Project Jeep CJ-7
A frame up Restoration / Buildup ~ from concept to
The budget Rebuild
by Ralph Hassel
It all started with a humbling realization. My
current vehicle, a 92 Toyota pickup 4x4, does great offroad in most situations. As
far as what I have invested in the truck, I would say it's minimal. Aggressive mud
terrain tires with steel rims, a rear locker, slight mods to suspension for lift and
travel, beefed up tow points front and rear which includes an ARB bull bar up front and
some high power lighting. For the most part that's it. And it does great, I
can't complain. But of course it has it's down sides. Long wheel base, independent front suspension poor departure angle and limits to what can be improved upon
to make it more trail worthy without doing some serious modifications like a solid front
axle swap. Because it's my daily driver I hesitate to take it out of service for any
length of time to do anything serious as far as modifications go.
When I realized
that the truck wasn't the path I wanted to pursue for the project weekend warrior I
started looking for another ideal vehicle. Having been parcel to Toyotas my first
thought was to find an early Toyota Pickup with solid axles and use that as a base for a
serious build up. After some research I decided not to go that route and started
looking at Toyota FJ-40's. After finding a few and looking at my options for a
buildup I decided the FJ-40, although it would have been a great base for a buildup, was
just too expensive for the budget. Then it happened. I took a trip to New York
to the Rock Krawl 2000
with a large group of Jeeps and I got the bug. With so many options, possibilities,
aftermarket products and information surrounding the Jeep it wasn't hard to decide that
the project 4x4 was going to be a Jeep.
So the research began. Questions...
what year and model? What drive train, what engine? What kind of mods? I
finally decided on building or rebuilding an early CJ-7 for a few reasons like the longer
wheelbase than the CJ-5, more relaxed emissions laws for the earlier vehicles and just the
plain fact that the CJ's had the classic look that I liked. After doing some
scouting around and looking at several potential buys for a base I got lucky. A
contact I made through searching for a Jeep told me about someone who, as a hobby, rebuilt
Jeeps and Ford trucks. So Carl and I visited Bob one afternoon and well, one thing
led to another and now with the help of Bob the project begins. So far to date most
of the parts and components for the project CJ-7 have come from Bob or through a contact of
his. It also doesn't hurt that Bob works for a machine shop and had been in racing
for some 25 years and today to some degree offers his services to friends who race.
Through Bob a few immediate acquisitions were made including an AMC 360 crate engine with
less than 13,000 miles on it which included all the extras like power steering pump,
alternator, and AC compressor (to be converted into an onboard air compressor). Also acquired
was a Holley Projection Fuel Injection system, a T-18A manual transmission, a Dana 20
Transfer case, a CJ-7 tub that was an abandoned project and had much work done to it
already, a straight, clean CJ-7 frame and a set of Scout II Dana 44 axles. Jeepfan
Mike had donated a Dana 20 for a few shifter parts needed.
As of Mid October of 2000 this project had begun with work to the tub and
I plan to document this frame up rebuild / build up. As the project proceeded the
follow categories will be created and expanded on. Those that are links are current
or past parts of this project with written documentation.
These are the axles that were used in the CJ-7.
They are Dana 44 axles out of a 76' Scout II. The axle in front is a stock
CJ-7 Dana 20. Notice the width difference of about 2 inches wider in the Dana 44's.
Here's the Tub the day I picked it up. The tub was an abandoned
project from someone else who could apparently weld. I'm finishing up the job which
entailed buying a mig welder and learning to use it. In many cases it's not always a good
idea to buy someone else's project because you don't know what you'll find. The tub
wasn't one of those cases for me. Much of the bad steel had been replaced and for $150
which included seats, roll bar, heater and tailgate, I didn't think twice about it.
Turned out to be a good investment with much of the rusted out areas repaired already
requiring the job to be completed.