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Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler Built for Trail Fun

Posted in Jp Dirt N Drive: 2019 on September 24, 2019
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Interesting stories are a big part of the Dirt 'N Drive experience. The 2019 Jp Dirt 'N Drive Presented by Jeep was filled with tales of great trails, cool Jeeps, beautiful scenery, and good times. Among the many Jeeps that sparked a good deal of interest was the very clean and quite capable 1984 CJ-8 Scrambler owned by Aaron and Syble Paris. The Jeep had an unassuming appearance at a glance, which upon deeper examination revealed an adventurous personality. Built over a period of four years, all of the work, "except things like the transmission," was done by Aaron. The engineer admitted, "Before this, I didn't know much about Jeeps."

Aaron Paris took no shortcuts when it came to wheelin' the trails of Farmington, New Mexico, during the 2019 Jp Dirt 'N Drive. His 1984 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler featured a Chevy 5.3L V-8, NV4500 tranny, Dana 300 T-case, custom 4.5-inch CJ Rubicon Express suspension, and a Dana 30 front and AMC 20 rear (both OG)—with 4.56 ARB Air Lockers in both and a full-float kit in the rear.

Aaron had considered a JK but realized he had no idea how to fix it in the middle of nowhere, so when a CJ-8 came up for sale at a price he could live with, the deal was done and the project was on. A smart guy who learns quickly, Aaron knew there was a lot of work ahead, but he took it one step at a time and just kept going. Aaron said that looking back, he should have just replaced the entire frame right off the bat. The Ohio-based vehicle needed a number of reinforcement plates welded on; in the end, it was quite hard to repair and likely more expensive than a new frame.

It's an OG body with a Chevy 5.3L V-8 hidden under the hood, with OG axles that are upgraded with air lockers and a full-floater rear kit. And although the interior is low-key, it is filled with all the trail essentials, and Aaron built a bench seat in the back of the CJ-8 for the kids. You could say it's a unique build that hides its secrets well enough to fend off the usual lookie-loos. The Scrambler took on an even greater personal significance for Aaron when his brother-in-law Brent, who had helped with much of the project, passed away shortly after the project was done. Aaron says, "The skills he helped me gain while building the Jeep will live with me for the rest of my life." The result was a great-looking '84 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler sporting a sturdy, reliable, and low-key build that works exceedingly well.

Looking very formal in its Oxford White (2001 Ford F-250) paintjob, the '84 Scrambler's body hides a powerful engine and sturdy drivetrain. Those are Rugged Ridge 6-inch fender flares keepin' it legal.
The CJ-8 stands on 35x12.50R15 BFGoodrich KM2 Mud-Terrain T/As wrapped around 15x10 Mickey Thompson Sidebiter wheels. Poison Spyder rock sliders protect the side, while a Poison Spyder rear bumper acts as a rear skid and swing-out tire carrier.
A perfectly good 5.3L V-8 with 36,000 miles on it was salvaged from a crashed 2004 GMC Sierra 1500 and transplanted into the awaiting engine bay of Aaron's '84 CJ-8. The engine came with a harness cut in half and no computer, but a programmed computer and harness were found on eBay, and they have worked great since the first time the key was turned. Various Advance Adapters parts helped piece together the GM 5.3L installation, including the bellhousing and clutch adapter that married the NV4500 (a Craigslist find Aaron had rebuilt) to the V-8. A Dana 300 transfer case follows up the five-speed heavy-duty manual transmission.
The original Dana 30 axle up front was rebuilt and loaded with an ARB Air Locker and 4.56 gears. How does it survive the V-8? Just fine. Aaron says it's because he doesn't use the power of the 5.3L to abuse the hardware. Suspension mods come from a 4.5-inch Rubicon Express CJ kit, and the steering box has been securely strapped from both sides of the frame by a Rugged Ridge brace from the passenger side and a M.O.R.E. bracket on the driver side.
After a rear spring shackle pulled a hole through the frame (remember, this is an Ohio vehicle) during the 2018 Scrambler Owners Association National Scramble hosted by SMORR, Aaron decided to completely fortify the aging Scrambler with CJ-8 frame reinforcement plates. The frame was cleaned up and a full set of plates was welded up from front to rear, in all the places the old frame was going to need help handling the new and increased demands placed upon it.
The rear axle is the original AMC Model 20 rebuilt and outfitted with an ARB Air Locker, 4.56 gears, and a Warn Full-Float kit. Both front and rear axles get power from the Dana 300 through a set of custom CV-joint driveshafts. Note the manual-locking rear hubs (Warn) on the ends of the Model 20. Mile Marker manual-locking hubs work the front axle.
Up front the '84 Scrambler CJ-8 sports a Poison Spyder Brawler front bumper that supports a Warn 9.5cti (9,500-pound-capacity) winch. There's certainly enough muscle there to extract the Scrambler, or to help it extract another vehicle, from just about any hazard it may find itself in.

Hard Facts
Vehicle: 1984 Jeep Scrambler CJ-8
Engine: 2004 GM 5.3L V-8
Transmission: NV4500 heavy-duty five-speed manual
Transfer Case: Dana 300
Suspension: Rubicon Express 4.5-inch suspension lift kit
Axles: 1984 Dana 30, ARB Air Lockers, 4.56 gears, Mile Marker manual-locking hubs (front); 1984 AMC Model 20, ARB Air Lockers, 4.56 gears, Warn Full-Float kit and manual-locking hubs (rear)
Wheels: 15x10-inch Mickey Thompson Sidebiter
Tires: 35x12.50R15 BFGoodrich KM2 Mud-Terrain T/A

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