Forced CJ feature
Sometimes it just pays to wedge your foot in the door and let yourself in. Well, maybe not in the case of White House dinners. But certainly if you're heading off to a major event like the Moab Easter Jeep Safari and you've got a pretty hot Jeep; it would pay to email the editors of the world's largest off-road Jeep magazine. You may even include a few photos of your cool ride and outline your schedule to make it easier on said editors. And that's just what Ryan Bowden of Morgan, Utah, did. Ryan simply shot us an email with a couple of photos of his '82 CJ-7 to show off his workmanship, told us he'd be at the '08 Easter Jeep Safari, and left the rest up to us. We dug the straightforward build using simple, solid components. And the flashy paint didn't hurt either. A couple of emails later and we were on the trail snapping the photos you see here.
We mentioned our appreciation of Ryan's simple, yet solid build and nothing is more solid than good old-fashioned leaf springs. Ryan first boxed the factory frame in the crucial areas around the spring and shackle hangers. Then, a set of heavy-duty spring and shackle hangers from M.O.R.E. were welded on to accept the 4.5-inch spring-under leafs out back with longer, heavy-duty shackles. In a nice touch, the rear shackle hangers are frenched up and into the rear bumper/crossmember and are capped with snazzy military-style recovery shackles. The rear spring-under arrangement battles axlewrap, and with the Dynatrac U-bolt flip kit, doesn't pose a huge impediment to ground clearance.
On the other side, a M.O.R.E stubby shackle reversal with aftermarket 1-inch-lift YJ springs done in a spring-over configuration hold up the front end. With the relocated spring perches, the new wheelbase comes in at an even 100 inches. A quartet of Rubicon Express remote-reservoir monotube shocks play damping duties and some extra-large polyurethane bumpstops keep the axles out of the framerails at full stuff.
Boys and girls, it just doesn't get any easier or more reliable than a GM Goodwrench Chevy 350 crate engine, so that's just what Ryan slung between the framerails using a bolt-on conversion kit by Advance Adapters with poly motor mounts. The 265hp 350 engine is topped by a low-rise aluminum manifold. Inhalation and exhalation is through a four-barrel carb and stock cast-iron exhaust manifolds, respectively. A GMPP serpentine front accessory kit was installed on the crate engine as an easy source for the power steering pump, alternator, and A/C compressor. The A/C compressor was converted to onboard air and fills a 3-gallon tank housed underneath the rear of the tub.
Backing the 5.7L crate engine is a Howell-built TH700R4 four-speed overdrive automatic that's toggled via an Art Carr shifter and cooled with an under-floor-mounted tranny cooler with an electric fan. Judging by the custom-built 3/16-inch steel T-case crossmember, we're betting Ryan has access to a steel brake. An adapter from Advance Adapters couples the GM automatic to an Atlas II T-case with a deep 4.3:1 Low before twisting a pair of Tom Wood's drive shafts. The front runs a long-travel spline and 1310 U-joints at both ends, while the rear features a smooth and silky double-cardan joint for those freeway jaunts.
To keep snappage at bay, a pair of Dana 60 axles front and rear running 4.56 gears and ARB Air Lockers were modified for the CJ. Ryan was a bit tight-lipped about the axles, but it appeared to us it's a Chevy Dana 60 front with Dynatrac conversion hubs and rotors and a custom-built rear using an F-350 Ford high-pinion centersection and 5x5.5-inch bolt pattern drums. It's a lot of axle, but the bulbous 38x12.50-15 Swamper SX tires mounted on 15x10 Champion beadlocks provide a decent margin of clearance under the diffs.