Original Levi’s Edition CJ-5
Chris Dickerson was born in Midland, Texas, in 1974. That same year, his father, Chuck,bought this ’75 CJ-5 Renegade. To say that it holds sentimental value for the Dickersons would be an understatement. Chuck inspired Chris to love Jeeps and what they stand for as an American icon. When his father passed away, instead of modifying the Jeep with a different suspension or swapped-in drivetrain components, Chris left it just as his father would have remembered it.
The last year for straight framerails under a CJ was 1975. For the ’76 models, AMC widened the framerails in the rear and changed to wider leaf springs. Chris’s Levi’s Edition Jeep still rides on the narrow stock 1¾-inch-wide front and rear leaf springs, with factory shocks on the short factory shock mounts. Saginaw steering boxes replaced the Ross cam and lever steering on CJs in ’72, and the factory power steering on Chris’ Renegade has no problem turning the 31x10.50R15 BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires on the polished factory wheels. The wheel on the back of the tub even holds the 38-year-old original spare. Below the spare, the factory tow hitch is a reminder of Jeep’s farming heritage; it is a big heavy implement that has been missing from Jeep’s lineup for decades.
Back in 1975 you could still get a V-8 in a short-wheelbase Jeep, and Chris’ CJ-5 came with an AMC 304. It is still sitting between the framerails with 122,000 miles on the ticker and only minor upgrades along the way. Emissions requirements were just beginning in the ’70s, and the 304 was hampered with a smog pump and a catalytic converter bigger than some apartments we have lived in. Both are still in place, but the belt to the smog pump was removed long ago. The only other modification is a Performance Distributors DUI distributor that keeps the spark plugs much cleaner than the factory ignition module.
Behind the V-8 is a Borg-Warner T-15 three-speed manual that isn’t really geared low enough for the trail or high enough for the freeway, but does an admirable job of living behind the torque of the V-8. The tranny is bolted to a Dana 20 transfer case, which has a centered rear output that is quieter than the Spicer 18s that were used up through ’71. The Dana 20 still retains the same sturdy gear-driven design and cast iron case. Power is then routed to the centered rear Dana 44 that uses flanged, one-piece axleshafts with the factory 3.73 gears and a worn-out Track-Lok. Up front the Dana 30 uses the same gears and carrier and has the open knuckles that became standard in 1970, but still has 11-inch drum brakes since discs were not an option until 1976 and did not become standard until 1977.
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Body and Interior
The Renegade has the long front fenders and hood that became standard in ’72 in order to fit AMC engines under the hood. Chris’ CJ still has an upright windshield frame though, and is the last year before the windshield was leaned back in an effort to improve mileage and lessen wind noise. Another change that occurred in 1976 was the switch to the large rectangular taillights that were used with some changes all the way through the TJ model. Chris’ Jeep has round taillights and separate round backup lights in the rear of the tub, which does not have the optional tailgate.
Chris’ sister rolled the Jeep in 1988, just weeks after the front cage half was added to the rollbar, which kept anyone from being seriously injured. Plenty of sheetmetal was damaged in the roll, though, and the Jeep sat in an aircraft hanger for the next fourteen years. In 2002 Chris decided to surprise his father and fix the body before South Side Auto Body laid down the stock paint and added the New Old Stock Renegade stickers to the hood. Other than the cage, the interior is largely stock. Like the front bumper, the grab bar and seat brackets were chromed by Chris’ dad, but they no longer hold the trademark denim seats that came in the Levis Edition. Chris does still have the seats, but he has been searching for someone to reupholster them back to original. The gas tank is located under the rear of the tub instead of under the passenger seat, another factory change that started in 1972.
Good, Bad, and What It’s For
Admittedly, there are a lot of things that this Jeep is not good at. It rides down the road like a wagon. It has tall gears and open diffs. It has little tires. The thing looks like it just rolled off of the showroom floor, though. Most of the time it lives in the garage. But on those warm days when Chris thinks of his father, instead of looking at old photo albums he hops in his Jeep and takes it for a drive down memory lane.
Why I Wrote This Feature
This magazine is full of heavily modified Jeeps, and I strongly encourage everyone to customize their Jeep to fit their intended purpose. I certainly don’t have the self-control to leave anything alone. So when I found such a clean, unmolested Jeep that is older than most of our readers, I felt it deserved to be showcased.
Vehicle: 1975 Levi’s Edition CJ-5
Engine: 304 AMC V-8
Transmission: Borg Warner T-15
Transfer Case: Dana 20
Suspension: Factory leaf springs
Axles: Dana 30 (front), Dana 44 (rear)
Wheels: 15x7 factory aluminum
Tires: 31x10.5R15 BFGoodrich All-Terrain
Built For: In memory of Chuck Dickerson
Estimated Cost: Priceless heirloom