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Q: My boyfriend bought a 1980 CJ7 Laredo with a 304 V-8 last year. He really wants to run 37-inch tires, but he can’t find a lift kit bigger than 4 inches. Everyone he has spoken too claims the CJ is an older platform and the suspension companies no longer support it. Could you please help me find a company that makes a 6- or 7-inch lift kit for his CJ?
I am told that he can buy a conversion kit and run YJ springs. Does this mean he can use a lift kit made for a YJ that is 6 or 7 inches high? Please know he does not want to run a "spring-over" conversion. Christmas is fast approaching and I would love to surprise him with this lift kit he so desperately wants. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
A: Pamela, the first thing to remember about what’s available for what vehicle is that anything is possible if you have time, money, and/or the fabrication skills to get the job done. Yes, most aftermarket companies focus their efforts on producing lifts for newer model 4x4s since that’s what is selling at the moment, but the CJ also had its turn in the spotlight and many quality products are still available to help your husband build his CJ anyway he likes it.
You don’t have to run a spring-over conversion to fit 37s. This is one method to achieve the necessary lift, but it isn’t required. Using YJ or Rancho Wagoneer springs (part #44044) will improve ride and suspension flex over using CJ springs as they are wider and longer, but it does not mean that a complete YJ lift kit will then work on your CJ, only the springs. Use of YJ springs requires new spring pads on the axle tubes and new U-bolts, spring hangers and shackles, and various other parts. A handful of companies produce complete YJ spring conversion kits for CJs, including Mountain Off-Road Enterprises [(877) 533-7229, www.mountainoffroad.com>] and Rocky-Road Outfitters [(888) 801-7271, www.rocky-road.com], among others.
If sticking with a standard CJ lift system, Rubicon Express [(877) 367-7824, www.rubiconexpress.com] has a well-appointed 4.5-inch spring-under system that can be paired with a mild body lift and a set of TJ fender flares on trimmed out fenders to get the needed space for 37-inch tires. You can also use aftermarket tube fenders for the front and rear to really open up the wheel wells and possibly forgo the body lift. Poison Spyder Customs [(951) 849-5911, www.poisonspyder.com], Metal Cloak [(916) 631-8071, www.metalcloak.com], and GenRight Off Road [(805) 584-8635, www.genright.com] are all good sources for quality tube fenders for CJ and other model Jeeps.
To determine the size of body lift, I would start with the suspension install and then mount up the desired tire size. Take some measurements and order a body lift accordingly. Most find that a 2- to 3-inch body lift does the trick. Remember that you will also need to make some necessary driveline modifications such as a heavy-duty rear output shaft on the transfer case, axle gears, and new driveshafts for the front and rear. Steering issues may also arise when running a larger lift and tires.