I am rebuilding my '52 Dodge M37 and need help. I have a Chevy 350 and I want to keep the stock axles, but what transmission and transfer case should I go with for the gearing in the axles? I have been looking into the NV4500 but I want to be sure. Please give me a word of wisdom.
A The M37 uses a divorced transfer case, and since you want to keep the stock axles it would be fairly easy to keep the stock transfer case. You'll just need to put a two-wheel-drive transmission behind your V-8 and a short driveshaft between the transmission and the divorced transfer case. I like your idea of the NV4500 because the overdrive will help with the low stock axle gearing, but for my M37 Project I chose the Ranger overdrive from Advance Adapters (800.350.2223, www.advanceadapters.com) in front of a GM SM-465 four-speed. I went this route since I had the SM-465 already and I don't like the expensive special oil required in the NV4500.
The differentials in both the front and rear M37 axle are offset to the passenger side of the truck. This works best with an offset transfer case like the stock version in your truck to keep driveshaft angles proper. If you do not want to keep the stock transfer case, you might look into the Orion transfer case from Advance Adapters or an LT-230 transfer case from a late-'80s Land Rover or Range Rover, as they are also offset cases. Both may require special adapters to use behind an NV4500. I think I would lean toward using the stock transfer case. That way if you ever decide to replace the axles, you could also replace the transfer case with a centered rear output, as most heavy-duty junkyard rear axles are centered, not offset to the passenger side.
Q Here is a picture of the '78 CJ-7 I just bought with no engine or transmission. I want to build this for sand running. What engine would you suggest? I do have another '79 CJ-7 that has a rusted-through frame but is complete and has a 304 V-8 with headers, but the motor is locked up. Would it be easiest or cheapest to rebuild the 304 and use it, or switch to another engine tranny and transfer case combo? I always have a couple Dodge Ramcharger parts trucks around (I'm a Ramcharger nut!) so I already have a 318 and a 360, 727, 208 available. Or should I go Chevy 350?
Also, what about the stock '78 Jeep axles? Does anything special need to be done for them to handle the sand? Or are they OK as they are? I don't want a sand racer or anything; I just want something I can drive around the dunes in at Little Sahara, Oklahoma.
A The easiest route would be to fix the 304 if that is possible, as it's already equipped to go in the Jeep. Most guys go with the Chevy V-8, as they are cheaper, more abundant, and have a plethora of swapping components available like motor mounts, radiators, and exhaust for putting in a Jeep, but that doesn't mean you can't put the Mopar V-8 you have lying around in the CJ-7 either. The Mopar V-8 swaps are not nearly as well documented as the Chevy V-8 swaps, but that doesn't mean they're impossible. The Mopar engines are arguably lighter and narrower than the old-style Chevy V-8, but also longer. For more information about swapping in a nonstock engine contact Advance Adapters (800.711.6171, www.advanceadapters.com) or Novak Adapters (877.602.1500, www.novak-adapt.com).
The stock '78 axles are robust enough for just tooling around the dunes and should be fine, considering they came behind a V-8 originally, though not a fire-breathing one for sure. Adding gears and lockers would be helpful in the sand.
Keep reading the next few issues as we prepare to build a V-8 CJ-7 for this summer's big wheeling trip.