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1979 Jeep Wrangler CJ7 - The Agr Contender

Posted in Features on October 1, 2001
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Rockcrawling. It's where the sport of four-wheeling has positioned itself over the last few years. But what if you're driving a plain old semi-stock Jeep and want to 'wheel your rig competitively? Is it still possible? Do you need a tube-frame, coilover, narrowed-body machine just to make the grade? Not according to Matt Burkett, president of AGR Performance Power Steering. Matt 'wheels his '79 CJ-7 Golden Eagle in the Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling National Championship Series and even placed First in the second leg in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He also built his Jeep to set the record straight that over-building a rig can often be a detriment to its ability.

Since Matt's intentions were to use his '79 CJ-7 on a competitive level, suspension and wheelbase were issues that needed special attention. The frame remains stock, though it was lengthened 2 inches up front and the rear spring mounts were moved rearward 2 inches. This task made for 99 inches of overall wheelbase, crucial to getting up and over the really big rocks. Skyjacker prototype, 3-inch lift leaf springs hung on a custom reverse shackle make way for 15x10-inch Mickey Thompson bead lock wheels shod with 39-1/2-inch Super Swamper TSL meats. A 1-inch body lift offers a tad more clearance, and the rear fenders are carved out and equipped with Jeep TJ flares. Ride quality is controlled by Bilstein remote reservoir, nitrogen-charged 7100 shocks and an AGR Rock Ram Performance Power Steering setup.

Wanting all of the horsepower and low end he could get, Matt opted to install a '99 5.0L HO Ford V-8. It's equipped with a bevy of aftermarket performance parts, including SVO stainless headers, an SVO wiring harness, computer and sensor, a 110L fuel pump, and an SVO adjustable double-roller timing chain. All told, the mill throws down 325 horsepower, which is more than enough to pull it through the trails. Other engine amenities include an Optima Yellow Top battery, an AFCO aluminum racing radiator, and Setrab oil, tranny, and steering coolers. Mated to the 5.0L is a Phoenix Transmissions Ford AOD tranny with a Lokar shifter and an Advance Adapters Atlas 3.8 transfer case. The driveline is made up of Dynatrac High Pinion 60s in the front and rear, stuffed with Yukon 5.13 gears, 35-spline Dutchman Alloy axles, and Detroit Lockers. Custom driveshafts were made by the Driveline Shop in Abilene, Texas. For stopping power, the CJ is outfitted with four-wheel discs, featuring custom aluminum rotor hats from AFCO, Howe racing rotors, and a double-diaphragm brake booster from All Wheel Drive in Farmington, New Mexico.

Sorting through the interior, Matt equipped the dash with an array of Auto Meter gauges and installed Steelhorse Super Seats covered in Levi Tan vinyl, a Tuffy center console, a Premier Power Welder, a 15-gallon Fuel Safe fuel cell, and a custom rollcage designed by Smiley's Racing in Mesquite, Texas. The exterior received the same loving treatment, being painted in GM Competition Yellow and outfitted with Currie bumpers in the front and the rear. It also received PIAA lights, a Warn winch, a one-piece, fiberglass front clip, and TJ fender flares in the rear.

So you want to take an everyday Jeep and make it better? That's what Matt did - and to great results. With one win in the ARCA Extreme Rock Crawling Championship Series and multiple trails tackled in nearly 10 states, his one-time Golden Eagle CJ is not only a contender, but a winner, too. It's a Jeep. Did you expect anything less?

SPECIFICATIONS
Owner/hometown: Matt Burkett/
Keller, Texas
Make/model: ’79 {{{Jeep CJ}}}-7
Engine: ’99 5.0L {{{Ford}}} 302 V-8
Induction: SVO 65mm TBI
Transmission: Ford AOD
Transfer case: Atlas 3.8
Frontend: Dynatrac high-pinion
60, Detroit Locker
Rearend: Dynatrac High-Pinion
60, Detroit Locker
Ring-and-pinion: 5.13
Suspension: 3-inch Skyjacker leaf
springs, 1-inch body lift
Tires/wheels: 39.5x15R15 Super
Swamper TSL/
15x10-inch Mickey Thompson bead locks

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