Author Topic: My Jeep Project  (Read 3358 times)

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Offline trapeze

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My Jeep Project
« on: September 04, 2013, 09:02:01 PM »
I'm going to start with the "before" pictures. First, as it is at the very beginning...


And now, again, without the top...


So, what is this anyway?

This is my 1976 Jeep CJ7. It's pretty much a bucket of bolts at this point. I've done a few improvements to it which I will mention below but for the most part this is where I'm starting from.

The CJ7 was introduced in 1976 so you are looking at one of the originals. The CJ7 was a modified CJ5. The main difference was stretching the length of the vehicle by 10 inches to give it some more stability. But let's face it...these things are very top heavy and even with the longer wheel base it is still prone to tipping over when going around corners at high speed. That's not what they are for, though. A CJ is for going slow up and down hill along trails that are difficult for most other vehicles to traverse.

This version of the CJ7 is equipped with an AMC 258 cubic inch (4.2L) inline six cylinder engine with horsepower probably somewhere in the 110 - 120 range and about 195 ft. lbs. of torque. It is probably a "Renegade" version but when it fell into my hands there was no visible indication (decals) that it was.

The History To Date

Since I have had my hands on it I have done a few upgrades:

- Complete engine rebuild
- New heavy duty clutch
- New aluminum, water heated intake manifold from Clifford Performance
- New competition cam from Clifford Performance
- New six into one exhaust header from Clifford Performance
- New Holley four barrel carb
- New Flowkooler water pump
- New three core radiator
- New Mean Green starter
- New Bestop seats
- New seat brackets (driver and passenger) that both fold forward for rear seat access
- New rear bench seat
- New high capacity (20 gal.) fuel tank

The engine upgrades have definitely increased the available horsepower but without putting it on a dyno I would be guessing as to what that number is. So, here's my guess: I think I am probably close to 150 hp. I can spin the wheels in first and second gear, no problem.

The Body

But with all of the above upgrades it still looks like crap and I am sort of at the limit of what I can do without cleaning up the body and giving it a new paint job. That is what is on the schedule for this month or next. The time is more dependent on my local body shop than on me. When they are ready for it I'll bring it in and let them get to it. They will correct any body issues (the dents are minor and the rust is mostly superficial) with the body mounted to the frame. Then I get it back for a week or two or three. While it's in my hands again I will remove the body pieces and take them back in for paint. The advantage to this plan is that I end up with the entire body painted...no difficult to get to areas will be missed because the frame/engine/drive train is in the way. It will take longer but it will be worth it...especially when it comes to the body underside. I know that there are some rust issues on the underside of the body that will get properly addressed if and only if the body is off of the frame. Oh, and I do have the hard doors (not pictured) and they will get painted, as well.

While the body is off of the frame I am going to correct a mistake made earlier and paint the engine. I am also going to hit the entire frame with a wire wheel to remove rust, treat the frame for rust and then paint it.

After the body goes back on (I'm shooting for sometime before the end of this year) the real fun will start. There are going to be a LOT of upgrades.

The Project Going Forward

I know that it will never look or drive like a late model Jeep...that isn't the point. What I'm aiming for is a classy looking trail machine that is powerful enough to get over all of the trails that Colorado has to offer and do it safely. I am not going to go into the upgrades until they happen (more interesting that way) but there will be lots of pictures along the way with an emphasis on "before" and "after."
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Offline AlanS

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2013, 03:26:11 AM »
Sounds like a neat project. Keep us updated, Trap.

On a side note, a lot of the trail jeeps I've seen lately have abandoned paint for the body in favor of a Rhino Lining covering. The vast majority do the interior, but quite a few have done the exterior as well. I can't say as the lined exterior is cosmetically pleasing, but it's supposed to be tough.
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Offline Libertas

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2013, 07:18:12 AM »
Rhino exterior?   ::thinking::

Wonder if it has radar-absorbing properties?   ;D

Lookin' good Trap, look forward to the updates!  I see some Jeeps for sale up around the lake, I should check them out sometime, see what there is to work with.
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Offline trapeze

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2013, 08:26:42 AM »
I have given some thought to Rhino lining the floorboard. And perhaps the undercarriage depending on how it emerges from paint.

EDIT:
I would say that putting Rhino lining on the floorboard is pretty much a given. Get it painted first and then hit it with the Rhino lining from the tailgate all the way to the top of the firewall.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2013, 09:57:05 PM by trapeze »
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Online John Florida

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2013, 10:59:31 AM »
  Is this just a fun project or a special purpose jeep?
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Offline trapeze

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2013, 08:00:26 PM »
  Is this just a fun project or a special purpose jeep?
With as much money as I'm plowing into this, it had better be fun.

I'm not sure what would qualify a Jeep as special purpose. Maybe if I had some barbed spears that popped out to disembowel hippies on the side of the road. That would be very special. But that would be fun, too, so I'm not sure.

I've got to have an over-the-top trail machine, though, just in case IDP comes to my neck of the woods for a summer visit.

Today I removed the plastic fender sections all the way around. They were pretty well destroyed by the UV light that we get at this altitude...cracked and faded. 


You might think that that was a big nothing burger to do but because of the age and location of the fasteners it took the better part of an hour. In fact, it took almost an entire hour with a certain amount of muttering under my breath about how this particular task sucked.

Had to cut into the plastic to get to the fasteners...
And finally, off:
Note the crappy body repair that's cracking on the passenger rear fender. I can't wait for the body shop guy to fix this up right.

Next up is removing the Warn winch. Or maybe the rear bench seat and the front passenger seat. Or maybe both. I've got to remove any unnecessary stuff from the body before it goes into to shop for dent removal and paint prep.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2013, 10:00:30 PM by trapeze »
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Online Glock32

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2013, 09:03:46 PM »
What are you thinking about for tires? Are you going to do any sort of raised articulating suspension?
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Offline trapeze

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2013, 09:38:28 PM »
What are you thinking about for tires? Are you going to do any sort of raised articulating suspension?

Right now it has the street tires on it. I'm going to pick up some black powder coated steel wheels and mount the off road tires on them. I have those tires stacked up in a corner of the shop so getting them mounted would mean an easy swap out with the street tires. The trail tires are great for the trail, of course,  but pretty much suck for daily driving. The body shop owner told me that if I were to get bias ply tires on it the stability at speed would really firm up. He said that the earlier model Jeep front ends were designed for bias ply and when you have radials on the handling is pretty sloppy. I'm going to have to look into that.

As far as the suspension goes, I think I'm going to stay with the leaf springs for now. Front and rear leaf springs were the only suspension available for the CJ7 in the early years. I forget what year they went to coil springs but it would be a pretty big deal to convert to them at this point. That's something that would be way, way down on my list of upgrades. I think that I would do fuel injection (at least a grand and not on my "gotta do" list) before I would do anything other than better shocks to the suspension. Better shocks are definitely on the list, though.

The Jeep has a small body lift on it right now. I've never been a big fan of super high lifts whether they be a body lift or a suspension lift. I don't care for raising the center of gravity and short of putting on really tall tires you aren't going to get your oil pan or rear differential any higher above the trail. Bottom line: I don't like tipping over or worrying about whether or not I will. The "way up high" look is interesting but for me it just isn't very practical.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2013, 09:47:12 PM by trapeze »
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Online John Florida

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2013, 03:48:25 PM »
  The front end will be sloppy no matter what you put on for tires.
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Offline Septugenarian

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2013, 07:46:17 PM »
Sounds like a neat project. Keep us updated, Trap.up

On a side note, a lot of the trail jeeps I've seen lately have abandoned paint for the body in favor of a Rhino Lining covering. The vast majority do the interior, but quite a few have done the exterior as well. I can't say as the lined exterior is cosmetically pleasing, but it's supposed to be tough.

I know of a pick up that had the exterior painted with bed liner a few years ago.  It does stand out on the street but it sure doesn't scratch in the bush.
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Offline AlanS

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2013, 08:17:52 PM »
As far as the suspension goes, I think I'm going to stay with the leaf springs for now. Front and rear leaf springs were the only suspension available for the CJ7 in the early years. I forget what year they went to coil springs but it would be a pretty big deal to convert to them at this point. That's something that would be way, way down on my list of upgrades.

One trick I've seen to improve the ride on jeeps is to remount the shackles for the front axle. This is done only if you're an excellent welder or know one. Stock, the shackles are on the front of the leaf spring which defies logic. The shackles (and axle) are forced forward on each bump. By remounting the shackles to the rear of the spring makes for a more natural track of the spring and a mucho gooder ride.
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Offline trapeze

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2013, 11:41:48 PM »
As far as the suspension goes, I think I'm going to stay with the leaf springs for now. Front and rear leaf springs were the only suspension available for the CJ7 in the early years. I forget what year they went to coil springs but it would be a pretty big deal to convert to them at this point. That's something that would be way, way down on my list of upgrades.

One trick I've seen to improve the ride on jeeps is to remount the shackles for the front axle. This is done only if you're an excellent welder or know one. Stock, the shackles are on the front of the leaf spring which defies logic. The shackles (and axle) are forced forward on each bump. By remounting the shackles to the rear of the spring makes for a more natural track of the spring and a mucho gooder ride.

I think I remember reading about that a long time ago and I had forgotten it. Thanks for the reminder...I will look into it when the body is off of the frame.
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Online John Florida

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2013, 08:45:52 AM »
Think about a gear set for the diffs.
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Offline AlanS

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2013, 09:28:40 AM »
Think about a gear set for the diffs.

Locking diffs are way cool. And very functional. Especially in the mountains.
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Offline trapeze

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2013, 02:21:23 AM »
Think about a gear set for the diffs.

Locking diffs are way cool. And very functional. Especially in the mountains.

Oh, I've already thought about that one. That will be in phase two which will be next winter, earliest. I'll be replacing the stock two-piece rear axles with solid ones and the rear end will get a locker when that happens. I'm probably going to get the OX Locker with the mechanical cable operator for simplicity. But, yeah that's about an $800 upgrade and if I want to drive this thing next spring I have to keep it under control. So...on the list but not at the top of the list.

Right now, I'm putting my priorities on safety and reliability stuff. I don't want to get stranded or careen off the side of a mountain. So that's why the brakes are a big deal. Front discs with a booster are right up at the top. And power steering, too, if I can get it done by next spring. Some front end work. New shocks. And if you looked at the pictures you will see that there is no spare tire holder and nothing to hold a jack so a rear bumper with tire and jack holder is on the list. That stuff with body and paint will be likely more than I can get done by spring but that's what I'm shooting for.
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Offline trapeze

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2013, 09:54:08 PM »
I now have an appointment with the body shop for September 30th so that's good.

In preparation for that date I started to pull more stuff off of the Jeep. I removed the winch from the front bumper, the front passenger seat and the rear bench seat. I also took out the (probably inoperative) windshield washer tank/pump from the engine compartment and started to remove the seat belts.


While I was under the Jeep I discovered that the front body mount on the passenger side was completely deteriorated...not good. I'm hoping that the body shop will have a solution for that. If not, I will have to come up with something on my own. And while the engine is tight, the tranny and the transfer case are most definitely in need of some attention so when the body is off of the frame I will have to go to work on them.

Lots of fun coming up pretty soon.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2013, 01:35:23 AM by trapeze »
In a doomsday scenario, hippies will be among the first casualties. So not everything about doomsday will be bad.

Online John Florida

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2013, 07:32:35 PM »
I now have an appointment with the body shop for September 30th so that's good.

In preparation for that date I started to pull more stuff off of the Jeep. I removed the winch from the front bumper, the front passenger seat and the rear bench seat. I also took out the (probably inoperative) windshield washer tank/pump from the engine compartment and started to remove the seat belts.


While I was under the Jeep I discovered that the front body mount on the passenger side was completely deteriorated...not good. I'm hoping that the body shop will have a solution for that. If not, I will have to come up with something on my own. And while the engine is tight, the tranny and the transfer case are most definitely in need of some attention so when the body is off of the frame I will have to go to work on them.

Lots of fun coming up pretty soon.

http://www.summitracing.com/search/Product-Line/Energy-Suspension-Body-Mount-Bushings/Year/1976/Make/JEEP/Model/CJ5/
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Offline trapeze

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #17 on: September 13, 2013, 12:19:21 AM »
Thanks, JF. A new set of body mount bushings will definitely be in order when the body goes back on. The mount that is deteriorated is the metal part of the body. Not good. I'm hoping that the body shop will be able to build it back up by welding in some new metal or something. It's really the only "serious" issue with the body that I can see so far.

I ordered a replacement wiring harness tonight. I got an inexpensive one from these guys. I'm not afraid of terminating my own connections and I'm pretty good at wiring and controls so I just didn't see the point in shelling out more (a lot more) for one of the really expensive sets.

This afternoon I finished removing almost all of the seat belts (I couldn't get to the center rear one because it's bolted up above the gas tank) and the roll bar. Also removed the rear side marker lights and the tail/brake lights. After that I wiped down as much of the interior surfaces as I could get to. It hasn't been this clean in, well, forever.

Next up on the parts order list is the disc brake (and power booster) retrofit kit. That's going to set me back about a grand. Expensive but, in my opinion, absolutely necessary. I have been looking forward to power brakes for a while. When I get on top of a mountain I want to make sure that the trip back down will be safe and easy.

A great way to spend the end of the work day...tearing a Jeep apart in my workshop and tossing down a few bottles of Shiner with Mark Levin on the radio. Can't beat that.
In a doomsday scenario, hippies will be among the first casualties. So not everything about doomsday will be bad.

Online John Florida

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2013, 12:08:36 PM »
Thanks, JF. A new set of body mount bushings will definitely be in order when the body goes back on. The mount that is deteriorated is the metal part of the body. Not good. I'm hoping that the body shop will be able to build it back up by welding in some new metal or something. It's really the only "serious" issue with the body that I can see so far.

I ordered a replacement wiring harness tonight. I got an inexpensive one from these guys. I'm not afraid of terminating my own connections and I'm pretty good at wiring and controls so I just didn't see the point in shelling out more (a lot more) for one of the really expensive sets.

This afternoon I finished removing almost all of the seat belts (I couldn't get to the center rear one because it's bolted up above the gas tank) and the roll bar. Also removed the rear side marker lights and the tail/brake lights. After that I wiped down as much of the interior surfaces as I could get to. It hasn't been this clean in, well, forever.

Next up on the parts order list is the disc brake (and power booster) retrofit kit. That's going to set me back about a grand. Expensive but, in my opinion, absolutely necessary. I have been looking forward to power brakes for a while. When I get on top of a mountain I want to make sure that the trip back down will be safe and easy.

A great way to spend the end of the work day...tearing a Jeep apart in my workshop and tossing down a few bottles of Shiner with Mark Levin on the radio. Can't beat that.

  Busing mounts aren't any big deal to make for those,I would look into getting a set of them that I know are out there and replace all of them if you're going that deep into it.
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Offline trapeze

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Re: My Jeep Project
« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2013, 01:24:18 AM »
One of the things that I really want to correct during this restoration project is the stock dashboard. (And maybe I shouldn't call it a restoration project because it isn't really a true restore...it's a mix of restore and customize as this post will show.) My stock dashboard is pretty indicative of the year it was made (1976) because it has what can only be an AM radio cutout with a single speaker grill cutout. Well, that has to go.

And it's not just sound. One of the many shortcomings of the vintage Jeeps is the way that the instruments are aimed more or less straight at the back seat occupants. The driver has to lean over toward the center of the car in order to properly read any of the gauges. It's just stupid. Add to that the enormous speedometer that also incorporates the fuel and temperature gauges...it takes up a lot of room on the dash and is every bit as hard to read as the smaller ones. I had this on my list of things to correct but I wasn't sure how to deal with it.

There are a lot of aftermarket Jeep dashes available in various finishes. What I was looking at was either a stainless steel or a black powder-coated dash that was mostly blank...cutouts for the steering column and the glovebox and the rest available for custom gauges, switches, etc. These things are surprisingly expensive for what you get, the cheapest being around $170 or so. That's an awful lot of money to spend for what amounts to a stamped out piece of 16 gauge steel which may not even have the mounting screw holes drilled. And you can spend more...a lot more. I have been shopping around and have seen dash panels that aren't substantially different go for $250 and more. What's worse is that none of these aftermarket dash panels do anything to solve the ergonomics problem with the way that the gauges are mounted.

So, I started looking around for some other solution and this evening I think that I may have stumbled onto one. There is this guy who makes custom dash panels that more than solve all of these problems. He doesn't have any panels that are in stock...each one is made from scratch but, thanks to modern CNC and plasma cutting equipment, he can whip them out pretty quick and then further customize them to deal with the directionality problems of the gauges. The prices are all custom, too, but his base panel starts at $180 and the upgrade items aren't too much more so I'm thinking that I will be able to keep the whole thing somewhere south of $300. That's a lot for a piece of sheet metal but it's worth it to me because it solves all of the problems that I have with the original.

Here is a link to his page and here is a picture of one of these dash panels:


At his site he has a link to a photobucket page where there are hundreds of different custom dash panels on display. The CNC cutting system allows for all kinds of custom speaker holes to be created. I kind of like the ones that look like the CJ7 grill with headlights logo.

So...that's good that I now have a source to make up a completely customized dash panel that will be both beautiful and functional. I will have to figure out what size and type of gauges I'm going to use plus the number and type of switches, indicator lights, etc. I think that it would be very cool, for instance, to have a dash mounted ignition switch and this will allow me to make that happen.

In a doomsday scenario, hippies will be among the first casualties. So not everything about doomsday will be bad.