Saving The Jeep: A New Series

July 31, 2017 at 5:41 pm

There has been a 1979 Jeep CJ-7 in my family for nearly 40 years now. My Great-Uncle bought it new from the dealer, and it passed to my father, then my mother, and now to me. The Jeep has many fond memories associated with it. I can still remember the first time I road in it, with my uncle taking dad and me to the cabin. I remember when both my mom and dad were separately teaching me to drive and made me promise not to tell the other. I remember when, on one particular lesson, mom drove the Jeep off a steep embankment and I had to calm her down and get it out. Countless stories are wrapped up in that hunk of metal; precious memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world. If you have been interested in leasing any kind of van, then the Ford Transit range is probably one of the vehicles that you have seen the most. Not only are they popular, but they have some technical benefits that make them a good solution to most problems, at least in conventional businesses, you can click here for more info.

Unfortunatly life gets in the way sometimes. Dad passed away many years ago, and the Jeep became an occasional driver. Mom got sick a few years ago, and the Jeep was semi-permanently garaged. Recently, Mom passed after a long battle with cancer, and now the Jeep belongs to me. I don’t know much about cars, but I know keeping a vehicle in an unconditioned space for several years is bad for it. So what to do?

I’m a fan of a show called The Survival Podcast (TSP). In it, Jack Spirko, a renaissance prepper-cum-duck-farmer, talks about dozens of topics ranging from stocking a larder to bitcoin’s implications on the global economy. It’s a fantastically interesting show. TSP also has something called an Expert Council, comprised of subject matter experts from fields across the spectrum. One in particular stood out: Charles Sanville, the Humble Mechanic. I thought if anyone could help and offer guidance, he could. So I sent the following email to Jack.

Question for: Charles Sanville

Question:¬†What should I do for an inherited 1979 CJ-7 that’s been garaged for the last 5 years and had some odd modifications done to it? It currently doesn’t run, but I’d like to keep it, and learn the basics of car maintenance and “restoration”.
My great-uncle bought an odd CJ-7 new in 1979 from the dealer. It has
  • A straight 6, automatic transmission (I think AMC 232?)
  • Power steering,
  • Manual breaks
  • All-time 4-wheel drive, Quadra-Trac, which makes the jeep really squirrely at speed).
  • Less than 20,000 original miles
  • Almost no rust

Over the years, it passed on from my great-uncle, to my father, then my mother. It’s a family heirloom at this point, and I have many fond memories of going camping, hiking, and to our families cabin in upstate NY. Heck, I ever learned to drive in it! I really want to keep this vehicle for weekend/occasional driving, camping, and because it’s all I have left of my family at this point. I’d love for my son to learn to drive in it some day.

There are a few known issues with the vehicle:
  • My dad didn’t believe in modern emissions regulations and pulled most of those components. There are hoses the terminate in a bolt and hose clamp. The Jeep ran after these modifications, but I’d like to get it back to “normal” running mode so that it doesn’t potentially mess up the engine.
  • Some of the control knobs inside come off.
  • All four whitewalls are flat and don’t appear to hold air.
  • The spare tire was side-mounted so a rear wooden cargo-box could be added. That box is now falling apart. Should I rebuild it or try to restore the spare tire to the rear?
  • It’s in a garage in upstate NY, and I need to get it hauled to my garage in PA.

I’m an IT Architect/engineer who used to build a lot of sets for theater, so I’m competent with tools and woodworking, but I have almost no experience with cars. I’ve changed oil a few times and that’s about it.

How do you get started with something like this? How do you figure out what was removed from the engine? Is a car this old worth restoring, or am I letting my sentimentality get in the way?
Any insight or advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
-Derek M, in PA.
I sent it in wondering if the question was too specific for a followup on the show, but I figured it was worth a shot. A few weeks went by and no answer came, so I thought I’d have to figure it out on my own. Then, to my surprise, I heard my question on the air…

This is the start of a new series, documenting my Family’s 1979 CJ-7. Stay tuned for updates.