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Owner-Built 1979 401 V-8 CJ-7 Jeep

Posted in Jp Dirt N Drive: 2018 on March 21, 2019
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You can’t ignore John “Mick” Harrison’s 1979 Jeep CJ-7, and we aren’t just referring to the stunning yellow paintjob. This Jeep has everything. The throaty lope of the built V-8 under the hood, the mild amount of chrome accents, and the perfect balance of lift and tire size make this Jeep stand out. We were excited when Mick joined us on the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive to Moab from his home state of Arizona.

The build started for Mick some 20-odd years ago. He wanted to test his skills, learn new things, and have fun during the process. It took 15 years to complete the total frame-off restomod, with most of the work done by Harrison, including all the bodywork and paint. The attention to detail is evident everywhere you look, from the custom bonded fender flares to the handmade aluminum dash and center console, complete with in-dash air conditioning vents. This Jeep is a work of art and a true labor of love.

The CJ-7 originally had a 304 V-8, but it was tired and Mick wanted something more, so he built the AMC 401 V-8 to drop in. This motor has plenty of get-up-and-go with an Ames 442 Comp cam, roller rockers, and dogleg heads with a 10.56 compression ratio. Balancing the fuel/air mixture is a 670-cfm Howell throttle-body EFI on an Edelbrock Performer manifold. Doug Thorley Tri-Y headers to dual exhaust and Flowmaster mufflers give it that throaty sound that reminds us old gearheads of our muscle car–filled youth. The Be Cool aluminum radiator, Dual Spal fans, and a FlowKooler water pump help keep this engine at the right temp in the hot Arizona summers while crawling around the rocks.
The Dana 44 front axlehousing is 57 inches wide, and it is equipped with 4.10 gears, Eaton ELockers, Yukon disc brakes and ring-and-pinion sets, and a 3/4-ton high-steer kit. Spring-under Superlift leaf springs, Slickrock heavy-duty hangers, Rancho mid-travel shocks and shock hoops, and Daystar heavy-duty shackles and a shackle reversal kit provide roughly 5 inches of lift.
The rear axle is a Dana 60 from an unknown donor vehicle, and is 57 inches wide, which is roughly 6 inches over stock width. The low and wide stance of this vehicle makes it extremely stable on the trail. A 4.10 Eaton ELocker and Yukon rear disc brakes are a part of the package. Both front and rear axles were built by Arizona Differential and have Moser 4140 35-spline chromoly axleshafts and Precision U-joints.
The interior was a major project for Harrison. The full-aluminum custom dash and center underdash console are well thought out and fully functional. A Vintage Air A/C is mounted with custom ducting routed behind the dash to the vents. There is a full-coverage Holzman rollcage, and the interior is lined in a light gray Durabak bedliner that matches the Bestop soft top.
A chrome Currie front bumper and round, old-school Dick Cepek lights integrate well into the vintage appearance of this 40-year-old beauty. Mick trimmed the fenders to provide extra clearance for the tires. He raised and widened the front flares by bonding two flares together and eliminated the side marker lights.
Wrapped around a set of polished-aluminum 15-inch wheels that Mick found at a swap meet are 37-inch Interco Super Swampers. The bit of bling adds to the overall appeal of this Jeep. He chose the Viper Racing Yellow paint in memory of his father and the CJ-2A that the two used to explore the Arizona backroads with during his youth.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: 1979 Jeep CJ-7
Engine: AMC 401 V-8
Transmission: GM Turbo 400 Automatic (original transmission) with shift kit
Transfer Case: Jeep Dana 300 with Currie twin-stick and Tera Low 4:1 gear kit
Suspension: 5-inch spring-under lift, Superlift springs, Rancho shocks, shackle reversal
Axles: Dana 44, 4.10 gears, Eaton ELocker, Warn hubs, Yukon disc brakes (front); Dana 60, 4.10 gears, Eaton ELocker, Yukon disc brakes (rear)
Wheels: 15-inch polished aluminum
Tires: 37x12.50x15 Interco Super Swamper

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