My $120 1980 Jeep CJ7 build - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 66 Old 08-22-2017, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
daddyusmaximus
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My $120 1980 Jeep CJ7 build

Ever see a $120 Jeep CJ7?



Well, you have now.

Of course, a couple of years, and thousands of dollars from now, she'll be looking way better, oh and running too.

Here's the story. I picked up a 1980 Jeep CJ7 this week that I intend to build as an adventure/overland 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 near as I can tell, almost 100% stock, (except added fog lights) so that gives me a known starting point. That itself is something lacking in so many old Jeeps, including my current CJ5. The "new" CJ7 has a 258 I-6 and the auto 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 powertrain from a Dodge truck. It has a built Dodge 360 (Holley 4V, headers, cam, MSD ignition...) , a TF 727 and full width Dana 44 front, and Chrysler 9.25 rear axles with 4 wheel 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... Besides, 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. That Mopar 360 sounds awesome.

I'll be using the powertrain from the CJ5. I'll duplicate the spring over setup on the CJ7 as well, 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. It still allows for the normal door off Jeep driving on nice days. I have found Jeep facebook pages in my area that will make it easy to sell off remaining parts from either vehicle I don't use. Of course, I also love Jeep forums like this, and have learned a lot from these places. I hope to learn (and share) more as I go. I will probably need to ask questions when I get stuck on something. Thanks in advance people.

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.

Wish me luck...

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post #2 of 66 Old 08-22-2017, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
daddyusmaximus
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By the way 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.
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post #3 of 66 Old 08-25-2017, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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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. Almost there. I hate being a cripple. Had to get my nephews over to help. Tough to keep them focused, my sister-in-law doesn't really make them toe the line like their dad does, and he's always at work.

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.

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.

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 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, and 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.
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post #4 of 66 Old 08-26-2017, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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I've been having a hit or miss kinda deal on posting photos lately with photobucket going crazy demanding high fees. I signed up for Imgur. One minute I got it figured out, the next, I can't do it. Beside my mobility issues, I also have big time memory problems thanks to a TBI. All part of the same IED attack. That's one reason why I'm worried about starting a project this involved. I'll be taking a lot of photos and videos to help me remember how things go. That gave me the idea to do a youtube video.

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post #5 of 66 Old 08-29-2017, 08:48 PM Thread Starter
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Started tear down today for the rebuild. Hot out. Yes, 75 is hot. Need a more powerful garage fan.


You know what I like about most people?
Their dogs.
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post #6 of 66 Old 08-29-2017, 08:49 PM Thread Starter
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Here is the engine running just prior to the tear down.


You know what I like about most people?
Their dogs.
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post #7 of 66 Old 10-31-2017, 05:08 PM Thread Starter
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After a long spell of being too sore to do anything on the Jeep I'm back at the tear down again. Got the exhaust off today. Fun getting very rusty heady bolts off when they are right behind where the header tube come out and turns out covering the bolt... Got the fuel tank out as well, that I had topped off right before the breakdown that prompted the tear down, so probably had 18 gal in the 20 gal tank. Must have ended up with at least a half gallon on the garage floor... The tank is a big aluminium one, in perfect shape, and will go in the CJ7. Wish I knew who made it, but it worked well in the CJ5.

You know what I like about most people?
Their dogs.
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post #8 of 66 Old 10-31-2017, 07:24 PM
clutch989
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Sweet Jeep. Looking forward to the build!
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post #9 of 66 Old 11-01-2017, 01:59 PM
EvenAug
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Nice project. Looking forward to see the upcoming progress.
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post #10 of 66 Old 11-08-2017, 07:55 PM Thread Starter
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Spent 4 hrs getting ready to the pull engine only to find out my cherry picker was short on hydraulic oil and wouldn't go high enough to take the slack out of the chain on the leveler...

You know what I like about most people?
Their dogs.
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post #11 of 66 Old 11-13-2017, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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Going better. Got the engine, trans, T-case, and front axle out. Rear axle will come out tomorrow and the carcass of the CJ5 can be hauled out of the garage to make room for the CJ7 that will be built using this engine, and these axles. Looking forward to getting the CJ7 in the garage before snow hits.

You know what I like about most people?
Their dogs.
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post #12 of 66 Old 11-27-2017, 05:40 PM Thread Starter
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Teardown of CJ5 is complete, frame and tub is sold, and CJ7 has been rolled into the garage.

THIS is my true starting point. The CJ5 was for parts I will use on the build of this (the $120 CJ7)... that first has to come down to the frame.




Step one, Remove the hard top.





Step two, Had my son helping me work on the Jeep. I’m trying to pry an electric connector off the rear window wiper, and I need something to lift the clip up to unlock it...

Me to son: “Go get me a screwdriver. Never mind, I can pry with my pocket knife.”

Famous last words of a fool.

Took about a quarter inch off the tip of my left thumb.... I guess I'll take a break on the Jeep for a while.

My wife will confirm that having patience is not my greatest strength. Gotta take care of the wife anyhow, she just had a hysterectomy this morning.

Side note, I had installed new LED lighting in the garage to cope with cold weather lighting problems the stupid ballasts were giving me in the old lights. Much better.

You know what I like about most people?
Their dogs.
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post #13 of 66 Old 11-29-2017, 07:33 PM Thread Starter
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Doors, hood, windshield off, and rear seat out. Real hard to do anything with only one thumb in working order.




Got a buddy coming over to help see if we can get the 258 running tomorrow. Don't really care, I'm not using it, and I'm not putting a single dollar in it, but it would be nice to know when I go to sell it later. Hell, I'll be happy if it's not froze up seeing as it's been sitting about 4 years.

You know what I like about most people?
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post #14 of 66 Old 12-09-2017, 03:22 PM Thread Starter
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Turns out the engine has a knock in either the front or second cylinder. It will barely run, but it should be rebuildable. Knowing something is better than knowing nothing.

Thumb is healing very slowly, and the cold weather not helping, but a few more things have come off under Brandy's watchful eye. Brandy is my 96 lb German Shepherd who works as a PTSD/TBI/ service dog. She is with me pretty much 24/7.


You know what I like about most people?
Their dogs.
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post #15 of 66 Old 12-29-2017, 06:04 PM
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I want more pictures of your pup! Like to see what's under the tub!!!

You don't always have to be at your best, but it helps to be at your best when it counts.
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