Long-awaited Jeep: the CJ-6.
The early flatfenders have a cramped driving position and a real lack of cargo room. Even though the CJ-5 relieved these drawbacks considerably, it is still a small vehicle. The CJ-6 is a CJ-5 with an extra body panel behind the door opening and, of course, a longer frame. The extra cargo capacity was greatly appreciated by many buyers, and the extended wheelbase made it a better 'wheeler in many instances where the short wheelbase was hampered.
The same engine and drivetrain options and sheetmetal changes were available as on the CJ-5, depending on the year of manufacture. The military also used these rigs as ambulances and produced the '6 as the M170 with a large door opening on the passenger side. The components were shared with the M38A1.
- Extended body and frame
- CJ-5 door opening
- Available from 1955 to 1981
Comfortable cruising: the CJ-7.
The venerable CJ-7 was a direct outgrowth of the CJ-5 and '6, combining a wheelbase between the two with a large door opening for maximum comfort. This Jeep is one of the most popular to modify or even keep stock, as it works so well. As with the CJ-5 upgrade in 1976, the '7 was virtually the same but longer and was produced until 1986, while CBS News killed the '5 in 1983 with a rollover story. The '7 was also the first Jeep to be offered with a full-factory-fiberglass hardtop and full steel doors, a real boon to areas with inclement weather.
The extra length allowed the CJ-7 to be the first model offered with an automatic, the GM T-400. This tranny was coupled with the highly efficient Quadratrac full-time transfer case, while the manual transmission stayed with the Dana 20 transfer case. In 1980 the auto was replaced with the Chrysler 999 or 904 hooked to the Dana 300 transfer case, and four- and five-speed manuals were offered.
The year 1980 also saw the reintroduction of the four-cylinder, while the 258 six was standard with a 304 V-8 offered until 1983. Wider axles were used starting in 1982, which gave a more stable ride. The Dana 44 rear came back for the last half 1986 and is highly desirable.
- Extended wheelbase
- Large U-shaped door openings
- Optional automatic transmission
- Full-time or part-time four-wheel drive
Smooth ride: the CJ-8.
The demise of the CJ-6 and the fullsize J-10 pickup left a hole in the Jeep line-up, and the CJ-8, known as the Scrambler, was introduced as a pickup replacement with the half-cab option. The length was due to the extra rear overhang and slightly longer wheelbase, so a common conversion is to use CJ-7 doors and a hardtop, which leaves a small storage area.
This rig is ideal for all sorts of driveline swaps, as the length makes for ease of installation of long drivetrains. Especially when coupled with a spring-over axle conversion, this long beast can still have quite adequate driveshaft angles. Only 27,792 were made from 1982 to 1986, which is about equivalent to one year's production of CJ-7s. The scarcity and popularity of these vehicles have made the prices soar in recent years.
- Factory half cab for pickup look
- Long overhang and wheelbase
- Lots of room for long drivetrains
Something new: the YJ.
The end of CJ production marked a new beginning for Jeeps, although many purists felt rectangular headlights had no place on a Jeep. The Wrangler was made lower, and supposedly safer to drive, by long, wide springs and wider axles. This better ride and controllability along with a carlike dash translated to a huge increase in sales from its introduction in 1986.
Mechanical changes were far more, as the front differential was moved to the driver side after 46 years, and locking hubs were no longer available. The rear axle was changed to a Dana or corporate 35, which, although smaller than the Dana 44 or corporate 20, at least had one-piece axles. The six-cylinder was eventually changed to a 4.0L and received fuel injection, which was much better than the earlier computer-controlled carbureted models. Another major change was switching to the NP231 transfer case from the older Dana 300 geardriven units.
- Rectangular headlights
- Long, wide, soft springs
- Wide axles
- No-locking hubs
Something Better: The TJ.
After 10 years of Wrangler YJ Jeeps, Chrysler made a bold move and brought back the round headlights, spacing them out farther than the old CJ's for better lighting. However, the most important change was to front and rear coil-spring suspension, a direct outgrowth of the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee platforms. This increase in true off-road capability shot the new TJ Wrangler ahead in terms of sales and of people modifying and using these Jeeps on the trails.
Mechanicals of the TJ are also impressive. Even though locking hubs still aren't an option, the front-axle disconnect and associated hoses and wiring are thankfully gone. Even the rear axle has an option of a Dana 44 flanged axle, which is quite popular. While still relatively new to the market, the amount of aftermarket accessories grows every day, making this one of the most modifiable vehicles on the market-although one that needs few modifications for most 'wheelers needs.
- Round headlights
- Round springs
- No axle disconnect
- Dana 44 option