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Old 11-24-2009, 02:45 PM   #1
DirtyLarry
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K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

As many of you know I swapped in a 2002 Vortec 8.1L into a 1978 K10 over a year ago and have been running it on a marine style speed density Delphi MEFI-4 engine controller that batch fires the injectors similar to an old TPI 350 but with big block fuel and spark calibrations. While the MEFI-4 controller has served me fine, I was never really able to get the calibrations nailed down to a science where the engine would run perfectly in every heat, load, and altitude variance. We took it on a 2,000 mile desert off-roading trip this past summer where it pinged and jerked like crazy when pulling steep grades in the hot temperatures. If I lived in Phoenix or Cali where there are a lot of experienced MEFI tuners with access to wide band oxygen sensors and dynos that would be a different story but doing the calibrations on my own…it is obvious I needed to look at alternatives as I will never get this thing programmed correctly on my own. Outside of driving it to Phoenix for AZ Speed and Marine to tune I decided to ditch the MEFI-4 operating system all together.

That all said, I am converting it over to an automotive style mass air flow sequential injected Delphi P59 ECM like what is on 2001-2007 8.1L Silverado's. I mounted the ECM yesterday and once I took the desired trunk measurements I ordered a new harness from Howell Engine Development this morning. Howell can calibrate the ECM to accommodate the manual cable operated throttle body unlike the drive by wire system the stock 8.1L engines use and save me the hassle of retrofitting the drive by wire throttle pedal assembly, they can also turn off Torque Management and give it a mild hot tune. I can’t wait to get the harness and start ripping into this project again. Sound be fun!

A few buddys and I are making the last mountain run on this MEFI-4 controller to play in the snow this Friday. The next trip this thing should have an all new personality and a heck of a lot more power!

Yes, the engine is dirty...it never got a full on detail after we got back from Arizona. Had to move the Painless dual battery isolator forward to make room for the P59 controller.
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Last edited by DirtyLarry; 11-24-2009 at 02:47 PM.
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Old 11-25-2009, 05:09 PM   #2
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

Hey Larry, hope the brain surgery is going ok. You'll have it running sweet for the next trip huh?
Slightly off topic, congrats on getting your truck in Peterson's! Even down here I still get January's copy months in advance. Good to see a sharp looking Chevy in there!

Have a good one.
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Old 11-25-2009, 10:12 PM   #3
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

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Hey Larry, hope the brain surgery is going ok. You'll have it running sweet for the next trip huh?
Slightly off topic, congrats on getting your truck in Peterson's! Even down here I still get January's copy months in advance. Good to see a sharp looking Chevy in there!

Have a good one.
Bill.
I was getting ready to PM you the same... I noticed your truck in the readers section... nice.
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Old 11-25-2009, 11:30 PM   #4
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

Thanks guys. I was surprised it made it into the mag as well. I sent those pictures in quite a while ago and pretty much forgot all about it until they called to talk about it.

Yep, should get busy installing the new harness and required sensors next weekend. Wish I would have ordered it sooner so I could have gotten it done over this long weekend.
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Old 12-04-2009, 02:18 PM   #5
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

Got the new harness the other day and it looks pretty nice! Howell does a great job of labeling all of the connectors. I hope to rip into this project this weekend but have to pull the 700R4 out of my dad’s G-van to replace the front pump seal first.
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Old 12-07-2009, 07:10 PM   #6
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

i installed a 8.1 and allison from an 04 in a 84 short bed i used the street and performance harness pretty much done got to get exhaust and my o2 sensors in drove it around the block seems like its gonna be alot of fun to drive.
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Old 12-07-2009, 08:15 PM   #7
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

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i installed a 8.1 and allison from an 04 in a 84 short bed i used the street and performance harness pretty much done got to get exhaust and my o2 sensors in drove it around the block seems like its gonna be alot of fun to drive.
Sweet! Got any pictures? Curious to know what tranfercase you used behind the Allison or did you change the front axle to a driver’s side pinion?

Street and Performance does build very nice top quality harnesses as well. I considered them but have worked with Howell on other projects and have been happy with their services. Actually, the 8.1L harness isn’t that much different than a LSX small block harness. And you can make the 8.1L harness that much simpler by doing away with the EGR valve and ditching the electronic throttle drive-by-wire mess.

On Street and Performances website there is a downloadable PDF document where a Wyotech instructor also installed an 8.1L in a square body style truck. He did a very clean job with the install but went to a lot of unnecessary work hacking up the engine crossmember to clear the oil pan as well as cutting the hell out of the frame to clear the original 8.1L exhaust manifolds and A/C compressor. A little more research would have saved him a lot of time and energy by using the correct accessory brackets, engine cross member, exhaust manifolds and doing away with the EGR valve.

I got the MEFI-4 harness off yesterday but probably won’t have time to get back on this project until later in the week.
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Old 12-07-2009, 10:53 PM   #8
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

i cut the cross member out on mine and just made a new one. will the older big block belt setup work on the 8.1 was looking at your pics and thought thats what you had. i took the guts out of the the factory case and put them in a 231d case. ONLY problem im having now is no heat i used the 04 rad with out the coolant tank
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Old 12-08-2009, 01:22 AM   #9
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

No, older 7.4L accessory brackets will not fit an 8.1L. The bolt holes in the heads do not line up. You can only use 8.1L brackets or I suppose some kind of aftermarket setup if you can find one.

Would love to know more about that you mean by took the guts out of the factory case and put them in a 231D? What is a 231D anyway? I never heard of that transfercase. The newer trucks use a LH front output while the older trucks had a RH front output. There isn’t a transfercase that fits the Allison with a RH front output and there are no pieces of the transfercase that goes behind the Allison (NVG261/NVG263) that will come close to fitting inside an old 208/231 or 241. What exactly did you do?

The 8.1L works fine with the original ’78 radiator so no need to change radiators as you are not gaining anything but headaches by going with a radiator from the new donor truck. A good ole 4 core radiator is all you need.
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Old 12-08-2009, 07:35 PM   #10
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

hope this dont post twice but its not showing my reply...... i took the input shaft out of the new model and stuck it in an 89ish dodge str8 gear case...
the rad that was in my truck was junk so i just used the new model plus it has the big fittens for the alison trans just cant get no heat

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Old 12-08-2009, 08:36 PM   #11
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

here some pics havent finished all the wiring had to drive it so i hurried alittle on that part
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Old 12-08-2009, 08:39 PM   #12
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

pics suck but its raining so i just guessed where cam was at and snaped the pic
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Old 12-08-2009, 10:02 PM   #13
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

Lookin’ good Lee. I am still at a loss as to what you did with the transfercase but it looks like it worked out well. What do you mean by str8 gear?
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Old 12-08-2009, 11:36 PM   #14
Lee Miller
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

the dodge i took the case out of was a straight gear i also had to drill one hole in the adapter for the t-case bolt
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Old 12-09-2009, 12:52 AM   #15
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

Well, you did an awesome job figuring out a way to mate a RH drop transfercase to an Allison that is for sure!

What model is that transfercase and what year Dodge did it come out of?

I have access to Allison 1000 and 2200 series transmissions (but with SAE round bell housings) but never bit on one because I didn’t think a RH drop tcase could be mated to it because of the large output shaft diameter on the Allison. Hmmm, I may have rethink that next time I run across a deal on one. I prefer manual transmissions but I would rock an Allison if one landed in my lap for for the right price.
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Old 12-09-2009, 01:01 AM   #16
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

well the alison and the 4l80e have the same out put shaft i THINK. The guy who done the one street and performance has on there used the 205 case. Its wild to drive a truck on 40s with that much power and the alison i love straight gears myself but its deff worth the money for the alison
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Old 12-09-2009, 01:03 AM   #17
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

oh and the drive shaft is really close to the trans im gonna make some kind of plate in case i sling the front shaft dont want to bust it. If it ever stops raining i will take some good pics of it. Im happy somebody thinks its cool all my friends ask why didnt i just build a sb or swap in a 454
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Old 12-12-2009, 03:09 AM   #18
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

Getting closer to completing the brain transplant. Only a few more connections to make and we’ll be good.
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Old 12-12-2009, 03:24 AM   #19
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

Okay…..the last post and picture was just a joke….

I laid an old molested G-van TBI engine harness on top the 8.1L for the sake of taking an interesting picture of what people probably perceive of a late model engine swap.

This is how the Howell harness looks tonight in raw form after a rough layout. Much busier than the Marine type MEFI-4 harness but it will be worth it in the end. I still have A LOT of routing and clipping yet to do to make it look better than factory installed. The goal is to make this 8.1L install look better than the factory 8.1L install in my 2001 Silverado. It shouldn't be hard to out do the UAW!
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Old 12-12-2009, 09:12 PM   #20
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

wow that first pic would be a pain in the rear! I looked b4 i scrolled down anymore was thinking you got screwed. lol Hope to get exhaust on mine next week
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Old 12-20-2009, 06:27 PM   #21
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

Well, project bigassgas is pretty much done. It is unbelievable the difference between the P59 ECM and the MEFI-4 system. The truck starts better with no more kickback that sounds like it is about to break off the starter motor off the block, engine idles smoother and just operates smoother through all ranges. No more jerking between shifts and it will actually idle in first gear creaping around a parkign lot without bucking like bull with a cinch around its sack. Oh, and the POWER! She got a lot more power! It will make those 36" swampers squeal when leaving a stop!

After driving it around a while it dropped a MAF code and two alternator codes. Both were inactive history codes so I erased them and drove it some more and they have not returned. So, we’ll see if they ever return. I still need to find or make covers for the DLC connector and fuse box yet.

All and all, I am very happy with the results and wish I would have gone this route last year instead of messing with the MEFI-4 crap.

The RH inner fender is a pretty busy looking place now.

Headed back to the mountains next week to play in the snow so that should be the next test.


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Old 12-20-2009, 07:20 PM   #22
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

man a tech 2 would have been a nice thing to have when i done mine
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Old 12-22-2009, 12:02 AM   #23
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

Did the MEFI4 just need a lot of tune time to dial it in, or was it just not a good system? just wandering because i am doing an 8.1 in my 70 and I havent decided on whitch to go with yet. I have access ot a dyno for tuning, but if it will never be right then I will go with the p59
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:22 AM   #24
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

Actually, I think the MEFI-4 is a great system. The harness is very unintrusive and the controller is very small and can be mounted right on the engine. The MEFI-4 operating system is also very simple and basically the old OBD1 protocal from the TBI/TPI days. Basically, a speed density system that doesn’t require a mass air flow sensor uses lower fuel pressure and batch fires the injectors like an old TPI engine rather than sequentially like the OBDII Vortecs. The programming options of the MEFI-4 controller are endless. That is all fine and dandy, but…there isn’t a bin file (calibration) for an L18 that I could find anywhere so that meant I had to create a calibration from scratch. I mean creating everything from the fuel and spark trim at XXX map load at XXX degrees engine coolant temperature times about a million engine operating event combinations. That is a huge PITA!

Volvo Penta and Mercruiser marine engines also use the 8.1L running on the MEFI-4 controllers but their calibrations are totally different. I tried both bin files and they were wouldn’t make the truck run for crap. I tried tweaking those calibrations to no avail. A tuner that I purchased some software from started helping me and eventually tweaked a 6.0L calibration to run the engine. We did this by passing bin files back and forth through email and simulating the engine operation through two programs called Scanner Pro and TunnerPro for weeks on end. The truck fine for a year but after my trip to Arizona this past summer it was obvious “fine” wasn’t going to cut it any longer. I got sick and tired of the jerky operation of the engine backed by a manual trans. In fact, maybe my manual trans irritated the MEFI-4 system….I dunno, but I wasn’t happy with it.

So yes, the MEFI-4 is a good system but you really need to know what you are doing to tune it. Actually, you really need access to a dyno, a wide band O2 sensor and a helper that has a lot of tuning experience to get it dialed in correctly. If you live in Phoenix or SoCal where they run A LOT of sand rails with MEFI-4 controllers you could probably get yourself hooked up with a decent tuner but outside of those areas….good luck.

My MEFI-4 harness and controller aren’t going in the trash yet. In fact, they are going into my buddy’s ’75 Blazer (member Zoomad75) with a 6.0L here this summer. Zoomad75 is a bigger computer freak than I and has a lot more time and patience and will probably have it all dialed in a jiffy and make me look like an idiot but that is okay. I got so frustrated with the MEFI-4 I really don’t care.

Honestly, though…If I were to do this again. I would have never spent one red cent fiddling and farting around with the MEFI-4 system and gone straight to the P59 controller first. Do yourself a favor and go with a P59 ECM and use whoever’s harness you feel more comfortable with. They are all pretty good. I prefer Howell Engine Development, some people like Painless or Street and Performance, etc. It is all up to you.

Here is a link to a guy I met on the web that is also going through a L18 8.1L swap in a Vette. Great guy with a lot of creativity. His handy work makes mine look like a hack job. http://mcspeed.homestead.com/Killer-II.html
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:30 AM   #25
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Re: K10 8.1L brain transplant MEFI-4 to P59 ECM

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man a tech 2 would have been a nice thing to have when i done mine
Yes, a Tech II is handy to have around a house full of GM products. It is actually my work assigned Tech II and is a real PITA to travel on the airplanes with, as the TSA always has to give it an extra special look over. I am getting ready to participate in betta testing some nifty laptop software that will replace the Tech II for GM Powertrain that begins rollout with the 2010 model year. It will be nice not to travel with a stupid Tech II anymore! A few more years, GM dealers won’t even need Tech II’s. They will be just like the big kids at the diesel engine companies like Cummins and International.....all PC based diagnostic software.
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