race car restoration connecticut

Jeep Restoration

Z2 Motorsports | New Britain, CT

What’s cooler than cruising in an open-top Jeep on a sunny day?  Almost nothing, that’s what!  The Jeep we will discuss here is undergoing a frame-off restoration, performed by Z2 Motorsports.  We’ll post updates along the way, so you can follow along with the journey.

1985 Jeep CJ7

The Jeep under examination here is a 1985 CJ7.  The lineage of the CJ series dates back to the original military Jeep, with CJ being short for “Civilian Jeep”.  The Jeep brand has a very long and complicated ownership history which can be best understood by examining the accounting records of each company that has owned Jeep in great and exhaustive detail, which we will now do.  Ok, just kidding!  We apologize to the accountants, but until your balance sheet analysis can surpass the life-affirming feeling of driving the back roads on a beautiful day, top and doors left behind, and the obligatory dog in tow, I think we can all agree that you have work to do.

 

While the 70’s and 80’s CJ’s look similar, the CJ7 is 10” longer than the CJ5, the model which preceded the CJ7s, but that was also sold in parallel for many years.  The extra inches helped the CJ7 to be more stable on the road, and opened up space for an almost reasonably sized rear seat, presumably for the dog.  In 1982, Jeep increased the track width of the CJ7 by a total of 4”, making it harder (but still not that hard) to rollover when turning.

Beneath the Surface

But enough of the prologue.  Let’s get to the meat of the matter, which is our ongoing, but first-time discussed here, CJ7 project.  The 70’s and 80’s Jeeps, like almost all cars of their generation, had awful rust problems.  Finding an original example without rust is challenging.  To help mitigate the inevitability of the body panels disintegrating from underneath them while driving, many potential owners will seek cars from the Southwest, where the lack of snow (and the associated salt) and the dry air help to keep them intact.  Such was the case with this Jeep, which was living a nice semi-retired life on a farm in New Mexico before it was abruptly pulled from all it had known and loved to undergo extensive, and presumably painful, surgery in our shop. 

 

While it looked relatively solid in the pictures, as we violently removed its paint we realized it was anything but.  This is an unfortunate, but common story.  Even when standing next to a car and putting your hands on the paint, it is possible to miss the problems that lurk beneath the surface.  The only way to really know what is going on beneath the surface is to remove the surface.  If other shops tell you otherwise, beware.

The good news is that there is no shortage of replacement panels available for CJ’s.  Many are of poorer quality than the originals and require significant massaging to fit, but they can provide a useful starting point.

"Light Restomod"

This Jeep will be a regular driver that must be able to survive all four seasons of what New England can bring.  We are building it in what we call a “light restomod” style.  Restomod, as the name suggests, includes both restoration and modification.  In this case, the build will primarily be about restoration, but we’ll sneak in modern touches here and there to help make it look a bit more fun and to make it an easier vehicle to live with.

 

Outside

The CJ will be painted orange, with a mild lift accomplished via the use of Jeep YJ springs (the next generation after the CJ’s), and while it may never experience the world on the other side of the curb, it will wear aggressive 12.5 x 33” knobby tires, giving it that cool off-road-capable look.  The undercarriage will be sprayed with bed liner to help it shrug off the indecencies that accompany a snowy winter and the drivetrain will consist of the original components all rebuilt and ready to live their best life.  This includes the workhorse torque monster straight six 258ci, coupled to a 5-speed T5 Borg-Warner transmission, and to the Dana 30 front axle and AMC 20 rear, fitted with updated single piece axles, by way of the Dana 300 transfer case. 

Under the Hood

Under the hood, the problem-prone original electronic ignition system will be updated with superior components, while the original carburetor will be replaced with a Howell Throttle Body Fuel Injection system. 

 
Inside

Inside, the directive is for the Jeep to look original, including the original bucket and rear seats, body-color sprayed dash, and the big Jeep speedometer placed right in the middle of the dash where it is easily viewed by no one except the dog that we presume is still in the back seat. This particular Jeep did not come with a tachometer or clock, but well-kept pre-loved ones have been procured and will be part of the ambiance.  The sound system is TBD, but suffice it to say that it will retain an original looking facade.  More on that as the restoration progresses.

Restoration Project Phase: Exciting

Our project is at an exciting phase.   The CJ has been entirely disassembled, the major components have been restored and rebuilt, and mechanical re-assembly has begun.  Through a lot of hard work, the horror that we experienced when we first looked under its coat has since diminished, and optimism is now the word.

With the chassis now together, the next steps are to install the drivetrain and as many associated components as we can before we bring body and chassis together.  Speaking of the body, it is currently on a rotisserie and will be ready for paint shortly.

 

We will provide periodic updates on this, and other projects.  Please feel free to leave comments, and don’t hesitate to reach out if there is anything we can do to help you get the most enjoyment out of your car.

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