In this day and age of inexpensive fuel-injected Chevy V-8 power and über- dollar Hemi swaps into $50,000 Jeeps, the older way of making power is fast falling by the wayside. Building your own engine is almost a lost art, and there just aren’t that many people who repower Jeeps with Jeep engines anymore. The last year for a factory-powered V-8 universal Jeep was 1980, and while it is possible to repower a later Jeep with an AMC V-8, it is often just as easy, if not cheaper, to drop a V-8 from another manufacturer in there. When we first heard the lope of the engine in this CJ, we knew it was no inline-six—any red-blooded Jeep person would have. Once we saw that angled distributor at the front of the engine that is a sure giveaway of an AMC V-8, we were interested. But it wasn’t until we found out this CJ-7 was an ’82 that we just had to hear the whole story.
As it turns out, Glen Carpenter has owned this Jeep for over 20 years, so the AMC V-8 swap into an AMC-built Jeep started making more sense to us. The fiberglass hood, lack of front fenders, and sidepipes might not necessarily go together, but in this thing they unapologetically work in harmony.
Unlike so many of the big and powerful Jeeps we see, this thing still has the factory frame underneath that blue body. If that weren’t enough, Glen is still running the factory spring hangers. One of the first things we (often unintentionally) rip off the frame of AMC CJs are those hangers so we were surprised to see them under this Jeep. As you might expect from the factory hangers, the wheelbase still clocks in at 93 inches. Out back, a spring-over conversion provides the elevation while up front a 4-inch lift Superlift spring pack serves up the height. Both sets of springs are given range of motion thanks to aftermarket one-piece shackles, and all four corners are damped with Rancho RS9000 shocks.
The crappy factory 19-piece tinfoil steering box mount has been replaced with a one-piece welded 3⁄8-inch steel mount, and a bolt-on steering box brace ties the snout of the box back to the passenger-side framerail. The factory front bumper is unfortunately chrome, but a trim job mitigates that faux-pas, as does the 9,000-pound Warn winch and KC lights that sit just on top of and behind it. Out back, Glen ditched the wondermous factory gas tank and went ahead and built his own. It can store 24 gallons of go-juice and is notched to clear the rear axle. Amazingly, just behind that custom fuel holder is the factory-spec bar-style trailer hitch.
Here is where the fun starts. Non-motorheads and tutu-wearing fan boys might want to skip ahead, ’cause this might cause you undue duress. Under the hood, as we mentioned, is a swapped-in AMC V-8. What we didn’t mention is that it is a rip-snorting, solid-cam’d, 401ci beast. The engine work was done by none other than Glen himself and its 10:1 compression and 239/249 @ 0.050-inch valve lift cam profile makes no bones about what it is there for: power. The AMC connecting rods made the cut, but TRW stepped in with the pistons while that solid-lifter cam is from Lunati. Like any good gearhead, Glen knew that lots of power is hidden in the intake and exhaust passages of the heads, so he went ahead and ported them himself. An Edlebrock Torker intake gives a hint of what kind of engine this is and it is capped by a 750 cfm Holly carb with vacuum secondaries. To keep it simple, there is no choke to be found on the carburetor, and when we asked Glen about cold starts he said, “Yeah, they can be rough, but the MSD ignition helps out with it.” Of course, that stupid Ford-sourced ignition box was thrown out and an MSD 6AL now controls the lightning in the combustion chambers. A set of Headman headers dumps spent gasses out to the 3-inch sidepipes and glasspacks.
After that the power goes into a three-speed TF727 swiped out of a Wagoneer. It’s got a shift kit in it, but Glen was kind of closed-lipped as to what kit it is or what other modifications happened in there. We did notice a transmission cooler mounted behind the grille to keep the slushbox happy though. From there a Dana 300 does its best to stand up to the onslaught of that 401 and a twin-stick conversion ensures that Glen can torture whatever range and output of the T-case he chooses. After that, we see something else that is uncommon: a chromoly driveshaft. It sends the power out to the front Dana 44 swiped from an early-’80s Dodge truck. The 44 was stuffed with more chromoly goodness in the form of axleshafts which also got some CTM U-joints. Out back, a semi-float Dana 60 puts the power to the ground. Both axles spin 4.10 gears and Detroit Lockers. The whoa comes from a ’70s-era Corvette master cylinder while the Dodge front discs and rear Ford-sourced rotors and Chevy binders pull stopping duty. It’s a good thing too, because even though the custom-grooved TSLs have seen better days, it still takes a lot to stop those 39.5x15-15 Super Swampers.
Body and Interior
The AMC CJ-7 tub is largely unmolested. There is no body lift and no massive hp-robbing corners but a set of round taillights were grafted to the rear and some custom rocker guards keep the sheetmetal between the wheels straight. Up front is kind of interesting—the CJ has only one bolt to retain the grille so when Glen threw out the fenders he was left to figure out how to shore up the grille (to which the radiator is attached). Since he didn’t want any of that flopping around in the wind, in addition to the factory grille supports, he added a diagonal support creating an underhood Z-bar. The panels to the rear of what used to be the fender openings are basically to provide a visual finish to the Campbell Enterprises fiberglass hood. That paint is a GM hue called Brilliant Blue and was laid down about 10 years ago at the same time the interior bedliner was slathered on.
Inside, the family-style ’cage is a Glen-customs original and a Wrangler bikini top hangs on it to provide some shade. The soft half doors have seen better days, but hey, this is Jp, not Sport Truck—run what ya brung. The front seats are Beard, but the rear seat is just a reupholstered factory bench. Between the front seats is the old-school, super wide Tuffy console that can only be used in these CJs. Behind the rear seat a cooler is stuffed in front of the tailgate and held down with a simple strap.
Monitoring the underhood activity is a combination of factory and Auto Meter gauges. The factory steering column is still there, as is the crappy factory key switch, but anyone who has owned one of these Jeeps can appreciate why Glen moved the ignition switch to the dash in the spot that the factory would have put the clock. A vacuum gauge resides where the factory would have put the tachometer, and a somewhat more visible tachometer now hangs off the A-pillar of the ’cage. A Grant steering wheel caps off the factory column and a Panasonic head unit and aftermarket speakers provide the tunes. Windshield? Who needs it?
Good, Bad, and What It’s For
We aren’t big fans of the sidepipes just hanging out there for any trail obstacle to smash, but that 401 needs to breathe, and we’ve routed 21⁄2 inch duals inside the framerails of a CJ from a 304. We wouldn’t want to try it with 3 inches for that 401, if it is even possible. Glen is from Arizona, so we get the lack of any inner wheelwells up front, but there is still that mud-wheeling part of the brain that cringes at it. That said, the engine build takes us back, and we love it. The TF727 is the perfect choice to back that engine. A manual could mean missed shifts, the TF727 can be built to handle the power, and it helps the Dana 300 live. Even with the chromoly shafts and CTMs, we are surprised that the front 44 is still kicking, but Glen isn’t bashful on the happy pedal. It has worked for him so far, so there isn’t much to say there.
Vehicle: 1982 CJ-7
Engine: 401ci V-8
Transfer Case: Dana 300
Suspension: Spring-over leaf (front); spring-over leaf (rear)
Axles: Dana 44 (front); Dana 60 (rear)
Wheels: 15-inch diameter steel
Tires: 39.5x15-15 Super Swamper TSL
Built For: Having fun
Why I Wrote This Feature
It is rare in the Jeep world to find something with the power and force where the exhaust note alone can literally take your breath away. One blip of the throttle on this thing and I was immediately taken back to the dragstrips and racetracks of my youth—as in single-digit kind of youth. The smell, the volume, and the impact of that exhaust note was enough to get me interested. The fact that it is an AMC V-8 swapped into an AMC Jeep that never had a V-8 from the factory? That’s just cool. It is usually cheaper to drop a Chevy engine in, and working for peanuts, that’s what I do. But to see a post CARB-neutered Jeep in all its AMC glory? Yeah, I’m on board with that.