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2.8L VM Motori Swap - Diesel Tech

Four-Cylinder Diesel Possibilities

Photography by Courtesy Of Mopar,

The 2.8L VM Motori is the untapped resource smaller-displacement diesel enthusiasts have been waiting for. This engine has many things going for it. It has common-rail injection, passes '05-'06 federal emissions, and makes 160 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The non-emissions-legal engine shown here does not feature exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), but otherwise has everything needed to be called a modern diesel engine. Its 2.8L displacement makes it a good candidate for Jeeps, Toyota FJ Cruisers, small pickups, cars, and hot rods. High production numbers means the parts are out there, somewhere.

Steve Houtman and Keith Montone of Mopar Performance Parts installed the above-mentioned diesel engine in an '05 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. They worked on this project after hours on their own time. The donor vehicle was a military, long-wheelbase Wrangler known inside Chrysler as the T1. It might have been easier to switch the bodies, but that would have defeated the whole purpose of the engine swap.

So what did these engineer enthusiasts find on their exploration in diesel conversions? Overall, the 2.8L turbodiesel is a good fit due to both its physical size as well as its power output. The team found the Rubicon's frame, specifically the motor mount perches, needed modification (welding) in order to accommodate the diesel's motor mounts. Bolt-on motor mounts would make this a very easy conversion. Wiring the engine's ECM with a plug-in harness does not seem impossible. The intercooler and radiator have plenty of room, even with a mechanical fan, so that is a positive sign. The Rubicon's NV3550 five-speed transmission is found in '00-'04 model years. It bolted to the back of the diesel without any adapters. The earlier AX-15 will also bolt up.

Specifications

2.8L VM Motori Turbodiesel
Type and Description: Four cylinder, inline, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 171 ci (2,768 cc)
Bore x Stroke: 3.70x3.94 (94x100mm)
Valve System: Belt drive, DOHC, 16-valve
Fuel Injection: Direct injection, common-rail, 23,000 psi
Construction: Cast-iron block, aluminum cylinder head
Compression Ratio: 17.5:1
Horsepower: 160 at 3,800 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft at 1,800 rpm
Engine Speed: 4,300 rpm, electronically governed
Oil Capacity: 6.3 quarts
Coolant Capacity: 13.2 quarts

Sourcing Parts Globally
In the U.K. they call their junkyards breaker yards. The 2.5L VM Motori is externally the same as the pre-2007 2.8L that went into this Wrangler conversion. Since Jeep Grand and XJ Cherokees both came with the 2.5L stock in other parts of the world, this means the parts exist. Used Jeeps with five-speed manual transmissions and diesel engines are selling for less than $2,000 in Europe. At that price one could purchase the whole vehicle and ship it to the U.S. Once here it would just be a matter of bolting the different powertrains and electrical systems in place. Another option is buying the parts from an '05 or '06 Jeep Liberty that was sold in the U.S. with the 2.8L.

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