CJ Jeep History (1970-1986)
By the late sixties, consumer interest in off-road activities had grown in leaps and bounds, with the Kaiser-Willys Jeep leading the way. Four-wheel drive vehicles were more popular than ever. At this time, newly-founded American Motors Corporation was looking to expand their product line.
Seeing the rising demand for off-road vehicles, AMC purchased Kaiser-Jeep in 1970. Through the next 17 years, the Jeep CJ was offered in an wide array of trim packages and special editions.
Longer CJ Frame
For 1972, A new box-frame, featuring six cross-members for rigidity, was lengthened by 3" to accommodate American Motor's six-cylinder engine. Fenders and hood were also lengthened. The CJ5 wheelbase (hub to hub) was now 81" and the CJ6 wheelbase measured 101". Transmission choices were upgraded to a T14A or T15 three-speed, or T18 four-speed manual transmission.
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Other upgrades on the Jeep CJ included a full-floating Dana-30 front axle and heavier Dana-44 rear axle. Both front and rear axles were solid and suspended with leaf springs. Larger 11-inch drum brakes were fitted, as well as an improved steering system.
In 1970, the Renegade I was introduced. The Renegade II followed in 1971, and by 1972, it was simply Renegade. By 1974, it was separate model in the Jeep CJ lineup.
Jeep introduced the Quadra-Trac System in 1973, the first automatic full-time 4WD system. Quadra-Trac was available in full size Jeep trucks and wagons as well.
With dozens of available options and a wild stripe pattern, the Super Jeep CJ model was first offered in 1973, and again in 1975 and 1976. The 1973 Super Jeep came with chrome bumpers, white steel-wheels, and the 304ci V8 engine.
1976 Jeep CJ5
Courtesy lights, day/night mirror, and a new steering wheel appeared in 1976. This year also saw an energy-absorbing steering column which featured an anti-theft steering lock. Rocker panel moldings between the front and rear wheels were new. Safety concerns brought about larger combination backup/tail-lamps. Also in 1976, the body tub and frame were modified slightly from earlier versions. The new windshield used screw-type hold-downs. The windshield frame also changed, making tops from 1955-1975 CJ models not interchangeable with 1976-1983 CJ models.
Power disc brakes became optional on the Jeep CJ5 in 1977. Starting in 1979, the standard engine was the 258ci straight-six with two-barrel carburetor. From 1980 to 1983, the standard engine became the GM "Iron-Duke" four-cylinder engine.
Offered from 1975 to 1986, the Levi's Jeep package was never a special-edition, it was an option, but one of the most popular interior and top options Jeep had ever offered. It included simulated stitching in Levi fashion on the seats, special jean-style padding on the dash, and a jean material-type top. The Levi's package was available in blue or tan, and was optional on all CJ Jeeps and standard on the Renagade.
The CJ7 marked the first significant change in 20 years. Introduced in 1976, the longer wheelbase (about 10") allowed fitment of an automatic transmission. Along with full-time Quadra-Trac 4WD, more interior space, an optional molded plastic top, steel doors and air conditioning, the CJ7 was a big leap forward in comfort and day-to-day practicality.
The CJ7 was one of the most successful Jeep models, with numerous special packages. Close to 400,000 were produced by the time it was discontinued in the eighties.
Jeep Golden Eagle
From 1977 to 1983, the Golden Eagle package came with a soft-top or hard-top option, power disc brakes, power steering, tachometer, 304ci V8, air conditioning, side steps, and Golden Eagle decals.
A Silver Anniversary Jeep CJ was offered in 1978. Special features on this model included metallic silver finish with accent striping, black interior and soft top, and commemorative dashboard plaque.
CJ Jeep Engine Options
The first two years of American Motor's Jeep CJ5 saw the continuation of the GM 225ci V6 engine. In 1972, CJ5 models were fitted with AMC's 232 inline-six engine. The cast-iron block featured seven main bearings and was very durable. An OHC cast-iron head housed hydraulic lifters with non-adjustable rockers.
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In 1979, the standard 232ci engine was replaced by the 258, now with a two-barrel carburetor. A 151ci four-cylinder built by GM (the Iron Duke) debuted in 1980 (Jeep called it the "Hurricane"). With a two-barrel carburetor and 8.2:1 compression ratio, the four-cylinder produced 82-horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 125 lb-ft of torque at 2,600 rpm. The Hurricane-4 was dropped in 1983, which left the 258-six as the only engine offered.
Jeep 304 V8
The idea of putting a V8 in a Jeep CJ was not new. Enthusiasts had been doing it for years, and several aftermarket companies were offering installation kits to fit Chevrolet V8s into Jeeps. From 1972 through 1981, the 304ci motor was offered as an option, with the best performance years being 1972-1978. The cast-iron block featured five main bearings, with early engines having an 8.4:1 compression ratio. Net horsepower was 150 at 4,200 rpm, with a peak torque rating of 245 at 2,500 rpm. Renegade models featured the 304ci V8, alloy wheels, and a limited-slip differential.
Meeting federal requirements for emission controls severely hurt 304 V8 engine performance. In 1979, horsepower was rated at 130-horsepower. The last two years the 304 was offered, horsepower dropped to 110-horsepower, which was barely higher than the 258 six.
Jeep Scrambler CJ8
Starting production in 1981, the Jeep Scrambler CJ8 was designed to compete with other American small domestic pickups such as the Ford Ranger and the Chevy S-10. The Jeep Scrambler wheelbase was 104-inches, essentially a longer wheel-base version of the CJ7 model. A removable half-cab was attached to the vehicle, and a small pick-up style box was utilized.
Although primarily designed as a short-bed pickup truck, the Scrambler could also be set up with rear seating and a full hard top or full soft top. The Scrambler CJ8 was produced from 1981 to 1986 with about 28,000 models produced.
Jeep CJ Discontinued
With popularity of the Jeep CJ7, demand for the smaller CJ5 decreased and was discontinued in 1983. With a total of over 600,00 units produced between 1954 and 1983, the CJ5 enjoyed a 29-year production run, longer than any other Jeep model up to that time. The Jeep CJ-7 and CJ-8 were replaced by the Jeep Wrangler. Late in the 1985 model year, a dash plaque was added, which read "Last of the Great Ones".
After Chrysler's buyout of AMC in 1987, the 258ci motor continued to be offered through 2006. It is considered to be one of the best ever produced.
Jeep CJ Axles
Installed in CJ models from 1976 through the mid 1980s, the two-piece axle design of the AMC Model 20 are OK for stock use. However, you may want to upgrade ypur axles to handle any significant performance upgrades. Model 20 axles found in larger Jeep vehicles are sturdier and are a common upgrade. Many CJ owners replace the two-piece shafts with the stronger one-piece style, or weld the tubes for additional strength.
Aftermarket Jeep Parts
Parts availability for CJ Jeeps is second to none. Anything mechanical, as well as wheels, tires, soft and hard tops, interior and exterior parts are easily obtained. There are also plenty of off-road upgrades, such as transfer cases, driveshafts, axles, differential lockers, roll bars, bumpers, skid plates, winches, etc.
Back in the seventies, Jeep engineers were struggling to meet mileage and emissions standards. One thing that helped was substituting taller gearing in the axles. Although this reduced engine rpm at highway speeds, it hurt performance. Before you install larger tires, find out what your axle ratios are.
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