New-generation flatfender: the CJ-3B.
Between the flatties of yore and the modern CJ-5 lies the omnipresent CJ-3B. Initially a transitional model between the two, the 3B was produced from 1952 to 1968 with a variety of equipment. While most were made with the more powerful F-head engine, which required the taller hood, some were produced with the Buick V-6 in the later years. Even a four-speed transmission was offered, although this cool V-6/four-speed combo is hard to find.
The high hood needed for F-head engine clearance gives the 'B a different look, but it is still a flatfender. The windshield frame is shorter than a 3A, but overall height of the two rigs is the same. Early 'Bs had the standard-design five-gauge dash, while later units shared the CJ-5 style of one big cluster of gauges within the large speedometer housing. Since good examples of this Jeep abound, this easy-to-find-parts-for Jeep is a good choice if you like the style.
- Low-cut windshield
- High hood
- F-head engine
- Big speedometer
- Better transfer case
Spanning the years: the '54-'75 CJ-5.
The first CJ-5 debuted in 1954, four years after the M38AI, which the CJ-5 was patterned after. The new Jeep style strayed from the flatfender style visually as the front fenders rolled over in front and the rest of the sheetmetal became bloated and rounded. However, this same basic style would last 32 years and stand the test of time until 1986 when the last CJ derivative was produced.
From 1954 to 1965 only the F-head engine was available, while both it and the Buick V-6 (which was lighter and more powerful) could be had until 1971. In 1972 the first AMC 304 V-8 was available, along with the 232 or 258 inline-six, and the frame and front clip was extended 4 inches to accommodate these engines.
Front axles went from the closed-knuckle Dana 25 with 5.38 gears to a variety of ratios in the early '60s, and the marginally better Dana 27 was introduced in the mid '60s. The best front axle came in 1972, which was the open-knuckle Dana 30 that had a tighter turning radius and was much stronger. The Dana 44 rear axle also gained stamina through the years, starting with a 10-spline tapered design then growing to 19-spline, and finally a 30-spline flanged design in 1970. This axle was offset for the Dana 18 transfer case but was center-set from 1972 to 1975, when Jeep switched to the Dana 20 transfer case.
While the popular and strong T-98 and later T-18 four-speed were available with all of the engines except the V-8, the marginal T-86 and T-14 three-speeds proved to be too weak for the six poppers and was eventually discontinued. The earlier T-90, which lasted till the mid '60s, was stronger than these others, if not abused. The later T-15 three-speed was coupled to the 304 V-8 and is a good, durable unit.
One of the most important changes was the addition of Saginaw front-mounted steering in 1972, a design which lasts into the TJs. This far-superior system was retrofitted to many earlier Jeeps long before AMC introduced it.
- Round fenders and body
- V-6, V-8, inline-six, or four-cylinder engine
- Saginaw steering '72 and later
- Optional gear ratios and trannies
Last of the legend: '76-'79 CJ-5.
In 1976 the CJ-5 was treated to a new frame that was wider in the rear, and the springs were made longer, softer, and wider for a better ride. Along with the chassis redesign was a windshield that tapered at the top and lay farther back for an aerodynamic look. The interior was made less Spartan, and a tilt wheel was available along with a more modern but still functional dash.
Gone was the T-15 tranny, but a Ford-designed T-150 three-speed and a T-18 four-speed for the six-cylinder rigs was coupled to the Dana 20 transfer case. Starting in 1980, the Dana 300 transfer case was coupled to the T-176 four-speed, and the debut of the GM 4-cylinder Iron Duke engine received the marginal SR-4 tranny. The front axle received disc brakes as an option in 1977, and they became standard from 1978 until the CJ-5 was discontinued after the '83 model year. One major weak point was the AMC Model 20 rear axle, which suffers from a two-piece axle and hub design.
- Longer and wider springs
- Aerodynamic windshield
- Model 20 rear axle
- Tilt column and better seats
- Disc brake option in '77