Retired cripple builds a '79 CJ5


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People like photos, so I'll start out with one.

Got my new (to me) 1979 Jeep CJ5 Thursday. This is my 3rd CJ5, but the last one I had was when Regan was in office. I decided to start my build thread on the same day I took delivery, but please do not expect a complete build in a short time. You see I'm poor. Well, OK, maybe not poor poor, but I'm U.S. Army retired living off my VA disability, so there's not a lot of cash raining down on me.

My starting point is rough not only due it being a 38 year old vehicle, but the jurry rigged stuff done by others. Oh, I'll jurry rig stuff too, but there are some things I need to address. This thing was modified into a sand toy a couple of owners ago. Here's the good: She has a strong 360 under the hood with a 4 barrel, headers, a mild cam, and MSD ignition. Trans is a Torqueflite 727. Transfer case is supposed to be a Dana 20. Axles are from a full size Dodge truck, 4.88 geared and mounted SOA on 33x12.50s. They are Dana 44 in front, with lockouts, and 9.25 rear with a Detroit locker. They have 4 wheel discs brakes. Here's the not-so-good: No top, no doors, no heater or defrost, rusty spots to fix, and plenty of the aforementioned jurry rigged stuff.

She will not be a daily driver. I will use her as a weekend wheeling vehicle, but I do want to make enough changes to her to be able to take her on longer trips. I have visions of Black Bear Pass, MOAB, Drummond Island MI, and even Alaska... in 2019. Most of the time she ventures off the beaten path will be right here in good old Indiana. The Badlands Off Road Park is just an hr south of me. I'm going to do her up as a copy of an M38A1, but in desert colors like the vehicles I drove in Iraq. She'll probably get a soft top one of these days, but the plastic racing seats are going away by spring. My spine is too mangled up for anything other than good suspension seats. She is not intended to be anything other than a fun vehicle to go exploring in, and I'm not a good welder or fabricator, so don't expect to see top notch workmanship.

One more plus is the torque arms added to control axle wrap, and the rear end rotated to keep driveline angles down.

One more not-so-good is the transfer case was lowered what looks to be 6 or 7 inches in a custom built crossmember to limit front driveline angles, and not runs the risk of hitting everything. (I guess it don't matter in sand.) The crossmember for the front mounts to the torque arms is on top of the T-case, so that has to be changed too.

Had to go for a cruise with warm degree weather in January. Love the roar of a big American V-8. Had to tighten up the bolt on the steering arm where the heim joint goes on the knuckle. Didn't care for that 60 degrees I had to saw the wheel back and forth to go in a straight line. Anyway, listen to this beast.


I love a v8!! that's a hell of an engine lowering kit you have to fix. the good thing is, though, its a cj5. the one we had was so cool. you could turn around on a single lane street and go up and down inclines my yj and my buddies cj7 got the bumper dragging on
Hate to tell you this but the "torque arm" is marginal at best. There are several companies who make them, see how they design them, then compare to yours. I do love the Jeep though but you can expect some bad work done on these old Jeeps after so many years of different owners. My old Jeep is a '61. My last one was a '62. I have seen marginal work ! lol Good luck, keep going. One thing I really like about these old Jeeps is the lack of electronics. I've tried to keep mine that way and so far, just have electronic ignition.

The torque arms will be coming off later this summer. The transfer case has been dropped way too low, and the arms are mounted on a crossmember above the transfer case. Marginal is better than none I guess. I'm sure they help a bit, but I won't be blasting this thing like the kid I got it from. Just some slow trail riding. Not sure I'll even need them. Hopefully looking at a coilover swap if I can swing it, but that is just to soften up the ride a bit on my back. I don't need a shitload of flex for the wheeling I have in mind. I have several things to address.

I also like the lack of complicated electronic doo-dads. The only thing electronic on this is the MSD ignition box and the HID driving lights. Doesn't even have a heater or defroster. It will get a CB for commo, and a stereo. I have to have my oldies when crusin'.
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Yes oldies are a must. Lol
Hey thankyou for your service in the armed forces.
My father was 21yrs , sergeant 1st class , me , 6 yrs 72 echo and both daughters in Airforce at present .

I actually really like the way that Jeep sits.......get a bikini top and save some cash.
At our age Slooooow is the way to go. Lol
So I got the traction bars off. You can tell that the lack of a front shackle put them under stress by the fact that they are no longer straight...


Found a CJ5 carcass to pick through from a facebook group contact, but there wasn't much good left on it. I did score a factory skidplate for the Dana 20. I'm hoping I can make it work. It will be a bit towards the rear due to the Dodge 360 and 727, but I should be able to rig it up somehow. If I have to I can always make up a better version of a home brewed crossmember. However, I'll be driving the Jeep as she sits for the summer.

Plans have changed. A lot.

I will have to keep the house up to keep the wife happy.
I'll not be putting much money into my car anytime soon. (2003 Mercury Marauder)
I'll not be starting any gun builds for a while.
I'll just drive the Jeep as she is for the summer then start teardown in the fall.

I've decided to go all out. In order to get the ultimate in soft ride (along with a suspension seat), I will be doing a coilover conversion.

I have back and neck issues due to an IED attack in Iraq, so my mangled up spine, neck and right hip will thank me for the soft ride. This will also get me the bonus of great trail flex. So far my research points to using Ruff Stuff brackets, Artec Industries shock towers, and King coilovers. Goal is 2 years, but even if it takes me 5, I'm going to try to make this happen. I want my nimble little CJ5, but I need a softer ride than leaf springs can provide, or I will have to give up off road driving. Exploring trails through the woods is just too relaxing to give up.
Here's a shot of my constant shadow Brandy and I last week on our first trip off roading in over a year. She is my 98 pound German Shepherd. (more like German Shedder) She is a service dog and is with me 24/7. The passenger seat will be replaced by a custom made platform for Brandy as she's too big to lay down on a bucket seat.

well, you probably already know this. but.. a cj7 will give you more room, and the wheel base will allow for a better ride given the same upgrades between a "5" and "7". That being said, you cant do better than a coil suspension.

Well, I already got the CJ5. Plus I like the shape of the door opening better on the 5. It's more "Jeep like".
Got the JB twin stick cable shifter mounted, but can't get the transfer case to move out of neutral in the front drive. Shifter is good, T-case is messed up somehow. Worked 2 weeks ago... ???

Took the front passenger seat out, and built Brandy a temporary front seat dog bed. I'll have to re do it later when I get my suspension seat and build the center console for the shifters, but it's good enough for this summer.


Haven't had much energy or money to put into the project, but I have done a few small things.

New front recovery points are off my old F250.

Put in a CB. Not many places to fit a full size radio in a CJ5. I welded a couple bars between the top runners on the roll cage. I used an old bracket from a military vehicle radio antenna.

Installed a Blue Sea charging port in the radio hole in the dash. Can't wait to get rid of the diamond plate.

Steps make it easier to get in and don't cost any ground clearance. Jerry cans go mounted on the side. They can't hit anything as the tires stick out with the full width axles.

Put the Hi-Lift on the cowl in front of the windshield that I'll probably never put down.
IMG_20170417_075740073.jpeg First thing ! Thank You for your service ! Greatly appreciated ! This is my 81 CJ7. Like what you are doing with your CJ5. They can be alot of work but its all worth it. So so much fun. Good luck to you.

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