1987 CJ How Reasonable to Restore


New member
Hi All,
First timer here I previously had a 2006 wrangler but no jeep in recent years. My neighbor now has a 1987 CJ in their driveway that used to be their beach car. To get to the point I'm considering making them an offer (5K or so) on the car, I'm interested in making it a project car that I can restore and teach my kids about taking care of cars. It runs and they drive it around but they mentioned it's missing some hoses, stalls a fair amount, but mechanically it's passed inspection. It has a fair amount of rust, I'd say like 20% of the outside has rust on it though nothing looks rusted through. They don't even bother with the hard top in the rain or anything.

My main question is do you find on here that people can learn and restore these types of cars (I know it will be a long process). I'm worried their will be electrical or something and I'll have to go to a mechanic for everything. Pretty much can this be a newbie project or am I likely to hit major obstacles.

I know it's a bit of a broad question, I don't really know how to properly ask.

Welcome to the forum!

Well CJs are older ignition systems and simpler electronics so it would make a great project vehicle.
There still are body and panels and parts being made.
There is a lot of info here already and videos. However, I don’t think anyone can commit themselves or the forum to repairing/restoring your vehicle. Just sharing knowledge.
How much are you willing to take on? Learn to weld, buy a factory service manual. May need a budget to replace it all.

Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up - Jesse Jackson
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I'm new to Jeeps myself, but not at all new to building and maintaining 4 wheel drive trucks.

With any older vehicle, it's going to come down to rust.... And the rust you can see is probably not the worst of it. The first things to rust are going to be the areas you don't see. So if you see rust, chances are there's a lot worse rust in places like the body mounts and certain parts of the frame. Deep frame rust and rust on the body and seat mounting areas are going to be the most expensive and require the most skill to repair.

But to your ultimate questions: yes, I think a CJ is a great learner/teaching vehicle. It doesn't get any simpler than carbonators, live axles and leaf springs.

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Sounds like a good project vehicle. You can buy new aftermarket parts for everything from lug nuts to tubs to wiring harnesses.

You might want to go in a little lower on price. Jeeps seem to bottom out around $4-5k when running. Maybe float something a couple grand lower and see where it goes....you can always go up.

And there is no 87 cj. They ended in 86 and 87 was the start of the wrangler with the square headlight the. The 87 yj and 86 CJ are so similar though, engine and transmission wise. Any cj and any carb'd yj is super easy to learn to work on and other than not getting as good a gas mileage or power as the fuel injected versions that came later, they are super vehicles to teach on.

What type of carb is on it? Hopefully a weber
Does it have round headlights (CJ) or square (YJ)?
As superj mentioned, the carb is going to be the only hard part, and you just just replace that.
As long as it's not super rusty I'd say go for it.
I did a frame up restore on my cj7. Leetp is right about rust. Before you buy check underneath front to back frame and body for rust. Under seats, roll bar mounts are places where rust hides pretty well. These can be expensive fixes if you have to send it out.