Classic CJ Series - Jeep Autopsy: CJ-7

The Pre-Wrangler

Working in reverse order: "American Motors will end production early next year of the venerable Jeep CJ-direct descendent of the workhorse of World War II" is how the announcement went. More than 1.5 million CJ models had been sold since it all started back in 1945. "Completion of the CJ production will signal an end of a very important era in Jeep history," the news release continued. The CJ-7 was built alongside the CJ-5. January 1986 brought the finale of the CJ-7 and the birth of the Wrangler that spring, which sort of resembled the CJ-7, but its true inspiration was the Cherokee (because passenger cars-particularly their handling and ride quality-were all the rage).

The History
It was the new, more versatile CJ-mostly because now the commoner didn't have to be bothered by a pesky stick shift. Yes, it was a monumental moment: the CJ-7 was the first CJ to offer an automatic transmission. Hey, it was the '70s, so the Woodstock buzz hadn't quite worn off, making the simple things wow. The CJ-7 was called "the tough son of the CJ-5," and it benefited from the chassis improvements and mechanical advancements of its pappy.

The Model/The Body
AMC hadn't changed the Jeep design in about 20 years by the time the CJ-7 rolled around. Its wheelbase was 10 inches longer than the CJ-5's, which helped fit the automatic tranny. It also had more elbowroom and interior space than the CJ-5 and was the first to have a molded fiberglass top and steel doors. The CJ-7 can be ID'd via its bigger door openings over the CJ-5's. The frame was new, with splayed side rails for stability and longer, wider rear leaf springs. The crossmembers were also beefed from the previous CJ-5's. An engine/transmission and fuel tank skidplate as well as new body mounts were added. There was a base CJ-7, which had black or buff vinyl seats, or buyers could get the Renegade package, featuring Levi's buckets (and a Levi's soft top could be added for over-the-top denim devotion).

The following year brought the Golden Eagle with a decal "chicken" on the hood, stripes, and a rollbar-and in '79, the Renegade went even more graphics-crazy. A year later, the high-end Laredo was added, while another bird came midyear, the Golden Hawk. The upper echelon of luxury was the '82 Limited, while the bolt-on-errific Jeep Jamboree model that same year had gold paint, a winch, a grilleguard, and other off-road-themed parts. All the limited editions were gone the next year, and the Limited was killed off by '84 (but not before the Spring Special in red or bronze with high-back seats, stripes, and white-spoke wheels), leaving the Collector's Edition for the final year.

The Scrambler CJ-8 was in '81 and lasted barely into '86 in pickup, utility, wagon, and van styles. It was 165.7 inches long, with a wheelbase of 103.5 inches and was 65 inches wide and 72 inches tall-and pretty much a CJ-7 from the cowl to the front end. There were two packages, SR and SL. SR was replaced in '85 by Laredo.

The Engine
In '76, the standard engine was a 100hp, 232ci six-cylinder that made 185 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm-unless you lived in California, in which case you got the 110hp, 258ci, one-barrel six-cylinder with 195 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm and an 8.0:1 compression ratio with a 3.75x3.90-inch bore-and-stroke (emissions). The option was a two-barrel 304ci V-8, which had an 8.4:1 compression ratio and 3.75x3.44-inch bore-and-stroke; it made 150 hp at 4,200 rpm and 245 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. For '77, the six-cylinders got redesigned combustion chambers. Standard features for the CJ-7 included an oil gauge and voltmeter, and the Renegade ran a heavy-duty cooling system. By '79, the 258 jumped to a two-barrel carb and became the standard engine.

The introduction of the standard Hurricane 2.5L, 151ci inline-four (GM's Iron Duke) with an 8.2:1 compression and a 4.00x3.00-inch bore-and-stroke was in '80. It made 82 hp at 4,000 rpm and 125 lb-ft of torque at 2,600 rpm. The 258 and 304 were options until '80, which was when Cali lost all access to the V-8 (emissions). In '84, AMC/Jeep produced its own 2.5L, the first four-cylinder designed and built by the company, which ran in both the CJ and Scrambler. The 150ci engine had the same valvetrain as the 258 ci; it had a 9.1:1 compression ratio and made 105 hp at 3,650 rpm and 132 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm.

The Transmission
Standard was a three-speed, floor-mounted Tremec T150 manual, but options were a floor-mounted, four-speed manual BorgWarner T18 (for the optional six-cylinder) or a column-based, three-speed automatic, the GM-provided TH400 (for the V-8). By '82, the BorgWarner T4 manual four-speed was standard with the four-cylinder, although a five-speed BorgWarner T5 manual was optional for both the four and the six. An optional Tremec T176 four-speed manual was standard in '80 for the six and the V-8. The Chrysler TF904 was the available auto trans for the four-cylinder, while the Chrysler TF999 was the auto for the I-6 and V-8. The BorgWarner SR-4 four-speed manual was mated to the GM engine from '80-'81.

The Transfer Case
As big of a deal as the automatic transmission was for the CJ, so was the full-time, automatic, four-wheel-drive Quadra-Trac system that came behind the V-8s. The T-case was a Dana 20 for the manual trans; it had a 2.03 Low range, and the TH400 auto was matched to a BorgWarner 1339 (with a 2.62 Low range). Starting in '80, the CJ-7 (and eventually the CJ-8) ran a Dana 300, which also had 2.62 gearing.

The Suspension/Axles
The CJ-7 and CJ-8 had an open-knuckle, full-floating Dana 30 in front and a semifloating AMC 20 in back with two-piece shafts. Gearing was 3.54s or optional 4.09s (later, just the 3.54s), but as the model year and EPA mileage requirements wore on, the gearing dropped to the pathetic realm of 2.73s. Leaf springs were used for the suspension; four leaves were standard, although the hardtop used five (the CJ-8 used four and six-or seven and nine, if a wagon or van). In about mid-'81, the CJs received slightly wider axles, and in '86, a few of the CJs managed to score a Dana 44 rearend. Trac-Lok was the optional limited-slip.

Wheelbase: 93.5 in. Inline-six-cylinder
Overall length: 147.9 in. Displacement: 232 ci (except California)
Overall width: 59.9 in. Bore x stroke: 3.75 x 3.50 in.
Overall height: 67.6 in. Compression ratio: 8.0:1
Curb weight: 3,{{{100}}} lbs. Horsepower: 100 at 3,600 rpm
185 lb-ft at 1,800 rpm
Transfer case:
Dana 20
1-bbl Carter YF carburetor

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If you can't find a slow leak, spray soapy water or some kind of spray cleaner like Windex until you see small bubbles around the bead, on the tread, or at the valve stem. Spot the bubbles and you've found the source of the leak.