I am anxious to get started on my 65 Dodge Coronet 500 build, but first I need to get my 1980 Jeep CJ7 project finished. I found a good deal on a 1980 CJ7 with a 304 and power steering, so I picked it up. My plan is to do a clone of the 79 Silver Anniversary Renegade. It will be a daily driver, so the restoration does not have to be show quality.
I want to rebuild the 304 engine and install a 4-inch Pro Comp lift I have at the shop. The transmission pops out of gear so I will more-than-likely rebuild it and then go through the brakes, hubs, and axles. When the Jeep it is mechanically correct I will finish the body work and paint to match a 79 Silver Anniversary Renegade.
The first step was to get the front end off the Jeep for easy access to the engine. I made room in the shop for the Jeep and got busy removing the front end. Removing the front end serves several purposes. I can access the engine easier, start on rust repair on both front fenders, clean and prep the firewall and front frame section for primer and paint, and when I get ready to paint the Jeep I have access to everything so no red paint will be noticeable when it’s finished. The Jeep does not have a lot of rust, but there are a couple spots on the fenders and grill that require some patch panel fabrication and welding.
With the front end off I got the engine out and disassembled it to have a look inside. I was hoping I could do a basic rebuild and use any parts that were still in good shape. When I got the pistons out I noticed a pretty large ridge at the top of the cylinder walls and my hopes of using existing parts quickly diminished. The cylinders would need to be bored, so the engine will get a complete engine rebuild kit.
These old 304 engines did not put out much horsepower, especially by 1980. I am hoping to squeeze a few more horsepower out of it by adding a mild cam, headers and a slightly bigger carburetor. Depending on the budget I might spring for a new intake as well. I loaded the engine parts in the truck and headed to my favorite machine shop.
The machine work will take awhile so I got busy installing the Pro Comp 4-inch lift while the engine is out of the Jeep. I also started welding some small patch panels in and doing some of the body work. At some point in time somebody painted over the original red color with a lavender color and the paint is difficult to sand. I am not looking forward to sanding the entire Jeep but there is no way around it, especially when you plan to change colors completely.
Bodywork and rust repair are probably my least favorite jobs during a restoration, but if you are going to do it you might as well do it right. I learned along time ago if you don’t fix rust the right way it is just a matter of time before it starts coming back through your new paint job. The best way to deal with it is to cut it out completely and weld new metal it its place. This stops the rust from spreading and you use less filler when you do the body work.
Mark J. Polk
Auto Education 101