1978 Jeep CJ-7: Screamin' Eagle
When A Good CJ-7 Goes Drag
The crowd screams with excitement, the smell of heated tires and racing fuel fill the air. Your heart starts to thump, engines roaring...this is not what one expects when you think of Jeep. When most of us buy a Jeep we have a vision of all the things we want to do. Add a lift, bigger tires, lockers, and some body armor. What doesn't come to mind is a rip-snorting V-8 with big racing slicks. Some get their blood pumping by a slow crawl up a rugged obstacle while Jim Scheid (aka Fuzz), from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, gets his juices flowing by the few seconds of heart stopping excitement on the drag strip. We first saw this Jeep at a show in Pennsylvania. First we noticed the 11.85 time on the windshield, and then we felt the rumble of the exhaust at the same time we noticed the front Dana 30 was still there. It was all pushed along by a big set of Hoosier racing slicks and we knew there was a story here.
Scheid has owned this Jeep since it was almost new back in 1979 and we finally caught up with him to see it in action at the Cecil County Dragway in Rising Sun, Maryland, where it races Pro Street class. The Jeep is sitting on 4 inches of lift, so he towers over everyone else-but what a sight it is blasting down the 1320. His best time to date is 11.669 sec @ 112.33mph.
For what is basically a stock Jeep underneath it all, this thing does really well. The stock frame was left largely alone, with the only stiffeners coming in the form of the class-required rollcage tie-ins. The factory leaf spring locations were used along with a set of 4-inch-lift Skyjacker springs. Surprisingly, there are no traction bars to keep the rear axle planted once the slicks hookup and a Rancho RS-9000 at each corner seems to keep things well in check.
The show all starts up front under that big Eagle in the form of a 401ci AMC V-8 that Scheid built himself. While we weren't privy to whether or not it was overbored, it was both balanced and blueprinted with the factory connecting rods being reused. Ross pistons and Perfect Circle rings help bump the compression ratio to 12:1. The Crower camshaft boasts 0.500 inches of lift on the intake and 0.510 inches of lift on the exhaust with a 246/250 @0.050 duration. The combustion mixture is drawn through a 950cfm Proform/Holley carburetor and an Edelbrock Torker Air Gap manifold. It is lit off by an MSD 6AL ignition system and the spent gasses go out through a pair of Headman headers with 13/4-inch primaries and dumps out the side through a pair of glasspacks. An electric Moroso water pump works along with a regular copper-brass radiator and a 16-inch puller fan to cool the engine off after runs.
The TH400 with a swapped-in 2WD tailshaft absorbs the abuse thanks to some high-performance clutches and an 8-inch-diameter 4,500RPM stall torque converter. A manual reverse valve body is rowed with a B&M Pro Stick shifter. The transmission is cooled by a 12-inch by 12-inch cooler and passes power to the rear Dana 44 via a Tom Woods CV-equipped driveshaft. The Dana 44 is stuffed with 5.13 gears and a Detroit Locker to help spin the 33x16.50 Hoosier racing slicks. Up front the Dana 30 has been gutted with the pinion hole welded closed, the axleshafts removed, and the 33x12.50R15 all-terrain tires are just getting pushed around. A manual master cylinder presses on the factory discs up front and the Dana 44 still sports the drum brakes you'd expect to see.
Body and Interior
Black ACP seats provide the view of the Auto Meter gauges and keep Scheid in place for all those sub-12-second passes. The stereo is long gone, with gauges in the general area it used to reside and a custom-built aluminum console puts the shifter and switches within easy reach, even when strapped in. An old-fashioned looking dual hoop over the driver's head along with front down-tubes and tie-ins and the stereotypical Jeep triangular rear down-tube provide a safe, retro, and decidedly Jeep profile in the staging lanes. Between those rear down-tubes is a 12-gallon fuel cell covered by a custom aluminum cover proudly displaying a massive AMC logo
The body itself is fiberglass with an unspecified height body lift incorporated into the new mounts. The one-piece front tilt clip is also fiberglass and the entire Jeep was sprayed in disco-riffic brown metallic paint. The Golden Eagle stripe package, complete with bird, was recreated painstakingly to throw us off the fiberglass scent.
Good, Bad, and What It's For
It's fast, fun, and come on-a topless Jeep at 112 mph is pretty darn cool. The downside, it's no longer four-wheel drive and with racing slicks you can't exactly take it for a friendly stroll through the woods. Jim has spent many years building his CJ-7 to be something that he enjoys racing, as well as taking around to shows with his wife Debbie. Even if it might not be something we would build, it sure is neat to see that this Jeep hasn't deviated all that far from what it left the factory with over 30 years ago.
Vehicle: '78 Jeep CJ-7
Engine: 401ci AMC V-8
Transmission: AMC TH400
Transfer Case: N/A
Suspension: 4-inch Skyjacker
Axles: Gutted Dana 30 (front), Dana 44 (rear)
Wheels: 15x8 Golden Eagle (front) 15x14 Cragar steel (rear)
Tires: 33x12.50R15 all-terrain (front) 33x16.50-15 Hoosier Slicks (rear)
Built For: Drag Racing
Why I Wrote This Feature
Growing up with a brother who was always into muscle cars, and to this day still builds and drag races his own cars, I was always around it and spent many days tinkering around the garage with him. Since then I've been a fan of muscle cars, the excitement of the speed, and the smell and sound of the drag strip. However, I decided to go a different direction and play with Jeeps instead. When I came across this Jeep, it was like having my cake and eating it too.