1980 CJ7 build

daddyusmaximus

Explorer
I picked up a 1980 Jeep CJ7 this week that I intend to build as an adventure rig. My skills are limited, so I will have to hire some of the work done, but I want to do as much of it as I can myself. As we all know, there is great satisfaction in standing back and looking at something you built with your own hands. A thing America is losing these days, as is so accurately reported by public figure Mike Rowe. I like him... he's cool in my book.

Anyway, She isn't running now, but she is complete, and 100% stock, so that gives me a known starting point. That is something lacking in so many old Jeeps, including my current CJ5 I will scavenge for parts. The "new": CJ7 has a 258 I-6 and the auto (TF999) trans. The shifter is on the tilt column with a very nice Lecarra wheel. The dash, seats, everything about the interior and hardtop is complete and in nice shape. The hardtop even has a defroster in the back glass and a rear wiper. The doors are great and the roll up windows work perfectly. The windshield is a goner, and there are some panels on the tub that will require attention.

So I met a fellow combat vet at a 4x4 meet. He also has 3 tours. He also drives a '79 CJ5. (way nicer than mine) He's trying to get out of paying storage on two old Jeeps he was going to build, and he sells me one, and a buddy one. I got mine for $120. Yeah, that's right. $120. I didn't miss a zero. He just wanted me to cover the last months storage fee. He's younger, still in, and single. I'm old, fat, crippled, retired, wife is a teachers aid that has no paychecks in the summer, and we have two kids in college, but man he hooked me up!

Now the CJ5 i already have just happens to have a very strong power train in it from a Dodge truck. It has a built Dodge 360 (4V, headers, cam, MSD ignition...) , a TF 727 and full width Dana 44 front and Chrysler 9.25 rear axles with 4 wheels discs. This is on a spring over axle lift that allows for a 35" or 37" tires on the CJ5 tub. Do I really need to go that high? No. Is it a bit of a pain to climb in and out of with my injuries? Yes. Is it fun, and cool? Yes.

The CJ7 has a much more sensible straight six that would be plenty for adventuring around this beautiful nation of ours and I do like how easy it is to climb into and out of as it sits now in stock form. However, she isn't running at the moment and who knows what it would take to get it that way...

I'll be using the power train from the CJ5. I may be old enough to complain about stuff, but I'm still young enough to enjoy the roar of a good old American V-8. I'll duplicate the spring over setup on the CJ7 but go with YJ springs that are known to soften up the ride and allow for more flex. The Hardtop will give me a more secure vehicle in bad weather travels. Its still allows for the normal door off Jeep driving on nice days. I have found Jeep forums and facebook pages that are fun to talk on, but will also make it easy to sell off remaining parts from either vehicle I don't use.

I started today with cleaning out the garage a bit getting ready for teardown of the CJ5. Still have to make some room in the shed, get rid of some stuff. I picked up a couple commercial grade steel shelving units from a college that went under. With my injuries, and inability to handle much heat, I have to do my work in short spurts in cool evenings right now. I'm also under the typical buy a part or two each month budget of a retired disabled soldier. This will be a 2 year project (or more) as I'm taking two vehicles down to the frames.. to build one back up.

I will build the inside up to be user friendly as an adventure/overland vehicle with stuff I've learned traveling on my own, in groups, with the Army, and on sites like this. The outside of the Jeep will be a tribute to my time in the military. (and to my brothers and sisters who serve now) I will do it up in desert sand much like the trucks we had on my last tour in Iraq, but with the bumper numbers from my first tank I had in West Germany back in 1981.


Here she is, the $120 wonder...

 

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Happy Joe

Apprentice Geezer
Congrats... looks like a clean builder; and it has a hard top, too... way to go!
What I usually do first with an old Jeep is find out the axle gear ratios (to get a good handle up front on tire size compatibility)...
There should be tags on the differential cover bolts...Hopefully it has better axle gearing than the 2.72:1 that my last automatic CJ-7 came with...
Also, look on the inside of the glove compartment door for a shiny aluminum sticker if you have the sticker it originally came with a rear limited slip differential (might or might not still be in there).

Enjoy!
 
$120...? Nice.

I just did a spring over on a YJ using BDS springs. They were only $135 each and worked out really well.

Are you going to do a shackle reversal up front?
 

Mitch502

Explorer
Everytime I think I am going to have to pay someone to fix something, I figure out a way to do it myself.

Take your body panels for example--you could probably buy a welder, and the patch panels, for the same price as paying someone to do the work (probably less)...now you have a welder to do future work. YouTube and forums like this one will get you through anything you can think of. Especially on something as old and as popular/simple as a CJ. Everyone has already done the work you're doing, and will have great input.

To this day, the only things I've paid to have done to my jeeps are alignments (I DD my Jeeps, so I wanted perfect alignment) and my custom y pipe for the magnum swap. I've learned so much over the last 3-5 years building my Jeeps, nothing bothers me anymore.
 

daddyusmaximus

Explorer
Congrats... looks like a clean builder; and it has a hard top, too... way to go!
What I usually do first with an old Jeep is find out the axle gear ratios (to get a good handle up front on tire size compatibility)...
There should be tags on the differential cover bolts...Hopefully it has better axle gearing than the 2.72:1 that my last automatic CJ-7 came with...
Also, look on the inside of the glove compartment door for a shiny aluminum sticker if you have the sticker it originally came with a rear limited slip differential (might or might not still be in there).

Enjoy!
I'll be using the Dodge trucl axles from the CJ5. They have 4.88 gears. I'll be running 37" Open Country MTs. Going to add Air lockers.
 

daddyusmaximus

Explorer
Everytime I think I am going to have to pay someone to fix something, I figure out a way to do it myself.

Take your body panels for example--you could probably buy a welder, and the patch panels, for the same price as paying someone to do the work (probably less)...now you have a welder to do future work. YouTube and forums like this one will get you through anything you can think of. Especially on something as old and as popular/simple as a CJ. Everyone has already done the work you're doing, and will have great input.

To this day, the only things I've paid to have done to my jeeps are alignments (I DD my Jeeps, so I wanted perfect alignment) and my custom y pipe for the magnum swap. I've learned so much over the last 3-5 years building my Jeeps, nothing bothers me anymore.
I have a Weldpack 100 I got when I couldn't find a power steering pump bracket back in 2001. I stitched mine back together and it held up. I don't have the gas bottle so I have to use flux core wire, and I'm not real good with it, but I will try some repair panels before I give up and go looking for a tub. The body just has to be solid, not pretty. It's getting spray painted like a military vehicle. Any welding on structural components I will leave to the pros.
 

daddyusmaximus

Explorer
By the way she has a name... I'm calling her "Two Seven."

She will be done up to resemble a military vehicle. As a tribute to the guy who most influenced me in my 28 years in the U.S. Army, I'm using the bumper number of the first tank I was ever assigned. In 1981, after I left basic training for West Germany, I ended up assigned to 2nd plt L troop 3/2 ACR in Amberg.

I was on SFC Gary (Lucifer) Anderson's tank. He was our Plt Sgt. His tank number... L-27. He was a Nam vet, the cold war was still on, we were on the Czech border, and were taking the soviet threat very seriously. I learned a lot from that guy in those first two years that served me well in the 26 after I left that unit. Other units never measured up to L Trp. Those guys took their job seriously. Oh we cut up and screwed around, but when we were on mission, we kicked butt like no other unit. For the rest of my career I was searching for more of this. I missed Desert Storm because I was a Drill Sgt at the time, and I did not see actual combat until 2000 in Macedonia, but it was those first two that had prepared me the most.

I was also inspired by the very last unit I ever deployed with the 1438th Trans Co. We were attached to 1st Coscom. and were a unit made up of volunteers from other units. I had come from the 1638th. This unit did not in any way work together well. There was always petty infighting, the head shed had a few favorite pets, and the rest of us were cannon fodder, but we somehow managed to function and get the job done. This, was my 3rd deployment, and the one that ended my career, but I was gonna call it quits at 30 anyway. So instead of old school OD green or cammo, the CJ7 will be desert sand like the vehicles we had in Iraq, and like those my brothers and sisters are using in the Stan today...

I've seen the best the Army had to offer and the worst. In both cases the job got done, and America had the might to change the world... as long as our leaders had the political will.
 

unkamonkey

Explorer
It's your Jeep, so do as you wish. I bought a Commando done in old style camo. All I can is that is a lot easier to touch up the paint after you do some welding and grinding. You really have nothing you need to match for paint. My other Jeep is Rattle can white.
Thank you for the service from you and yours.
 
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Happy Joe

Apprentice Geezer
I'll be using the Dodge trucl axles from the CJ5. They have 4.88 gears. I'll be running 37" Open Country MTs. Going to add Air lockers.
Ought to work; kind of a shame to have to cut the body, though; relatively nice builders are getting harder to come by every year...
I agree with your shackle reversal opinion.
Any thoughts on which engine & transmission you are going to use?

Enjoy!
 

daddyusmaximus

Explorer
No major body cutting needed. I am trimming a bit , just to put some Bushwacker flairs on. It will be on a spring over lift so there will be plenty room. (There was on the CJ5) The flairs are just for coverage. Biggest thing I hated about my CJ5 was the cut body, on the inside. Whoever built it cut out the wheelwells to move the seats back.
 

Happy Joe

Apprentice Geezer
I hear you; all manner of butchery, at many levels of competence, gets done to Jeeps.
Trimmed the rear wheel openings on the last CJ-7 and put on TJ rear flairs (should have done it years before for 33's). Always kind of regretted not folding the edges under to make flanged larger rear openings...The TJ flairs are only good to 35" tires though.
Ended up with 5.5" of lift with stock -7 front springs and YJ rears (better compliance, but somewhat limited life)... SOA... Worked quite well off road but had excessive lean in the corners on the street (should have gone to a bigger front anti-sway bar and added a rear).

Enjoy!
 

daddyusmaximus

Explorer
So I haven't even started yet, and I'm exhausted. Spent the last 3 days cleaning out the shed, and garage moving crap around so I'll have plenty of work space. This is a huge undertaking. Never taking a vehicle down to the frame before. Have to try not to get overwhelmed. I'm almost there getting the garage ready. Very sore though. I hate being a cripple. Had to get my nephews over to help. Tough to keep them focused too. My sister-in-law doesn't really make them toe the line like their dad does, and of course he's always at work, nor does he like to but heads with her.

I have plenty of counter/workbench space now... I think.

I have 1 plastic and 2 steel shelves to put all the parts on.

Haven't gone through my containers of nuts, bolts, screws, nails... in years, but hell, I'm just about good enough. Won't need them for teardown anyhow.

Got 2 of my 3 work lights going. Both floor jacks up. One was low on oil and does leak down, but it will lift. Yes, I have 4 jack stands.

Cherry picker works. Engine stand works.

Got some containers and Sharpies to label parts. Going to take LOTS of photos to help me remember how things go.

However, my garage stereo took a dump. I had to take my living room stereo out there. I hardly ever get to listen to it in the house anyway with the wife watching tv. No... I can NOT spend a lot of time out there working and not listen to my oldies.

Got a few loose ends to tighten up, some household chores to catch up on, then I can start in on teardown. Hopefully within the week. It will still be slow, everything is slow with me is (except my temper) but it will feel nice to get out there even if it's only for a shot time every couple days.

The CJ5 that I'm using the powertrain out of is already in the garage. In fact, I've been having to work around it as it's already got it's front axle partially dissassembled. I was going to repair it, prior to finding the CJ7 to build. This will make teardown rather difficult as the roll cage is just about touching the rafters as she sits. I can't roll her around on 3 wheels, so she ain't coming out on the driveway to get the body off. I may have to get a set of those car dollies, take the remaining 3 tires off, then set the axles down on the dollies.
 

borison

Adventurer
Preparation is key to a clear mind and build. Sounds like you're getting things ready to take a methodical approach. You and your temper will appreciate it. Good luck, looking forward to your progress.
 

tgreening

Expedition Leader
A 1983 CJ I did from the ground up. 37/12.5r15 using mostly shagged out 2 1/2" lift springs in an SOA configuration in conjunction with gender mods and TJ flares. Do me a favor, bring a big trailer to my place and take away the shat load of Jeep parts I've got laying around. Engines, axles, bits and bobs. Cheap or it's going to scrap. I've done my Jeep time. The Jeep above is going on the block as well, though it's kind of back in refresh project stage.


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