Grumpy's Toy didn't happen overnight. Truth be told, it was created over several years, with the help of two good shops and some very good friends. Gary Holye started out by buying a stock '85 Jeep CJ-7 to go hunting with in the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada mountains. That was his main goal and plan at the beginning. If he only knew where it was going to go and evolve from there, he might have made different choices at the beginning.
To set it up for hunting, Gary had Jeff Arabia of Arabia's Overkill Jeep Fabrication in Campbell, California, take on the task. This was the first of three phases of building the ultimate CJ-7. The first build phase left the stock CJ-7 sprung-under with 33-inch tires, and included ARBs and 4:56 gears to the frontend and a stock AMC 20 rearend. It also included beefing-up the stock 4.2L straight-six powerplant by adding fuel injection and a header. After this phase was complete, Jeff and Pam Arabia invited Gary to join them on the 22nd Annual Jeepers Jamboree. Gary took them up on the offer and attended the Jamboree event in 2000 with his daughter Cosima. After this trip he was not only hooked on hunting, but both of them caught the rockwheeling bug, realizing it was a great new hobby to enjoy all Mother Nature has to offer. Within the year, he again sent the Jeep to Arabia's Overkill Jeep Fabrication for the second phase of modifications. This phase included a 1-inch body lift and 35-inch tires; it also included adding a GM NV4500 transmission and Atlas 2:4.3 transfer case. Since the completion of the second phase of modifications in 2001, Gary has attended the annual Jeepers Jamboree run with his clients/friends every year.
After 'wheeling the rig on a few more trips, Gary decided he wanted to change out the powerplant for more horses and beef-up the front and rear suspension. This was now the third phase of what started out to just be a hunting rig. Extreme Gear Offroad of Orangevale, California, installed a '97 5.7L Chevy Vortec V-8, which would provide his CJ-7 with more than enough additional horsepower and torque. Extreme Gear Offroad also installed a Summit throttle-body spacer, Gibson Headers, MSD ignition box coil, and plug wires. A Hypertec programmer, a Flowmaster single-chamber dual 2-inch exhaust, and an Airaid intake system were added shortly after.
To strengthen up the drivetrain, Extreme Gear Offroad built and installed a custom Tera 50 in front, complete with an ARB locker, Warn axles, CTM joints, and 1/2-ton Chevy disc brakes. For the rear, a Tera 60 with Dutchman axles was installed with an ARB locker, plus Ford Explorer disc brakes. The stock gears were swapped-out with a 4:88 ring-and-pinion setup.
The third phase also included upgrading the tires to 37/12.5-15 Goodyear MT/Rs mounted on Mickey Thompson Classic II wheels with Champion bead locks. The CJ was then sprung-over to gain additional ground clearance and room to stuff the new, much larger tires. Both the front and rear spring hangers were exchanged with M.O.R.E. Off-Road Boomerang hangers. Rancho 9000 shocks were added at all four corners, ensuring confident trail comfort. To keep the tires on track, Lee Ram assisted steering was installed with a Be Cool power steering cooler. A Kilby skidplate is in place to protect the gas tank from damage incurred driving over obstacles. KC lights, JKS front end disconnects, a Warn HS 9500 winch, rear light guards, a Hi Lift jack, and Ultima batteries were also installed.
Gary chose to install the interior from a '78 Jeep CJ and added Auto Meter gauges, a Grant steering wheel, a Pioneer sound system, and a CB. A Power Tank was also added to his rig in order to air-up and -down his tires quickly. The Power Tank can also be used to run airtools if necessary.
After the third phase, a little more work was completed, and as you can see, Gary has finally achieved his best-for-all-conditions 'wheeling rig. If you ask him, he'll be the first to tell you it wasn't quick and easy, though. The one thing he says he learned along the way was to think first and plan it out before jumping in on the build.
As for 'wheeling this great rig, Gary still attends the Jeepers Jamboree every year. In 2005, he assisted them with some of the new participants by leading them through the trails and into main camp. He also attends various private Rubicon runs that are hosted by Arabia Overkill Jeep Fabrication, along with several other events each year. In 2004, his CJ-7 was nominated Best 4x4 at the Tahoe Hi Low annual poker run and is continuing to turn heads. Keep your eyes open on the trails in California, and we're sure you will get a chance to see Gary out there 'wheeling his rig.