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1985 Jeep CJ-7 4x4 Buildup Plans

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Mr. Ludel, do you have a repair & replacement shop in the Reno area ?  I picked up a 85 CJ7 in December of 2016, and I'm curious as to what I would need to do to install a later model engine with fuel injection and an automatic or should I sell my CJ and look for a newer jeep with the features I've mentioned. I have no idea about adapters if any are needed or if there are straight swaps. I'm not interested in any of the rock crawling or heavy duty 4 wheeling, although I enjoy watching it. My main interest is roaming around our backroads & finding interesting places to photograph, fish and explore. Any answers or suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

Robert Byrns, aka BubbaQ1


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BubbaQ1...Your CJ-7 is very nice!  Although other reasons might dictate a later vehicle choice, you have an AMC/Jeep model that is prized by Jeep buffs—myself included...Let's begin with the assets of a 1985 Jeep CJ-7 and go from there:

1)  Substantial, proven chassis, disc front brakes, Saginaw steering (power in your case?) and easy repair access.

2) Proven, rugged powertrain with the 4.2L inline six, a Dana 300 helical gear transfer case, an open-knuckle Dana 30 front axle and AMC Model 20 rear axle.

3) Fundamental electrical system, easier access and minimal electronics (only related to emissions and the engine).

4) Classic body tub styling with a quality hard top.  Great accessories access for seats, armor, a winch and such.

Whether you leave the vehicle stock or modify it, these are the upgrades needed for a stock vehicle:

1)  Upgrade front wheel hubs to accept 6-bolt free-wheeling hubs;  5-bolt freewheeling hubs are weaker and tend to loosen and shear the bolts.  Parts readily available for this upgrade.

2)  The BBD carburetor is livable if blueprint rebuilt as I share at the magazine.  Many benefit from an EFI conversion, either Mopar EFI or Howell TBI.  This is a strong consideration, I've covered both approaches at the magazine and in books.  Mopar EFI has been discussed and illustrated in my Jeep Owner's Bible and the Jeep CJ Rebuilder's Manual: 1972-86.  The Rebuilder's Manual would be a handy book for your CJ Jeep work and plans.  The prototype vehicle for that book was much like your Jeep CJ-7.

3)  One-piece rear axle shafts are often discussed.  They can be beneficial, especially with ultra-large tires.  Your tires are not grossly oversized, you can "get by" with torquing the rear axle shaft nuts to factory specification and method.  I discuss this in my Jeep CJ Rebuilder's Manual: 1972-86  and also at several AMC Model 20 discussions right here at the forums.  (Use the search box keywords for the AMC Model 20.)

4)  A heavy-duty transmission upgrade like 60Bubba's Warner T19 conversion covered here at the forums, an NV4500 like I illustrate in my Rebuilder's Manual or other options would each be considerations.  The T4/T5 will need a rebuild at some point, these are not heavy-duty units.

You have what appears to be a very clean and tastefully/mildly modified and upgraded CJ-7.  I'm really drawn to these vehicles, they are rugged, handle reasonably well, and can deliver exceptional service.  Easier to work on, too! 

As for a V-8 conversion or transmission upgrade beyond your T4 or T5, that's an option.  60Bubba is about to do a small-block Ford V-8 swap into his CJ-7, and we'll be discussing that project at the forums. 

We can discuss swaps further if you have a need for the power.  You're in Washoe County and may need to consider emissions issues, we can explore that demand, too...As is, this Jeep can meet your described needs with ease!

Regarding shops, my shop is full-time devoted to video production work and how-to projects for the magazine and Vimeo On Demand streaming rental topics.  The aim is to serve Jeep and other vehicle owners with instructional guidelines to perform their own work.  Not sure whether you have the desire or shop space for doing 'DIY' work, but that's where I can help...A 1985 Jeep CJ-7 4x4 is a terrific vehicle for the DIY learning curve.

Also, I'd be delighted to discuss trails in our area and throughout Northern Nevada.  It's springtime, snow is melting and the four-wheeling access gets better every day...


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