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'80 CJ-7

Posted in Project Vehicles on September 1, 2002
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Photographers: John Cappa
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If you feel like you've heard the name Casey Groth before, it shows that you have been paying attention. Why? Well, a few issues back (High Clearance, Jan.02) we ran a feature on Casey's daily driver, a 98 TJ on 38.5s. While we were in town shooting a story for an Oklahoma trailride, Casey and the other guys from Wagoner Machine Shop (WMS), showed us around the shop, and in one of the back corners was a set of 2-1/2ton axles tucked under a frame and a blue CJ-7 body. After talking to Casey we knew what was then a pile of parts would one day be one helluva waterfall-scaling monster of a Jeep. This past Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, we finally caught back up with Casey for a couple hours of big-tire 'wheeling. And along for the wheeling trip was his finished 2-1/2ton Rockwell-slinging 80 CJ-7. The Jeep now sported a Chevy V-8 powerplant, 44-inch Swampers, 125 inches of wheelbase, and one happy owner who was ready to try almost anything. The front suspension consists of a set of custom-length Alcan springs which hold the front axle in place, while the rear 2-1/2ton axle is attached to the frame with a custom three-link suspension built by Mark Hanson at WMS. A set of coils pulled from the front suspension of a V-8-equipped Grand Cherokee provides the rear of the Jeep with bounce and flex. Suspension rebound is kept at a comfortable level with a set of Rancho shocks all around—four up front, two out back.

Chassis & Driveline
The overall wheelbase of the Huge CJ-7 is a waterfall-scaling 125 inches. This length was achieved with a custom suspension attached to a WMS-built frame. The frame is constructed of 2x4 square tubing with ¼-inch-thick walls, which then ties into the body and rollcage. Once the basic structure of the Jeeps frame was completed a fairly stock low-mileage 95 Chevy 350 was plopped between the framerails to power the CJ. Behind the TBI V-8, Casey chose to run a TH350 automatic, and a Flowmaster muffler attached to a 2-1/2inch dual exhaust. The three-speed automatic transmission was then bolted to a WMS adapter that couples an NP203 to a Dana 300. This dual T-case setup allows Casey to run either the NP203s in 2.0:1 low range, the Dana 300s in 2.62:1 low range or run both transfer cases at the same time for a low-range ratio of 5.24:1. The multiplied power then goes towards the 44-inch Super Swamper tires via a set of shaved Rockwell 2-1/2ton axles built by WMS. The big axles turn the tires with original 6.72 ring-and-pinions that rest on a set of Detroit Lockers. The huge Jeep is slowed with a set of two (one per axle) Custom WMS pinion-mounted calipers, which grab at cross drilled rotors when the Jeeps brake pedal is pushed towards the trail.

The two front 44-inch tires steer the Jeep via a Roth orbital valve, which directs pressure to an implement style hydraulic ram. This setup, when combined with a good caster angle on the front axle, allows Caseys Jeep to have a very good return-to-center feel which is usually a complaint with full hydraulic steering systems.

Body & Interior
The body of the 80 CJ-7 was outfitted with a louvered hood to help aid in cooling, while the wheelwells of the Jeep's tub were opened up a bit with a plasma cutter to ensure plenty of tire clearance when the big Jeep gets all crossed up on the trail. Next, the Jeep was sprayed by David Smith of Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a base coat of Viper Blue, which was then covered with a layer of clear coat. One day a friend of Caseys was rummaging around in a junkyard where he found a Blue Bird bus plaque. He gave it to Casey since it seemed fitting, so it now rides on the back of the CJ tub. Turning his attention to the inside of the Jeep, Casey bolted a set of plastic RCI seats. All passengers are protected by a sturdy WMS rollcage which is attached firmly to the frame. Other interior goodies include Autometer gauges, a Chevy Cavalier steering wheel, and a CD player.

Wheels & Tires
Big tires are the way to go for Oklahoma wheeling, so Casey had to get a set of 44s. Thus the big Jeep turns a set of four 18.5/44-15LT TSL Super Swampers wrapped around WMS bead locks. The wheels are 15x12 steelies, and feature 16 bolts that hold the outer bead lock ring onto the wheel.

Good, Bad, & What Its For
Casey originally built this Jeep so that he could retire his small tire(38.5-inch Boggers) TJ to daily driving. But the Jeep also offers a good platform to show off some of WMS products. As for terrain, the CJ-7 was mainly built for Oklahoma wheeling including some adventures to Poteau, Disney at Grand Lake, as well as Arkansas and Moab. Most of these areas require big tires, power, and long wheelbases to keep things from going over backwards.

What We Think
Every time we travel to Moab for Easter Jeep Safari we hear rumors of people who are able to drive up the last big waterfall on the trail known as Upper Helldorado. So this year at Moab when we heard Mark Hanson, and John Sumner from WMS talking about how they drove up this waterfall last year we told them we had to see it for ourselves. A couple hours later we got to see what we thought was impossible. Here are the pictures, no winch, no towstrap, no nothing. Just big tires, big rigs, tons of wheelbase, and nerves of steel going up a waterfall that is about 10 feet high, and damn near-vertical. So what do we think? Nice!

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