Project Jeep CJ-7 – A frame up Restoration and Buildup – Introduction

A Budgeted Jeep CJ-7 Rebuild from Concept to Conception by Ralph Hassel  

My evolution of thought…   

It all started with a humbling realization a number of years ago.  My current vehicle, a 92 Toyota pickup 4×4, 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 4×4 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 as far as I was concerned.  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.

Specifications and Modifications

CJ-7 Mods & Specs


Jeep Project
Index of Writeups

Project CJ-7 Writeups

Project CJ-7 Articles

Project Jeep CJ-7

Project Jeep CJ-7 Specs & Mods

The budget Rebuild by Ralph HasselThe complete build is documentedhere on www.Offroaders.comThis 1978 Jeep CJ-7 never started life as a complete Jeep; rather it was built completely from parts. The goal was to build a […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Skid Plate Protection For the Oil Pan!

This relatively simply oil pan modification, though it’s being done on Project CJ-7, can be installed on almost ANY 4×4 with an exposed oil pan.  Though it may be a rare event to poke a […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Fabricating an Armored Jeep Skid Plate

This Project CJ-7 article is about converting and armoring a Dana 300 skid plate to work with a Dana 20 transfer case.  An ounce of prevention is worth a few pounds of steel.  After hearing stories […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

T18A Clutch Fork Modifications

In swapping the T-18A onto this Jeep project, a good tip was passed onto me from Mike of  This tip has to do with the stock clutch fork being used in the stock bell […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Project CJ-7 gets Armored Custom U-Bolt Plates

Fabricating Custom U-Bolt Plates with Skid Protection for Project Jeep CJ-7   With the job of a Dana 44 axle swap to the project CJ-7 came the need for new u-bolt plates.  Two things made stock u-bolt […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

CJ Flipping the Tie Rod & Drag Link

A Simple yet very effective method of protecting your tie rod from impact with rocks and things, is to raise the tie rod up.  Raising the Drag link also reduces bump-steer, a side effect of […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Project Jeep CJ-7 Radiator Protection

Using 6 bucks worth of material to protect a 300 dollar 3-core radiator and to cool the V8 Engine. When looking at the grill of my 78 CJ-7, the one thing that just stuck out like […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Project CJ-7 gets a T-18A Borg-Warner Transmission

After doing some research I finally decided to look for a Borg-Warner T-18A manual transmission.  Manual because that is what I prefer.   The T-18A because of it’s 6.32:1 first gear and it’s heavy duty, cast […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Jeep CJ-7 Swaybar Bracket Upgrade

Project Jeep CJ-7 Daystar Swaybar Bushings Tip.  When swapping out your stock CJ swaybar bushings with the Daystar Swaybar Bushings, here’s a Tip – Use the CJ bracket!  Here’s why…First off, upgrading your sway bar bushings […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Jeep CJ Dana 44 Front Axle Swap

Project Jeep CJ-7 – Disassembling the Scout II  Dana 44 Front Axle.  After acquiring the Dana 44 axles I also picked up a Dana 30 narrow track front axle that was in great shape.  The […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Dana 44 Rear Axle Swapped onto a CJ-7 Frame

Continuing on from the front axle prep, the rear axle’s spring pad angle recorded and spring pads were removed.  That was followed up by an inspection of differential and rear drum brakes to make sure […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Front Spring Hangers

Project Jeep CJ-7   Scout II Dana 44 Axles Swap onto a CJ-7 FrameNew Custom Fabricated HangersFront Springs – Front HangersThe front hangers were a little easier to design than the rear hangers.  Mainly because they […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Painting the Hangers

Project Jeep CJ-7   Scout II Dana 44 Axles Swap onto a CJ-7 FrameFabricated Leaf Spring HangersInstalling the Front Leaf Springs HangersBelow is the whole set of hangers.  Gussets have been welded in and all the holes […]

Project Jeep CJ-7

Custom U-Bolt Plates with Skid Protection

Project Jeep CJ-7   U-Bolt Skid PlatesFabricating Custom U-Bolt Plates with Skid ProtectionWith the job of a Dana 44 axle swap to the project CJ-7, came the need for new u-bolt plates.  Two things made stock […]