1978 CJ-7 Frame Off Resto-Mod - Jeep Wrangler Forum
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Old 12-28-2019, 01:26 PM
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1978 CJ-7 Frame Off Resto-Mod

So for those of you who do not know me (I lurk around the YJ Forums primarily, and to a lesser extent the JL, JK, and TJ Forums), I have owned numerous Jeep vehicles over the years, beginning when I was 15 (40 years ago) with an early CJ, with the love of Jeeps and 4WD vehicles starting long before that during our many camping forays into the California deserts and mountains, as well as Mexico, when I was growing up.

So I have a long time friend (20+ years) who works for our corporation, although he now resides in Texas. Over the years he has seen me build or modify a couple dozen Jeep vehicles of every variety. Occasionally Jeff would remind me of the ‘78 CJ-7 that his wife basically grew up in (it belonged to her father for the majority of its life), in the deserts of California and Arizona.

I hadn’t seen the Jeep in close to 20 years, and from my recollection was pretty rough even back then. It had been stored in Arizona until 2016, when it went to Texas after his father-in-law passed away. Jeff hit me up about taking a look and seeing what it would take to get it dialed in. So, after he assured me that rust was minimal, I told him where our starting point would be, and we arranged for transport to So Cal.

Holy F was this thing ROUGH!!! It had the crappy yellow repaint over the original red, bondo over the rust, and the rust was expanding the bondo from the inside out. There wasn’t a straight, rust/bondo/dent free panel on the entire Jeep, except the grille. The tub, windshield frame, fenders, hood, and tailgate were all junk.

It had the original 304, Turbo 400, Quadratrac, Dana 30, and AMC Model 20. It had junk headers and exhaust, junk suspension (with welded on double shock mounts up front), holes torched in the frame rails to access blind nuts long broken free, and a host of other issues. I ran the compression and was not exactly encouraged by the 75-125 PSI spread.

So, in my opinion this poor thing was scrap. I told them that with a tub swap and starting from square one, the monetary expense was going to be huge. I told them to set aside $12-$15k, and we would find them a nice, turn key CJ that would fit the bill.

Well, after talking it over with his wife, it was determined that the sentimental value was too great, and we were going to do it up. I gave them a starting figure and told them it would only climb from there, they never get cheaper.

It was going to take a tub swap, fenders, hood, tailgate, complete body and paint, engine, trans; transfer case, diffs; suspension, tires, wheels, interior, top, bumpers, etc; etc; etc. It was going to get real in hurry.

So, a few pics of the carnage, and I will do my best to document along the way.

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Old 12-28-2019, 02:31 PM
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A few more pics...

Thing was such a mess, I decided to pressure wash and begin the disassembly where it sat, as opposed to making a huge mess in the shop.

Had to be expedient, as they just moved a little mobile office to the land next door, and started grading the lot across the street to build a house. After 12 years of only having 2 houses on a 35 acre plot, they were going to start selling off the other 33 lots.

The quiet little dead end street will someday be a cul-de-sac with far more vehicular traffic.
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Old 12-28-2019, 03:16 PM
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Dissassembly begins...

I used an entire can of Aerokroil, which I consider to be one of the best rust dissolving agents available, and a can of PB Blaster, and still had to use a torch and a Sawzall.
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Old 12-28-2019, 03:32 PM
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What. A. Freaking. Mess.

Got it down to the roller. Found someone who needed a free tub. Theirs must have been complete junk, if they wanted this one!
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Old 12-28-2019, 09:52 PM
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A little progress...

So about this time I was getting ready to do Metalcloak front and rear fenders on my YJ. I already had it occupying space in the shop, along with a couple other projects, so I loaded up the CJ roller and took it to my friend Mike’s, where we could disassemble at our leisure without impeding progress on our other projects.
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Old 12-28-2019, 10:06 PM
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The search was on...

I was back to the grind at my real career, so at every opportunity I was looking for a nice CJ tub. After looking at 5 or 6 that people considered “nice”, I began looking for a nice YJ tub. I had done the conversions before, and upon completion no one except another serious Jeep person would know. I sourced a nice one from Sgt. Jeep in Rosamond, CA; and trailered it to Mike’s where I would do some frame work on the roller to get the mounts right.
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Old 12-29-2019, 11:05 AM
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So the frame on this thing was a mess. Although it was relatively solid as frames go that have been abused and neglected for 30 or 40 years, I had a bunch of things to clean up.

The frame had holes torched in the side of it to access blind nuts for the skid plate that had broken loose, it had an extra pair of OEM style upper shock mounts crudely welded on for a dual shock mount set up, blind nuts broken loose on the spring hangers, plus, due to the body mount changes made between ‘86 CJ’s and ‘87 YJ’s, I had to open up some of the mount holes on the CJ frame, whack the rear-most outside mounts and fabricate new ones, weld up the holes on the rear crossmember and cut new ones with a hole saw, and a few other things to do before I could blast it and either powder coat or spray it with enamel.
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Old 12-29-2019, 06:36 PM   #8
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boy o boy!!!!! will be a good following this thread T!
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Old 12-29-2019, 08:52 PM
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The frame work begins...

So the first thing was to open up the existing CJ mounts to match the O.D. of the YJ mounts, as I plan on using a YJ mount kit. You can either open them carefully with a hole saw, or scribe a line the proper O.D. and open with a carbide burr in a die grinder.
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Old 12-29-2019, 08:57 PM
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Frame work continued (Part 2)...

Next up I cut some round plugs and welded up the existing holes in the rear crossmember. Some people elect to elongate the holes, which works fine, but I think the fill and drill method results in a cleaner overall end game.
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Old 12-29-2019, 09:04 PM
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Frame work continued (Part 3)...

Next up I carefully blew off the secondary dual shock upper mounts (which appeared hacked on with a too cold stick welder), and cleaned up the rails.
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Old 12-29-2019, 09:12 PM   #12
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Old 12-29-2019, 10:15 PM
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Frame work continued (Part 4)...

Next up, I whacked the rear outer OEM mounts, and fabricated new ones out of 3”x4”, .187 wall rectangular tubing. Mounting holes are moved forward approximately 4.050”, and the overall center to center width is just under 1.75” wider than the OE CJ mount dimension at that location.

Again, there are options here, as some people choose to leave the OE CJ Mount, and just drill a hole through the tub. Not an option for me, however, as although this is more work, the end result is far cleaner in my opinion.
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Old 12-29-2019, 10:20 PM
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Frame work continued (Part 5)...

I pulled the tub off, then burned in the top of the mounts (inaccessible with the tub on) to the frame.
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Old 12-29-2019, 10:38 PM
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Frame work continued (Part 6)...

Next I removed the diffs; leaves, spring hangers, brake lines, everything down to the bare frame. I then flipped it over and drilled out both the remaining welded nuts inside the frame for the skid plate, as well as the holes where the nuts had broken free (this is where a previous “fabricator” had torched holes in the frame to install nuts), and I installed 1/2” nutserts in the six locations.
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‘92 YJ, 4.0, AX15, Jeep Air, Mastercrafts, Bed Rug, Tuffy Tub Enclosure/Console/Hood Lock, Momo Prototipo, RE 4.5”, Bilstein’s, AA SYE, J.E. Reel Driveshaft, Griffin Radiator, JBA header, Dana 44/30, 4.56’s, E-Locker, M.O.R.E. Engine Mounts & Steering Box Brace, Metalcloaks, Fuel Anza’s, BFG 35” KO2’s, White Knuckle Rock Sliders, Garvin Bumpers, Bestop Sliders, Warn 9.5ti, Old School KC’s, Hella H4’s, Quadratec LED tails, more....
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Old 12-29-2019, 10:51 PM
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Frame work continued (Part 7)...

It was about this time that I discovered not only a bunch of nuts and other junk hardware rattling around inside the frame rails, but an enormous amount of sand from river crossings during its life in Arizona, traversing around the Colorado River for a couple decades. I cut a couple square holes in the rear crossmember in line with the frame rails, inserted a 12’ cable with a collet attached, and ran it down the inside of the rails. We then stood the frame on end and whacked the rails with a dead blow hammer.
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‘92 YJ, 4.0, AX15, Jeep Air, Mastercrafts, Bed Rug, Tuffy Tub Enclosure/Console/Hood Lock, Momo Prototipo, RE 4.5”, Bilstein’s, AA SYE, J.E. Reel Driveshaft, Griffin Radiator, JBA header, Dana 44/30, 4.56’s, E-Locker, M.O.R.E. Engine Mounts & Steering Box Brace, Metalcloaks, Fuel Anza’s, BFG 35” KO2’s, White Knuckle Rock Sliders, Garvin Bumpers, Bestop Sliders, Warn 9.5ti, Old School KC’s, Hella H4’s, Quadratec LED tails, more....
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Old 12-29-2019, 11:06 PM
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Frame work continued (Part 8)...

After blowing out the the rails with an improvised 12’ blowgun, I welded some nuts to some 1/4” steel plate to repair two missing spring hangers nuts, then welded the plate inside the rear of the frame rail. I also cut all the existing torched holes for the skid plate clean, and made patches for each one. I already had the square holes I had cut out of the rear crossmember. Had my work cut out for me, no pun intended. Note the pile of sand, it was about 1/2 of a 5 gallon bucket. No way would I have left that in the frame.
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Old 12-29-2019, 11:13 PM
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Frame work continued (Part 8, continued)...

Cleaning it up...
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Old 12-29-2019, 11:21 PM
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Frame work continued (Part 9)...

With all the holes filled, I quadruple checked the fit of the new spring hangers, and tapped every existing blind nut by hand.
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‘92 YJ, 4.0, AX15, Jeep Air, Mastercrafts, Bed Rug, Tuffy Tub Enclosure/Console/Hood Lock, Momo Prototipo, RE 4.5”, Bilstein’s, AA SYE, J.E. Reel Driveshaft, Griffin Radiator, JBA header, Dana 44/30, 4.56’s, E-Locker, M.O.R.E. Engine Mounts & Steering Box Brace, Metalcloaks, Fuel Anza’s, BFG 35” KO2’s, White Knuckle Rock Sliders, Garvin Bumpers, Bestop Sliders, Warn 9.5ti, Old School KC’s, Hella H4’s, Quadratec LED tails, more....
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Old 12-30-2019, 12:09 AM   #20
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Old 12-30-2019, 12:23 AM
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Thank you!!
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Old 12-30-2019, 12:52 AM
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Frame work continued (Epilogue)...

So, a lot of work to clean this frame up. Some of my friends (most of them in fact, other than Jeff and Dena, the owners) had thought I had lost my mind. The end result was all worthwhile when I got it back from the sandblaster. Devco, in Redlands, CA. is a specialty industrial coatings company that specializes in high dollar projects (they are currently working on the $4.9 Billion SoFi Stadium in Inglewood that is planned to house the Rams and Chargers). I have been dealing with them for a long time, and they still treat me like the customer I was 30 years ago, when they needed me. Just cool humans, period.
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Old 12-30-2019, 01:03 AM
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When I am working solo...

I have to take advantage of all the tools at my disposal. Sometimes it is a tractor, or a forklift, and a lot of the time it is a rack. Getting older, but I can still get it done.
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Old 12-30-2019, 01:11 AM
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And now the real work begins (AKA Square One)...

My girlfriend Teresa (AKA the “Other Keeper”) and I have this little thing we say to each other when we are leaving on a road trip, or starting a project, or a lot of things really, it is “Here We Go”. It actually started with one of my co-workers about 20 years ago, he always said it, and now we say it in a weird voice to make us laugh when we have had a tough day. This CJ is no different, there is a lot of work ahead, so “Here We Go”.
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‘92 YJ, 4.0, AX15, Jeep Air, Mastercrafts, Bed Rug, Tuffy Tub Enclosure/Console/Hood Lock, Momo Prototipo, RE 4.5”, Bilstein’s, AA SYE, J.E. Reel Driveshaft, Griffin Radiator, JBA header, Dana 44/30, 4.56’s, E-Locker, M.O.R.E. Engine Mounts & Steering Box Brace, Metalcloaks, Fuel Anza’s, BFG 35” KO2’s, White Knuckle Rock Sliders, Garvin Bumpers, Bestop Sliders, Warn 9.5ti, Old School KC’s, Hella H4’s, Quadratec LED tails, more....
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Old 12-30-2019, 11:32 AM   #25
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Old 12-30-2019, 06:05 PM
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Old 12-30-2019, 06:22 PM
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Getting some of the 30 parts ready...

Just blasting and getting paint or powder coat on a lot of these parts has been time consuming to say the least.

The 30 is getting a new gear set, all new bearings, seals, u-joints, ball joints, steering components, and brakes. The Model 20 is getting the same treatment, plus a set of Moser one piece axles to replace the two piece OEM parts.

When I disassembled both diffs; the internals had been in immersed in water for some time. The 20 was about half full as evidenced by the marks on the cover, the 30 was even worse.

I also discovered why it only had a rear driveshaft. The rear end had been swapped out, and the front and rear gear ratios did not match. What a jewel.

Pictured are the bare housings and components on the way to the blaster. Rust removal was necessary here in a major way, so I wasn’t going to stick my arms in the bead blast cabinet for 8 hours straight.
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Old 12-30-2019, 07:24 PM
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So part of the vision...

....is to keep the OE drivetrain intact, just like it was when Dena was growing up with this Jeep. We talked about options (if it was mine it would in all probability receive some type of Small Block Chevrolet, whether an LS/6L80, or a traditional Small Block with aftermarket injection and a 700R4/Dana 300 combo), but I will still make it run strong and reliable, with injection, and a nice set of headers through a custom exhaust system for the right sound.

So I disassembled the longblock and took it to the machine shop for cleaning. It had been apart before, but it was still standard. Someone had ringed and bearinged it, but to say it was a hack job is an understatement.

Someone had used a ridge reamer and pretty much bored the top .375 of the block by hand. ONE cylinder head had guideliners in it (several of which were loose in the guides), it had a broken rocker girdle, the camshaft was going flat, the distributor drive gear had been whacked and was missing a tooth, it was just a worn out poorly executed ‘Rebuild’.
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Old 12-30-2019, 07:57 PM
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Progress on the diffs....

I put all the small parts in a box, then put one of my friends on the bead blast cabinet for a few hours. Upon completion, we taped up all the pertinent areas and coated with some high solids semi-gloss enamel.
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Old 12-30-2019, 08:42 PM   #30
THE GODFATHER

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Join Date: May 2012
Location: AZ. In the Ponderosa Pine Country, where the Bears are hungry..
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1974 CJ5, 2003 TJ, 2013 2 door Black Rubicon, auto, with 4.10 ratio.
Shaking at 40-70 MPH, Read this!!!

The Mighty Grizzly is not concerned,
with
the needs of the Hunter....


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