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1984 Jeep CJ-7 - King Of The Rocks...Again

Posted in Features on November 1, 2002
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Winning a four-wheel-drive competition requires skillful driving, a superior vehicle, and a little bit of good luck. So when a team wins a major event twice, you can bet that it's doing something right.

Ken Blume, a member of the Rockcrawlers 4x4 Club of northwest Arkansas, won the King of the Rocks event at Roctoberfest in 1999. More recently, he performed well in two of Ramsey's national off-road challenge events, running Third in Arkansas before a factory weld failed on the front Dana 60 and took him out for the day. He finished Third overall in the Ramsey challenge event in Attica, Indiana. On vacation, Ken ran the high-challenge trails at Penrose and Montrose, Colorado. The only breakage during five days of hard-core 'wheeling was a severed front brake line. To finish out his western vacation, Ken competed in the annual Rock Garden Four-wheelers Club competition in Aztec, New Mexico. After completing 11 of 14 courses, Ken and his spotter, Jake Attaway, were in the lead with only one penalty point accumulated in the entire event. Unfortunately, in the 12th course, the steering sector sheared and Ken was out of the event. At Roctoberfest 2001, Ken won over a field of excellent rockcrawlers.

If you look under Ken's '84 CJ-7, the only non-salvage-yard parts you'll find are a Go-2-Guy Engineering transfer case indexing ring for the Dana 300 transfer case, a custom coil suspension, skidplates, and steering links. The tie rod was obtained from longtime friend Soni Honeggar and is basically a shortened Scorpion piece. The lower control arms on the rear axle are made from the same solid alloy and have yet to bend (or at least stay bent, as the alloy has an excellent memory).

When Ken fabricated the coil suspension, he moved each 35-spline Dana 60 axle 2-1/2 inches out for a wheelbase of 99 inches. With the front axle moved forward, the 38.5x16x15 TSL Super Swampers, mounted on 14-inch MRT bead-lock rims are climbing rock ledges before the bobbed frame and short bumper reach the rock. For the rear 60, Ken mounted the lower control arms far enough outward and forward that their front attachment is to the outside of the frame rather than to the bottom, which allows more articulation and more rock clearance. The coil suspension will go to 950 on a 30-degree ramp. R&R Off-Road in Van Buren, Arkansas, supplied both Dana 60 axles. The rear Dana 60 housing was salvaged from a Jeep J4000 pickup and was shortened by R&R Off-Road. Ken shortened the front axle and shaved 0.400-inch off the bottom of the differential housings while smoothing them to slide over rocks. Shortened Moser axle shafts, 4.56 gears, a front Lock-Rite, and a rear Detroit Locker round-out the housings.

For years, the Jeep was powered by a 258 with a Howell EFI system and a NP435. Finally, the combo retired itself on I-40 as Ken was returning from an event in Hot Springs. He decided to go the nonconventional route and swap in a complete Chrysler 5.2 Magnum and a 46RE automatic tranny. Ken retained the stock 2.62 Low-range gears, which work well with the automatic. He purged the engine's factory wiring harness of unnecessary wires and grafted it into the Jeep's wiring harness. Ken then fabricated a 2-1/2-inch exhaust that runs inside the framerails and uses a single Flowmaster muffler.

The Dana 300 clocking ring from Go-2-Guy Engineering allowed Ken to swing the transfer case up higher than the bottom of the stock transmission pan. Aside from the ring, no adapters were necessary because the spline and bolt pattern were correct for the 46RE. Ken fabricated his own crossmember/ engine-cradle, as well as a transmission/transfer case skidplate. The clean, snag-free belly provides rock clearance rivaling that of taller vehicles.

Ken's attention to the little details makes his Jeep competitive with more exotic rigs. One of the tricks employed is the use of a 2-1/2-quart reservoir in series with the transmission cooler return line. Now Ken can climb almost straight up without the tranny running out of juice. When the Jeep levels out, the fluid returns to the reservoir, increasing capacity to keep the tranny running cooler. Fabricating a notch in the factory 15-1/2-gallon fuel tank skidplate provided room to move the axle back 2-1/2 inches. This increased wheelbase and departure angle, while keeping the center of gravity lower and retaining full use of the back seat for family four-wheeling. By using a reverse-rotation steering box out of a mid-'80s Ford truck, Ken was able to locate the box alongside the engine rather than hanging it off the chin of the Jeep. This allowed the framerails to be bobbed. Custom steering arms attach the tie rod and drag link to the top of the massive steering knuckles. This improves steering geometry and approach angle, and protects the vulnerable frontend components.

Ken believes keeping the weight down and the center of gravity low greatly helps climbing and keeps all four tires on the ground. Overall, the Jeep has only been lifted 6-1/4 inches (5 inches of suspension lift and a 1-1/4-inch body lift), which is relatively mild, at least for a vehicle with Dana 60s and 38.5-inch tires. Trimmed fenders bring additional room for the big rubber to move freely with the mild lift. In its current form, the Jeep weighs 4,100 pounds, although it is scheduled to lose some more weight this winter.

When Ken bolted on his new Ramsey Bad Boy competition winch, he replaced the normally superior roller fairlead with a more compact hawse fairlead. Now when he approaches a vertical ledge (or a huge Bob Hazel Log Jam), the Swampers hit the ledge first instead of the winch rollers, no matter what the angle of attack. For tire-filling duties and running air tools on the trail Ken, uses a rollcage mounted 5-pound CO2 tank with a regulator. This system has proven reliable, light, and fast.

As with any project vehicle, the evolution continues. Planned projects include hydraulic-assist steering and a Wrangler-style rear cage to better protect his family on recreational trips.

Owner/hometown: Ken Blume/Lowell, Arkansas
Year/make/model: '84 {{{CJ}}}-7
Engine: {{{Chrysler}}} 5.2L {{{Magnum}}}
Induction: Multiport EFI
Transmission: Chrysler 46RE
Transfer case: Dana {{{300}}}
Frontend: Dana 60 with Moser axles, Warn hubs, Loc-Rite
Rearend: Dana 60 with Moser axles, Detroit Locker
Ring-and-pinion: 4.56
Suspension: Custom four-link coil, rear; three-link coil, frontRS9000 shocks
Wheels/tires: 38.5x16x15 Super Swamper TSLs/MRT bead locks

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