More often than not, we are amazed at the level of ingenuity that went into a mechanic's/fabricator's rig when we see one on the trail. These impressive rigs and their drivers are what started the grassroots movement of 4x4 modifications over half a century ago, and they have pushed the level of four-wheel technology to what it is today.
It's true passion that pushes a guy who wrenches on others vehicles all day only to toil away on his own rig through the night and weekends until it's complete and acceptable to his personal and exacting specifications. Kevin Fitzsimons of Annandale, New Jersey, is just such a mechanic. He took this '79 Jeep CJ-7 and built it into the very trailable machine it is today. The CJ features a number of unique and very functional modifications that make it stand out from the pack.
1979 Jeep CJ-7
Engine: Chevy small-block V-8
Transfer case: Dana 300, 32-spline output
Front Axle: Dana 60, 4.56 gears, ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Dana 60, 4.56 gears, spool
Springs & Such: Rubicon Express leaf springs, Bilstein 5150 shocks
Tires & Wheels: 36X13.5X15 Super Swamper Iroks, 15x10 Allied beadlocks
Other Stuff: 1350/1410 and 1350 CV driveshafts, front and rear disc brakes, RCI fuel tank, custom skidplates
The AMC I-6 was swapped out for a Chevy V-8 custom-built with TRW pistons, a Comp cam, Edelbrock intake, and Howell fuel injection. The new powerplant cranks out enough power to push and pull the Jeep through just about any sticky off-road situation.
The ol' Jeep now rests on Dana 60 axles front and rear. The front axle is fitted with an ARB Air Locker, and a spool is in the rear. The steering is designed around PSC hydro-assist components and high-steer knuckles and arms from Solid Axle.
The CJ's interior isn't tricked out with the latest gadgets, but it is fitted with a custom six-point rollcage and PRP seats and harnesses for comfort and safety. Autometer oil pressure, water temperature, and transmission gauges were installed to keep tabs on the Jeep's vitals.
The entire length of the Jeeps frame was boxed for strength, and a traction bar was installed to keep axlewrap in the rear in check. Rubicon Express leaf springs and Bilstein 5150 shocks were used for a dependable performance suspension.
It is handmade garage fabrication like the front and rear bumpers, rocker guards, and corners that always catches our eye. It's great to know that there are still guys out there who take pride in building their own components and not just bolting on foreign-made junk. For example, the front U-bolt plates were made from pieces of steel Kevin sourced from a scrap yard, pieces that were salvaged from the World Trade Center support beams!