I've had my CJ7 for 30 years and from the time I got it until now I constantly utilize that extra space behind the rear seat. A little extra room makes all the diff when you're luggin around kids, dogs, coolers, fishing gear...
I have had a 1976 CJ5 and a 1978 CJ7. In my mind, there's no doubt. The CJ7 is superior in practically every way. More comfortable, more leg room, more rear space, more rear driveshaft length which come in handy when swapping, longer wheelbase and so on
The only place I could see a '5 being superior would be in very tight trails like in the woods.
When I thought about starting a new rebuild, a didn't think twice about which model to rebuild. The 7 just made so much more sense. It has a bit more civilized driving fashion but still maintains the classic Jeep look (although the door openings could be argued)
If you have kids and you go wheelin, i would strongly recommend going with the 7. The 5's are very cool but the 7 has the room your wife will be thankful for. A happy wife means a happy day on the trails. A angry wife could result in a short day on the trails. besides you got to bring snacks and pop for the kids and T.P. for the wife. the Wide tracks are already in the 7 so save you self some time and head ache and go with the 7. For the family if not for yourself. I have a 7 and we use every inch of it. If we had a 5 i could see times that many problems with space issue's that would lead to a short trip and short tempers.
I had a 78 CJ 5 and loved it! It was able to squirm through some things on the trail that the 7s, YJs and TJs were having trouble getting through. They are very manueverable on the trail. My son got old enough to go and my wife wanted to join the fun (she hadn't been since my son was born). So we decided to get a CJ 7. The ride with the exact same lift was night and day. My wife even commented about how much smoother the ride was in the CJ 7. I am able to carry a cooler, extra parts (axles, ect.), straps, more people and the list goes on. I am very happy with the switch. I do miss my CJ 5. I wish I could've had both but funds said otherwise. If you have a family and are going to toake them wheeling you'll be happier with the CJ 7. I am 6' 1" and about 215 lbs and the CJ 5 was cramped. I got used to it but the seven has soooooo much more room to work with. I would suggest building the CJ 7.
1980 CJ 7--3" Black Diamond, 1" body, locked both ends, 4.56, 35x12.50x15 SS LTB, "family" cage
Love my 5, goes a lot more places than a 7 in the woods. Short wheelbase is great for tight places. Mine has the old style Ross steering and it drives better than our 7 with the new style saginaw steering. i wouldnt trade my 5 for any 7 and i'm 6' 3" and i drive it almost every day. Its just so capable and it fits where others won't.
wow - I love my 5, I built it from nothing, with a shoe string budget. I am FAT - but, the tilt colom gives me a bit a wiggle room, the used unknown amount of lift springs I got from another project were literally used for 3 months then parked, they alow me to fit 33" tires with no issue - the 35's rubed a bit in tight corners.
She rides great - up to her 45 - 55 mph limit, not squirley one bit on the road.
She's a 64 - so no seat belts, I was going to add them but had been advised not to as they would be more of a liability since they are not origonal equipment, the officer who turned around to pull me over for not wearing a seat belt agreed. He was also stunned at her condition and it took longer to give him a tour, than I really had time for.
how many 64 cj5's do you see in your area every day? - I like the 5.
A CJ7 would probably be more practical for highway driving, and carrying family/gear
But in all honesty there are several things that would be more practical than either. A cherokee for 2k would probably be better suited, or a nice YJ (plus better mileage)
In your shoes I would probably keep the 5. More original, they are becoming alot more uncommon everywhere, and a nice looking one always gets a ton of looks.
They are very squirrely stock. I love that!. I love that someone who has been driving around with me for a month can ask to test drive my jeep then pull over 30 seconds later and ask me how the **** I control that thing. Usually drivers alot more experienced than me too! (im 17) You can learn how to tame the beast, but it is not a general driving skill. I can keep mine in the lines on fairly curvy highways at 75 and I have a bent steering arm, but I usually use 1 hand (keeps me from overcorrecting too hard) and you really really really have to feather that steering wheel, you will get used the the balance after a couple hundred miles of highway.
As for speed, except for mileage I don't see a reason not to do a V8 swap in in any CJ. I have a 360 and I broke the 100mph barrier (101.3 according to my GPS) in mine on the way back from a camping trip today when some a-hole in an aerostar could not hold 35 uphill but because the passing lanes were all downhill he would stomp it and get it up to 80. I do not recommend this. Not only because it is criminal speed in AZ, but also because it can cause you to dirty your pants.
Reliability, (this goes for all CJs) I paid a well trusted family mechanic $800 to install the transmission I bought and go through and freshen everything else up. To date I have gone 8000 miles without having to put a nickel into it besides basic maintaining. But I also don't beat it too hard offroad, its my DD. It was not a bad price to pay to not have to worry about it leaving me stranded. I actually towed my buddies YJ 40 miles after he blew his Dana 35 on the trail. This is after he kept telling me how a CJ is going to leave me stranded when I was selling my YJ.
Honestly I think it will be a while before CJ7s really fade away but the 5s are leaving us quickly so I would hold onto the ones you have.
I really like my 1963 CJ5 (being 5' 10" helps alot)- But- if you are using the Jeep strickly/mostly as an off road vehicle- these days, the longer and wider size will give you more flexibility with load, modifications, and stabilty. I built my CJ5 when I was in high school (1968!). In those days, a vehicle any wider or longer than the CJ5 simply would not be usable on many of the 4wd trails as they would jam between rocks and scrape their sides off on trees. Things have changed with the type of off-roading done today and today's roads which have been modified to fit the bigger vehicles.
I had 2 CJ5's and now have a CJ7. I won't go back to a 5, simply because of the added leg room and the fact I can have 2 adults and 2 kids plus gear in it, something I could never do with the 5.
While you say it will be mostly a trail jeep, I assume you still have to drive to and from. The CJ7 will be noticeably better to drive and have an improved ride over the 5.
If your 7 is in that sad of shape why not sell it and find a YJ instead? My CJ7 was already lifted and on 33's when I got it, otherwise I would have gone to a 91 or so YJ for the better suspension and fuel injection.
I would say really my only two complaints about the CJ5 would be that it's pretty bumpy going down the road (it doesn't bother me, just my passengers) and that there is minimal space, otherwise I love my CJ5 to death. It's great to be able to make very sharp turnarounds in small spaces and being able to fit in almost any parking spot. It also runs down the highway without being too squirrely. I've got nothing against CJ7s and would certainly love to have one also
If it's not leakin', it's probably empty '84/'77 CJ7 Ford 302 4bbl Holley
Just Enough Essential Parts
I drive like everyone's out to get me...because they are!
Easiest solution is one of each. I have a CJ5 and a CJ8. Best of both worlds.
X2 I'm 6'2" and 275 and I love my 82 CJ5,the tilt wheel does help I got my 7 because it was stock, cheap, and the little old man who owned it had every piece a paper from day 1.Do I need 2 Jeeps? Hell yeah !!