We get a letter to the editor or a comment on one of our social media channels concerning the built versus bought debate on almost a daily basis. Some won’t have anything to do with the other, some express their distrust of the other, and some refuse to be seen in public with the other, while others simply go on with their good Jeep life regardless of what the others do. We’re firmly in the latter camp, and we enjoy all well-built Jeeps. And while there’s not much worse than a homebuilt rig that’s downright scary to see on the road or trail, we have to admit that we do appreciate those individuals who build and work on their Jeeps as much as they possibly can—within the bounds of their mechanical and engineering know-how.
The orange-and-black 1982 CJ-7 you see spread across the pages of this article is owned by and was built by David Doolittle. Before you start asking if he talks to the animals, we will tell you that he does talk to his Jeep (really, don’t we all), and he works on it, too. The Iowa resident came all the way from the land of corn to the Land of Enchantment to join us for the 2019 Jp Dirt ‘N Drive Presented by Jeep, which began in Farmington, New Mexico. He calls it a CJ-7 because that’s where the engine block, transfer case, hood, and grille came from, but to be completely honest, David’s Jeep is part YJ (frame, tub, doors, gas tank), part XJ (4.0L head for 258), and part Ford truck (transmission and carburetor).
David has upgraded, built, rebuilt, and remodeled his CJ-7 from the ground up. The 35-inch TreadWright M/T Guard Dog tires wrapped around basic but beautifully appropriate 17-inch black steelies sit on the ends of 1973 International Harvester Scout II Dana 44s that are loaded with 4.11 gears and a limited slip up front and an Aussie Locker out back. Those beefy axles are slung from the frame by a Rubicon Express spring-over-axle configuration that’s combined with custom body mounts that are 2 inches above stock to easily clear the 35s in any terrain situation. The axles had to be rotated up, even with the custom double-Cardan Tom Wood’s driveshafts, for proper driveline angles. And because Scouts had zero caster to begin with, the axles were now in negative caster, David ground the welds off the knuckles and put about 8 degrees of positive caster in the front axle. Now he can do 70 mph on the highway and the Jeep drives just fine. The axles receive power from an ’82 Dana 300 transfer case, which is fed by an NP435 granny-low (6.68:1 First gear) transmission out of an “old,” as David put it, Ford F-150. In front of that sits the Jeep 258ci straight-six engine that David rebuilt and crowned with a 4.0L head, Comp Cam, Motorcraft 2150 carb, and Stealth HEI ignition.
David didn’t stop there, though. His ’82 Jeep CJ-7 features a full six-point ‘cage tied in to the frame, with suspension seats and five-point harnesses that are also tied in to the rollcage; it all works as a single unit to protect driver and passenger. Homemade rock sliders and fenders, some GenRight corner armor, a Tuffy Security center console, and a Smittybilt 9,500-pound-capacity winch round out the exterior. There are so many other details, among them the homemade switch panel on the dash that controls electrical accessories ranging from lights to cooling fans and the pull-pin detachable steps on both sides that make boarding the rig easier (which are normally removed for hardcore trails), that we could go on for days. Suffice to say, David built his Jeep with the things he would need on the trail and none of what he would not.
Vehicle: 1982 Jeep CJ-7
Engine: 258ci straight-six with YJ 4.0L head
Transmission: Ford NP435 with 6.68:1 “granny” First gear
Transfer Case: ’82 Dana 300
Suspension: Rubicon Express spring-over-axle leaf packs, Rancho shocks
Axles: 1973 IH Scout II Dana 44 with 4.11 limited slip (front); 1973 IH Scout II Dana 44 with 4.11 Aussie Locker (rear)
Wheels: 17-inch black steelies
Tires: 35-inch TreadWright M/T Guard Dog