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Jeepsake: Jeep Family Heirloom

Burke Johnstun shares his family Jeep story with Four Wheeler.

For one of my recent 4xForward editorial columns in Four Wheeler magazine, I wrote about my '89 Wrangler, Project Why-J, and how it's sort of become a family heirloom keepsake. I used the punny term "Jeepsake" and invited readers to share their stories if they had 'em. The first one to email me was Burke Johnstun, with the story of his '79 CJ-5, which I'll let Burke tell. If you have a similar tale to share, hit me at christian_hazel@motortrend.com.

Hey there,

Loved the YJ Jeepsake story. I still remember reading about when you got it and all of the potential motor and axle option discussions. Anyway, here is my Jeepsake story.

My wife's grandfather bought a 1979 CJ-5 Renegade with the Levi denim interior. He ran a cafe and did the food service for a small ski resort so it made a ton of trips up the canyon and summertime trips to the pool. My wife remembers getting into the Jeep from a day at the pool and branding herself with the pistol-hot Levi's buttons. She learned to drive on the T-18 manual four-speed transmission. I have always been a jp but and they welcomed my long hair and earrings with my CJ-7. I would always drive the CJ-5 when I would go down and occasionally would work on it.

My wife's grandfather eventually passed and had promised the Jeep to one of the grandkids. After 9 years I got a call from grandma that it's mine. At the time, I had a 2004 TJ Rubicon that I had just bought from my stepmom after my dad passed and an FJ60. I towed the CJ-5 back and did a bunch of work to it as it had been sitting in a field. In Phase 1 I gave it a small lift on the narrow-track axles. It was a good runner, but I decided it didn't work as a wheeler for the family.

Phase 2 was ordering a Throttle Down Kustoms CJ-7 frame, and I picked up a white YJ tub and converted the CJ-5 into a CJ-7 and got done a few weeks before Easter Jeep Safari. It was a fun little wheeler on narrow-tracks and no lockers and has been an ongoing project. Last year I added a fuel-injected 360. The T-18 is still there, and I am teaching my daughter to drive my two-door JL right now, but she will get behind the wheel of the white CJ soon. Good times!
Burke Johnstun
Via email