So I've got this '65 J200 with the 230 in it, and I really haven't seen it run much. I bought a "running, driving truck" and drove it 7 miles home. Ran it for about 10 minutes in the driveway and have had issues galore since.
The head gasket was shot, so I've pulled the head off and took it to one of the 3 local machine shops (the one that said they had time) to check it out. They disassembled it, magnafluxed and inspected it, and gave me some bad news. It needs a full rebuild, including having the rockers and the cam reground. New exhaust valves, new valve seats/guides/seals all the way around. Probably looking at something in the neighborhood of $800 when it's all said and done. I can buy a rebuilt 4.0 head for my TJ for $300! I don't know if $800 seems normal or not, it's just way more than I wanted to spend. I know I could do some of that work myself, but definitely not the valve seats, and I'm not sure what else.
That brings up some obvious questions.... $800 and that's just the top end. I haven't had anybody with any know-how or credibility look at the block, crank or pistons. Cylinders aren't scored, but that's about the extent of my knowledge.
I've already decided against going the LS swap route- it's just not in the cards right now, and on top of that I'd still have a manual steering, front disc braked, post mount suspension truck. I've got a wife and four kids that I like to hang out with now and then..... there's no way I've got time or my wife has the patience (or funds) to go full-balls LS swap.
So here's the other options I've been mulling over, some still need some further exploration, but I'm trying to look at all angles. I like the old truck feel, I don't need fuel injection, though it sure would be nice at times. The goal for this is to be a weekend driver, take it into the woods to go fishing or drive it to work on a lazy day. Ideally, it stays as a manual transmission, currently I've got the T98 4 speed/Dana 20, with D44 front and D53 rear axles.
1- Jeep 4.0 Renix fuel injection swap. Easy to find parts for, though sourcing a 5 speed version of a Cherokee is a bit tougher. Don't know the length of the 4.0, or how it would fit in the engine bay, but I know it's been done and that Jeep offered the 4.2 in the later J series, so it can't be all that tough. Would give me sufficient power for my goals. Would still need drivelines, gauges, fuel delivery.
2- Some other Jeep engine. Run a 4.2 and keep it carbed (for simplicity, could change it later). Could drop in a 360, but I'd still have a lot of the other issues to deal with - exhaust, transmission, transfer case, drivelines, with questionable improvment.
3- Some other engine, carbed. Chevy 350? Caddy 500? Give me some ideas?
4- Alternatively, find a J-truck that's got the 258 in it, and swap my Rhino grille over, and call it a day.
I really am looking for some outside input, I'm trying to make the best decision I can. The best thing about this truck is that it was close to home. Montana doesn't have much to choose from. There's a lot of body work to do- floors, bed, tailgate; all the weatherstrip and glass seals. I haven't touched the brakes, transmission or transfer case yet, so there's still some big unknowns.