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September 2010 4xForward

Posted in Features on September 1, 2010
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We all have them, some just more than others. No, I'm not talking about diseases, or shoes, I'm talking about projects, and in my case, project vehicles. While some of you may have more projects than I, I bet that at any one time I beat most of you out for the amount of active, ongoing, and unfinished project vehicles. Of course, active is a relative term, as is ongoing, but unfinished is pretty obvious. In fact, the standard joke is that a 4x4 is never really finished, but there's something to be said for those that are something closed to completion. I'm not quite sure I've ever had anything remotely approaching completion, but that's about to change.

My latest rig is actually something I bought back in 1988 as a basket case '76 CJ-7. It came equipped with a 304 V-8, TH400, Quadratrac transfer case with low range, 3.54 gears, and drum brakes. It literally had everything in milk crates in the tub, but it was actually all there. Like a giant erector set I hauled home the prize for $1,000, and set about assembling it in the driveway. A day later I fired it up and drove it to the DMV for inspection, then went wheeling the next afternoon. With a fresh set of General Grabber tires and fancy rims it became my wife's Jeep, which lasted until the mid '90s, at which time it came under the spell of "magazine building." That's when I started to use it for magazine stories instead of driving it. And that's not always a good thing.

For 15 years the Jeep has sported new and used components, a body swap, many staged photos, and a plethora of bolt-on stuff as well as some hard-core test items. The first five years were fine, but the last 10 years has allowed it to be practically stationary, as one of those ongoing projects. Of course, the fact that California changed its smog rules to '76-and-later vehicles requiring inspection didn't help a header-equipped CJ, so it never got retagged since it never hit the street. In fact, the lead photo shows the most action it's had, about five years ago for the cover of our 4x4 Garage magazine. We rolled it out of the garage and painted the grille and staged the photo, then tucked it securely back in its hiding place. Until now.

That's right, the '7 rises again. Its journey begins anew on page 58 of this very issue. Instead of trying to go bone-stock on a 40-year-old vehicle, Tech Editor Fred Williams has come up with some unique ideas, with help from various sources and suppliers who know how to make things right. Starting with the first California emissions-legal Chevy small-block swap, we will wrench on this ride and have it done in two short months, just in time for the Ultimate Adventure. Buy the time you read this the Jeep should be wheeling its tail off, but until then follow Fred's exposé on how to finish a project-by not having me do it.

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