New to Jeeps. Need advice on buying a CJ - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 27 Old 06-16-2015, 11:12 PM Thread Starter
OliveOil
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New to Jeeps. Need advice on buying a CJ

Hey guys this is my first time on a forum like this and I'm looking for some advice.

I've been interested in Jeeps my whole life but never purchased one and it wasn't until a few months ago I started my obsession with CJ's. Now I'm looking into prices by checking out craigslist, ebay, autotrader, etc.

All I'm asking for is some advise on things like what mileage is too much, how much I should spend on one, and are they reliable enough for a daily driver with a ~10 mile commute. I dont want to spend more than $8k.

Any advice is good advice.

Thanks.

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post #2 of 27 Old 06-16-2015, 11:25 PM
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I would not worry about mileage at all. They are old enough that it does not matter.

Most importantly look for rust everywhere, make sure it was not just covered up. They like to rust on the side by the Jeep logo, the floor, wheel wells etc.

What do you want to do with it? Figure out what mods you want - gearing etc and try to get one as close as possible, it is a lot cheaper to buy it with 4.58 gears than it is to have them put in later.

Check any all wiring or other modifications and make sure it is done well. Jeeps seem to attract people that should not be allowed to operate a hammer under their hoods. The PO of my Jeep smeared black RTV everywhere but other than that pretty stock.

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post #3 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 09:59 AM
hunterstroble
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Buy the most unmolested stock one you can find.
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post #4 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 10:13 AM
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Welcome to JeepForum. For 8k you should be able to pick up a fairly unmolested CJ in good condition. Just remember, the last CJ rolled off the production lines 29 years ago, so anything you find will probably need some work.

As mentioned above, rust is the biggest problem with these old Jeeps. Be leery of fresh paint. Some sellers will use a cheap paint job to cover up rust. Pull back the carpets and floor mats to check the floor pans too.

If you are going to use it as a daily driver, you will probably want to find one with the inline 6 as opposed to the V-8 for a little better fuel economy.

If you are tall, say over 6 feet, you will probably want the CJ7. The longer wheel base and door openings make it much easier to get in and out of.

Happy CJ hunting.
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post #5 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 11:03 AM
Ken4444
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OliveOil View Post
..and are they reliable enough for a daily driver with a ~10 mile commute. I dont want to spend more than $8k..
All of the above comments are very good. Here are some additional thoughts. I drive my 1985 CJ almost daily, weather permitting.

Yes, a CJ can be reliable enough as a daily driver. One challenge is that many CJs will been modified in various ways (large tires, higher lift, heavy bumpers, etc) that make them less than ideal as a daily driver. Ideally a daily driver should have stock sized tires or at least not too large (31" is good). Once you start running larger tires and higher lift, you're decreasing the fuel economy, making the handling worse, and possibly introducing other undesirable issues to the geometry and mechanics of the original design. A suspension or body lift makes the Jeep taller which increases wind resistance which theoretically hurts the MPG. (Note that your fuel economy will never be great, even with an all-stock Jeep) When a Jeep is lifted, the steering geometry is changed and this causes many people a lot of steering problems.

Also regarding a daily driver, be aware of the following issues: Most CJs will not have air conditioning. Many will not have a working heater. These can of course be repaired or added. CJs are noisy to drive without a top. A soft top or hard top make for a quieter drive. Having a basic tool kit and some auto repair skill is a big plus.

An other issue, as was mentioned, is that CJs are 30+ years old. This means that parts that were originally intended to last for 10 or 15 years are way past their expected lives. Examples are axle seals, steering box, electrical connections, rubber parts (ie: body mounts), master cylinder, and dozens of other things. Even a good running CJ will start having intermittent problems once you start driving it daily as weak parts wear out under the daily load. An example of this is the brake system: Say you install new brake pads and shoes on week 1. After a few months of driving, you notice a new leak and determine that a wheel cylinder is leaking brake fluid. Now you have to replace that which means pulling apart the drum brakes again. Or, maybe the leak isn't brake fluid, but gear oil leaking from the axle because the seals are bad. How do you know if it's brake fluid or gear oil? At what point do you replace all of the suspect parts and hope you fix the issue? More time and money are spent.

Also as was mentioned, rust comes into play here. After 30+ years you may need the replace something like the worn out rubber body mounts and find that you can't get half the bolts out because they're rusted into place. CJs will also likely have rust in common areas on the frame and body. A glossy paint job and 1/2" of body filler will hide rusty body areas for a couple of years but the problems will always reveal themselves again.

As with any old vehicle, basic regular maintenance can be neglected by all of the previous owners. Don't assume anyone has changed the oil in the transfer case ever. On a Jeep this includes belts, hoses, brakes, engine/transmission/differential/transfer case oils, and engine coolant.

CJs have some inherent weak areas that make them less ideal than modern vehicles. Specifically, this includes the older technology ignition systems/distributors, and carburetors. These problems can be reduced or avoided in a number of ways. You can get a number of different new ignition systems from a "one wire" GM-style unit from DUI to other units from MSD. On the carburetor front, you have many options from rebuilt used to new such as the Weber 38. You can also ditch carbs totally and install an expensive but more reliable fuel injection-based system.

If it's not obvious already, being your own mechanic for a CJ is the only way most of us can afford to own and drive a CJ. There is nothing wrong with paying a mechanic to work on your CJ, however. Most general auto repair shops won't work on a vehicle that old for various reasons. So, you're looking at a 4x4 or specialty shop for service. If you do find a regular repair shop that will work on a CJ, they might make it their lowest priority and you might find it takes 2 weeks to get it back. So there goes your daily driver. So that restricts your options if you pay a mechanic to work on the CJ. If you're your own mechanic, that's a money saver but not a time saver. You can spend hours under the CJ to fix one problem.

On the repair issue, Jeep CJ parts (especially the 1977 and newer) and fairly cheap and easy to find both new and used. AMC used many common parts such as GM steering columns, so the parts and tools for that are common. Brake parts, alternators, lamps, belts, hoses, and those kinds of things are common and reasonably priced. Aftermarket parts are available from various vendors, although some of them are of poor quality like shift boots. Other vendors that specialize in things like steering shafts, ignition systems, suspension lifts, and similar make great products.

"I give you a republic, if you can keep it." - Benjamin Franklin
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post #6 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 01:45 PM
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Great rundown by Ken, as usual. With all of that said and with an $8k budget, I would plan on spending $7k at most and keep an extra grand of cash around (at least) for repair parts, etc. A grand can go pretty quick, so the more you can reasonably keep in reserve the better. A lot to consider when you're talking about how much to spend. A lot of CJs spend their lives sitting, so tires, seals and gaskets can be years old and thus may need to be replaced for safety concerns (my tires were 14 year old BF Goodrich ATs and hard as rock). WRT the seals and gaskets, if they've been sitting and drying out they'll likely start to leak after you start putting some miles on them. And like Ken said, maintenance issues like these can lay you up for a few days.


None of this is meant to dissuade you- its just a fact of having an old vehicle. I think everyone in here would agree that there's a tremendous source of pride owning a piece of history like a CJ. As you get to know your vehicle through all the labor you put into it, you get to a weird, completely non-sexual bond with it. When you get to drive it around, you'll love it- getting the looks from all the new age Jeepers checking you out and asking questions. It's a lot of fun.

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post #7 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 01:52 PM
Pathkiller
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First try to narrow down what you want. You realize that "CJ" covers everything from a 1945 CJ2A up through a 1986 CJ7, right? Over 40 years of production, something close to a eight or nine different distinct models. There is as much difference between a 1945 CJ2A with its flathead 4cyl and a 1986 CJ7 with a complicated computerized emissions system and carburetor as there is between a Model T Ford and a Shelby Mustang.

Try to decide first of all which model you want. I'm assuming for your purposes you are looking at a later model CJ7. Then start looking at what is available in your area in the price range you want to spend. Don't make the mistake of falling in love at first sight with the first Jeep you look at. Spend a lot of time looking at different ones, driving them, crawling under them, getting a sense of what you get for the money. Rust and oil leaks are red flags.

Good luck.


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post #8 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 02:06 PM
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https://miami.craigslist.org/brw/ctd/5053582327.html
Has a few red flags, but the fewest of any that I looked at quickly in your area. Not sure why it says 2WD- front driveshaft out, transfer case inop, etc. But it may be worth checking out. The mileage is questionable. A CJ7 with that low of mileage would fetch much more that what they're asking, so another flag there. May be some underlying issues. But you get the point- you probably want something as unmolested as possible. Nothing up on 35s, or with crazy 1 ton axles. Try to go as stock as possible. This one seems closest of what I quickly looked at.

CJ6... the Original Unlimited.
https://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f8/1971-cj6-rebuilding-i-go-3407890/
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post #9 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 03:05 PM
HackFabrication
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OliveOil View Post
Any advice is good advice.
Don't.


Take your $8k and buy a nice TJ Rubicon Unlimited.

"In the end...It's all Hack."
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post #10 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 03:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HackFabrication View Post
Don't.


Take your $8k and buy a nice TJ Rubicon Unlimited.
If you aren't the handy type this is very sound advice. Even an 8K CJ is going to need attention to keep it reliable enough to be a daily driver. If you aren't the mechanical type, go with something newer that is less likely to nickel and dime you to death.

That said, if you go for it I'd think you can find a pretty sweet CJ for 8K. I'd go the opposite of the advice above and get something that has been modded for reliability. As nice as a clean original CJ is, many of the systems will be tough to upkeep if they haven't been properly maintained (the emissions system being the biggest problem child). I'd be looking for something with a good tub and frame and a 4L swap. Stay away from anything with more than 2.5" of suspension lift and any body lift at all......it will save you from tracking down previous owners' mistakes and band aids.

'84 CJ-17: 17" stretch, locked Toy axles, 5.5" lift, FI, AX15, D300 w/twin sticks, boatsides & junk.
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post #11 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 04:01 PM
firegod33
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I agree with jeepwhore. Modified Jeeps don't need to be avoided and may even be preferable. Just be sure the mods were performed correctly, with quality parts. My '77 CJ5 has been my daily driver for almost three years, now. It has had several mods performed, in the name of reliability. The ignition has been upgraded, the carb was ditched in favor of EFI, a custom exhaust with catalytic converter was installed, power steering was added, etc.....
I'm running about 3" of lift with 33x12.50 tires. It has been very reliable.
I purchased mine for $4500 and have put between $3k and $4k more into it, since then. Some of that was purely optional. (winch, NP435 swap)
Most of the advice, given above, is spot on.

Earth first... We'll Jeep the other planets later.
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post #12 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 04:45 PM
Ken4444
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Be aware that it is very unlikely you will get back 100% the money you put into a CJ.

"I give you a republic, if you can keep it." - Benjamin Franklin
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post #13 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 05:12 PM
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I reckon I got lucky with my '78 CJ5 "Black Betty" she was up in the dry high country of northeastern Oregon and had zero rust...
Until I brought her to the Willamette Valley. Thank Heavens for POR 15.

The parts shop that stocks part for Skylab II will not have parts for our year/model of Jeep
We cannot accurately judge the trajectory of a speeding critter (cat, dog, sasquatch)
Record heat waves and floods only occur when we visit that area
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post #14 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 07:27 PM
Pathkiller
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HackFabrication View Post
Don't.


Take your $8k and buy a nice TJ Rubicon Unlimited.
Except where on earth are you going to find a TJ Rubicon Unlimited for $8000? Certainly not in my neck of the woods. You can barely find a 4cyl 97 TJ for that.


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post #15 of 27 Old 06-17-2015, 07:34 PM
Colt44
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Originally Posted by hunterstroble View Post
Buy the most unmolested stock one you can find.
Although sound advice, "unmolested" is a relative term when it comes to 30-ish year-old Jeeps. You can replace just about any part on a CJ, even the engine, but what is really tricky is the non-mechanical stuff like interior and body.

I'd take a CJ with a really nice interior (i.e., original seats, etc. in good shape) and straight, rust-free body without an engine over a beater with a perfectly tuned engine. Also, think ahead as to whether you'll ever want things like a hard top, because you'd be much better off getting that on the front end than trying to source a decent one - and the doors to go with it - later on.

I would second the opinions above about never getting your money back - with rare exceptions, a CJ is an expense, not an investment.
But no hobby is an investment; you do it for the fun and satisfaction. If restoring and/or upgrading your CJ is something you think you'll enjoy doing, it can be a very rewarding experience.
And I have to say my CJ gets more looks and nods than most sports cars.

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To interpret laws is almost always to corrupt them."

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