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1976 Jeep CJ-7: Right Kind of Hybrid Jeep

Posted in Features on November 25, 2018
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This rig began life as a 1976 CJ-7, but Pat Gremillion knew his Jeep had to be totally different—not like anything else seen on the trails. Pat’s professional fabrication and welding skills came into play in a big way, and the transformation began in 2004. It’s been in a state of flux, getting altered, upgraded, and updated every once in a while, but most of the original work is still there. We captured Pat’s Jeep on film (in a digital sense) at the 2018 Easter Jeep Safari. It’s made up of parts from a Ford Mustang, Hummer H1, CJ-5, and CJ-7, just to name a few. While not purely Jeep, it is a mechanical dream made true, and enough of the primordial DNA exists to get our attention.

A mildly built 1996 Ford Mustang 5.0L V-8 was mated to a C4 three-speed automatic transmission through an Advance Adapters kit. The C4 carries an Art Carr 900-rpm stall-speed torque converter, and a Bronco remote trans fluid cooler is mounted in the Jeep’s nose. Splitting the power is the job of an Advance Adapters Altas 4.3 transfer case. Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts did both spinners, but the front ’shaft is of particular interest. Although the H1 drivetrain is a full-time four-wheel-drive system, the new custom front driveshaft features a Remco disconnect at the differential and can be disconnected on the top end at the transfer case. The Jeep can go down the highway at 65 mph with no vibrations in two-wheel drive.

Its original CJ-7 suspension was gutted, and the frame was cut here and there to create a hybrid chassis that’s mostly handformed steel tube and 1996 Hummer H1 running gear. Pat traded a welder for the remote-reservoir coilover shocks, and then he had them rebuilt and tuned by Walker Evans. Keep in mind that all the tube work was hand-drawn; he didn’t have a bender. A 115-inch wheelbase was created using two Hummer H1 portal axles (1.92 hub ratio). The axle centers are loaded with 2.73 ARB Air Lockers for an overall axle ratio of 5.24:1. Falken Wildpeak M/T 38x13.50R17LT tires are stuck on Hutchinson beadlock wheels.

A custom exhaust system is tucked away behind frame tubes for protection, and custom skidplates and tube frames cover major vital organs. A PSC hydraulic-assist kit with GM crossover setup steers the wheels. Beard seats and a custom rollcage surround passengers, a minimalistic custom dash holds a good mix of gauges, and a gated Art Carr shifter works the C4. The rear compartment is filled with a storage box, a Pull Pal and other assorted extraction equipment, a fire extinguisher, and a Power Tank. All of the fenders, bumpers, and doors are custom-made, and to top it off, Pat used a CJ-5 grille up front because he liked the way it looked on the narrowed nose.

When asked about the color, the answer was “Extension Cord Orange.” We like it. If you’ve never seen Pat’s CJ-7/Mustang/H1 hybrid in the wild, then you need to get to more major Jeep events. It’s never really stopped evolving bit by bit since it was originally built, and it has been appearing at Jeep events all over the country ever since. It’s always parked in or nearby the Pull Pal booth, and if Pat is around, he’ll be more than happy to give you a tour.

A peek under the independent rearend shows the boxed and plated rear differential cage and the serious-duty A-arms. The suspension is augmented by a set of long-travel remote- reservoir coilover shocks Pat got in trade for a welder; then the shocks were rebuilt and tuned by Walker Evans. Check out the custom cutouts in the rear bumper for the tucked-up spark arrestors.
The Jeep’s nose sports a beefy independent A-arm system and custom PSC hydraulic-assist GM crossover steering conversion. Nestled into the custom front bumper platform is a Superwinch EXP 10 winch, with rope tipped by a Factor 55 FlatLink. And before you write any letters, yes, that’s a CJ-5 grille. Pat just liked it that way.
Possibly the most interesting aspects of this build are the Hummer H1 portal axles used to replace the factory CJ-7 drivetrain. The 1.92:1 gearboxes at the axle ends take the 2.37:1 gears on the ARB Air Lockers and deliver a final axle ratio of 5.4:1.
Hand-bent, welded, and gusseted at critical joints, the custom tube-frame structure Pat created for his Jeep CJ-7 replaced the original frame. It made wedging in the engine, trans, and transfer case simpler; it also allowed for an easier creation of a 115-inch wheelbase with a custom suspension and Hummer H1 portal axles.
Custom tube-frame structure
A 5.0L V-8 from a 1996 Mustang gets things moving, passing the power down through a custom-built C4 three-speed trans with a 900-rpm stall-speed Art Carr torque converter. It’s then split by an Advance Adapters Atlas 4.3 transfer case and sent to the axles through custom Tom Wood’s driveshafts.
An inboard brake on the differential is one of the advantages gained from the Hummer H1 axle swap. The inboard brake accommodates the portal axles, reduces unsprung weight, and improves handling because it doesn’t place twisting force on the suspension.
Interior appointments are minimalistic. Beard seats, a fairly bare dash, the important auxiliary gauges, a stock center-mounted speedo, an Art Carr shifter for the C4, and brake line lock switches just out of sight in front of the Tuffy center console are the highlights.
Where the rear seats were a long time ago now sit a Power Tank, emergency first aid kit, fire extinguisher, Pull Pal, custom fuel tank, spare fuel containers, and cases filled with tools, spare parts, and other gear.
The custom body and fender work allowed the easy fitting of 38x13.50R17LT Falken Wildpeak tires captured by 17-inch Hutchinson beadlock wheels.
A PSC hydraulic-assist GM crossover steering system makes a huge difference in the handling quality of the Jeep/H1 hybrid, not only on the highway, but also when forging ahead on hard-core trails with those 38-inch meats.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: 1976 Jeep CJ-7
Engine: 1996 Ford 5.0L V-8
Transmission: C4 three-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Advance Adapters Atlas 4.3
Suspension: Custom integrated Hummer H1 four-wheel independent unequal A-arm, coilover shocks
Axles: Hummer H1 (1.92 ratio portal) axles used front and rear, ARB Air Lockers, 2.73 diff gears, 5.24:1 overall axle gear ratio
Wheels: Hutchinson beadlock
Tires: 38x13.50R17LT Falken Wildpeak M/T

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