Ya that sounds pretty bad. Sounds like rod bearing are toast maybe. You could probably find another 2.5 for couple hundred bucks for quick fix compared to rebuilding or upgrading to bigger engine. I know around here in i can pick engines up from $150 to $500 depending on mileage.
Sounds like a broken piston skirt. The 2.5 are known to do that. Hunt down a 2.5 or rebuild that one given you stop driving it now & avoid any further damage.
I think the general consensus is a v8 swap will run you in the neighborhood of 3-4k unless you have the drive train laying around already. Local builder says they will rebuild my 2.5 for less than a grand.
Hard to justify the cost of a V8 swap when the 4 banger has done everything I've asked it to do.
^ No sir. Started with a 4.2 jeep so I already had the "stroker kit," bought a core 4.0 long block for $100, core 7120 head with newer seats and no cracks for $100, all 4.0 accessories for the new serpentine setup from a local jeep junkyard $60, bought bearings/rings/pistons/double roller set/high volume oil pump/water pump/arp studs from summit, bought head gasket/tsat from rockauto, more misc seals and gaskets from parts stores, had crank ground and stuff hot tanked for $100, had my short block bored/align honed/minimaly decked/rods resized/assembled for $500, head done with mill, bronze guides, new valves, seats ground, seals, & quick port costing me $150, stock cam reground for $80, lifters $30, 4wdp HEI kit, brown dog super engine bracket kit $270, apn header $180 shipped, electric fan kit I had laying around that I got for free, using my stock intake and carb until I get around to a carb upgrade.
Also bought my ax15 for $80 and sold my peugeot for $220 so I made some back there haha.
As for the stroker vs small block comment, obviously I would too. I don't see the point of a v8 in this kind of rig. I run mountain trails and at times am lugging down below 300rpm. That's not small block territory, that's inline only. I love the characteristics of an inline 6 in a wheeler. And that's why I am using such a tame cam. Why in the heck would I care about making power at 3500rpm? I am rarely ever gonna be above 2 grand. Torque is the name of the game. I think more people should be doing this type of build. I am proving it can be done with lots of goodies for still less than many are paying for a naked golen long block.
I had 225k on mine when the rear main went (which resulted in this project). I am amazed how nice the bore still is. No more than .003" of wear, no galling or anything at all. I wouldn't hesitate to just hone it and run standard bore pistons in it again if I were to use that block.
That's the route I'm gonna go when the time comes. I agree totally with your I6 vs V8 theory. I have no use for a V8 when the dang 4 banger does everything I need off road. A 6 would be nice for the added on road oomph.