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twin turbo 4x4 hardbody (vg30dett into D21)


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(hopefully that title will cover any searches for people)


A couple years ago I decided that the old KA24 just wasn't cutting it for me anymore, and I wanted to upgrade my D21 Hardbody and install a VG30DETT. I started with a lot of deliberation and research with my fellow Nissan buddies on how to do the swap, and if it could be done. Not much help was available from other Nissan forums, with most saying that it could not be done, that the engine doesn’t fit, or that it would be way to expensive. I know this has been done in some 2wd pickups, and I have seen a couple in 510’s. To compound the problem my truck is a 4x4, and to keep it that way meant it was going to be a bit more complicated than just an engine and transmission swap.


My first assumption was that since the D21’s came with a VG30E they would share bell housings with the VG30DETT. Well, my friends and I came to the conclusion this in fact will not work, due to the DETT starter bolting on the side of the bell housing. They had to do this on the Z32’s because that’s where the hairdryers live.


The next idea was the possibility of making a hybrid transmission by swapping the front cases, from the Z32 transmission to the to the D21 transmission/transfer case. This came about after finding out that both vehicles had the same transmission code, being a FS5R30A. However, we soon found out that my KA powered pickup did not use the R30A, and only the V6 model pickups had the R30A’s. After a lot of searching, and a failed attempt to pull one from a V6 Pathfinder at a junkyard on a half off day, I finally came across someone who had one in a rolled V6 pickup, which I purchases for $50 bucks. Sweet!


We were thinking that the two transmissions would share bell housings, or front cases since they have the same transmission codes, but even with our research we weren’t sure. No one would give us a straight answer, so we set out to just do it and see. This was going to be my ‘drop dead’ point, the point where the amount of fabrication to make it work was more than I cared to give, or at least without really thinking it over… So if the cases came together without a hitch, then the rest of the fabrication would be a breeze. Good news is that the cases did come together without any problems. The bad part is I vary well could be eating that ‘fabrication’ comment later on, haha…


After yanking the engine/transmission/transfer case (we used an excavator for a cherry picker) out of my newly acquired 70k mile D21, we hauled it off to meet its cousin from the Z32. By the way, the transmission/transfer case assembly on the pickups weighs a lot!!! We could just barely unload it with two guys. We also thought it smart to take the engine mounts from the pickup. These will most likely come in handy later on.


So I got right to it, and split the case on the Z32 transmission. Here is a great write up on tearing one down here: http://forums.hybridz.org/showthread.php?t=119041

I didn’t take much for pictures on the Z32 transmission tear down, see the thread above. The transmission was in excellent shape! I got this engine and transmission out of a ‘91 300zx TT, with less than 90k on it, after some guy in Portland wrecked his car in ‘94 I think.


Holy boat anchor batman! This behemoth is the D21 V6 transmission and transfer case assembly(on it's side for some reason at that moment...).



Here is a shot of the Z32 transmission gear set after the front case was removed.



This is the D21 gear set with the front case removed. No that’s not a gear oil slick on our driveway! Lol…



Here is the important part for us, the mating point of the two transmissions where they will bolt to the ‘mid plate‘. Here you can see that the two surfaces are identical. Z32 bell on the left, D21 on right. Note: in first pic the front cover is still on(case on left(z32)).




On the inside of the bell housing is the front plate bearing retainers and throw out bearing support, or whatever its called. Again, these were the same, minus some damage from the removal process, haha…



And finally the hybrid D21/Z32 transmission/transfer case!!! Now I just have to split it again and re-gasket it all.





So, that was the biggest obstacle and this is just the beginning, as my pickup at the moment is still my daily driver until I get the Z done. I will keep this updated at the next point, which looks most likely like changing gaskets on the engine and overhauling the turbo’s. since the Z is still in the works it will most likely be a couple months before I can start dumping money into the Hardbody.




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  • 4 weeks later...
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I was dinking around today, actually I was working on the Z car, and decided to play with the TT project a tad. So I grabbed the engine mounts, the truck and the TT mounts and compared them. Neither set matches really as far as the bolt pattern to the block. Well, there is two holes in the truck mounts that match the TT mounts for both sides. I put them on with two of the holes on each mount, on each side. I need to decided if I am goin to do some fabrication, or try and modify the existing truck mounts to fit the TT block.


Here is the comparison of the two passanger side mounts. The truck one is the iron/rusty one, and the other, shiny aluminium one is for the 300zx.



This is the truck mount, drivers side, and the two holes that match up (top right and bottom right(wich can't be seen)). Also, for this side it seems that some minor triming of the mount to clear the oil feed line.



Here is the truck mount on the driver's side. Same deal, two holes match, and the other two are close but not close enough. Alternator might be in the way but I'm not sure yet...



A couple things to note: The TT mounts are thicker, being aluminium, so the bolts for them will not work. Wish I had kept the block bolts from the pickup. Also I am thinking of modifying the truck mounts by milling out the holes in the appropiate directions in hope to get at least three holes, if not all four.


I'm still not geared up for this project, so progress will be slow and updates may be rare. But in either case, I will be sure to post my progress and findings here.




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I got the turbo's with the engine, but here is my immediate concern. If you look closely at the fallowing pictures, you can see some pitting on the leading edge of the compressor wheels. Are these ok? Salvagable? or will I not know completly till I tear the turbos down?







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  • 2 months later...

UPDATE: I dropped the turbo's off for rebuilding and some massaging, and I am still toying around with the truck mounts. However it has been brought to my attention the the truck mounts may not work because for one, they are huge and possibly in the way of the compressor/and piping and maybe a bit of the alternator, and for two, they are like $145 bucks each!!! I can get 3 holes to line up on the passenger side mount, but the drivers side will requiring some slotting of the holse, and some trimming of the oil line bracket to the turbo.


I still need to get ahold of the truck pan so I can start modifying it for the drain back lines from the trubo's. I will also have to modiy the oil pump pick-up tube for the truck pan. That gets me thinking, I should pick those up tonight...


Sorry, no pictures today...




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  • 3 weeks later...

Sorry, no pictures again. My camera is away at the moment…


It has been brought to my attention and strongly suggested that I replace the cam and main bearing seals while the engine is out. So, I have a gasket kit ordered and on the way, along with a timing belt, water pump, and it looks like I will be replacing at least one of the idler pulleys for the timing belt as well, those aren’t cheap. I also have a clutch coming, and the transmission/transfer case just needs to be re-gasketed and it’s ready to go. The flywheel has some hotspots so its going out to get re-surfaced. The bill for this project is getting big in a hurry!


I found a local Z32 guru, and he has been a great wealth of knowledge. I knew I would need a fuel pump, but he also mentioned that I should use the fuel pump control module. Other than that, and maybe a few other things I may or may not need, it seems that I have most everything I need. For the moment, ha….



Motor mounts (truck): The truck mounts fit with the turbo installed, at least on the passenger side, but part of the mount touches the waste gate mounts, so that would have to be trimmed. Also, the exhaust manifold practically touches the rubber area of the truck mount, which seems kind of bad, lol, and the alternator also touches and can’t be tightened properly.


Regarding the alternator, however, it seems that it may be in the way of the frame area where the motor mount attaches, so it may have to be relocated, but I also may be able to trim some of the motor mount area on the frame?, but I wont know till I actually put the engine in and see what my clearances are. If I have to I figure I can relocate the alternator to the drivers side using the D21 V6 brackets, then lengthen the wires to compensate.


Motor mounts (Z32): This is looking more and more like what I will be using in the end. These aluminum standoffs, I guess you could call them, are a bit taller, and have a different angle at the bottom. Here is what I am thinking: I have some old chevy truck mounts that use a single bolt to the frame, but I was thinking of turning them upside down, and putting the chevy block side against the D21 frame, then modifying the motor mount surface of the Z mounts to meet the chevy mounts. So some fabrication will ensue.


Oil pans: I have to get the engine off the ground and on an engine stand to make sure, but after comparing the two pans, it looks like I might be able to use the Z oil pan. The height difference between the truck and Z pan are minimal, the biggest difference being the bulge on the bottom being on opposite sides. The Z pan bulges on the drivers side, which will not work because the differential and drive shaft live there. So I am either going to have to cut off the bulge and relocate it to the other side, orrrrr, take the truck pan, weld in some drain back ports on the pan for the turbos and maybe modify the oil pump pickup if I need to compensate for a deeper/shallower pan.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yay, pictures!!! Ok, so here's the deal. I needed another gauge cluster for the inside of the D21 since mine is for the 4-cylinder and there is no tach. Now, I have two clusters from v6 hardbodies. But, for the moment, I don't know wich one to go with yet. So I'll post them both so you get an idea what I am dealing with, and I will come to a conclusion sometime in the near future. yah. lol


Here is the first cluster. It is out of an 87 hardbody pickup 4x4, you will notice that it has more actuall gauges and less idiot lights than the other cluster. Also, notice the dual fuel gauges, one reading for the entire tank and the other reads only from 1/4 to empty. (ps: notice the odometer, ya, 90k +/-)



This cluster is out of a 91 pathfinder, and you might notice right away that this was an automatic vehicle. This one has less gauges, but is almost identical to the cluster that is in my 93 D21. It also has less wires than the previous cluster wich might make it easier to wire up. I don't suppose anyone knows if there is a VSS located in the cluster behind the speedo?





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  • 1 month later...

Just to keep up to date, I am still moving forward, but mainly just collecting parts at the moment and trying to find time to re-gasket the engine and get it ready to drop in.


Transmission and transfer case is sealed up and ready to go. I have a gasket set for the engine and a new timing belt, one idler pulley that needed replaced, a walbro 225 fuel pump, a water pump, rod and main bearings (since I will have the pan off, might as well), and SS tubular down pipes which are much more compact than the OEM units. I just ordered two small intercoolers which should fit behind the grill and in between the headlights (22x5x3). There is only the clutch and a new wiring harness to order still, and then as soon as I am out of school this winter I can start the hard part of the project...


Hopefully next update will have some pics and mabey some progress.




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Great news! I found this: http://www.selindesign.net/electronics.html

This will make plumbing the intake so much easier since I won't have to bring both intake pipes together to go through one MAF and an air cleaner, that and I would be seriously running out of room in front of the core support with both intercoolers and the appropriate piping. This way I hope to put both air cleaners near or somewhere behind the headlights.

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  • 3 months later...

Finally!!! Some progress! Well, that's all in your point of view I guess. So I finally got the engine on a engine stand and started getting it torn down. I would like to point out that this engine has a lot of BS on the intake, and the fuel lines were probably the most stubborn part to remove of all things. I got a EGR block off kit, so that is going in the "parts to throw away at the end" bin. Things so far look pretty good. The plugs looked good, there is still cross hatching in the cylinders, now I just have to pop off the mains and inspect/replace the bearings. Then modify the oil pan to fit comfortable next to a differential, and tweak the motor mounts, and so much more....


One dirty engine! And who would have thought after sitting for yeeeears that there would still be water in the block!





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After doing a bunch of research, I think I have decided to do some cleaning up on the engine, which involves eliminating a ton of vacuum lines and other devices that are not needed, and/or do not hurt/hinder performance on a stock ECU. As a note, I am not required to go through emissions where I live, so even though the truck is a '93 and engine a '91, all I have to worry about is the engine running properly.


Here is a list of the mods that I am considering. If anything seems like it would hinder stock ECU parameters, let me know. This VG is quite different from anything that I have worked on previously, and is a constant learning experience.





Throttle Body Coolant Hose Delete/Bypass: This one is said to not affect performance either way, but it does get rid of a bundle of lines that are under the intake, in which removes the possibility for coolant leaks there as well.


The AIV's: Nissan removed them after '92, and since they were mounted on the car and not the engine, I don't have them(they were mounted on the fenders in the engine compartment), and that's where I will leave it, lol.


EGR: Again, I don't have to go through emissions, and some of the components were on the fender of the original car. Also, after yanking the EGR valve and tubes to the intake, this seems to free up a bit of space around the back and sides of the engine, and more space on this engine is always nice!


PRVR: The Pressure Regulator Vacuum Relief (PRVR), which until yesterday had no clue of its existence or what it might do, appears to be on the engine, but I don't remember seeing one on mine, so ya, if it can go, and simplify things, then so be it...





That is it for now. Here is a great read for anyone in the Z32 realm, which includes a lot of the above with pictures, http://s95014253.onlinehome.us/63104/197490.html





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Oil pans!


I started on cleaning up the oil pans today. Yes, I have two, one from the Z32TT and one from a 4x4 D21. Recently I have found a couple other people doing a similar swap, but they are doing swaps into 2wd trucks, which may or may not give them benefits in regards to oil pan clearances. I, however, am swapping into a 4x4. What this means is that I have a big ol freekn differential living right about where the sump should be for the Z32 pan. Some people may decided to do a solid axle swap(SAS) to gain clearance, but I like the IFS and how it handles on the street in comparison to a solid axle, that and this truck spends most of it's time on the road. If I was going to wheel this regularly I would most likely swap axles.


What this boils down to basically is that I will have to do some modifications(ie: welding, trimming, etc.) to whichever pan I decided on. What I am doing here is making that decision. Which pan to use...


Here are both pans side by side, looking from the rear. Truck(4x4 D21) pan on left, car(Z32TT) pan on right. Obviously you can see different sump setups, and the drainback tubes and such for the TT pan. I checked the truck pan on the TT engine block, the bold pattern is a match, the mains appear to be a match(I have yet to verify), and the dipstick location is in the same place.



This is both pans from the top/front, truck on the right, car on the left. You can see a large depression in the truck pan in the center/left of the pan. This I am pretty sure to be clearance for the front differential. There are a few things I will not be able to verify until I can test fit the engine into the engine bay, it will be interesting to see how much clearance I really have. That, and the 4x4 truck bodies sit about 2" higher than their 2wd counterparts, so this gives me a little room to play with when I get around to fabricating motor mounts. Also, I am afraid that one of the drain back lines for the turbo may be in the way of the differential. We will see...



From the front, truck on the right, car on the left. This is a comparison shot for the height/depth of the pans, and to see how similar the front main/sealing part of the pan.



One thing to note that I didn't get a pic of is the interior of the pans. The Z32 pan is better designed, with better baffling and some like directional windage type things in the bottom. The sumps are also different, but I couldn't say which one is better there.




One last thing for this update; I got the crank back from polishing! It came out nice, looks like new. I had a hell of a time getting the timing gear off the crank and ended up having to cut it off, so one more part to buy. I hope it's not expensive...





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Wow! This is working out perfect for me!

I have a '96 Hardbody 4x4 with the VG30E and have been looking at possible swaps. Was thinking chevy small block swap or a sr20DET to keep it in the Nissan family. Then thought the VG30DETT out of a 300zx would be the coolest and maybe go a bit smoother since it has a VG30 already ;) I was just surfin the web about that swap and your thread popped up! So I'm going to be closely watching your progress, haha no pressure.


I really really hope this works out for you!

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Hey I just stumbeled across this thread, I have done a VG30DE-TT swap into a D21 before, I just wanted to give you a heads up on some silly things that your a charging right at


#1 check your dipstick clearance with the turbos mounted and the truck motor mount on there, and you will also need to modify the turbo inlet pipes because of truck motormount clearance. (early 1980's Ford pickups with the I6 have solid rubber mounts work well the are $20ea new at advanced auto)


#2 the 4x4 frame has lift built into in on the front Vs. the 2WD frame so you shouldn't have the turbo clearance issues I had, but still check that pass side turbo to frame clearance, you might want to notch the frame rail anyway, also every off the shelf Z32 down pipe will be aimed straight through your pass side T-Bar


#3 I had MAJOR clearance issues around the gas pedal & steering shaft, but I'd bet a body lift would cure it all.


#4 the 4x4 truck pan is the only pan that will clear the front pumpkin so you might as well just weld oil return fitting onto the 4WD pan and use a 4WD D21 / WD21 oil pickup.


#5 skip the TT oil filter tree, use a non turbo oil filter tree and then add an aftermarket oil cooler sandwich plate if you require an oil cooler. the NA tree only has a 1/8 NPT port on it for the oil pressure light, which is perfect for a gauge since the TT mounts the OEM pressure sensor in one of the turbos oil feed lines


do you need a wiring harness? I have a stripped VG30DE harness with all the emissions crap removed, all the harness needs is a switched 12V+, constant 12V+ and ground to run a VG30DE off a stock VG30DE(TT) ECU but you will really need NISTUNE or Zmulator to keep the CEL off



Oh and I just re read your post about motor mounts, the truck mounts won't clear the turbos or manifolds, use the VG30DE aluminum pedestals with 1980 F150 rubbers on them. and since you had a 4 banger in there before your holes might not line up perfect but I think you will be fine. just slide the engine & trans up in there, bolt in the trans mount to the X-member and figure out which set of holes works best for you. depending on the year of your truck you have any number of holes in the frame for all the possible engines that you could get all around the world in the D21 CA20 all the way up to VG30 and hitting the Z24 and KA24 along the way

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  • 6 months later...

I decided to rebuild the whole engine. I was into it to the main bearings, but it was filthy inside, so I decided that, heck, might as well rebuild it, right? So as I speak the block is in the machine shop getting a light hone and a thorough cleaning, which it needed really bad. The heads are also off, getting resurfaced, the guides replaced, and the lifters cleaned.


There is this horrible disease that I have where I can’t leave anything well enough alone, so I’m sending the ECU off to be flashed for more power and so I can run a single MAF. This means that I will be selling the Sillen unit, which uses two MAF’s.


I still need to test the injectors and the ignition coils, replace the rubber fuel line, and then reassemble the engine. I should have the block and pistons back Friday, so as long as my rings come in then I can start assembling the short block until the heads are done, which are a week or so out. As soon as the engine is assembled, then I will be yarding out the KA and we will get a first look at how well this cube of an engine fits, and where/what I will have to modify on the truck.


Since the last update I have also gotten the clutch, and all the PCV hoses. Damn this engine is expensive…


Also, I will be looking into those Ford motor mounts, and also thanks for the tips and such guys. =)

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  • 5 weeks later...

New update, now with pictures! yay :)


Ok, so I found that the truck oil pan and the car pan are NOT direct fits. Neither are the pickup tubes. The car pan is about 3/16" longer in the front. I tried to fit the truck pan on with the oil pump in place and it wasnt going. The truck pan fits perfect till it gets to the oil pump area, where I discovered the TT oil pump is roughly 3/16" thicker front-to-back. This put the TT pump right against the truck pan, not allowing it to fit all the way down onto the block, that and making the bolt holes off by the same amount just at the pump. Best thing I have figured so far is to cut the front off of my truck pan, and "stretching" it the given length. I thought I had pictures of this but apparently I was wrong. So hopefully you can see the difference in this old side-by-side pic. You can see the difference right in the front of the pan...



The TT oil pump also sits about 1/4" deeper (top-to-bottom) into the pan, and this makes it so the truck pickup tube mounting tabs (the tabs that bolt to the crank girdle) are off the same amount. This doesn't take into consideration the difference in diameters between the two pickup tubes. So I may just be fabricating one of these as well...


In the meantime I have been working on various parts of the engine. I checked all the injectors for resistance, 10-14 Ohms, and to make sure they clicked. Two were outside of specs.



The block has been painted and the rotating assembly has been installed.






And my machinist buddy even made me a nice tool for installing the think input shaft support bearing that goes into the crank.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Oil Pan update: I took some new photos of the my main concern in the oilpans. After taking some measurements the truck pan will have to be "stretched" 3/16-1/4". This is due to the oil TT oil pump being .180" thicker than its predecessor(the single cam vg30).


My best idea to date is to cut two pans in the front, one a lil short and one a lil long, then take the difference from both and weld them together. I only have one truck pan, but I have a buddy that has several Z31 pans that I could use for the other 'half'. I will not be cutting up the Z32 pan since I found that it has some value in it, if left in good condition.


This is a poor image showing the two pans side by side again. Z32 pan on left, D21 pan on right.



Here is a better picture showing roughly the difference in the length of the two pans.



And this is where I am considering cutting the pan, then taking the other pans section which would be about 1/4" longer and adding it to the front. Of course if I do this I am going to have to consider the possibility of warping the pan with the heat of welding.



Lucky me, eh? haha.

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Latest pan issue... So after installing the filter tree I realized that the pan bulges right over the top of where the filter goes. Great... So I grabbed my pan, and purchased a filter, and put the two on and look at what happened! Ya, more pan modification to come...


This angle shows everything the best. Here you can see the filter is actually holding up the pan from sitting on the block. Also you might notice that I made some changes to the filter tree, by moving the sending unit. The brass plug is where the sending unit used to be, and it would be pointing out straight into a frame rail or inner fender, so I needed to move it. Lucky I found another spot on the filter tree, which was 3/8npt, so I threw a 3/8x1/8npt bushing in there and relocated the sending unit and put a 1/8"npt plug in the other hole. I also cleaned out some sort of pressure regulator that controls oil flow to the oil cooler. Lots of junk in there. It is behind the large hexagon nut on the left of the tree and was really in there, I thought I might break it taking it out...



Here shows the actual filter/pan interference... But luckily it doesn't look like I will have to take much off the pan to make this work.



So off to fabrication land! That and I am installing injectors today...


Cheers :)

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  • 2 months later...

Oil Pan update #3: The Z31 pan wont work either, it is deeper in the front than the truck pan. So this leaves me cutting the truck pan, and adding metal to fill in the gap.


The engine is pretty much buttoned up, other than the pan, and I am waiting on the turbos to come back. Then it will be a matter of weather, and finances. I was going to do the swap over 'Xmas break', but I realized that I could not afford certin things that still need to be paid for, like exhaust, oil cooler, intercooler piping, gauges, engine mounts, etc. Now I am waiting for the threat of snow to leave, and hopefully by then I will have the finances and final parts set aside I can start the actual swapping, which will probably be around 'spring break' time...

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Greetings! was just reading your posts lookin for some info on this swap, as i am currently doing it myself. Differences are im swapping it into a 2wd hardbody and mt vg30de is NA, that will have a TT conversion. I dont know if you can answer any of my questions, or that i can answer any of yours, but I have done the vg30et swap from an 86 300zx into the hardbody before, and its really not that bad. Do you have a facebook account? if you do you can follow my progress on there along with pictures. I also have pictures of my old vg30et truck on the internet on cardomain, and there are alot of videos out there of it as well, so hit me up if ya got any questions, or whatever. some of the links to my earlier truck...






Thanks and GOOD LUCK!

Larry Savage


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