Posted by: Mark Polk | 2015

Next Project Vehicle – 1980 Jeep CJ7

1980 Jeep CJ7With the 71 Power Wagon project about 75% complete I am planning ahead for the next restoration project. I wanted to find a Mopar project car like a Superbee or GTX, but I stumbled on a true barn find at a good price. It’s a 1980 CJ7 Jeep with a running 304 engine, power steering, a hardtop and not much rust. That makes it a good cndidate for restoration. The Jeep has literally been sitting in a shed since 1999.
 I have owned lots of Jeeps (7) over the years and there was one in particular I wish I would have kept. It was a 1976 Golden Eagle with a 304 engine. I bought it from the original owner when it was less than one year old. It wasn’t long after graduating high school and I landed a good job, but a year later I was laid-off  and couldn’t afford keep it.
Restored 1981 Jeep CJ7About 10 years ago I restored this 1981 base model CJ7 with a 4 cylinder that I bought for $700 in 1997. It’s a nice Jeep, but I always wanted to find another V8 Jeep. The project Jeep is a 1980 model, but I plan to clone it as a Silver Anniversary CJ that came out in 1979. By 1980 the 304 engine was so laden with government imposed emissions BS that the horsepower rating dropped to about 125 hp.  I want the Jeep to be a driver, and we tow it behind our motorhome, so I am not too concerned about the horsepower, but 125 hp is not acceptable for any V8 engine. The Jeep has been sitting for 16 years and after we put a battery in it and an electric fuel pump with fresh gas it fired right up. It had good oil pressure and it ran good with no knocks, but it is burning a little oil which was evident by the blue smoke from the exhaust. Another mechanical issue I noticed when I drove it to the shop was the popping out of gear when you downshift the transmission. This project will not be a full blown restoration since it will be driven and towed on a regular basis.
My preliminary thoughts for this project build are:
1) Do a compression test and open the engine up to take a look. If things are in order I will probably overhaul the engine as opposed to a complete rebuild using a mild cam, new lifters, new rings, and rework the heads.
2) Rebuild the T176/T177 transmission
3) Go through all mechanicals i.e. brakes, steering, axles, hubs and suspension.
4) Add a low restriction free-flowing dual exhaust system.
4) Upgrade the ignition system
4) Add a 4 inch lift and 33 inch tires
5) Do all the bodywork. Paint it and add Renegade decals to match a 79 Silver Anniversary edition Jeep.
My budget for this build is $7,000 and that includes the $2,200 I spent buying it, so I’ll need to pinch pennies. I’ll start looking for good deals on parts now, but won’t start working on it until the 71 Power Wagon is on the road. I’ll keep you posted.
Mark Polk
Auto Education 101



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