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Small-Block Chev Conversion: 1978 Jeep J10 Pickup

Chevrolet’s small-block V8 is a favorite candidate for transplant into all manner of classics. It is cheap and plentiful, and parts for many conversions are available off the shelf. However, this is the first time I have seen one dropped into a 1978 Jeep J10. The work appears to have been performed to a high standard because this gem runs and drives exceptionally well. It has a few minor needs but none that would prevent the new owner from hitting the road for immediate fun. The Jeep is listed here on eBay in Millville, New Jersey. There have been no bids on a No Reserve auction that opened at $11,500. There is a BIN option of $13,500, but the lack of action so far might see someone take a chance, hoping they can become its new owner with a single bid.

This Jeep is relatively unassuming, although its color combination of Golden Ginger and Alpine White is attractive. The Pickup presents nicely, with the paint holding a healthy shine and the panels exceptionally straight for a vehicle of this type and age. However, it isn’t perfect because some images reveal the rust bubbles in the lower rear quarter panels mentioned by the seller. The problem isn’t extensive, and the winning bidder could attend to any defects at their leisure. The bed features a spray-on liner, and the steel beneath is free from the dings and dents that may indicate a life of abuse or neglect. One task for the new owner to tackle is to fit the new window seals and channels supplied by the seller. Otherwise, the glass is clear, the trim is in good order, and the J10 rolls on its original steel wheels and hubcaps.

There is little to criticize about this Jeep’s interior because it is unerringly practical and shows only minor aging. The dashpad’s grille section has crumbled, which is common due to age and UV exposure. Locating a replacement pad may be challenging, requiring patience on the buyer’s behalf. However, carpet covers are readily available and typically retail for under $70. That could be an excellent short-term solution. Otherwise, this interior appears to need nothing. The vinyl seatcover is free from wear, the floormat is excellent, and the painted surfaces are in good order. The factory radio is intact, but the seller mounted a Bluetooth speaker behind the seat to provide an option for tunes on the move. The only other addition is a two-gauge cluster mounted below the dash.

Decoding the VIN for this Jeep confirms the first owner ordered it with the 258ci six under the hood. They teamed this with a three-speed automatic transmission, creating a vehicle that would have performed competently in most circumstances. The 258’s power output of 100hp isn’t astounding, but the low-end delivery of its 200 ft/lbs of torque made it ideal for commercial applications. However, who can’t use more power? Bolting the factory 401ci V8 under the hood would have been an obvious solution, but someone decided to pursue the Chevrolet small-block path. This 350ci V8 should provide vastly improved performance, which the seller confirms. They have sat it at 75mph on the open road, and it has taken that in its stride. The engine and transmission don’t leak, although there are drips from the power steering pump. The seller attributes this to seals, suggesting the pump needs rebuilding or replacement. The tires have plenty of tread, but their age sees the seller recommend replacing them before undertaking any long journeys. Beyond that, this J10 is a turnkey proposition.

This 1978 Jeep J10 is fascinating because I would love to know what motivated someone to bolt in the Chevrolet small-block instead of a factory V8. It isn’t as though they are as rare as hen’s teeth because a brief online search unearthed several healthy examples. It may simply have been the ready availability of spares and a belief that the stream is inexhaustible that motivated the choice. Regardless, this beauty should perform significantly better than when it left the lot. The lack of bids is surprising, but it opens a tempting prospect for anyone genuinely interested. It is a No Reserve auction, and someone could become the new owner with a single bid. That makes the auction worth watching.


  1. Avatar photo Keith H.

    I wonder if the cats come with the vehicle. I noticed that they were the same color as the vehicle.

    Like 1
  2. Avatar photo JustPassinThru

    SBC in everything. I just cannot understand why.

    This thing is history. Now I get that the AMC engines of that era were pathetically under-engineered – the EPA prevented auto companies from sharing emissions technologies in those years, and AMC was in dire straits – but there were/are better options. From 1968 to 1970, the Buick 350 was the V8 ticket in those, and it was a lively performer. Or, how about a later XJ or Wrangler 4.0 six? Fuel injected, those have the power of many V8s, with added low-end torque. And keeps this Willys-Kaiser-AMC Jeep within its wide heritage band.

    One engine line never used in Jeeps, was Chevrolet. Excepting the original mail-delivery trucks, which got Chevy II fours…

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo scrapyard john

      I’d prefer the GM 350 over the 258, and the 4.0 wasn’t all that stout either from my experience…I disagree that they have “the power of many V8’s with added low end torque”. More low end torque than a decent small block 350? Doubtful. I’d rather have an AMC 360 than the GM 350, just to keep it all AMC – but, I imagine, parts and rebuild costs are a lot less on a small block Chevy motor than an AMC V8. The Chevy motor (or maybe a Ford 302, or yes, even the ubiquitous truck based LS motor) is probably the “economical/practical” choice if you’re swapping a V8 in there. Otherwise, it probably wouldn’t be done so often.

      Like 4
  3. Avatar photo JustPassinThru

    The hood is also missing the cross-piece just above the center of the grille…the original rhino grille had the upright grille go up into that narrow pocket; but the razor grille had Kaiser fasten a bar across to continue the visual theme. It was tack-welded to the hood on either side; and left a narrow slot where the hood release was set.

    AMC eventually dropped it with the 1979 grille, and it stayed gone through the end…but why would a hood be replaced? And at the very least, that means a hood repaint. Since it matches the rest of the body, I would guess the whole truck has had a respray.

    Like 3
  4. Avatar photo HoA Member

    I always enjoy the authors post, but a Jeep a “turnkey proposition”,,,excuse me a sec( gaining composure), okay then, normally, I’d say yes, Jeep has the reputation of one of the most reliable vehicles made, newer ones, not so much. It’s when folks alter the original design with what they think is a proven unit, is where the “turnkey” thing stops. I really like this truck. It’s no different than my SBC in the Willys. It’s just, my Jeep was cobbled in a back yard, couple times, and while it worked, not near the design testing of the original,,,like a war(s). I know, it could have had an AMC motor, but again, the 350 is more recognized, and quite frankly, probably a better motor anyway.
    Now, about that burned out left headlight,,,oh, mercy, that’s gonna cost ya’.
    ( after 14th attempt) “Round 12v single? Ya’. I got one, $199 bucks,,,,free shipping”,,,

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo JustPassinThru

      Jeeps reliable? Depends on the year.

      The MB Willys, with the Go-Devil…yeah, the stuff of legends.

      The Kaiser years? The engines were hit-and-miss. Buick engines, in the 1960s, good. Willys/Continental OHC six, not so good.

      The AMC years, from what I’d heard/read, were not particularly trouble-free, at least not in the 1970s. The company was struggling with emissions challenges, and the trucks were a parts-bin nightmare.

      The Chrysler years: My YJ Wrangler was the most-reliable rig I’d owned up to that time (early ’90s). Yes.

      But like all of Chrysler, the company fell. I wouldn’t own a new one, if given free.

      This one is going to be like any kit-car or hot-rod. Garage adaptations do not correspond to development engineering. There could be any number of compromises or adaptations that don’t work well.

      Like 3
  5. Avatar photo Bryan

    IDK about a Chevy 350 in a Jeep but I do understand it being cheaper than it’s competition. It’s a great truck and it’s simple platform for many project options. If it was more stock, I’d leave it alone but since it ain’t I would keep improving it in many ways. One thing that I would change is get rid of that grille for a Gladiator setup.

    Like 0

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