Should I Rebuild My 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle's Motor Or Save Money By Buying A Fresh Motor?

Illustration for article titled Should I Rebuild My 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagles Motor Or Save Money By Buying A Fresh Motor?

I’m facing a dilemma right now. My 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle—a beautiful machine—has a bad motor. I know someone with a recently-rebuilt AMC 360 V8 that he’s letting go for $1,000. Do I buy that or do I try to keep my machine numbers-matching and undertake the arduous task of rebuilding my motor from the ground up? I’m torn.

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Here’s the situation: It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Michigan, so this morning, I went outside, replaced the lower control arm in my 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee five-speed, and rolled my 1979 Jeep Cherokee’s AMC 360 V8 into my driveway to do some honing.

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I’d taken the engine out of my Jeep after noticing that the cylinders had a bit of surface rust from sitting with the head off for so long (this was my fault). Plus there looked to be some strange discoloration/scoring, so a hone-job seemed like a must. I was hopeful that this is all my engine needed, and that with some new rings and bearings (since the engine was apart, after all), I’d be back in business.

Illustration for article titled Should I Rebuild My 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagles Motor Or Save Money By Buying A Fresh Motor?

Unfortunately, after honing two of the cylinders, the walls still exhibited some scoring and pitting. I could hone it some more, I suppose, but at what point do I just need to get this thing bored out?

Illustration for article titled Should I Rebuild My 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagles Motor Or Save Money By Buying A Fresh Motor?
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And so now I face a dilemma. A gentleman whom I know through a former coworker at Chrysler is selling his recently-rebuilt AMC 360 for $1000. I could buy that from him, slap it into my Golden Eagle, and drive into the sunset. Or I could do a full rebuild on my AMC 360.

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I’ve done some pricing-out, and it seems like a full rebuild will be markedly more expensive. I figure new oversize 0.030"-over pistons with rings will cost me about $300. The main, rod, and cam bearings will run me another $200, and a new camshaft will cost $100. So that’s $600 right there. Add in a full gasket set, a new timing set, new lifters, a new oil pump, a new flex plate (mine is shot), and we’re at probably $750 before machine work.

And I’ll need to get quite a bit of machining done. Those cylinders will need to be bored, the crankshaft will have to be ground (look at the grooves in the journals below), and while I’m at it, I may as well have the heads shaved and a valve job done.

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Illustration for article titled Should I Rebuild My 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagles Motor Or Save Money By Buying A Fresh Motor?
Illustration for article titled Should I Rebuild My 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagles Motor Or Save Money By Buying A Fresh Motor?
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A friend of mine has a childhood buddy who owns a machine shop in Chicago. Apparently he’ll give me a smokin’ deal on the machining work, but that’s five hours away. I’m thinking, best case, I can rebuild my engine for $1,500 and two trip to and from Chicago, all-in.

If I do that, I’ll have a completely-original 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle with matching paperwork, and I’ll have plenty of wrenching content to write about. But I’ll be down time and money.

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The alternative is to buy this apparently recently-rebuilt motor, which is located an hour away, for $1,000, slap it into my Jeep, and run it. Then, when I do sell the vehicle, advertise it as all-original but with a replacement motor. The original motor will come with the vehicle. How much that will affect its overall value, I’m unsure.

It’s a tricky dilemma, really, and I’m curious to know your thoughts on how I should proceed.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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