So I finally decided to do a build thread of my almost complete project.
I have been into Jeeps my whole life and have owned quite a few over the years (see sig) but always wanted a CJ7 or Scrambler. I wanted the factory 304. Don't know why, I know there are plenty of engine options that work just fine but I couldn't get over this. I wanted the 304.
I never really searched for a CJ or Scrambler. If I saw one for sale on the side of the road I would stop... things like that. The only times I found one with a 304 it had already been fully restored and the seller wanted a pretty penny for it. I honestly kind of gave up on it.
3 years ago, the 76 CJ7 fell into my lap. Lots of people around here know about my obsession for Jeeps and always ask me questions, my advice on buying them, etc.. I was told a friend of a friend had an old Jeep he wanted to sell and wanted to know if I knew of anyone who would want it and/or the best way to go about selling it. I went to the guy's house to take a look at it.
There, in his garage, was a 1976 CJ7 Levi edition with the original 304! I was speechless. The thing ran, BADLY. Leaked out of every place you can imagine. He had bought it with the intention of restoring it but never did anything with it.
As you will see in some pics below, for some reason the PO before the guy I bought it from didn't like the factory brown so he rattle canned it flat black. You could barely see the Levi stickers under the paint.
I asked him what he thought it was worth as it sat. He threw out a number that was very fair for it, especially since it came with brand new 33" Coopers as well as a lift kit uninstalled. I came back the next day, paid the man, and brought it home.
Here is a pic the day after, with the lift kit installed.. Yes, the very first thing I did was install the lift kit.
I live in a rather nice neighborhood so needless to say, this project has been interesting. Most if not all of the guys have loved watching the progression. There were Saturdays where there were 15-20 guys in my driveway and garage watching and asking questions. The very cool thing is how many got their hands dirty. I mean, there were guys that had never changed their own oil before wanted to learn and help. I put a wrench in their hands and told them what to do. I don't think I ever paid for my lunch or my beer those days.. someone always took care of it for the fun they were having.
The wives.... well let's see. To most of them it was an eyesore and it took their husbands away for a few hours each weekend... I didn't make any friends with them needless to say!
I took the body to the sandblaster and got to work on the engine teardown. The frame was spotless with the exception of the rear cross member being full of holes from some random bumper at some point. Easy fix with a new crossmember. The body had some rust but nothing major. Welded in new metal where needed.
Got the body back from sand blast and realized some new parts were in order such as a windsheild, tailgate and hood. the originals were too bad for it to be worth my while to try and fix. used POR15 on the bottom of the body and put things back together.
After much talk and thinking, my wife and I decided mutually that a divorce was in order. I moved out and $$ was spent on other things like rent so progress slowed down. The hardest part was loosing my main helper, her brother. We were very close but as some of you know, divorce changes lots of things.
Progress was slow but I was still able to move forward. Since we mutually agreed on the divorce, I was able to still come over and work on the CJ since I had no where to put it and all my tools. She also travels alot with work.
Got it road ready and was rockin' it in primer! you will notice a change in wheels. Turns out the 4 that came on it were originally chrome that were powdercoated black. For the life of me I couldn't find a 5th one to do the same (still had factory slot as a spare). I ended up selling the four to a guy and bought 5 new D windows.
I was messing around one day on CL and came across the ONLY winch that would do the CJ justice. Guy wanted cash and NO TRADES. Well, I didn't have cash. The pics he posted of the winch were from his garage and you could tell that not only was this guy an avid hunter but he was also a gun collector. Hummmm..
I had an AR-15 that I had never shot. I got it as a gift. I love guns and own quite a few. To me, the AR-15 is fun for one or two clips. After that, I am done with it. (my step-father has one so I have shot his and left mine in the box).
I thought, worse thing he could do was say no. I called him up, explained my thoughts, and here is the result.
Then, failure. I was driving the CJ around town and something didn't feel or sound right. My heart sank. Fortunately I was on my way home so wasn't far. I limped it back.
After dropping the oil pan, you could see the crank with deep scoring. I mean, horrible marks. What happened?!?!?!?
I did some research and found an AMC expert up the road a ways from me and called him up. I decided if this engine was coming apart again, I wanted an expert on it.
After he got it apart, he was able to determine that the failure came from two directions. 1 - the machine shop I used made some mistakes. 2 - during the re-assembly process my brother-n-law and I made a mistake.
The situation sucked but what can you do? I chalked it up to lessons learned and had the expert take care of it for me. Not only did he rebuild it but he painted it to factory spec, put in a HEI, really took care of me.
For some reason, out of the 100s of pics I have taken over the past 3 years, I do not have any pics of the new engine in the CJ while still in primer.
Fast forward to about 2 months ago. I decided to sell the brand new soft top I had just purchased. I figured, with my Jk for DD use, I don't plan on driving the CJ when it's bad weather so the top was gonna stay folded down all the time. Might as well sell it, get a hardtop for the winter, and be done with it. Sold the softop to 1911Tyler and went and bought a hardtop.
Found a CJ hardtop in GREAT condition on CL. Drove to about 1.5 hours one way to get it. Got it home, put it on the CJ, fit like a glove.
Now it was time to get it painted. 1911Tyler hooked me up with a friend of his. I talked to the guy multiple times and we set things up. My job - to strip the CJ down as far as I can for the paint process. Easy enough right? I mean, I have touched every freakin' bolt on the thing.
First thing to do was remove the newly acquired hard top. I have a hoist in my garage so doing it by myself was no issue. I have done this will all my past hardtops as well.
Hoisted the top off the CJ and drove the CJ out of the garage. Then, while securing the hardtop with extra chains to keep it from falling, I lost my balance on the ladder and fell into the top. Needless to say the top swung out and fell off my hoist. Shattered on the garage floor.
Funny thing was that none of the glass cracked. There was no way to salvage the top so I took out the side windows and rear liftgate and sent the remains of the shell to the trash.
No pics of the mangled top.
Now what?? I started looking for another hardtop but couldn't find what I needed. Decisions Decisions.
Got the CJ stripped down and off to the painter we go! Found the one pic below that shows the engine. It is covered in dust but you get the idea of the finish on it.
When I met with him I told him I wanted orange. I mean ORANGE. No offense to anyone here but I do not like red on anything, not even a muscle car. I wanted to ensure that when you looked at my CJ, you saw orange.
My 2006 LJ Rubicon was Impact Orange. In certain light it looked red. Didn't want that problem with the CJ.
Needless to say, Richie the painter got it right! I didn't expect it to be this orange but man was I happy when I pulled up to the shop.