The Back Story
My love affair with Jeeps dates back to 1983 when we bought our first – a 1983 CJ-5. It was an awesome machine and took us to all sorts of exciting and wonderful places in the backwoods of California. Billy, our oldest son would fall asleep in his car seat in the back seat of the Jeep while we rocked and rolled over dusty dirt roads in search of ghost towns and abandoned railroad rights of way. We’d have to come home and give him a bath to wash the “trip” off of him.
Unfortunately, budget constraints and life got in the way of Jeep ownership and we had to sell the old girl, but we agreed that one day in the future, when we could afford to do it, we would once again own a Jeep.
That day came in 2001 when some money came available for me to start looking for another Jeep. I found a 1976 CJ-5 that needed some work, but seemed to run well. I bought it and headed for home and it sounded like the rods were going to come out of the bottom of the engine, so I turned around and went back to the dealer I bought it from. Fortunately, they were very reputable and made me a new deal I couldn’t refuse. I put it on a trailer, brought it home and put a new engine in it.
It had a Carter YF carburetor in it that always gave me trouble though so in about 2010 I took the plunge and stripped all the stock intake and exhaust equipment out of it. I did some research and talked to a friend who recommended the AFI throttle body fuel injection kit and I went with Clifford for a new intake and header for the exhaust. While I was at it I installed a JB Fabrication twin-stick shifter on the Dana 20 transfer case. After I got all the work done, I took it to Bud’s Muffler in Colorado Springs to have a Magnaflow muffler and stainless steel exhaust system installed. The AFI system came with an HEI ignition system, so the beast runs like a top now.
While all this is going on, we’d been into horses and the rodeo scene. My youngest son, Joel roped calves for a bit and then got into saddle bronc riding, so for a long time we’d needed a truck to pull our horse trailer, gather hay and feed and generally tend to the needs around the farm. When Joel graduated from high school he decided to give up his rodeo activities and the cost of hay and feed was sky-rocketing, so we decided to get out of the horse business. In 2012, we traded our Dodge 3500 on a 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. It was a beautiful thing, but it didn’t live long.
On 25 February 2014, it met it’s end while I was driving to work one morning, A young man, his pregnant wife and their daughter were “rushing” to the hospital when he ran a red light and I T-boned them at 60 mph. It was touch and go for all of us for a while, but God was faithful to bring us through the trial. For my part, it was a wonderful opportunity to see Him work through His people and to change me in the process.
As a result, we replaced the totalled 2010 Rubi with a 2014 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon X (Tenth Anniversary Edition). It’s like a Jeeper’s Cadillac. I’ve never driven an off-road vehicle that was so nice inside and at the same time so rugged. I’m just waiting for the weather to get good enough to get it out into the Colorado mountains.
Now, Why We’re Here
So, Joel needed a vehicle (his truck died) and he decided that he’d like a Jeep like Dad’s. We talked about it and agreed that looking for a CJ-7 would be better than the shorter wheelbase CJ-5. Also, looking for something a little newer would be better and I have had some problems with the heater/defroster in my ’76 that I haven’t been able to master. After searching for a while we found a 1985 CJ-7 that was mechanically in good shape – the Dana 300 T-case had been freshly rebuilt, the engine looked clean with no leaks and no smoke or odd noises and the axles were both free of leaks. It has the BW T-5 in it, which is to be expected, but it seemed to shift well. The body was another story. A fair amount of rust in the usual places, but the good news was that it came with a full complement of new body panels and floor pans to replace the rusty parts. So, we bought it.
Soon after we bought it, the rains came…and came some more. When they come the roads sometimes get boggy south of our house. In the past, I’ve nearly set our truck sideways in the mud because it gets so bad. As Joel was headed out on an errand after a morning rain, he got into the boggy mud a little too fast – it went right and rolled once landing on its wheels on the shoulder. He was wearing his seatbelt and escaped with just a small cut on his hand, a bump on his head and a very bruised ego. Thanks be to God that the only major damage was to sheet metal and not to him.
I got the call at work, came home and found him sitting on what was left of the top waiting for me. Fortunately, the drive train and the frame were undamaged in the accident, so we hooked up the Rubi and drug it off the shoulder (first time I got to use the lockers). We then towed it the mile and a half back to the property where I hooked the shorter ’76 up to it to drag it into the shop. Joel was getting ready to leave for Advance Training for the Army in a few days.
The question now was what to do next. Between the cancer in the body tub and now the loss of the front fenders, hood, grill and wind shield, we had to decide whether it made sense to rebuild or write it off and start over. After a lot of soul searching and agreeing that it would be a great learning opportunity for both Joel an myself, we decided to proceed with a rebuild. I would start tearing it down while Joel was gone and also start looking for a donor vehicle to swipe a better body tub from.
It turned out a better solution would reveal itself…