1980 CJ7 build


It's been a busy time with my family due to my mother-in-law having a serious bout with pneumonia. We've spent a lot of time traveling back, and forth to the hospital, and now the rehab center. Top that off with very cold weather (today it was 20 below zero) and nothing is getting done on the Jeep.

However, I did hear from my transmission guy yesterday. It seems that whoever rebuilt the trans the last time didn't put some thrust washer in it and the main shaft bounced back, and forth inside and pretty much ruined the whole damn thing. It was mushroomed on the end, and he couldn't get the planetary off. Some of the clutches were welded together... He was questioning the fact that I was driving it before I took it out of the Jeep. Long story short, I'm looking at $1,400 or so to rebuilt it. Pretty much the entire thing other than the case, and the valve body is toast.

So I'm gonna have to look around junkyards for a good core. I'm also thinking about changing plans to a small block Chevy/700R4 swap if one can be found.

It would be easier to find an LS these days, but that's more money, and more electronics. I'm not rolling in money, and not great at electronics, but I'm considering it. The parts availability and good mileage and power would be nice. At least there is good aftermarket support.


Well, it has been forever since I have been able to get anything done on the Jeep. Being a cripple makes life interesting. I have a lot of issues, and my left shoulder has been a big one since last spring. The VA has been dancing around the issue with shots, physical therapy, and the like, but I go under the knife on the 2nd. Lefts see if if gets fixed.

My mother-in-law was very sick since right after Christmas. Bronchitis, then Pneumonia, and finally Congestive Heat Failure. We buried her a week ago today. This left us in a cash bind with the wife being off work taking care of her.

Of course it had to be during this time that our furnace caught fire. We've been heating with a propane powered Mr Buddy, and a Kerosene heater, and a couple electric ones. Our $5,000 deductible insurance doesn't help any...

So... The transmission guy called me a while back, and said there were some big problems. Just because I was driving the '79 CJ5 around prior to tearing it down doesn't mean it was gonna be an easy refresh. Well, I had told him that I wanted it to be 100% so that once it goes in this time, it won't have to come out again...

First thing is he couldn't get the dang thing apart. The output shaft was mushroomed on the end and he couldn't get the planetary and front drum off. There was supposed to be some kind of thrust washer there that was missing.

The pump was scored, as was one other part. (I forget)

I ended up buying a core trans at a junk yard for parts. The output shaft was harder to find. Had to go to Ebay for that. Turns out my "Dodge truck" TF 727 is actually out of an old International. Apparently IH put Mopar stuff in some of their trucks back in the day. This also means there will be no changing over to the Dana 300.

The Dana 20 was gone through, and there were some problems here as well. One of the shift rails was boogered up. I had a spare Dana 20 and a rail was swapped out. One of the shafts was scored from bad roller bearings, but the spare case shaft was also bad so had to buy one. Then I had to get a repair sleeve for the front output yoke on the T-case. There was a groove from the seal on the old one, and my spare T-case is a Jeep model. The IH one is 26 spline, and the Jeep is 10 spline, so I couldn't use that yoke.

He ended up using the core case, as my original case also has 3 different size bolts in the pan from past owners messing things up... It's much cleaner so that will make painting it easier. The interlock pills have been taken out of the t-case so I'll be able to use my twin stick cable shifter. I have both the short IH and the longer Dodge shifter, and kickdown arms for the trans, so I should be able to get whatever shifter I find to work.

Here they are as I picked them up.

A cripple needs the cherry picker to unload when he's all by himself...

For now, I'll just set the unit on a dolly and roll it out of the way.

After I get all healed up from my surgery, I hope to get the engine cleaned up. Then I can mate the power pack together, paint it, get the motor mounts, and trans mounts put in, and have it all sitting in the frame.

Right now I have to hurry up and build a golf hole for Barstool golf for the VFW. I started on that tonight. It's Jeep themed as well, but no photos til it's done.


Probably should have got this a year ago when I started this odyssey, but I finally picked up one of these.

Not sure how much it will help seeing as how there won't be much "Jeep" left in the thing by the time I get her done...

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It's 58 out, and sunny... Perfect day to display my rather ordinary rattle can skills on the fuel tank and skidplate. Straight flat surfaces help.

This is exactly what I was afraid was going to happen. Spring was going to come, and the VA was going to schedule my shoulder surgery (on the 2nd) so as to coincide my recovery with the nice weather... After all, we can't have me doing work on my Jeep now can we?

I did get finished with the Jeep related barstool golf hole at my VFW. Of course, as the Commander, I'll be there Saturday for the event. As a matter of fact, I'll be keeping score of the teams as they file through. I put it away soon as I finished it, because we have a fish fry Fri night, but I'll get photos of it Sat.


Eureka! The fuel tank and skidplate are in. That may seem like a relatively small milestone to the experienced builder, but to a first time novice like me, I'm very happy. This thing gave me fits today... I started on it myself, but warned my son (home on spring break) I may need some help once I get to the point of lifting it up, as it will swing around on the cherry picker.

First off, my idea of putting some rubber between the aluminum fuel tank, and the steel skidplate didn't work out too well. The machine shop followed my instructions all too well. I had told them make it to follow the lines of the tank. They did, but it fit so closely, I was worried about it rubbing. Enter the pieces of truck inner tube.

Perfect for cushion. Also perfect for spreading out the skidplate just far enough so the holes no longer matched up... They weren't elongated like those in the tank. I ended up taking them out and just putting one in the bottom.

As if that wasn't enough, my test fit was with the tank only. It has individual tabs. The skidplate is bent with one long tab. That means the straps I was using to lift it with the cherry picker were hitting the last crossmember... She wouldn't go up into place. I had to lower it and re-strap it sideways.

At this point, I told my son this whole mess has pretty much been trial, and error. I've had to repair vehicles before. I've modified them before a bit, but this is the first time I've ever been so bold as to attempt to build one from the frame up.

OK, So it's re-strapped, an up in place. Still won't go. Guess what? Those one piece tabs again. This time on the front edge of the tank. I wasn't thinking about how the crossmember turns down at the outside edges. I just told them to build it that way because it would be more simple. (less expensive)

OK, kid (he's 22) hand me the big grinder with the cut off wheel... He wanted to do it in place, and I almost let him, but the dad got the better of me, and we took it back down. Last thing I need was the wheel getting tweeked and exploding a month or two before he graduates college. He was never interested in learning before, as he was a band kid in high school, and plus I was gone a lot on deployments, so we did this the right way.

Took a long notch out of the passenger side and a tiny one out of the driver side.

Here's where it got bad. After we got that fixed I went arount to the rear to tighten up those, and you guessed it... the one piece tab again. However, it was just w tiny bit where the bumper connects to the rear crossmember, and there would be no having to reach over the rear axle, so I broke my own rule and did it in place. Yes I did a "Do as I say, not as I do." dad thing... Just took like 20 seconds to nip off the corner.

However... It's in.

Probably be the last thing I get to do for a month or two as my shoulder surgery is Tuesday, but I'll probably be trying to tinker a bit on one thing or another... I just hope it works so I can get to fixin' stuff once I'm healed.


Well, the fish fry is over for tonight, and we set up the hole for Barstool Golf in the morning.

Here she is... "Jeep" themed as promised.

I took the fenders, grill, and hood from my old CJ5, and did a M38A1 like paint job on it. The bumper numbers are VFW Post 1279 rather than unit, and vehicle number. They came off the Jeep that the drivetrain came off I'm using for this build. I was going to keep them as spares in case I bang one up on the trail, but they weren't that great anyhow, and being the VFW Commander kinda means you do a bit more... so I donated them.

When the hole isn't set up we put it under this wood carving as a display. We already got lots of remarks on it tonight. This was the first fish fry it was up for.

The hole goes up on end, and rolls away for easy storage in one big piece.


The healing process on the shoulder is going slow, but I have to do something.... I decided to go tinker in the garage today. Spring weather got me thinking about summer heat, so I installed a new (old furnace) garage fan. I used some parts from a fan that was originally installed in a Army expandable shelter. (big folding conex) Now I have a much better exhaust fan, with both high and low. Scrap lumber, and an assortment of different sized screws were on hand, so the cost was only my time.


El Gordo

EL Gordo
My first car was a 79 Jeep CJ7. I got it in 81 (yeah, I'm old lol). I treated it and myself like we were bulletproof. At least I'm still here!

I knocked a spring mount off relatively easily back then. Seems the factory welders aim was off a bit. Had all of them welded when I had it repaired. I don't know how hard yours was wheeled but it might be worth looking at.

Enjoying the build!


Shoulder surgery did not go as planned. Recovery has been more painful than the last time. I am 20 yeas older, and I may have done a bit too much too early, but it's starting to settle down a bit, so Today I went out to the garage to tinker on the Jeep for the first time in what seems like forever.

Nothing real heavy. I drilled, and tapped 8 holes in my rear bumper. These will be for mounting the bumperettes that the bumper numbers will go on to complete the M38A1 look this needs to pull off the military tribute.

I ran into one problem... the tow clevis mounts. If I put the bumperetts on, I can't use the recovery points. Lucky for me, I have American ingenuity to make up for actual mechanical skills. I cut slots in the mounting holes in the bumperetts. Now I just have to loosen the bolts up a turn or two, pull one end off, (they are very flexible) then slide off the other end. Bingo... recovery points.

I also decided to mount the tire carrier to the bumper, as it's been sitting around for months.. Had to sand the paint off the spindle though. the bushing is a very precise fit. I'll have to wait till payday to get some degreaser so I can paint it.

That was about all I could handle for today, so I called it quits, and went in. Felt good to get something done on it though.


I managed to locate my torque arm bolt I thought was missing. Hell, I don't even remember taking it off, and it wasn't what I was looking for at the time... lol. Why don't I remember taking it off? Because I didn't. I went to move the skid plate, and there it was... giving me the finger.

Good deal, God loves me. I ordered up a bushing set, so we'll see what happens when that gets here.

Then, I went to take the purple motor mounts off my green engine...

Whoever built that CJ5 I got this drivetrain from had awful taste in colors.

So, I'll soon be putting the drivetrain back in the frame, (soon, as in "this summer") and I got to thinking about the engine itself. It was running strong when I pulled it from the CJ5, but it's been sitting on an engine stand for over a year now. It did have some issues, but nothing I was worried about at the time.

  1. It got bad fuel mileage. Duh, a Mopar 360, 4.88 gears, no overdrive, and 33s.
  2. It did have a very slow leak at the weep hole of the water pump. (easy fix)
  3. It was difficult to start during cold weather. Duh again, big ole v-8, 4 barrel with no choke.

Other than that, she ran like a striped ape. I'm concerned about the fact that it has sat for such a long time. I'll be hand cranking it... and all that. I never really paid attention before when I was tearing the CJ5 down, but now I notice that the drivers side of the engine is dry, and the passenger side is all oily... All 40 year old engines burn a little, or leak a bit, but I never noticed it when I was driving the green jeep...now I'm kinda worried, but I don't want to have to open her up, and kill my budget. if I don't have to. I have other expensive crap to get like fuel injection.

Here is more of that wonderful purple that will be going away...

I also picked up a gallon of simple green in preparation for getting a neighbor kid to help scrub the engine down this week....


I made a little progress today. A little. I went out to paint the tire carrier as I was worried about it being still bare steel. Did the bumperettes as well. I also found a slightly darker color, (Khaki). It's closer to what out vehicles looked like in Iraq, so I'll be going with that.

Now normally (being a redneck) I just shake the spray can, and shoot. However, with this being my first frame up vehicle build... I decided to use some of that prep stuff first to clean the metal... Then, I shot it with some primer... Them I shot it with paint... Then for the first time ever, I got more than just my normal runs from putting it on too heavy. I got cracks. This didn't happen with the frame, or the bumper... Maybe because I hit that with the chassis saver first...

Not a big deal breaker, but enough to piss me off a bit. First time painting bare steel, so maybe there's a trick to it... I'm normally painting over stuff. I'll paint over it again in a day or so, and see how it comes out... It's going to be a rough looking military build anyway... In 28 years, I ain't never had a pristine military vehicle, besides, I want it so that when it gets dinged up on the trail, I can come home, and spray paint the scratches.

Second thing is I'm looking to get the powertrain in this week. This means I had to clean the skid plate. Oh, how I wish I had taken a before shot of it. That thing was caked with, in places, over 1/4" of crud. Putty knife, brush, simple green, water hose, and my shoulders are on fire. BUT, it's clean... ish.

I got some names of some mobile welders, so I'm hoping to get one of them to come out and weld in the motor mounts, and ford truck shock towers I'm using this later this week.

I also figured out a little bracket that will hold the tire carrier open so it won't swing around if it's opened on uneven ground. One thing LOD neglected to put into their design. The welder will have to do that as well.


Well, this was a long, hot, rainy day. However, I spent it in the garage with my best girl, and my Jeep, so tired, and sore though I may be, I'm happy.

After getting in contact with a couple area mobile welding guys, I thought it best to see how close I could get the engine to line up to where I need it to be. Today was all about test fitting the powertrain. First thing to go in was the skid plate. When you're a cripple working alone, and you're still nursing a sore shoulder, you do what you have to. I used my big labor saving device... the cherry picker.

Next came the trans, and t-case.

Now the sucky part. I have to put the tub back on, to make sure I have clearance... Here I discovered something. The stupid old cherry picker I've been wrestling with is a real PITA to move around, so I just left it in place and rolled the Jeep under it... The rollers it's on are much newer, and roll easier. Plus I don't have a swing load...

Perfect fit, or it looks that way. I was worried because the jeep this all came out of had home made motor mounts, and trans cross member all welded in solid... I'm using the Jeep trans mounts, and Advanced Adapters Dodge V-8 weld in kit.

Then I run into a bit of a hiccup. It seems the Advanced Adapters kit isn't so advanced... there is about a 1/2" gap between the mount and frame on the drivers side, and about a 2 1/2 in gap on the passenger side. the welder will have to build it up some. I don't want to send them back, I like the big rubber bushings, and the plates that mount on the engine. I go in and look them up online... They had sent me the mounts for a TJ... I hope I can get them to sen out the correct ones in a rush... I've had these sitting in the garage all winter... Just need to change out the motor plate part. The CJ part goes wider and has several holes to adjust for the width.

I stretched a chain across the frame to rest the engine on for a couple days till I can get the welder here. Don't want him here till my new torque arm bushing comes in the mail anyway... The engine will be a bit offset to the drivers side. It did squat the springs a bit when I took the weight off the cherry picker...

Next I marked the locations for the shock towers. I'm gonna have the welder knock those out while he's here.

As I was getting ready to turn off the lights Brandy started getting excited. she tend to get bored out in the garage with nothing to do but watch me work... funny she doesn't get bored inside with nothing to do except watch me watch TV... or at the VFW with nothing to do except watch me do paperwork and fill the gaming machines...

I just had to snap this shot of her staring at me...


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Holy crap, this heat is insane...

Tough week. Had to go back to the VA, and get a shot of steroids in the shoulder to calm it down. Good news is I didn't hurt anything they did during the surgery by doing too much too early like I thought. It's just all inflamed...

I've also been dealing with a pretty painful infection in my big toe. Had to get that drained... Not the tough guy I used to be... lol.

Today is good. Independence Day. Happy Birthday America! Well, the heat sucked real bad, but I got to be in a parade. Not with my Jeep though :(. In my daily driver... 2003 Marauder. I was representing the VFW that I'm commander of.

Went out to lunch at an Iron Skillet. They were advertising free meals for active duty, and veterans. They even had a missing man table to honor our fallen.

Then after a nap, and some freshly grilled hot dogs, I went out to put on the new motor mounts that Advance Adapters sent me. You can see the first set was not gonna work...

Now to watch Independence Day.

After all, Independence day is all about a Marine who marries a stripper, then saves the world.


Guess who has motor mounts, and shock towers welded in?

Well, that happy feeling didn't last long... Guess who's brain damage, coupled with the inability to think in hot weather caused him to have the guy weld the motor mounts in the wrong place?

Having a TBI is not fun. I'm always forgetting things, losing things. I took off the rubber isolators and bolts, but to prevent me from losing them, I put them on the bolts... Now the guy shows up to weld, and I position the mounts without the rubber... He leaves... I remember the rubber... the engine sits too high with them, or just right without, but then it's mounted solid. I try to put them in, and the holes don't even line up. I remember from when I had the tub on, I should have room, but I really didn't want it that high anyhow. There is another issue...

The Jeep didn't come with this powertrain combo, and I had used the original trans mount (a new one) just to locate the engine in the frame. This places it in the correct place (front to rear) but a bit too high for good drive line angles.

So now I have a new plan... I have to modify the motor mounts on the engine block. Cut off the flat part on the bottom, and have it welded to the top, lowering them over the rubber isolators. Also, I don't need 4 inches of room between the transfer case and the skidplate, so I plan to have a machine shop remake me one bracket (red arrow) 1.5" shorter.

It's in for now, but it won't be in for good, for a while... I just don't want a complete fabricated solid mounted home made welded in set up like it had in the CJ5 it came out of.

Shock towers came out better. the tops are all perfect.



Only problem here is the lower mounts on the left front are not in line properly, but they can be tweeked easily enough...

Last thing I had him do was a couple of little brackets I found in my scrap pile for my tire carrier. I needed a way to lock it open so it wouldn't swing back, and forth when I was using it. Now I can just open it, and drop a bolt or pin in there to lock it in place. I loved the LOD bumper when I looked at it online, but they didn't have a way to lock it open, and I didn't notice this at the time I ordered it. Problem fixed.