Nearly 30 years ago, a stock AMC Jeep CJ-7 rolled out of the factory with no idea about the transformation it would go through in its future. Several years later in 1992, Randy Conway and his son purchased this Jeep from its original owner and the transformation process began. What does a $40,000 makeover look like, you ask? Over the next 10 years this CJ-7 has been a perfect example of what you can achieve with a little time and patience during your build. Not to mention visiting the local ATM machine on several occasions. 1976 meets 2005, as we show you what this father and son team's trail rig is made of.
We had the pleasure of spending some time with Randy and his '76 AMC Jeep CJ-7 recently in Cougar Buttes, California. The sun was beating down a scorching 102 degrees F, as we watched Randy twist and turn his Jeep through the high-desert rocky terrain. As a member of the Drifters Jeep Club for more than 12 years, Randy was no slouch when it came to knowing his way around the trail.
Finally, after many years of reconstructing this '76 CJ-7, it was time to test it on the trails. All of the long hours wrenching on his rig and countless dollars being yanked from his wallet were paying off. With help from Tri County Gear, Randy's son, and their many friends, the Jeep proved to be a worthy contender on any adventure it would set forth to conquer.
The original '76-style AMC fender flares just wouldn't cut it on the trail with 37-inch meats underneath this rig. Replacing them with late-model Jeep TJ-style flares kept mud and rocks from slapping the driver or passengers with debris. This image also gives us a good shot of the custom-fabricated rollcage installed by Randy and his son supplied by OR Fabrication.
The Black Diamond Suspension System kept Randy right where he wanted to be: rubber side down. Shooting out the back is a 2-1/2-inch Spintech Performance Muffler, which keeps the rumble at a pleasant level. Around the back you can see a Durango 4x4 bumper and spare tire rack. Having a fullsize spare on the trail is crucial. Protection is also a must, not only underneath your rig but also around the body. Quadratec diamond-plate panels were added to keep that fresh coat of white paint flawless.
Turning to Tri County Gear of Pomona, California, was the next logical step for this Jeep's transformation. To allow the Black Diamond Suspension System to work with this '76 CJ-7, extensive modification and fabrication was necessary. This kit allows for 6 1/2 inches of lift. Tri County Gear had to start from the ground up, modifying the frame in several locations by moving the center skidplate 2 1/2 inches and shifting the engine to the left 1 inch and forward 3/4 inch to allow the driveline to work properly.
The transfer case was also clocked dead flat to keep the flat skidplate under the Jeep and allow for more ground clearance. Tri County Gear took a standard Dana 44 front axle and integrated it to work with Dana 60 1-ton outers working in reverse rotation. The tie rod, drag link, and pitman arm are all from a Dana 60 as well. Both front and rear axles are stuffed with a 4.56 ring-and-pinion gear ratio. With all the radical changes being done to Randy's rig, a custom high-steering system was also fabricated to fit with the Black Diamond Suspension accompanied by a power steering cooler from Currie.
The cab was decorated in trail stamps, and as any Jeep fanatic will tell you, this Jeep has been around. To keep everyone safe and comfortable, a front set of Beard Low-Side seats and rear Beard High-Back seats and brackets were installed. Infinity 6x9-inch speakers were added to complement the Sony stereo head unit and amplifier to allow the tunes to keep flowing. A Tuffy Security Box doubled as a speaker enclosure and center console. A Uniden CB radio was also added to aid in group communication.
The powerplant is the same stock 304ci V-8 that came with the '76 Jeep combined with some new accessories. An Optima Yellow Top battery was added to help cut down the worry of ignition and starting problems on the trail. Optima batteries are often found on the trail because of their increased resistance to vibration. Randy chose a Jacobsen Ultra Torquer ignition system complete with Jacobsen distributor and spark plug wires. The transmission is a '76 Chevy TH-400 modified to fit a Dana 300 transfer case. Advanced Adapter components were used to allow the TH-400 to communicate well with the Dana 300. An ARB air compressor is visible and gives the driver the ability to activate and deactivate his front and rear ARB lockers at any given moment.
The rear portion of the suspension uses a reverse-rotation Tera 60 housing. The rear coilovers and multilink suspension keep a fluid movement throughout trail adventures. Located just behind the rear axle you can see the 20-gallon replacement gas tank that was pulled from an '84 Jeep CJ-7, allowing more than 5 gallons more fuel than the stock tank.
Year/make/model: '76 AMC Jeep CJ-7
Owner/hometown: Randy Conway, Fontana, California.
Engine: AMC 304ci V-8
Transmission: Chevy TH-400
Transfer case: Dana 300
Frontend: Dana 44 reverse rotation combined with Dana 60 1-ton outers; ARB Air Locker
Rearend: Dana 60 reverse rotation; Tera housing; ARB Air Locker
Suspension: Black Diamond suspension system; Fox coilovers; multilink system
Tires/wheels: 37x13.50R17 Goodyear M/TRs/17x10-inch Allied Racing Wheels "Rock-A-Thon" bead locks