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144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So let it begin. I'm Jason from Austin TX. Just bought a 79 CJ7 to rebuild. I owned a CJ7 way back in high school and always wanted another to rebuild. I also owned a Cherokee that I loved and modified for a long time. I'm a tinkerer kind of guy that has other strange hobbies like building combat robots for shows like "Battlebots" so I have a welder / metal lathe / ect.

I have read many other build reports on here and though they are a great source of know-how. So thought I would document this so I could get help along the way. I build thread is a good way to make sure I keep momentum. Like telling everyone you know your going to quit smoking.

What I'm Starting with:
  • 79 CJ7 bought for $400
  • Dana 30 front Axle
  • AMC 20 rear axle
  • Does not have any drivetrain
  • Frame is in good far as I can tell
  • Tub has some wounds but overall am happy with it's condition
  • wiring is toast
  • Used to have a 350 in it according to P.O.
  • Missing seats / one fendor / from clip
Build Objectives
  • Get it done in 2.5 years
  • Frame off restoration (I'm a little OCD so will take my time and do it right)
  • No budget but am looking to but the best parts (within reason) even if it slows progress to save for them
  • Track every penny I spend and keep a running tab in the thread with prices
  • Not buy any parts before I need them (no body parts until the frame is done ect)
  • Engine should have 350HP (Have not decided on 360 / 350 /351W depends what falls in my lap)
  • Possibly a MSU "Spartan" Theme.. hence the thread title
  • 80% fun second car / 20% Offroad
  • Ability to run 35" Tires (but will run 33")
  • Try to do as much myself as possible but have others do what I know I can't do well (like final tub prep / paint / engine rebuild) ect.
Here are some pics of what I'm starting with.


· Registered
144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
First purchases (Books):
  • Book: Jeep Cj Rebuilder's Manual, 1972-1986: Mechanical Restoration, Unit Repair and $49.69
  • Book: Jeep CJ 1949 thru 1986: All s (Haynes Repair Manual) $13.98
  • Book: Jeep $7.47
  • Book: Jeep Owner's Bible: A Hands-On Guide to Getting the Most from Your Jeep by... $6.55

Total Investment: $527.69

· Registered
144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
So I have a lead on some widetrack Dana 44 axles and a T18/Dana 300 out of a '77 cherokee. Here is his description.

"'77 jeep cherokee, ft. Axle pass. side drop, backing plate to backing plate (54"), t18/Dana 300"

Remembering that I currently have no engine/trans/diff/driveshafts and am looking to put a 350 in this...

1- How difficult would it be to put these widetrack Dana 44 axles in while I have everything off the frame, and is it worth it?
2- This trans/diff setup seems to be pretty much what I want from what I have read. Reading around it looks like I can adapt this tranny to a 350 failry easily. Correct?
3- How much would you pay for the axles (f/b) , tranny and diff?

Not ready for them yet.... but need them and trying to find something local.

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144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Ok.... so the jeep is in the garage and in the right location to begin to tear it down. Since I have no drive train and want D44 axles I have been shopping around for some axles and happened upon this deal. I found a guy that will sell me the complete drive train from a 77 Cherokee he bought and never touched.

Here is what the VIN number comes up with for engine/tranny

1972 - '79: Toledo, 4-speed, Left Hand Drive (Does this mean it was made in Toledo? And left hand drive is just the drivers side?)
1975 - '77: V8, 360 CID, 195 HP

I went tonight and checked it out.

Here is what I get for $400-$500
- Axles (Wide track D44, front is SUA and passanger drop and rear is SOA and also passenger offset)
- Transfer Case (Dana 20)
- Tranny (T18-1B) (Don't know gearing)
- Engine 360 (He says there is something wrong due to low compression so he never messed with it after some initial tinkering)
- All steering components including steering box if I want (I don't have one now)

So this looks a pretty good setup for me for the money..... so here are my questions....
  1. I would have to completely rebuild the engine, which I planned to have to do anyway. I was planning on building a 350 or 302 but with a stout drivetrain already attached this might be hard to pass up. If it has low compression is that a block problem or a piston issue? What type of HP could I expect from a rebuild 360? What can I expect the cost to rebuild this to produce 300+ HP?
  2. These are full width axles. What are peoples opinions on using these for daily driver use? I really don't want to mess with cutting these down.
  3. Since the back axles are SOA and the front is SUA should I convert the back to SUA with just new perches? Then I could use one of the widetrack CJ conversion kits with a standard 4" liftkit. All I would have to do is weld a new spring perch on the bottom right?
  4. Any issues with the offset rear diff? Will the wheel base be too short to handle the offset?
  5. Can anyone tell if these are flattop knuckles?
  6. The Quadra-trac was only on automatics right? Besides that I don't know how to tell if it has that or not...
  7. What other parts should I take from this thing?
  8. Looks like it has power stearing. I should be able to use this right? Any opinions on using this?
Lots of questions I know..... so any help is greatly appreciated since this package buy is a pretty important decision for my build.

Here is the all the pics I took...


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144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
You'll need to get a different input shaft for that T18 as it utilizes the 'spacer'.

Going back to your original post you listed a couple objectives:

[*]80% fun second car / 20% Offroad

[*]Ability to run 35" Tires

The T18 isn't exactly the trans I would select for a mostly street driven Jeep, as it's basically a 3spd on the street. And shifts like, well... A truck. A Dump truck. You've got a CJ7, so you've got wheelbase. Why not an automatic? Since you want to run a SBC, a TH350 or TH700R4 adapted to your existing Dana 20 would work fine. And with 700R4 you get the Overdrive 4th.

An option for a manual trans would be the NV3500 5spd with O/D, GM used them in various trucks. They shift smoother than the T18, SM465, NP435, et al.

The stock axles will handle those 35" tires with a swap to 1pc axles. Again, you're 80% street and 20% offroad. I sense that you won't be beating on this vehicle after you've built it, so IMO, I'd save the $$$ to put somewhere else. If anything, swap in a set of WT's with matched gearing, that you can probably pick up for cheap. They are a direct bolt in and will provide a bit more stability on a lifted vehicle (remember 80% street). Use the money saved, to get some 4.11 gears to match the tires and the O/D transmission.
Really appreciate your input... I want to clarify some of your suggestions.
- If I use the same 360 engine (after I rebuild it) then why would I need an adapter to the T18? In my initail post I was heavily favoring a 350 since I had nothing to start with but am considering going with this drivetrain as it sits.
- I havn't heard many things about the T18 being sub-optimal for street. That's something I'll have to consider (I'll have to find someone with one and drive it). If I keep the 360 and dana 300 I should be able to use a jeep auto that should be a direct bolt in right?
- The only direct bolt in WT axles that I know of are the 86 CJ axles which are difficult to find. That's why I was looking for some other dana 44 WT's that I could get a kit for outboard spring mounts that wouldn't be that difficult. What tripped me up here was the back axle is SOA, which I didn't expect. If I did use these axles the ratios would match.
- for what I am going to do with this jeep I could probably get away with my stock axles (so I agree with you on saving money), but If I can get the 44's, dana 300, T18, and 360 for $500 then seems to me I should do the swap now while I am tearing it apart.

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144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·

Sounds like you have some great parts to start with. I have a '79 that I would like to rebuild in the future so I'll be watching to gain some knowledge. Please keep posting. Also, I'm in south Austin and would be happy to help.

I'm going to screw a lot of things up... so there should be lots to learn

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144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Not true. Jeeps switched to widetrack axles in 1982 (other than the CJ5 that remained NT until the end of the 1983 production). There were some Dana 44 rear axles installed in the last production runs on the 1986 CJ7's.

It's all about the time/money/effort you are willing to devote to this.
The transfer case in your picture is of a Dana20, not a Dana300. The adapter for a T18 to Dana300 is completely different. Unless it's a rare IH Scout Dana300.

The rear pumpkin offset will cause problems the shorter the wheelbase gets. Drivelines can tolerate a bit of difference, but the shorter they are the more exagerated the problems become.
Your right that is a Dana 20. Still a capable transfer case. Good job now you have me thinking in circles! :confused: I understand what you mean now about the WT axles. I am only willing to go through the work of WT axles if I switch them out to Dana 44's. It's always that debate of stay with stock and get it done faster or build it up (more complicated, more money, possible benefit in the future).

Thanks for all your input... appreciate it.

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144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Ok here is the one month update. Made some key decisions on the direction this thing is going and still waffling on other decisions. I think my wife is starting to wonder how I am going to get this thing done when all I do is search on Craigslist and read forum after forum after forum. The next step is basically to fab anything on the frame I need before I send it to sandblast / powdercoat.

- Parts bought since last update ($600 total):
  1. AMC 360
  2. T18 (Granny low)
  3. D20
  4. Front D44 from 77 Cherokee - Full width (~67")
  5. Rear D44 from 77 Cherokee - Pumpkin offset to passanger side. probably won't use
  6. Rear D44 from 70ish Wagoneer (~58") - Might not use but picked it up in case

- Major accomplishments this month:
  1. Removed electrical, tub, and gas tank
  2. Decided to go AMC power and rebuild a 360
  3. Decided to go with full width axles (still going back and forth on this but 80% sure as soon as a find a back axle)
  4. Sold original tires on Jeep for $80 to make room in garage
  5. Got my garage orginized in order to work on the frame and still allowing my wife and 4 kids to have some garage to use

- Things I need to make decisions on:
  1. Use the full size D44 from the cherokee OR the wide track rear D44 from the wagoneer?
  2. What wide axle kit to use if I have to outboard the springs (BTF is most likely)?
  3. Get a new gastank or not (I can't tell if the one I have is original or not)?
  4. Powdercoat or POR15 the frame (I can get it sandblasted and powdercoated for $500)?
  5. What to upgrade on the axles while I have them out (rebuild, lockers, ect)?
  6. What Tranny skid plate to use. Find a used stock one or buy an aftermarket one?
  7. What side steps to use (If I get weld on ones, I need to do that now)
  8. Need to undue the mod to the back bumper and figure out what I am going to need to fab for the back bumper?
  9. Keep SUA or change to SOA and then what lift / springs to use?

All Pictures here (

Here is the motor as it sits

Here is the T18/D20 combo (Gonna have to shorten the input shaft)

Some Random tub pictures (gonna be fun when it's time to restore this..not)

Here is the front end without tub. You can see the new front full width axle (and a wagoneer D44 back I probably won't use)

Yup thats going to be a little wider.

Rear AMC20

Rear Bumper. Looks like they welded on another bumper on top. I can't tell what was original and what is new.

Is this a OEM gas tank?


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144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #21 · (Edited)
Axle Choices

Ok I need to make a call on these axles ( I have 5 at this point and only one jeep). I've committed to change to Dana 44 front and back (even though I keep trying to talk myself into keeping my original NT axles, so I'm trying to sell them quickly so I can't go back).

- I'm set on using a front D44 from 77 Cherokee. ~64" WMS to WMS. (pictures earlier in thread)
- Have 2 choices right now for back axles.
  1. Dana 44 back axle from same 77 Cherokee. ~61" WMS to WMS but pumpkin offset ~8" to the passanger side
  2. Dana 44 rear from wagoneer. ~58" WMS to WMS and pumpkin centered.
Here is a pic of all three (wagoneer, cherokee, AMC 20) in that order

Can I use the offset pumpkin with the right driveshaft?
Can I use wheel spacers to makeup some of the 6" difference on the wagoner axle to make it work?

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144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Rebirth of the Rebuild

Ok... so this project was mothballed for a long time, but I've recommited myself to working on it with every bit of spare time to get it done.
It's been such a long time in fact that most of the pictures I took during the early rebuild years are lost (I actually thought I started the build in 2012 but now finding this post its 2009.... ughh). I actually had to re-organize all the parts on my shelves just to remember what i had already bought any whatnot. I have the really bad habit of buying stuff way before I need it.

We are just going to pick up where we left off.
Things worked on over the past couple of weekends:
- Removed tub and set it aside.
- Installed Lokar XTCB-40EDK Black Finish Bracket for Edelbrock Pro-Flo Fuel Injection
- Installed Lokar TF727 Kickdown cable kit

Next thing to tackle is the shift linkages and new shifter


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144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #23 ·
TF727 Shifter and Linkages

Spent all day yesterday installing the shifter and linkages (Lokar Case Mount Automatic Transmission Shifters CM727BXMB) and kickdown cable.

I still don't think the shifter and tranny are aligned in each gear. The tranny is actually more difficult than I thought changing from park to neutral. It was fully rebuilt so at this point I'm going assume that its fine and just me not having a reference.

The one problem that I am worried about still is that it seems the shifter and linkages when all aligned for Park, won't go all the way into first correctly and vice versa. P-R-N-D-2-1.

If anyone has set one of these up on a 727 and wants to chime in on any issues they may have had or look at my pics and tell me I screwed up the install then please do. I'm also worried about the clearance for the cooling lines

I cleaned up the shift linkages on the tranny, and they appear to be stainless... do people paint these or just leave them?


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144 Posts
Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Brake Line Issues

So I have started running the break lines and am having some issues.
- Front lines fit fine. Just need the clips.
- Proportioning valve is new for front/rear disks. Rear thread size is too big... need an adapter.
- Problem: Lines that run to the break booster are straight up away from the frame and don't come close to the bracket (see picture below). not sure what I should do here except to wait for the body to go on and see how it all lines up and maybe just "adjust" the braket.
- Problem: The front to rear line is way too short (JE1005B-SS from classic tube). It looks like this part doesn't exist anymore. You can see from the picture that it kinda goes past the crossmember but is way short of the second crossmember.
- Problem: It looks like I don't have a tab on that second cross member for the hardline to meet the flexline. That's not reall a problem if I can get the brakeline there. I can fab something up.
- Problem: With the Dana 44 axles I have (with a disk brake conversion kit) I don't think there will be a pre-bent solution for me. So I think I'm just going to have to buy something and then try to bend it to what I need.

Any input is welcome!


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