Hi, Manny, welcome to the forums! Your comments brought back a cascade of memories. My original intent when drafting the Jeep Owner's Bible stemmed from several principles. My driving background included high stakes, remote areas of northern Nevada, with seasons ranging from winter sub-zero extremes to summer days that taxed a vintage Jeep's cooling system to the limit. I "lived Jeep" from my learner's permit through my first driver's license exam, followed by years of high desert exploration and hunting seasons in shale above timberline. By the time I first did the Rubicon Trail in a stone-stock '64 CJ-5 Jeep (1967), I was an 18-year-old veteran four-wheeler.
Within a year of that trip, my professional automotive technical career began with several years of work as a light and medium duty truck fleet mechanic, an environment where preventive care and OEM integrity ruled. Later, this penchant for bringing vehicles back to original equipment standards got further reinforced by an apprenticeship with the Operating Engineers Union, where a journeyman repairman/welder was responsible for off-highway equipment and machinery that would today be worth $200K to $1M or more per piece. I continued to four-wheel in primitive, remote country during my off time, working jobs like the I-80 bypass of Winnemucca, Nevada.
All of that carried into my career as an automotive journalist and author, and the primary aim with the Jeep Owner's Bible and my subsequent Bentley books was to convey "how to think like a professional mechanic and experienced four-wheeler". In my view and experience, that mechanic was a fleet truck and off-highway equipment professional bent on preventive maintenance and OEM-class repairs. My goal has always been to prevent a vehicle breakdown or failure in service...Which has also made sense for my Jeep and other off-pavement, backcountry use 4x4s.
Today, trails like the Rubicon and vehicles like the 116" wheelbase Jeep JK Wrangler four-door 4x4 require 35" or larger diameter tires. This is in part due to the horrendous deterioration of these trails from theme park traffic numbers, and partly due to wheelbase lengths that rival traditional 1/2-ton, full-size pickup trucks. When I wrote the first edition of the Jeep Owner's Bible, released over twenty years ago, it was sensible to say that 33" tires were the largest diameter needed on any Jeep utility 4x4 of that era.
I still subscribe to 31"-33" tires for a Jeep 94" wheelbase CJ-7, and as you hint, Manny, that eliminates the laundry list of "trickledown" effects and required modifications needed to support 35" and bigger tires. I have always been concerned about center-of-gravity and roll center for the vintage Jeep 4x4s—they have relatively narrow track widths. Since first publishing in the early '80s, I have recommended the use of wider, negative offset wheels to widen the track width on lifted 4x4 vehicles.
From a pragmatic use and resale value standpoint, the moderate changes described in my books reflect a restorative philosophy. This stems from years at truck fleet and equipment maintenance work. If your four-wheeling is on reasonable trails and not full-on rock crawling, 31" to 33" tire diameter would work fine, requiring a 2.5" to 4" lift on your Jeep CJ-7. The vehicle could easily be restored to stock if necessary, as the modifications for fitting these tires would be minimal.
4x4 modifications have a lot to do with driving environments, outdoor interests and concern for environmental impact. My past years as the Media Representative on the Tread Lightly, Inc., Board of Directors further reinforced a longstanding respect for the environment—and our shared responsibility as backcountry land users.
Thanks for joining us, Manny, I look forward to your contribution and discussions at the forums—members and guests would enjoy photos of your CJ-7 at the new forums photo gallery! We'd like to hear about your four-wheeling interests, too!