Project CJ-7


It all began with this 1985 CJ7 !


This is the kind of rust that covered the original frame and body tub…no choice but to replace both.


So it began with a 91 Wrangler tub that I picked up off of Craigslist in Raleigh, NC for $300.  It had survided a fire with minimal metal warping on the right rear fender well.  Only two modifications had to be made to the Wrangler tub for it to be utilized as a CJ: two defroster slots had to be cut into the top of the fire wall and the two body mounts in front of the rear axle needed to be threaded into a nut which you have to slide into the body channel (fortunately a hole was already in the body channel for the bolt to go through).  In addition the fender flare mounting holes were later covered over by the body shop so I could drill new ones and install the original CJ flares.


Then I got a 1983 CJ7 frame for free that I dug out of a guy’s yard in Clearwater, FL.  We did a little welding of some trouble spots and then custom made motor mounts for a 350 Chevy power plant.


We set the steering and old front grille in place to ensure proper clearances for the future Chevy motor.


We used an Advanced Adapters bell housing (Ebay purchase) to connect the T-176, 4-speed, Jeep tranny to the Chevy block.  Everything lined up well.


I began to strip out the interior components while at the same time ordering new fenders, grille and windshield frame off of Ebay.


After we welded up new large washers to the body mount plates, I wire-wheeled the entire frame and took it off to the painter.


While the frame was at the painter’s I wire-wheeled the underside of the new tub and prepared it to be painted.


After the frame was painted I prepared to mount the Wrangler tub with a new, 1″ body lift kit.


With the bottom of the tub painted it was time to mount it to the frame.


With the new frame and tub waiting, I proceeded to strip the old Jeep of anything of value…not much could be saved except the hood, vin plates, steering assembly, heater, seats, running gear and tranny.


When I tried to unbolt the original roll bar, it was so rusted that I just pulled up on the bar and the whole floor came with it!


The original roll bar ended up being too rusted to keep.  However, I still had the square-back, Wrangler bar that came with the Wrangler tub.  So I called Xtreme Jeep in Tampa, FL and they traded me straight up for an extremely clean, nearly perfect, late 80’s Wrangler bar that looked like the original CJ bar.  This allowed me to keep the original CJ look.


With the majority of the original CJ stripped down, it was time to take out the tired 258 motor and give it to a friend who will rebuild it and put it in his CJ5.


Now you see it…


Now you don’t!


Once the running gear was removed it was off to the junk yard with the rest.








Now, back to the new ride.  First I mounted the rear running gear to the new frame and tub (by the way, this running gear already sported a 4-inch spring lift).


Then it was time for the front running gear.


Then I mounted the new front fenders and grille along with the existing hood (a previous replacement).


The new roll bar looks good!


With the new windshield frame in place it is nearly time to drag this baby back to the painter.  Calvin’s Auto Body will apply a little bondo to cover over a few dings and a small rust hole in the driver’s-side rocker panel before painting it.


The only thing that gives it a non-CJ look is the Wrangler tailgate (which will be covered with the spare tire) and the left-side fuel tank access.  I decided to keep the left side fuel access and just buy an 87  Wrangler replacement fuel tank.  The drawback is the cost of the new sending unit.  The cost jumps from $25 to $90 for a non-fuel injected sending unit because the Wrangler sending units have a larger mounting plate than the CJ…lesson learned.


I decided to go with a 2007 GM color (Brilliant Green Effect).


Safelite Auto Glass was glad to come out and pop in a new windshield.


I bolted a few more things back on the new ride including the soft top, shoved the rest in the back and prepared it to be towed from Tampa, Florida to Gilbert, Arizona where I relocated during the build.


New Jeep logo stickers were ordered from Ebay and placed over the raised body stamped Jeep logos.


I completely disassembled the steering column and linkage to find that the lower column bearings were shot.  I ordered a new set then sanded down the enitre column and lower steering shaft.  Then I gave them a fresh coat of black paint.


The boot assembly on the lower steering shaft was also shot so I bought a rebuild kit and now it’s as good as new (also sporting a new coat of paint).


Here’s the Jeep in it’s current condition.  One day at a time I think I just may finish this thing…eventually.


Even though it is far from finished…you’ve got to admit it looks good…even all dusty sitting in the garage.


I decided to go ahead and use the existing dash until I get enough money to buy a stainless one and custom gauges.  However it needed a whole lot of attention form a wire wheel and will need to be repainted.


I removed the headlight mountings, sanded and painted them then remounted them in the grille.  Then I ran the headlight and running light wires and also tacked up my towing lights on the inside fender well.


The new EZ Wiring fuse box and wiring harness fit perfectly above the new pedals.


I wire-wheeled the old gas tank skid plate and painted it black.  Then I mounted the new Wrangler tank into the plate and secured it with a home-made metal strap.  I also installed a new MTS sending unit before mounting it into the frame.


The unit mounted perfectly to the frame.  However, I may re-position it centered on the frame instead of offset so I can run dual exhaust down each side between the tank and the leaf spring shackles.  I will probably have to shield the tank from the heat of the exhaust before it is completed.


The wiring is coming along nicely.


During the wiring process I discovered that the wire that goes to the air vent blower motor had no place to hook up to.  I got on to and asked around and was told that the Wrangler blower motor didn’t hook up the same way so the hole in the firewall for the blower wire was no longer needed.  Since I am still using the CJ blower motor I had to pull the heater box and I found a bent prong with no place to go.  So…..


…with a little drilling and filing I made a hole for it and remounted the heater box.  Presto!


While I had the airvent assembly off of the Jeep I took the opportunity to cover up the old silver and blue overspray that got down into the box and shot it with a little plack paint.


As I mentioned earlier in the post, two holes had to be cut into the top of th fire wall in order Wrangler tub to accomodate the CJ defrost set up.


After I got the blower motor situated and wired up, I was on the Jeeps Unlimited CJ7 Forum and somebody commented that this would be a good time to do the blower motor swap. I didn’t know what he was talking about at first. However, I was informed that the CJ7 blower motor isn’t very effective and I could swap it out for a much higher volume motor for only $20! Sooo, I went to Advance Auto Parts and picked up one for a 1972 Chevy Blazer with a V8 and no a/c. There are two that fit this application and the one with the shorter shaft is the one that fits into the Jeep housing seemlessly. The only visible difference is the circumference of the motor itself (the new one is a bit larger – pictured on the right).


A few mintues with a steel-bladed jig saw and the hole is now large enough for the new motor housing.


And there we have it!  The new motor is fully installed.  Next winter the cold shouldn’t be any problem in this Jeep!


Here is the finished project without the motor.

Here is the motor!  Got it on Craigslist! It is a fresh 290+hp, 350 crate motor with 18,000 miles.  It has an Edelbrock intake and an Edelbrock 4 barrel carb.  Can’t wait to drop it in!

Got her all cleaned up and fitted with a set of Hedman headers! Now to mate her with the tranny and drop it in!

Ready to install the power plant!

On it’s way into the engine compartment…

The motor is in its new home…fits like a glove!

Installed!  I added a set of headman headers and dual Flowmaster 40’s with a 2.5″ exhaust.

Two Flowmaster, 2-stage, 40 series mufflers were installed and the exahust was run down either side of the gas tank (which I centered when I rebuilt it) and then they were dumped downward.  It sounds ridiculous!



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