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Performance Specialists Since 1963

Customer Feature - Tom Porter 1982 245

2013-09-30 - Tom Porter - ipd customer

My 1982 Volvo 245 Diesel, that I purchased new, quit running in 1995 after 13 years and 180,000 miles despite very detailed and regular maintenance. The car had always been garage kept and the paint and the interior were in great shape. Due to its failing health I had already begun to explore an engine/transmission swap back then. Found the Jags That Run (JTR) Small Block Chevy swap books but the process seemed beyond my time and interest at the time. I put the car in storage with the intent of getting to it one day. Fifteen years later, retired and looking for something to do, I began this restoration project. The objective was to restore the car for use as a reliable daily driver with no intent at high performance. No turbo’s. Moving from 83 horsepower, more likely 50 near the end, to more than 200 hp seems adequate for me. I will evaluate future enhancements sometime in the future.

Before starting on the swap I spent a lot of time on the car completely rebuilding the brake system; new master cylinder, calipers, rubber hoses, rotors and pads. I also completely rebuilt the suspension, including all bushings, ball joints, shocks, upper strut bearings and mounts . . . and one wheel bearing. After 30 years it just seemed the correct thing to do. Used about a gallon of leather conditioner and got the interior about as soft as it was new, but that was never really soft.

The 240 series Diesel is really the most perfect car to begin this conversion with as the springs, torsion bar, radiator, exhaust system and rear end ratio are just about what you would select if building from scratch. You do have to add the gas fuel system as the diesel relied on injector pump suction without any fuel pump. The internet had arrived in that 15 year period between need and action and I began a year long education process. The mainstream drive train choices in my research seemed to be the small block Chevy with support from the JTR documentation or the small block Ford and purchase of the Converse Engineering’s kits. While I am sure that someone has put an overhead cam engine into a Volvo the height and width of these truly modern engines seemed beyond reasonable. Also, during my extended planning period GM had reduced the use of their V8’s to only their trucks and I quickly found that truck engines were available but at a significant premium to the 302 cubic inch small block Ford (SBF) engines found across the entire Ford product line. The addition of the pushrod V8’s to the Camaro and similar GM cars in the past few years may modify that situation going forward.

On the Ford fork in the road I had to choose between the older 302 Mustangs or other FOX body car’s engines in the up to ’95 cars or a newer, ’96 up to ’01 Explorer setup. The Ford FOX reference is to the platform that Ford used, generally, from ’86 through ’93 and included the Mustang, Cougar, Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental Mark VII. While there is a world of after market parts very reasonably priced for the old Mustangs I really didn’t want to get into engine / transmission rebuilding.

After all the analysis and discussions in the end my decision came down to finding the best overall deal on a pushrod engine and associated transmission. Since my objective was a long term daily driver, I felt very fortunate to find a 2000 Mercury Mountaineer 2WD 302 V8 with its original transmission and the entire compliment of bolt-on accessories from drive shaft to fan and the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) in dry storage. Better yet, it was located only 50 miles from my home and was delivered for $2400 including future free pick-a-part privileges. The wrecking yard documentation said the engine/transmission came from one of the Explorer/ Firestone rollovers and only had 11k miles on the odometer.

Most wrecking yard engines/transmissions do not normally include all the parts you need without asking and paying for them. If you acquire all the parts individually be very, very, very certain that you get all the bolts and brackets that attach everything. Otherwise you will have many entertaining trips back to your local wrecking yard, NAPA and/or Ace Hardware ahead of you. Some, like the torque converter to flex plate nuts, are very unique and are made out of unobtainium.

Yes, that is an ’81 Bertone in the background . . . the next project. It is a true barn find out of a real hay barn in Tennessee. The car has 25,187 actual miles on it.

Now, after nearly 4 years of hobby effort I am at the point of declaring completion although you really never finish a project like this. Completion included a full all-parts-off paint job and the car now looks as new.

In return for the help I got from many new Internet friends I made an effort to document my efforts, successes and failures for the benefit of others that may try this conversion. The result was a web posted build thread that turned into a conversion manual. The objective is to summarize the information I have collected from web searches, input from great folks that responded to my questions and my personal experience during the swap. It is intended to answer the many questions I started with for those similarly situated in terms of experience and capabilities. While written in first person, it is not my original work but the sum of many, many people that helped me through this project. It also contains not only my personal opinions but my do-overs which, perhaps, you can avoid. Hopefully, this will encourage others, like me, who want to do this but do not feel comfortable starting on their own. Special attention is paid to all the little details without published solutions, at least that I found.

The build thread/conversion manual can be found here: https://forums.turbobricks.com/showthread.php?t=250257