A CJ-7 Built For Tackling Desert Rocks
Randy Siade grew up driving big Jeeps in the mud. After moving to the Phoenix area, where real mud is about as common as sleet during an Arizona summer, he decided he'd build another Jeep. This time it would be for rockcrawling.
Randy's choice for a canvas was a stock '82 hardtop CJ-7 that he purchased used in 1992. The engine was certainly tired by this time, so something had to be done. The V-8s are often the engine of choice, but Randy went a different route and decided to retain the original 4.2L I-6. However, turning big tires was going to require a little encouragement in the performance area.
To start the rebuild, the head and the block were decked 0.020 inch, and the head was ported for increased flow. An Erson cam, heavy-duty springs, and lifters take care of getting the gas to and from the TRW flat-top pistons. Induction comes from a Holley 390 mounted on an Offenhauser manifold. Exhaust now exits through Hedman headers and Flowmaster mufflers. All this tweaking yields a healthy but reliable 245 hp.
In 1998, while climbing a steep hill, the rear driveshaft on the '82 snapped, causing the Jeep to roll back down the hill, crunching sheetmetal on the way to the bottom. A rebuild started with replacing the damaged metal hood, the front fenders, and the windshield. A rockcrawler fiberglass front end was installed and customized with hoodscoops and side marker lights. Aluminum diamond-plate fenderwells were added, and the Jeep was repainted bright white.
Much of the driveline has been upgraded or modified. The stout engine passes its power onto a Ford NP435 four-speed through a Zoom clutch. Reduction and four-wheel-drive chores are handled by a model 300 transfer case.
Power up front comes through a Dana 44 borrowed from a '74 Jeep Wagoneer. The long side axleshaft and the tube had to be shortened 4 inches, and Ford hubs and rotors were added to retain the five-lug wheel pattern. The narrowed Dana 44 was equipped with an ARB Air Locker, 4.88 gears, and Warn axles and locking hubs.
On the rear, Randy went with a Ford 9-inch, large-bearing rear axle from a '74 Ford Bronco. Superior 31-spline axles, 4.86 gears, a Detroit Locker, and custom trussing fill the bill for rear traction duties.
Randy did some custom work to suspend his axles and drivetrain as well. Suspension is comprised of a spring-over design in back that uses stock leaf packs plus Rancho Add-a-Leaves; the front incorporates a shackle reversal. Power steering runs a custom steering setup using 1-1/4-inch chrome-moly tubing with 48K-pound-rated rod ends. The tie rod is mounted to a custom attachment point that sits well above the springs on the passenger-side knuckle.
After twisting three front driveshafts and breaking the rear driveshaft, Randy decided to have Driveline Services in Phoenix build him two heavy-duty custom driveshafts; both shafts use beefy 2-inch-diameter, 3/16-inch wall tube.
All ride damping is handled by four Rancho RS 9000 shocks. Custom-grooved 35x15.5 Super Swamper tires on internally bead locked 12-inch wheels claw at rocks from all four corners.
Rock armor and recovery gear includes a Con-Ferr double tube front bumper, a custom 4-inch channel rear bumper with a Class 3 receiver, Smittybilt nerf bars, and a Ramsey 8,000-pound winch. A full rollcage helps protect the occupants in case of a lost bout with gravity.
Wheeling all day can wear you out, which is why Beard racing buckets and a custom rear bench seat help ensure Randy and his family are a little more comfortable on those long rocky trails through the desert. Standard four-wheeler gadgets include a CB and a premium stereo. At the end of the day, an engine-driven air compressor controlled by a hand throttle makes it easy to air the tires back up to street pressure.
Randy does nearly all of his own mods and fabrication. His CJ is ready to tackle a lot of the hard-core trails around Phoenix, but there's always another mod or two that can be done. Randy will keep improving the little things as he goes along.
Vehicle: '82 Jeep CJ-7
Owner/hometown: Randy Siade/Queen Creek, Arizona
Engine: AMC 4.2L I-6
Induction: Holley 390 with an Offenhauser manifold
Transmission: Ford NP435 four-speed (6.69:1 First gear)Transfer case/Low range: Model 300/2.6:1
Frontend: Dana 44, ARB Air Locker, 4.88 gears, Warn axles and hubs
Rearend: Ford 9-inch, ARB Air Locker, 4.86 gears, 31-spline shafts
Suspension: Custom springover conversion, stock leaf packs with Rancho Add-a-Leaves, Rancho RS 9000 shocks
Tires/wheels: 35-inch Super Swampers/American Racing
Added features: Modified engine block and heads; Hedman headers; custom exhaust; full cage; custom steering; on-board air supply