermarket performance products and good performance and efficiency, led me to choose a Chevy 350….fuel injected, of course.

My search began as usual - with a lot of research. Having been called the "catalogmeister" by some of my friends, I first started with the usual assortment of speed catalogs, paying particular attention to the Fuel-Injection kits and harnesses, as I knew this would be the most difficult portion of the swap. After literally months of reading, phonecalls, and hours and hours of personal visits to my local performance machine shop, I had decided on an early 90’s Chevy Tuned Port 350. The new Vortecs, although my top choice, were still too expensive, and the TBI motors didn’t have quite enough power for my desires. My reading showed the TPI’s actually have more power down lower in the RPM band than does the TBI, and in fact, the factory versions tend to run out of breath at 4500 RPM. They are a very popular swap motor for the Hot Rod crowd, so making one work in a non-Chevy chassis shouldn’t be a problem. I *almost* decided on an aftermarket EFI kit instead (Howell and Accell were at the top of my list), but was still a little gun-shy from all the stories I’d read on the Internet about many fellow off-roaders having difficulty getting aftermarket EFI kits running correctly. This, plus putting together an EFI motor piece-part would cost several thousand dollars more than a working EFI motor swap, led me to decide to look for a complete TPI motor.

So I grabbed the phone book and started my search for the perfect low-mileage swap motor. Since I had plans to install an engine-driver air compressor, I thought I also needed the accessory mounting brackets from a late-model truck motor. Since I was also looking to air condition my Jeep, I figured a R134 compressor would make it easier to do in these EPA-regulated times. The search began for a ’90 to’92 TPI motor and a ’94 or later truck motor accessories.

Yeah, right!

Ever tried to find a good low-mileage 7-year old motor? The best I could do was a 100,000+ mile motor for $1800, complete with ECU. With all the rebuild work and accessory cost, it would be cheaper to piece-part one together. Just as I was beginning to give up on my search, one local yard said he didn’t have the TPI motor, but they did have the truck accessories I was looking for - only they wouldn’t separate them.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because they’re on a ’96 Vortec 350 with 14,000 miles" he said.

Whoa - can it be true?

After finding out his asking cost was less than my budget and the motor wouldn’t need a rebuild, I sped down there and began to deal. Once he found out everything I wanted (from fuel pump to harness, accessories to hoses, plus ECU), the price went up a few hundred dollars. Still, it was far cheaper than rebuilding, and the new Vortec truck I had driven was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Plus, this wreck was still even drive-able, so I could verify I was getting good motor.

I took a day off work to spend it at the junkyard - they wouldn’t let me pull the motor, but I insisted on tagging every connection they broke, bagging every fastener, taking plenty of pictures, and making sure the torch stayed away from my new, precious prize.

  After only 4 hours work, the donor had given up it’s heart. Ready for transplant.

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