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post #1 of (permalink) Old 10-21-2007, 08:02 AM Thread Starter
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Need advice on restoration path of my old 81 CJ7

Hello Jeep experts!

I've had my CJ7 for 7+ years now and it has been great - but it's getting tired and I've done everything I can to keep it from getting worse by weather/elements by keeping it inside and starting the engine every few weeks.

The engine is a 258 and it has stock hubs/axles/transmission. The tub was replaced before I bought it with a fiberglass body so the only rust (which seems to be mild) is on the frame.

She was drivable up until recently - but has been garaged for about a year+ ever since the master brake cylinder was removed. While removing it - the brake line snapped due to rust.

Here is the question - I'd like to really start spending time/money on the old lady. But where does one start? I'm not sure I'm ready for the responsibility (time/etc) of a complete rip and restore where I pull everything off down to the frame like I've seen others do.

Is there an upgrade/restoration path which is less drastic that someone could recommend? A path which would allow me to restore her in phases and not all in one major project?

Help advice would be great...

Thanks,

-John
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 10-21-2007, 11:18 AM
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John I'm it that phase that your talking about. I have an 86 CJ7 and I started with the engine and that in it's self was a huge task. Now I've seen pictures of jeeps with the engine in but the tub removed. I'm not sure what it takes in doing that but I think if you wanted to get started the engine is a good place to start. Now if you are going to start with the engine or any thing else major I recommend taking allot of before pictures. This will help when you start putting it all back together.

Carnell

1986 stock CJ7 rebuilt 4.2L 258 more to come
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 10-21-2007, 12:18 PM Thread Starter
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I think you're right. The guy who did the tub replacement (fiberglass) - didn't do a great job on the wiring and hose routing.

Maybe I'll focus on getting things "right" under the hood and then move on to other parts.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 10-21-2007, 01:14 PM
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Welcome to the board. You've come to the right place!

I was in your shoes a few years ago, except that I also had a rusty body to deal with, although the frame was good. Or so I thought until I got the body off. That's when I found that the frame was much worse than I thought, and I would bet that yours is too. It's improbable that the body rusted away to the point where it was unusable while the frame remained sound.

There are a lot of places for the frame to rust but not be obvious. Forward of the rear axle on the inboard side there are front and rear pieces that overlap and are welded together. If the inboard piece isn't perfectly flat, it's because the frame has rusted between the two pieces. Rust is a lot bigger than the steel it comes from, so as the remaining steel gets thinner it's pushed away by the expanding rust, creating a bulge.

Look closely at the welds where the two halves were put together to form a box. Those are also overlapped. Again, rust forms between the two and spreads them apart, but there it often shows as a crack at the edge of the weld bead. Look especially closely from the back of the bend behind the rear axle, and from there aft.

Also look closely at the area where the rear spring shackle mount is bolted to the frame. Mud that gets into the rear portion of the frame tube has no way to get out since the tube is closed off by the rear cross member under the tailgate, promoting rust.

Pull the body mount bolts out and look at the frame horns where they were sandwiched between body mount biscuits. They also trap water and promote rust.

The rear three cross members are welded to the top of the frame tube with a tab that extends to the middle of the tube. That creates another water and mud trap between the tab and the frame tube. That shows up as a bulge in the tab.

And of course, the bolts that hold the skid plate up are notorious for causing problems. They screw into nuts that are swaged into the frame rails. Rust tightens the bolt in the nut while simultaneously loosening the swage. When you try to remove them the nut breaks loose from the frame, but still won't come out. Then you have to grind the head of the bolt off to drop the skid plate, and make a repair to replace the nut.

If you see these signs, you're well off to bite the bullet and plan on rebuilding or replacing the frame. Once the body is off it's not terribly difficult, and getting the body off is an afternoon's work. However, repairing the frame gets a whole lot easier if you strip it bare. Then you can stand it on end to rattle all the debris out of it. And for a few hundred you can have it hot-dip galvanized. Look at my web site to get some ideas.

It can be tempting to tackle the more obvious problems first, but there's really no point in putting time and money into a vehicle if the frame is suspect. Since everything attaches to the frame, if it's bad it can cause problems with every job you attempt.

EVERYTHING's easy for the guy who doesn't have to do it.
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Last edited by Jim_Lou; 10-21-2007 at 01:25 PM. Reason: Clarification
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 10-21-2007, 05:17 PM Thread Starter
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Wow - thanks so much for the great response. I agree with your points - why build and spend $$ on things when the frame/base are rusting away.

I read your instructions and I crawled under the jeep - but being a newbie - I didn't know exactly where you were referring. So - thanks to Google - I've posted pictures I just took of the frame.

Interesting - one side seems to have more "rust" on it then the other. All photos were done from the middle of the jeep looking back toward the rear axle.

Here are the photos - what do you think? Am I doomed?

Picasa Web Albums - John - New Album 10/...
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 10-21-2007, 06:06 PM
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Actually, that frame does not look that bad...looks like maybe you live in a more Northern direction and you have a lot of road salt deposits.

I just finished a frame up restore on my CJ7....what started as a SBC swap ended up being a full restore...actually, it was not that bad....

The direction you goes depends a lot on your mechanical abilities and money.....

If you want to get rid of all the rust the easy way, buy a new frame....but like I said, yours does not look that bad......and it's a lot easier to pull the tub than you think....send me an email address and I send you a boat load of my 'progress' pics.

I ended up replacing all of my brake lines and fuel lines with stainless steel. In fact, I used stainless anywhere I could.

How tired is the engine? If tired, the easy swap would be a later model 4.0 fuel injected....wiring is easier than you think....after that a v6 or V8...wiring just as easy but you have to weld in new motor mounts.

BTW....welcome to the board.

AKA DDawg16
84 CJ7, SOA, 5.7LTBI, 4L60E, 35"x12.5, 4.10 gears, F/Det, R/ARB, Full Roll Cage,
D44 Flat top in progress...
Link to my Frame up Restore
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 10-21-2007, 09:08 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for the great info. I "think" the previous owner (the guy who put the fiberglass tub on) had said he had painted/coated/something to the frame - it was a long time ago and I knew even less about Jeeps back then so I don't remember the details.

What do you guys think of me taking a steel brush to as much as I can get to from underneath and paint it with a anti-rust paint. Am I being silly? Or should I just pull the tub and be done with it and do it the "right" way.

Again - thanks everyone.

-John
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 10-21-2007, 11:37 PM
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I agree - that looks pretty good from the pictures, but it's really hard to tell for sure without seeing it in person. I'd guess that it probably doesn't need the full treatment. The remaining question is, how long do you want to keep the Jeep. If a long time, you might want to consider a treatment to ensure the longevity of the frame. I don't know about your '86, but my '78 had no paint on the inside except what drifted in through the holes.

EVERYTHING's easy for the guy who doesn't have to do it.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 10-21-2007, 11:45 PM
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Wow, Jim didn't give you the awl/center punch rust check info. You can also check the metal in the rusty areas by taking a awl or center punch and striking it to see of there is any give or rot to the metal. As Jim pointed out, the rust usually starts inside the hard to get at areas and works outward. The exterior surface of the metal may only seem to have surface rust, but a hit with a pointed object may reveal more problems, or can verify tat it's only as bad as it looks.

What do you mean by "tired". If you know you are losing compression and using (not leaking) a ton of oil, OK fine, but if you're just expecting a little more from the 4.2 there are ways to deal with that.

If your still running the factory ignition nand carb... that's where I would start... baring any issues described above. Search here and the net for MC2100 carb swap info and Weber carb options. Also the HEI or TFI distributor swap and nutter bypass (if applicable). Making these changes will make the 4.2 wake up and run great! (but not like a V8).

Is this the only hammer you've got?
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 10-22-2007, 06:18 AM
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Good point about the punch. I use the pointed end of a welder's chipping hammer. If the frame is good you won't hurt anything. If it's bad you're well off to find out now. The caution is that you must hit the right points, including the ones I described. The frame doesn't rust too badly on the open, vertical sides that are easy to hit.

EVERYTHING's easy for the guy who doesn't have to do it.
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