History of the Jeep CJ7 - The "Perfect" Jeep

Published: 10th September 2009
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The Jeep CJ7 was first produced in 1976. Redesigned from the frame up, the new CJ was much more practical for "civilian" use than any of its predecessors. The now fully boxed frame not only provided superior strength, but was also widened to increase stability. The leaf springs were altered and moved further outward, and a steering stabilizer and anti-sway bars were added for even more improvements in drivability. Though the CJ5 received these improvements as well,, the CJ7 featured another 10 inches in the wheelbase. This not only provided an even more stable ride but also added rear leg room and interior cargo space. In 1982, the Jeep CJ7 was again improved with "wide track" axles upgrades. This provided a wider stance which increased side to side stability and cornering abilities.



In 1976 the CJ7 came standard with the 232ci inline 6 cylinder engine, but Jeep offered both a 5.0 liter (304ci) V8 and a 4.2L (258ci) inline 6 cylinder as upgrades. Also offered by Jeep was the choice of a standard heavy duty Borg Warner T-150 3 speed transmission, or an optional Borg Warner T18 4 speed "granny" transmission. The Dana Model 20 was the only transfer case available upon its release.



Things began to change in 1980 for the Jeep CJ7. The GM 151ci 4 cylinder engine was the stock powerplant. 1981 would be the last year of the optional 5.0L V8 engine. The AMC 150ci 4 cyclinger replaced the GM 151 in 1984.



Along the way, the transmission saw come changes as well. The Tremec T-176 and SR4 were both introduced in 1980, whose 4 speeds were built more for street use, rather than off-roading. Automatic transmissions, the TF999 and TF904, also debuted in 1980, for the more casual Jeep consumer. In '81, the 4 speed Borg Warner T4 and 5 speed T5 transmissions both saw their first use.



The Dana Model 20 transfer case was replaced in 1980 by the Dana Model 300. This new transfer case had a much deeper low range, at 2.62:1 compared to the 2.03:1 Dana 20. The change was necessary due to Jeep no longer offering anything like the granny gear found in the T18 transmission.



For standard axles on the CJ7, Jeep offered the Dana Model 30 in front and the AMC 20 in the rear. The Dana 44 rear axle was being offered as an upgrade on select models, and later became standard in 1986. There were no optional factory front axles.



In 1987, CJ7 was gone, the AMC badges were lost and the Wrangler was born. To many Jeep purists, this was the end of the real Jeep. Although the engines and geometry remained the same, the rear axle, transmission, and transfer case all went even "lighter" duty. The interior became more "car" like. For safety, the classic roll bar became sort of a roll cage, which prevented folding down the windshield on the fly.



Since 1987, there has not been a vehicle produced which could compete head to head with the Wrangler. However, there has still never been a vehicle like the Jeep CJ7. Today, it remains one of the most sought after Jeeps for off-roading, restoration, or just a weekend trip. It's simple design and popularity has kept the aftermarket flooded with parts and accessories. With frames now available, you can literally build a Jeep CJ7 from the ground up. All of these reasons, and many, many more, make the CJ7 the "perfect" Jeep.





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