Corvette-Powered 1979 Jeep CJ-7
“There are fewer and fewer CJs on the road these days, and it’s fun to be in a cool, old Jeep,” was how Dr. Michael Korchmar began telling us about his 1979 Jeep CJ-7 Golden Eagle. We couldn’t agree more, and decided to photograph a full feature on it so you could check out this restomod beauty for yourself.
While Michael loved the look of the CJ-7, he wanted it to offer modern upgrades, and that began with the interior. Mastercraft Baja RS seats in brown tweed fitted with five-way belts not only fit the cockpit pit design of this new old-school rig well, but they also safely support the occupants. Auto Meter’s Phantom gauges populate the full custom aluminum dash. The CJ-7 interior was pretty much gutted, then filled with more aluminum work like the custom center console (secured to the custom rollcage) that holds the shifter, twin-sticks, cupholders, a place for a cell phone, an Alpine stereo head unit feeding Kicker speakers, and switches for the air lockers. The Golden Eagle steering wheel might be the only OG item inside.
The body has been cut and lifted to make a flat belly for the raised engine/tranny/transfer case combo (more on that later) that is well protected from the ravages of off-roading by a custom aluminum skidplate that stretches from in front of the oil pan to behind the transfer case. GenRight aluminum front and rear bumpers bracket the GenRight Boatside Rocker Panels, and GenRight’s 4-inch front flare and Comp Cut rear help to provide just enough clearance for the wheelbase stretch (more on that later too), and so the 42-inchers just barely kiss the fenders under extreme axle articulation. Baja Design 2x2 LED lights on each end of the CJ-7 bring sunlight to night when it’s necessary. Although this originally was a Golden Eagle–model CJ-7, the factory paint and decals were so far gone there was no use in attempting salvage, but Michael paid homage to its heritage with a set of OE Golden Eagle decals on the Grigio Alloy (a Ferrari factory color) paintjob.
350 TPI Power
Making power under the hood of Michael’s 1979 Jeep CJ-7 Golden Eagle is some modern muscle. The Chevy 350 TPI V-8 came out of an ’87 C4 Corvette and was refreshed with ported and polished aluminum heads and a Flowmaster 40 Series 3-inch exhaust system. The air intake was rerouted closer to the mesh section of the inner fender in an effort to get it away from heat.
Backing up the 350 V-8 is a TH400 and an Atlas 3.8:1-ratio transfer case. The Hughes-built TH400 features a manual reverse valve body, Art Carr shifter, HDX 2,000-rpm stall speed torque converter, and a Derale electric fan–assisted 12x15-inch auxiliary fluid cooler mounted behind the rear axle under the tub. Custom driveshafts with 1410 U-joints carry the power down to the axles.
The frame and suspension mods are significant. For these jobs, Michael got help. Throttle Down Kustoms built a CJ/TJ hybrid frame that offered a perfect fit for the CJ-7 body and the TJ suspension system mounts. SunFire Off-Road in Sunman, Indiana, took the frame and bobbed it 2 1/2 inches up front and created a tube substructure to mount the front bumper and steering gear. SunFire also created custom shock towers designed to hang the front axle forward 8 inches and the rear axle backward 8 inches from the factory CJ-7 positions.
SunFire Off-Road built the custom 3-link front and 4-link rear suspension system using 14-inch travel Fox coilovers, 2 1/2-inch Fox Air Bumps, and Currie Antirocks front and rear to swing the two custom-built Currie Enterprises RockJock 60 axles. The RockJock 60s that were custom-built for this rig have 1/2-inch-thick, 3 1/2-inch OD tubes. The front axle got a dual-sheer steering setup that was fabricated from 7075 aluminum and a custom truss. The rear axle was also fortified with a custom truss. Both axles are spinning 5.13 ARB Air Lockers; chromoly shafts are in the rear, while the front has RCV 300M shafts.
The axle ends sport Chevy 3/4-ton disc brakes in front and rear, and a master cylinder booster system from a Dodge 1-ton pickup was swapped in to replace the factory setup. Goodyear MT/R 42/14.5R17 tires wrapped around 17-inch Hutchinson Rock Monster wheels tip the ends of the axles.
There is so much going on with Michael’s built 1979 CJ-7 that some of the details get lost. We wanted to make sure we mentioned that the rear bench seat was removed to make way for the 19-gallon RCI aluminum fuel cell and the Yeti cooler; and a custom cargo rack was built into the cage over the fuel cell. We especially liked things such as the heat shield wrap on almost the entire exhaust system, and the brake lines that were run along the tops of the axle trusses to meet the vent and locker tubes so that all three could be secured to the upper control arms, keeping them all out of harm’s way.
Why This Jeep
Michael was right when he said CJ-7s in decent shape are beginning to seem to be a rare find. This one was just intact enough to allow for the creation of an old Jeep with a thoroughly modern powerplant, drivetrain, and suspension. It has plenty of classic-cool looks, with the added benefit of upgraded and robust underpinnings.
Vehicle: 1979 Jeep CJ-7
Engine: 1987 C4 Corvette 350ci TPI V-8
Transfer Case: Atlas 3.8
Suspension: Custom 3-link front and 4-link rear, 14-inch Fox coilovers, Fox Air Bumps, and Currie Antirocks
Axles: Custom-built Currie RockJock 60 axles, 5.13 ARB Air Lockers front and rear, custom tube trusses, Chevy 3/4-ton brakes.
Tires: Goodyear MT/R 42/14.5R17
Wheels: 17-inch Hutchinson Rock Monster