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1978 Jeep CJ-7 YJ/TJ - Melting Pot

Posted in Project Vehicles on July 20, 2008 Comment (0)
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1978 Jeep CJ-7 YJ/TJ - Melting Pot

CJ, YJ, TJ.... At some point while building a Jeep we all have probably said, "I love this Jeep but wish it had something from an earlier or later model." You know, just take them all and build the perfect daily driver as well as a killer trail rig that would turn heads. John Hubbard of Oyster Bay, New York, did just that.

When we first saw John's '78 "CJ-7" at a Jeep show, we did a double-take. Was it a CJ-7? It had a CJ-7 front end and tailgate, and then we noticed the TJ flares and YJ body, windshield, and frame. Our interest was piqued, so he popped the hood to reveal a 3.2L Nissan SD-33T six-cylinder turbodiesel.

At this point we had to hear the story behind this confused Jeep.

John started the buildup with a YJ frame and tub that he bought for $300 and towed home on a 4x8-foot utility trailer. The other major component in the project was an '80 International Scout II; John married the Scout's entire drivetrain to the YJ frame. After a year of hard work welding, grinding, and fabricating, the result was a CJ/YJ/TJ/XJ/Scout/Nissan/Dodge/Chevy Jeep painted Corvette White that's a daily driver as well as a trail rig, which John built by himself from the ground up.

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What we didn't know until we ran across this Jeep was that in 1980, International offered the Scout II with a Nissan diesel engine. John is bent on diesel-powered vehicles-including the two ride-on lawnmowers he owns. So when an '80 Scout II went up for sale in his club, John jumped on it. Out of the Scout II came the 198ci turbodiesel, T-19 transmission, Dana 300 transfer case (with that goofy Texas bolt pattern), and Dana 44 axles.

As you might imagine, with an unconventional swap like this, John became good friends with his welder. The engine mounts were made from 5/16-inch plate, cut and welded to bridge the gap from engine to frame. The entire exhaust system was likewise fabricated, with 3-inch-diameter tubing and 3-inch-diameter mandrel-bent elbows with a stainless steel flexpipe located about a foot from the turbo to allow the system to flex without cracking. There is no muffler on the Jeep; the turbo provides all the muffling needed.

The four-speed T-19 was rebuilt with a Novak adapter kit and a Wilwood pull-type slave cylinder to disengage the clutch, but the Dana 300 transfer case was left alone (a 4:1 gearset is in the works). The rear driveshaft is a shortened '97 Cherokee part, while the front shaft came from a YJ.

The front Dana 44 received an Aussie Locker, 3.73 gears, flat-top knuckles, and new Spicer ball joints, seals, and U-joints. The tie-rod ends, drag link, and tie rod all came from EMS Offroad and were hooked to a rebuilt YJ power-steering box. The other Dana 44 got similar treatment in the form of new seals, 3.73 gears, and an Eaton Elocker.

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Braking duties fall to a '94 Chevy Astro van hydrobooster and master-cylinder combination, while the front discs and calipers came from a Dodge 1/2-ton truck. The stock Scout drum brakes on the rear axle were rebuilt.

The Jeep has an '88 YJ frame and stock YJ spring packs in a spring-over setup (the stock YJ front and rear track bars were ditched). The front springs got a BDS add-a-leaf to help hold up that 672-pound engine, while the rear received an additional leaf as well. The shocks are Old Man Emu. The stock YJ bellypan was modified to work with the T-19/Dana 300 setup, and a custom traction bar and mount were added to control rear axlewrap. A 1-inch Daystar body lift replaced the stock rubber mounts.

The stock YJ fuel tank still hangs out back, but now there's a 1-inch-diameter marine filler hose to accomodate diesel fuel. After significant trimming of the CJ grille, it finally fit over the power-steering box, and after more trimming, a two-row universal-Ford radiator was installed. Eagle Alloy 058 rims and a set of 35x12.5R15 BFG Mud-Terrain tires round out the package.

The body was part of a $300 bargain, along with the frame and other YJ parts. There's also a CJ grille, hood, front fenders, and tailgate. The front seats are vinyl-covered Bestop units, while the rear is the stock YJ fold-and-tumble seat.

John used a flat, stainless steel dash with only the steering column and glovebox cutouts, adding other holes to house the VDO Millennium gauges, with EGT and turbo-boost gauges joing the "normal" ones a Jeep has. Two speakers and a weather-resistant CB radio share the space. The steering column, steering wheel, and windshield were retained from the '88 Wrangler, as was the factory sport bar with slanted rear legs for a more CJ-type look.

John hacked the fenders front and rear to mount TJ flares, which were then painted DuPont Corvette White like the rest of the body. The interior was finished off with a dark-grey Durabak bedliner, which allows for easy cleaning.

The front and rear bumpers are both homemade from 1/4-inch-wall 2x4 box tubing, with 3/4-inch shackle mounts and a 2-inch receiver mount. The front bumper was pie-cut and bent back for a better approach angle.

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The combination of an unconventional diesel engine with a YJ body, tub, and frame-and called a CJ-7 without a blink of an eye-is what makes this Jeep an interesting creature. The best part is that it was done in the driveway. With ample hours of welding and fabricating, John ended up with a well-built, awesome-looking diesel Jeep, without breaking the bank.

This wonderfully mixed-up Jeep, however, is lacking in the armor department. A rollcage, beefier diff covers, and other underneath armor would be great additions to help preserve all John's hard work.

Even though John used a large assortment of parts to build his Jeep, it looks as though it could've come from the factory. I was blown away not only by his enthusiasm about the unorthodox diesel conversion but also the out-of-the-ordinary engine choice. That 3.2L Nissan just wasn't what I expected to see when I looked under the hood, but it seemed right at home.

The true sight is on the trail. Even with all the hard work, time, and dedication John put into building this Jeep, he still hits the trails like he's driving a beater. He wasn't afraid to try any trail or obstacle. He knows what his Jeep is capable of and has a great time with it. Since he knows the Jeep so well and has obviously been wheeling it for a while, being off-road with him was a lot of fun, and listening to that diesel clacking its way up obstacles is really something that needs to be heard.-Melissa Howard


Vehicle: '78 CJ-7
Engine: 3.2L Nissan SD-33T six-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: Scout T-19
Transfer Case: Scout Dana 300
Suspension: Spring-over on stock YJ springs
Axles: '80 Scout Dana 44 (front and rear)
Wheels: 15x8 Eagle Alloy 058
Tires: 35x12.50R15 BFG T/A KM
Built For: John wanted a unique Jeep that was dependable, diesel-powered, and homebuilt
Estimated Cost: $9,000

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