4WDING, CAMPING,CARAVANING, ADVENTURING...& A BLOODY GOOD LAUGh
CUSTOM 4WD: CJ7 Jeep
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK ALLEN
Fiat, Range Rover, Defender, Discovery, Chrysler, Volvo, Toyota, various Jeeps, aftermarket and home made parts – this CJ7 uses the lot
Vehicle: Jeep CJ7
Engine: Chrysler 408 V8
Gearbox: 727 Torque Flight auto
Transfer case: Range Rover LT230
Chassis: Range Rover
Front – custom A-frame
Rear – Range Rover A-frame
Axles: Volvo C303 portal with diff locks
Brakes: Volvo C303
Rims: steel 15 and 16 inch
Tyres: 39.5 inch Super Swamper Iroc and TSL
Young lads dream of many things - mostly cars and girls.
While there’s no denying Tim Hood had plenty of thoughts of the opposite sex, his dream time was mostly taken up with Jeeps, Chryslers and ol’ mechanical parts from the past. His love of old iron surpassed modern mechanical incarnations to the point that he was determined to turn his dreams into reality…as soon as he was old enough to drive.
The CJ7 you see here is the culmination of almost 17 years of ownership, two total rebuilds, countless re-modifications, hundreds of hours of ingenious forethought and plenty of dreaming about the ultimate wildly-modified Jeep.
Tim first picked up his second hand 1979 CJ7 Renegade back in 1991; it had a rough black paint job over the original white, was fitted with the original 258 ci AMC six-cylinder with a whole lotta’ miles and stiff ol’ leaf springs. During the mid-90’s Tim upgraded his beloved CJ with a more compliant leaf spring pack, lockers and larger rubber. He loved it to death, drove it all day, everyday and conquered all that was considered impassable back then.
The early 2000’s saw a partial rebuild which included an engine upgrade to a Chrysler 340, but it is this latest (not necessarily the last) complete rebuild that has seen his most inspiring work of art, that has transformed his once-stock Jeep into something akin to an off road mauler that is capable of tackling far more serious terrain than many thought possible just ten years ago.
Although the body retains its original CJ7 look, there have been countless nips and tucks, many off which go unnoticed, to allow the 39.5 inch rubber and long travel suspension to compress and flex without fouling the metal work.
Tim has in fact completely re-manufactured the front metal guards and added Warn TJ 7-inch plastic flairs...with a twist! The front flares have been reversed, swapped sides and mounted to the rear of the vehicle, while the rears have had the same swapping and reversal performed with all necessary trimming to allow them to ‘mould’ to Tims’ metal work of the front guards.
This is the type of fore-thought and attention to detail that has encompassed the whole project – unless you’ve been told of many of the modifications, you’ll never know the difference.
You should have noticed that huge bonnet scoop that sits atop the fibreglass bonnet! That was needed to allow the air cleaner and alternator to fit into the engine bay – no it’s not a six-pack 258 lurking under there anymore…read on.
Out went the old lump of iron, in went a …new lump of iron! Tim is such a lover of Jeep and Chrysler mechanicals, there was no way he’d ever consider dropping a Chev, Holden or Ford engine into his Jeep. While his decision of engine caused much distress to body, soul and his wallet, Tim opted for a Chrysler 360 petrol V8.
Opting for a lesser-known (in Australia) engine, with parts harder to come by, slowed the whole rebuild process down as well as added considerably to the final bill – but fly the Chrysler flag he would, regardless of how much bleeding it was going to cause!
Of course the asthmatic 360, which pumps out as little as 175 hp and 285 ft-lb (depending on exact year model and original vehicle it was installed in) wasn’t staying a stocker. Rather, Tim sent his engine to Lou at Dandenong Engine Reconditioners for the full power-up treatment. Lou stroked the 360 to 408 cubic inch, installed Eagle rods, roller rockers, Edelbrock heads and electronic fuel injection system, double row timing chain and tensioner as well as a Mopar high-flow water pump. At the bottom end, a larger capacity, baffled oil sump and high flow oil pump were installed to ensure oil feed stayed constant regardless of what crazy angles this Jeep may drive at. All internal surfaces were ported, polished and honed to provide maximum power.
Before signing off on his work, Lou dyno’d the engine and mapped the fuel injection system in his engine building room to ensure a straight forward first start-up in the Jeep once it was handed over to Tim for final fitting. 400 hp and 440 ft-lb was the answer everyone was eager to find out – a huge increase and plenty enough to push the CJ’s new rubber.
Backing up the mammoth 408 V8, is a strange (to some) mix of a Chrysler 727 auto Torque flight housing with the internals of an early 1980’s Range Rover auto gearbox that just happened to also be a 727 Torque Flight sourced from the International Scout, with a high performance Art Carr shifter. This in then matched via a factory Land Rover adaptor to a Range Rover LT230 transfer case. Being the knowledgeable Jeep and Chrysler fan that Tim is, he new that this mix of donor vehicles would be straight forward as all bolt patterns and internals are mix and match, plus this combination would give him the final gearing he wanted to match his tyre size – not so strange after all!
To cool the newly-built engine, Tim installed a Race Radiators radiator with an aluminium 2-core body sourced from America, in combination with a Flex Fan kit. The kit comprises a shroud and rubber front panel to fit flush with the radiator, making fitting easy. The radiator is so deep and wide that the standard headlights could not fit into the original position within the grill, so Warn high/low lights have been fitted external to the grill within the front bar work.
With the ever-decreasing amount of room within the engine bay, Tim had to compromise a little on his choice of extractors. Instead of tuned length extractors, he’s opted for a set of 2.5 inch block huggers to take exhaust gases down to a single 3 inch mandrel bent system with an Aero Chamber free flowing muffler. A shame words can’t really describe the engine note this Jeep puts out…suffice to say it’s a knee-trembling note that any V8 lover would love to call his own.
Tim has re-manufactured front and rear drive shafts utilising new parts from Hardy Spicer. The front shaft also incorporates a bearing block to help accommodate a change in direction from the pinion to the front of the gear box.
Tim crafted a cardboard replica of a fuel tank utilising just scissors and a hot glue gun, taking into consideration every single angle that would be needed to obtain maximum fuel within a confined space without fouling on any other part. The full-size cardboard tank was then taken to Long Range Automotive (a specialist fuel tank manufacturer) who then built the 135L tank which was then fitted under a false floor in the rear of the Jeep. An internal fuel pump from a 5.7L V8 Holden was used to feed Tims 408 Chrysler V8.
Tim was quite positive in his plan that he wanted to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible with his CJ, which is one reason why he’s opted for just 39.5 inch tyres, instead of the often used 44 inch. To overcome some of the loss of ground clearance from his smaller diameter tyres, Volvo C303 portal axles have been used to improve underbody clearances, as well as improving the wheel track.
These axles/diffs are complete hub-to-hub units, meaning the diff centres are from the Volvo C303, as are the useful stepped down 2:1 gearing of the actual outer portal hubs, which allows extra slow, slow, crawling off road. The other advantage of using these Volvo units are that they have factory front and rear diff locks, which, while in there standard workings were vacuum operated, Tim has modified to be air-operated via a 12-volt compressor and air rams working on the internal dog clutches.
Tim opted for Volvo portal hubs instead of the more commonly used Unimog units as they are physically smaller (in the snout and overall width) to fit in the space available under the Jeep, and they provided a final ratio more suited to Tims requirements. While they may lack the overall strength of a Unimog portal axle, they provide adequate strength when combined with the size tyres Tim is using and the overall dimensions and weight of the CJ7.
CHASSIS, STEERING N RUBBER
“Cause I got given it for free” was one of the reasons Tim used a Range Rover chassis! Plus, it proved to be the right dimensions, was stronger than the original Jeeps and allowed him to stretch the standard 100 inch wheel base to 103 inches…fair enough reasons!
Tim removed all the standard Rangy brackets from the chassis and laminated, gusseted and strengthened everything, just to be sure it never gave problems with the amount of power and flex he had in mind.
To mate the Rangy chassis to the Volvo axles and various Jeep and home made parts, Tim utilised a Toyota Bundera steering box, CJ7 steering column, Bundera drag link and Volvo track rods.
While some components utilised the ‘try and see’ method, Tim ended up not needing to resort to hydraulic steering to steer the larger diameter rubber…well not with this rebuild anyway!
The slightly (comparatively at 13.5 inches wide) narrower 39.5R16 Iroc Super Swamper tyres were chosen for the front to aid in easier steering, while wider 39.5R15 TLX Super Swampers were chosen for the rears. Front 16 inch and rear 15 inch steel bead-locked rims are used to allow extremely low tyre pressures while off road.
The standard Volvo C303 drums have been retained, although a dual diaphragm brake booster from a Discovery has been used to up the braking ability.
Several excursions to the wreckers saw Tim with a whole pile of coil springs to aid in the final dimensions and settings of the suspension. Strangely enough, Fiat car springs proved to be the ideal physical size to fit into the custom made coil retaining caps that Tim fabricated, as well as the physical space he had to play with. Both front and rear coils were then remanufactured at 200 pound settings and are mated to 14 inch long-travel, 9-stage adjustable Rancho 9000 shocks.
With the help of mate Bill Larman, a front A-frame suspension system was fabricated and heavily gusseted to not only allow amazing wheel articulation, but to resist the torque forces through the driveline. Leading ends have been welded to the axle housing, while the rear pivots on a truck torque bush.
The rear A-frame was sourced from a Range Rover and also incorporates a Maxi Drive ball joint for added strength. Since our photo shoot Tim has added Curri Antirock sway bars to somewhat aid the on-road behaviour of the Jeep.
Front and rear Warn XP9500 electric winches have been installed. Two LightForce halogen 170’s and two LightForce HID 240’s on flip-up, overhead bar-mounted lights have been added, along with twin American aftermarket driving seats with 4-point harnesses.
There are over 30 switches, dials, buttons and lights on the flat-panel dash to inform Tim of the workings of every electrical and mechanical part of his Jeep. What was once a glove box is now a very clever slide-out storage compartment for all the associated fuses.
There is a full compliment of protection bars on the Jeep, most notably the bar work protecting driver and passenger which is from 50, 40 and 32mm nominal bore tube.
There are a ‘million and one’ small modifications on this CJ Jeep that all attribute to this amazing current build-up of a long-standing dream. It takes guts to build something different to the norm and it takes many years of reading, studying, experimenting and asking all the right questions to know what parts can be attached to others. Even then, when most say it can’t be done, it takes people like Tim Hood to say that it can…with enough patience, thought and dreaming.
We are just wondering what other vehicle makes that could be incorporated into the next build-up of this once-standard CJ7 Jeep!
While Tim has undertaken the majority of the work on his Jeep, he is still indebted to the help he received from a number of people:
Bill Larman for the suspension work, Nigel Gamblin, an electrical engineer who helped with all the wiring, Russel Jones who helped with much of the welding and fabrication as well as good mate and mechanic Gary Thompson who wielded the big stick of motivation to push Tim into finishing his project in time for the latest Jeep Jamboree. ***ENDS***