1979 CJ-7 Frame Off Rebuild

I have always helped my dad where he needed help rebuilding his classic cars. Did I pay attention to what was happening? Not really. I was always busy day dreaming about cute girls and driving. So given that, its surprising I thought I could tackle a rebuild of a 1979 Jeep CJ7 from the ground up. Well I am still attempting this rebuild and this is my comical story to many of you more experienced.

This started off like anything else. My cute girlfriend mentioned how she wanted a Jeep and it stirred up those memories of when I had my 85 CJ7 and my 91 Wrangler and I started missing them and then that turned into a desire and a eventually a must have. So I searched craigslist and found this non-running 1979 Jeep CJ7 for $1495. I know, I paid way to much for it but I was in love, with a dream this was going to be an easy fix to get me behind the steering wheel of a Jeep again.

September 24, 2014 craigslist ad that lured me in
1979 Jeep CJ7 needs someone to complete restoration! Comes with softtop (may need replacement material) and hardtop. Rear hatch door on hardtop needs rust repair. I started this restoration and ran out of time when I had a job relocation. This vehicle has been stored inside
for the last 10 years. The vehicle ran and drove fine at that time.

Currently the fuel tank has been removed for replacement, so I can not 
start it at this time. But I can rotate the engine with a wrench so it is not seized up.

The following is a list of new parts that have been installed on the 
vehicle: radiator, rear frame crossmember, rear floor supports (3 pcs.) and rear floor.  Additional new parts that have not yet been installed are: front left and right hand floor pans, rear valance, gas tank, gas tank straps (3), gas sending unit, urethane body mounts (11), carb rebuild kit and hood
tie down latches. New parts alone total over $700.00.

The vehicle has no battery or rear bumper and will need new tailgate 
hinges. This is a good project Jeep for someone, therefore is sold "as is" where is.

After I touched my toes while handing the previous owner $1495 for this adventure we loaded it up and headed home. First thing on my plan was to take it apart and find what we needed to do and prioritize (due to cost).

So I put together a First Year plan and Next Year plan to come up with some sort of plan

Future plans

Choice of getting body work done or just buy a new Aluminum Body Tub ($4030) 5030 plus a Dash Panel with cutouts ($135) 5150
Depending how bad the frame is, new frame ($1800) CJ7 76 79 but what a job. If we go this route, we would just get the frame then the body tub ($4030) and suspension kit ($1050) and start building the basics. Maybe even through some dana 44 axles with electric lockers and disk brakes in there so we can start running brake lines, fuel lines, electrical lines…
Suspension, kinda leaning towards the ProComp 4″ suspension lift ($1050) with a dropped pitman arm ($97) and a transfer case lowering kit ($46). This replaces the worn leaf springs and worn out shocks.

The next day I felt I had to get the Jeep something new on it so it might look better so on September 25, 2014 I ordered

$36.99 – BATTERY TRAY KIT BLK CJ
$36.99 – TAILGATE HINGE PAIR BLACK 76+ CJ7
$41.99 – AUTOMETER 100PSI OIL PRESSURE SENDING UNIT
$ 7.99 – Oil Filter

Of course that should of been enough to start with… you know, the basics but nope had to go one step further

$799.99 – ROCKHARD REAR BUMPER/TIRE CARRIER FOR 76-06

It obviously needed a couple of other items to replace the 2×4’s holding the body up in the back so I also ordered

$127.00 – 1 INCH POLY BODYLIFT-BLACK 76-79 CJ5&7 KJ04503BK <–these are back ordered
$100.00 – BODY MOUNT CHANNELS-6 PCS FOR 76-86 CJ BDMNTS 6

Now the credit card is melting from over use, decided to evaluate the floor situation and it turned out that it had no floor boards front drivers side or passenger side or rear seating area where they put a metal piece to cover up all the rust holes and did a horrible job welding it in. Wasn’t sure what to do when I’m I have nothing for welding and not a metal fabricater anyhow. Well I did what anyone else would of done in my shoes, looked for answers on Google and found the answer. A new MD Juan Jeep Steel body from Quadratec.

November 3rd, 2014 my dad and best friend Terry came over and helped me cut the body off the old frame to get it ready for the new body when it arrives. We found it easier to cut it into four pieces to make it easier to carry. Oh yea, I may have gotten a bit crazy with the saws all and cut through some of the cross members on the frame. Whoops, my bad.

My cute girlfriend and I start cleaning the frame and axles to try and get some of the heavy rust off.

We are using wire brushes, some sort of chemical that made me about pass out after using it for awhile and a lot of elbow grease and then it happened.

I could see a crack and pressed on it and it collapsed and after tapping on it with a hammer slightly 12″ of metal on the side dropped out. After closer inspection, the frame is rotted from the inside out. No sense of spending all this money installing a new body, new fenders, new windshield on an old frame. It’s like getting a boob job on a someone who is stuck in a wheel chair. Yea, you look good but what can you do. I found holes in the frame!

The amount of crap that came out of the frame was crazy.  

Also during this frame cleanup process I found why they had 2×4’s holding up the back.  My guess is they either had too much weight on a hitch (maybe one of those storage bins on a hitch mount), either way, they had too much weight on the back (probably rusted frame) and it took the back part of the frame off.  Here you can see some pictures of there attempt to repair it.

So next to order a frame. I was looking at the TDK (Throttle Down Kustoms) CJ Hybrid frame that supports a CJ body but the suspension of a TJ so coil suspension which will provide a much nicer ride. Of course its $2500 + $800 for shipping and handling and its a major job. Since I have no idea what I’m doing and after talking the TDK owner (Jeremy). He brought up alot of good points, mainly the one where its very very expensive (you have to buy new axels (supporting those coil over springs) and a new suspension kit for a TJ is also a bit pricey. Alot goes on when you move to that suspension. Yes it would be awesome but I probably won’t ever do the extreme rock crawling that would facilitate such an awesome/expensive suspension. Yea, I know I may regret not just doing it but its a money thing at this point.

I ordered a new TDK CJ7 wide-track frame with shock towers so I can use my narrow track axles but can switch to a wide track axle later if I want. Also the frame is going to come with the YJ shackel reversal so I can use YJ springs for a softer ride.

You can see it as it arrived in this picture.

Here it is after I sprayed the inside with Eastwood Undercoating spray and apply por-15 black paint.

2 weeks before it shows up. ($2105 for frame + $515 shipping) I wanted it to be galvanized but the place Jeremy from TDK sends the frames to get galvanized is shut down for upgrades until beginning of 2015… oh well, if I did decide to get it done there are a whole two choices in Michigan

Galvanizers Inc
12600 Arnold, Redford, MI 48239
(313) 535-2600

National Galvanizing
1500 Telb St, Monroe, MI 48162
(734) 243-1882

Then while laying in bed I ordered a skyjacker softride suspension kit and new motor mounts. Once Credit Card Santa delivers all these goodies I can then begin swapping everything over from the old frame. To prep I’m going to start loosening everything up since everything is so rusted up, it takes longer than normal.

There was much time spent on trying to figure out what axles did I get with this CJ7.

I thought the rear was an AMC 20 (which I heard is REALLY REALLY bad because its a 2 piece very breakable design). I was correct, it was a AMC 20 which is pictured above

I found two potential solutions to fix the two piece AMC20 axle to make it more robust

  1. $350 Omix-ADA 16530.20 AXLE KT 1-PC NT A20 16530.20 – 7071K
  2. $361 Yukon Gear & Axle YCJS [21393]

So I checked with Unlimited Offroad to discuss rebuilding my front axle and possibly do one of these suggested repairs on my rear axle.  They were too expensive to do this plan of action so…

Ended up not rebuilding the AMC20 rear axle and instead buying a Dana44 wide track axle with Yukon Locker and new 3:54 gearing from Unlimited Offroad and also buying a widetrack rebuilt Dana30 front axle to replace the narrow track axles the 79 CJ came with.  I already had a Dana30 front but it was a narrow track axle and I wanted the wider stance the Jeep’s went to with the YJ’s for stability.

My future plans. I really want to put a Chevy v8 with a Dana 300 transfer case and an AX15 5spd Manila trans one day. I like what Novak offers but that’s a ways down the road. For now, the 4spd manual on the 4.2L inline 6cyl will have to do (unless I blow it)

The jeep runs great with a DUI HEI distributor, the motorcraft carb and an electric fan. (The body lift with the mechanical fan wasn’t cooling the radiator)

Also replaced the oil pump and screen just to be on the safe side. New Oil Pan and gasket.

The mechanical clutch doesn’t work because of the stupid body lift (angle is all off). So working on putting a hydraulic clutch in which makes more sense anyhow… More reliable. Downfall is the stock pedals won’t work. The master clutch cylinder arm has nowhere to attach to. You are suppose to have pedals from 81-86 that had a 4cylinder since they came with a hydraulic clutch. Then it’s an easy bolt in. On the prowl for pedals and I think I’m going to try YJ pedals if I don’t find something soon.

It’s winter time and the hard top I have is in very bad condition and doesn’t fit the jeep real good. It is hitting the rollbar. Ordered a new one from Rally Tops which was close to $1800 with shipping. I like the quality of there tops and satisfaction guaranteed. They say 2-3 weeks for delivery and I’m in it for a little less than 2k.

Still need to fix the oil pressure gauge.. Pretty sure it’s the sending unit since a new gauge doesn’t work either.
Need to bolt down the center console
Need new seats to support the 5point harness
Temp and fuel gauge doesn’t work either but I have a new assembly to try.

Items installed already

  • MotorCraft 2100 JEEP Carb 258/4.2 Non-Smog 1.08
  • DUI HEI DISTRUBUTOR 258 6 CYL-BLUE
  • Centech Wiring Harness (JP-78-83D)
  • Rock Hard Rear Bumper with Lighted License Plate Mount
  • Dana 44 with Yukon locker (3.54)
  • Dana 30 added new WARN Hubs (3.54)
  • 2.5″ Skyjacker Suspension kit (springs, ubolts, shocks)
  • New Waterpump
  • New Mean Green Alternator (MG7127)
  • New SOLENOID-STARTER MOTOR
  • New Plugs
  • New Autozone Clutch
  • End Links, Extended Sway Bar (Quick Double Disconnect) 2″-2.5″ Front, Skyjacker
  • Moog D30 D44 Upper & Lower Ball Joints
  • Cardone Brake Calipers 4181 – front
  • TSM D44 Rear Calipers Pair – rear
  • Electric Fan (since body lift throws the clutch belt driven fan off) do they work okay when mudding? Big worry of mine is overheating.. seems to happen often.

Desires if budget allows:

  • Seat Belts (I have the back seat to put in so whatever I do in the front, if they offer something for the back I’d like to get it so I can match)
  • Finish installing Centech Wiring to include running wire to Rock Hard Bumper License Plate 
  • Mount on Spare Tire. Please check that all dash lights work. Install Taillights
  • Install Wiper Motor, Windsheild, rubbers, etc. etc.. I have Glass for front window
  • Install Mirrors (side and rearview)
  • install Doors
  • Install Hood
  • Install Fenders
  • Install Brakes including Emergency Brake and verify they work
  • Install Front and Rear Driveshafts
  • Verify Two Wheel & Four Wheel Drive works.
  • Verify Heater / Defrost work
  • Install Roll Bar
  • Double-check work done with driveline is solid
  • Install O SH*T Bar for passenger


Future:
I do plan on adding a winch on the front so if you are doing any electrical, please think of what I may need for the winch.
I plan on putting in a radio in a center console of some sort (not sure it matters but wanted to keep you in the loop)
Would like a hidden kill switch since its so easy to steal jeep’s, I want to have a hidden kill switch somewhere
Eventually figure out speakers and radio and New rims and 35″ tires

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