The Truth About Cars » swap The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » swap Piston Slap: Fanning the Dakota’s Flames? Mon, 23 Dec 2013 13:00:47 +0000

TTAC commentator Ian Anderson writes:

Hi Sajeev, I have something here for you and my fellow B&B to ponder over,

Back in May I bought a rust-free 1999 Dodge Dakota Sport (Extended cab, 3.9L Magnum V6, 5speed AX-15 manual, 2WD, 3.21 8.25″ open axle) for $2000 from a guy in South Philly. I bought it so I could take my rusty 1992 Dakota off of the road so my dad and I could fix all of the rust on it. Well now the ’92 is on the road (and growing more rust) and the ’99 is sitting on the street with a supposed ticking time bomb in the trans tunnel. When I bought the truck I was told by the previous owner’s mechanic that the throwout bearing was going out and would need replaced soon. Lo and behold, the next day while beating around in it I had to call AAA when I could no longer shift it (and when the clutch suddenly didn’t do anything, made stopping interesting). $600 later I had a whole new clutch kit and was on my way.

Now fast forward four months, myself and the Miss (not Mrs.) are coming back from dinner in the middle of August when it suddenly stalls while shifting gears to make a turn- shifting into third from fourth specifically. I chalk it up as my error and keep going until it does it three more times five miles down the road, then being accompanied by a soft BANG and me wrestling it to the side of the road. We made it home by driving in second gear with the flashers on. Now it will behave itself most of the time, but every so often going uphill it will become hard to shift, stall or get stuck in third, which makes it interesting trying to get the little 3.9 to motivate 4000 pounds with a line of traffic behind you. My mechanic ripped it back apart to check the clutch out, everything was fine. He’s stumped and telling me to drive it local until it blows, my dad says the transmission is shot, and the forums are all over the place with it saying it’s the trans, the clutch or that I can’t drive stick (the 30K I put on my ’92, including learning manual, beg to differ).

Now the question- What do I do with the truck? I love driving it since it handles great, has good brakes and will leave most “Ricer/tuner” cars in the dust even with the aforementioned 175HP 3.9 hauling 4000 pounds. But on that subject, I do have a stronger, newer, 500mile NV-3500 transmission in the shed from the same era Dakota that I snatched up for a bargain, and I’ve been thinking the truck could use a few more ponies under the hood. Do I:

  • Get a junkyard (with a warranty) trans or a rebuilt unit and just have it throw in
  • Use the later, heavier-duty trans I have with either the stock V6…OR…
  • With a V8 swap. Low mileage 5.2L Magnum V8s are plentiful in my area. Thankfully Chrysler made it a bolt-in job since it was a factory option.
  • Slap myself for the last two options
  • Throw it on Craigslist to get what I can for it and move on

I’m sure you and some of the B&B have been in the “Okay it’s broke, do I fix it to stock or upgrade” boat before and have some insight into this, especially you with half of your stable being occupied by older Detroit iron.

Thanks again Sajeev and the B&B!

Sajeev answers:

If you are considering slapping yourself for options 2 and 3, maybe you don’t like this truck as much as you should.  Or could, as significant power train upgrades on a depreciated truck like this won’t net you much $$$ value.  You’re a fool with plenty of spare time and excess cash to even consider a V8/Tranny swap.

But obviously, the power train swap is the correct answer. Like, obviously!

You have a spare truck (’92 Dakota) to use.  You have the “good” transmission for a truck where it will supposedly drop right in. And yes, Magnum V8s are dirt cheap, unlike those fantastic LSX-FTW beasties that would be nice, but far more complicated.  This is a no brainer, son!  Get a used motor (as much as possible, like accessory brackets, emissions stuff, etc), get a heater for your garage, clean/re-gasket it and start swappin’!

It’s either that, or dump it on Craigslist with the upgraded transmission in the bed to sweeten the deal. But then you’ll be bored out of your mind, doing the swap is totally worth it. And nobody wants that!


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Escalading on Thin Ice? Wed, 06 Nov 2013 13:58:52 +0000
William (no longer TTAC’s tiburon_guy) writes:
Hey Buddy, I am no longer tiburon_guy since we sold it (sad face – SM) but I do have a question that a friend asked me about. He has a 2002 Escalade EXT he bought new (demo actually, 300 miles on it) now it’s at 60k and overall no major issues. He’s attached to the truck and rightfully so, as in my opinion it’s the best model Escalade created by GM.

His question is with it getting up in age (11 years) he’s worried about what to expect trouble wise down the road and if he should part with it soon or keep hold of it due to the low mileage (and garage kept since day one) so it looks pristine. The resell on this truck is pitiful but he also doesn’t want to be stranded. Have you heard any bad things about the 2002 model year of Escalade EXT? I’ve done a little digging but haven’t come up with much.

Additionally, my 2010 Ranger XLT is still kicking ass and taking names, but I wanted to know if you had heard any more of the 5.0L engine swap for our Ranger?

Sajeev answers:

Aside from the well documented piston slap problem on LS-based Vortec truck engines, there’s really nothing to worry about.  Yes, it’s an older vehicle and things will always go wrong, but the old Chevy Tahoe underneath the Escalade EXT isn’t exactly striking fear into my heart. Even piston slap isn’t a deal breaker, it’s more of an annoyance that a local engine builder can fix whenever your friend wants a fresh engine…which will be a long, loooong time from now.

So what’s left?  A lot of eyeballing and preventative maintenance: fluid changes, rubber product changes (vac lines, belts, hoses, etc) and other wear items that people tend to forget.  If that hyperlink scares him off, he either needs a replacement vehicle or a second vehicle to ease the burden.  Both can be fun and affordable if done correctly.

Now about the fantabulousness that is the Ford Ranger: the 5.0 Windsor swap’s been done many times before and this link is helpful.  I especially like the job done by this guy, the attention to detail is quite excellent. Check out the interior swap from a Ford Explorer Limited, complete with all the buttons on the steering wheel, automatic HVAC and the fancy trip computer!

WOW, what a luxury truck!!!

Now were you talking about the 5.0 Coyote swap?  Looks like that famously swapped Coyote Ranger has been dead in the water since the initial media buzz.  Which is sad, but maybe they worked out the wiring, induction, chassis upgrades, transmission change, driveline change, drivability, accessories, HVAC plumbing, etc…or perhaps not.

And maybe you have $20,000-30,000 lying around.  But if you did, you’d keep the Ranger, get an 5.0 windsor Explorer Limited for that swap, and use the remaining cash for a new 5.0 Coyote Mustang down payment.  Because no matter what, you’ll need a better daily driver than a project truck.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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Piston Slap: To Love an Italian…Turbo Diesel? Mon, 19 Aug 2013 12:25:57 +0000

Don writes:

I have acquired two VM Motori RA 428 engines that were pulled from new Chrysler minivans in 2009. The van were converted to electric drivetrain in LA. I want to install them in a pickup but because they were never installed in a truck from the factory, it will have to be a custom job.

The wiring harness and ECU, motor mounts, and transmission are the TBD parts. My question is would you do it?

The total cost to install it has to be less than $5K to make it worth it. I paid $1500 for the engine and could resell them in Europe for $3K each and just go buy a diesel truck.

Sajeev answers:

Well! That’s a question ya don’t hear on a regular basis!

Your 5k budget is doable, provided you make items like the engine mounts/chassis wiring integration/fuel system/etc. yourself, handling all such fabrication roadblocks…by yourself.  With your own (free) labor.  Perhaps you can make it happen.  If so, I look forward to seeing your progress. If you cannot, give up now and sell the “Motoris” for that aforementioned profit.

Which leads to the big problem: questions arising from your need to assign a dollar value to this insane project.

Love is necessary when Frankensteining such a machine, any machine, in this manner.  Love for the donor truck.  Or the engine. Or the need to waste your life (sorry) by fabricating stuff when you could probably do something more worthwhile with that effort. Like volunteering your talents to a charitable organization, or just yelling with everyone else during a football game. Either way.

Why is the Piston Slap guy so douchey-harsh?  Because if you are doing this for the money, odds are every would-be buyer’s offer shall be quite the insult. Even worse, they might be right.

Your move, Best and Brightest.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: SHO-in off the MetSHO! Mon, 18 Mar 2013 11:00:59 +0000

TTAC commentator crabspirits writes:

I stumbled upon your Lemons Z34-fiero article.  My brothers both had LQ1 Cutlasses and whoever designed that engine was a sadist. They both blew the headgaskets and were impossible to work on. FYI: we run the SHO-swapped, mid-engine Geo Metro in the 24 Hours of LeMons. I had some good battles against that LQ1 Fiero, some captured on my helmet cam.

Thought you might find it interesting. I could’ve had him on the straights easy, but our clutch was slipping badly, and I didn’t want to divebomb him. Still, a worthy opponent.

The Metro has an ongoing track diary attached to the build thread. You can probably glean a lot of material from it. 

The car feels like a 200hp MR-S with better brakes. The suspension is built with all warranty returns from a local suspension company’s dumpster. It feels fine for what it is, but every now and then, a corner of the car will feel “weird” and you get an unpleasant surprise. When something fails on the MetSHO, it is always a case of “I can see it, but I can’t reach it”. It basically sucks to work on.

The main thing on the car that holds us back is tires. Good sized wheels for the taurus bolt pattern are hard to find, then you realize you can’t fit them when you factor in the coilovers and Geo real estate. We recently managed to squeeze some good rubber in the rear, but the fronts are still plastic-like. The brakes are good, but nearly everyone in the top 10 has big aftermarket setups. We usually get a best lap time in the top 5-10, but with our talent, we can’t seem to hold that kind of speed in this car without getting into trouble eventually. Fortunately, we are all drifters, so when trouble happens we usually know what to do. There have been many pleasant and unpleasant experiences with this car. Lemons has taught me a lot about car prep, tech stuff, driving, planning, and priorities (#1 is have fun).

Looking forward to such an article. I’ve never gotten the chance to meet with the Fiero team. I’m sure we share a lot in common. Same with the team that brings the Alfa 164-swapped Fiat X1/9.

Sajeev answers:

Z34-powered Fiero, SHO-Metro.  Fiat X1/9 with an Alfa motor. My goodness…every time I judge a LeMons race I am thankful for at least two things:  the free shit you cheaty-cheaters are obligated to give me, and your ability to make me look normal.  I sincerely appreciate both.

A friend of mine (using the term loosely, since all you people are certifiable) once mentioned that making a LeMons car is like freebasing on automobiles.   So if a freebasing (admit it!) gearhead such as yourself has such information proving the LQ1′s complete terribleness, it must be right.

What else is there to say?  You made a fantastic machine, you certainly don’t need my advice…though I will say one thing: Thunderbird Super Coupe or Lincoln Mark VIII. Ditch the 6.5″ wide wheels and get a set of 16×7″ inchers from the big Ford coupes.  They are dirt cheap so they work in a LeMons budget. The extra .5″ will get you a slightly wider tire, and every bit counts. But since wheels/tires are considered a safety(?) item, you can go nuts and buy the aftermarket 9″ wide rims.

I have faith that you can make a 9″ wide rim fit in the rear.  And why not? Then again, talk to Jay Lamm before doing so…as citing me as a source might be the dumbest move on your part.  Dumber than freebasing cars, that is.

Best of luck, I wish you and your team well this year in LeMons.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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Piston Slap: FREE Cressida, Sanjeev! Wed, 06 Mar 2013 12:36:30 +0000 Jonny writes:

Hey sanjeev, i’m looking for some advice on what i should do here. The car: 1987 Toyota Cressida, 170,000kms (i live in vancouver, BC), usual mid-eighties toyota rust, other than needing brakes it seems to run great. i paid exactly $0.00 for the car.

a friend’s parents moved away and just wanted to get rid of it. so they gave it to me. thankfully, i work at a dealer service department so any minor repairs and maintenance will be fairly cheap. low miles, RWD, inline-6, loaded with sweet eighties luxury options…. it seems too awesome NOT to drive!
what should i do?
- sell it?
- keep it and drive it?
- send it to a denver self-service yard for Murilee to photograph at a later date?

any tips/experience you can share with a car like this would be greatly appreciated
thanks a lot.

Sanjeev answers:

Much like you not knowing my name, I (Sanjeev) know nothing about your personal situation.  Maybe you could use the extra $300-400 (US) in scrap value for something else in your life.

Nobody needs a free Cressida, per se.

That said, I am super jealous and you need to keep it. Cressidas are just that cool: I suggest you mortgage your future and do a 2JZ-swap.  Or even better, this:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Oh yes, LS1-FTW!  Sajeev hasn’t said that in a long time, so Sanjeev’s gotta take up the slack. You know what to do, so you better do it.

LS1-FTW: do it, to it.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Super Piston Slap: This LeMons Fiero Gets Revenge on FoMoCo Mon, 03 Oct 2011 16:17:57 +0000

Since there are multiple TTAC Hacks on assignment here at the 24 Hours of LeMons, you’re getting into the mix from multiple angles. And, here in the Piston Slap corner of the world, the Cars are the Stars! But some whips simply have too much going on: feats of engineering superiority, a collection of creative/rare parts and a dump truck full of historical irony. That’s right, historical irony…with a touch of revenge!

Enter the Chevy Lumina Z34 powered Pontiac Fiero here at LeMons Houston. And a little Ford vs. Chevy history: from the viewpoint of Mr. Goodwrench and the average Joe.

If you were a Mr. Goodwrench back then: do please accept my heartfelt apology. Much like cramming 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag, the Lumina Z34 was a hot mess to service: the double-overhead camshaft “wannabe Yamaha V6” conversion made servicing the spark plugs, timing belt, tensioners, etc. a nightmare. Buried in the frame of the less-than-Taurean Chevrolet Lumina, more skilled wrenches curse the name “Twin Dual Cam” compared to the Yamaha SHO motor. Moot point in this day and age, but I remember the chatter on car forums back in the late 1990s.

Let’s say you aren’t a Mr. Goodwrench:
the (1991) Z34 was a (cobbled up) competitor for the critically acclaimed 1989 Ford Taurus SHO. Much like the Lumina’s relative lack of success, the Z34 didn’t stand a chance against the SHO. Aside from less power, the SHO always rated higher because of the vehicle wrapped around the hot engine. Short of being an aspirational vehicle for Chevy Beretta owners or rabid fans of GM’s 60-degree V6 motor, the Lumina Z34 flopped.

So why on earth should you care about the mating of a Lumina Z34 and a Pontiac Fiero?

Continuing with the Ford vs. Chevy thing, the Yamaha SHO motor was originally intended for a Pontiac Fiero type of mid-engine sports car. Which was stillborn. Hence the need for the Taurus SHO to exist. So what’s a GM fan to do? Get the ultimate “Z34 revenge” by making your own Ford SHO-like mid-engine sports car!

And by that logic, you’d be a damn fool to NOT put a Z34 mill in a Pontiac Fiero!

The first thing that tips you off to this car’s “Screw You Ford” mantra are those wheels. Sure, the fronts are proper lacy affairs for the Pontiac Fiero. But what are those rear wheels? Is that really a Chevy Lumina back there?

Did Dearborn just get served? Peek a little closer, and there it is. Do yourself a solid and dig through the photo album, because you rarely see things quite this awesome.

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