Corvette Power! 1983 Jeep CJ7

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Well, I’ll cut to the chase, I have often wondered if a small block Chevy V8 would fit into a Jeep. And now I know the answer! Jeep’s CJ-7 was significantly revised from its CJ-5 predecessor (there was a CJ-6 but they were mostly sold as fleet sales to foreign countries) and a V8 engine was within its bag of tricks, but this conversion likely will take this iconic Jeep to a whole new level, or will it? Let’s check out this mash-up and see what’s here. It’s located in Lovington, New Mexico and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $9,500 with the reserve not yet met.

The big difference between the CJ-7 and the CJ-5 is the ten-inch increase in wheelbase – a design change intended to improve the CJ’s stability as well as improve interior room and comfort. Offered between 1976 and 1986, AMC produced over 375K CJ-7s in both soft and removable hardtop versions.

Today’s find has a hardtop and presents itself soundly. As is evident, this example is outfitted in the popular Laredo trim package which consists of mostly trim and shiny bits. The seller tells us that this Jeep has experienced 147K miles and it still looks great – it’s easy to assume that a garage has played a role in this CJ-7’s past. Externally, the biggest departure from stock is the 33″ tires and the old-school aluminum racing wheels.

This Jeep’s VIN tells us that it was born with a 112 net HP, 258 CI in-line six-cylinder engine, in turn, spinning a five-speed manual transmission. So, it’s out with the old and in with the new, well newer anyway, as there is now a 1993 vintage, 300 HP, LT1 350 CI, Corvette V8 engine holding court and it’s working via an NV4500, five-speed manual gearbox, and these were transmissions that were adaptable to a 4X4 transfer case. So, how’s it run? Don’t know, nothing is said about that matter but one would have to believe that its performance is “spirited” at the least. AMC’s 304 CI V8 engine was an available option so I guess it’s not that much of a surprise that the ubiquitous Bowtie V8 would be a viable swap.

The interior is rather colorful but that’s in keeping with the Laredo vibe. Other than the aftermarket “GT” steering wheel, it shows as mostly original with the exception of the dash-mounted radio/stereo speakers. The driver’s seat bottom appears to have a split seam but the remainder of the environment, including the rear seat area, is in fine nick.

The only downside with this listing is the paucity of information regarding this Jeep’s engine conversion and operational capability. No worries, of course, an inquiry should shed some light on that unknown. Way cool? You bet; I like it, how about you?

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  1. HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

    Um, no, not cool. And speaking of cool, I’m trying desperately to keep mine.. What do you want, a (poorly engineered) hot rod, or a Jeep? Never ceases to amaze me, some folks just have to try and have both, and to the most unlikely candidates. To put things in perspective, as a road vehicle, oh that right foot will have INSTANT gratification, right to the next fuel stop. Being as aerodynamic as a brick, and this motor, 10mpg tops. Off road? Let me tell you what “off road” involves. I took my highly anemic( for the road) 4 banger YJ out to the “hills”, you know, just to see how bad they’ve become,,and wasn’t disappointed. It was nothing more than rock climbing, and 1st year max. Guess what, that little 4 banger did just fine, and even struggling in the wind on a highway, still gets 20 mpg. Lots of neat Jeep gee-gaws I like, but that motor DOUBLES the weight on an already front heavy, leaf spring vehicle, and never intended for that setup. What motivates people to change a design so radically so as to defeat the very purpose it was made for?

    Like 11
    • JustPassinThru

      My thoughts exactly. And my experiences exactly, as I, too, was totally fine with a YJ with the (fuel-injected) AMC four.

      What a roadster needs with power, and what an off-road utility vehicle needs out of power, are two different things, and never the twain shall meet. I remember, 20 years ago, with Daimler’s phasing out of the AMC four in favor of the low-torque, high-revving Neon engine as the base TJ motor…how disappointed hardcore Jeep owners were.

      This illustrates a mindset foible: The SBC and big-block Chevy engines are “better.” Better for what? Different horses for different courses…it was not an accident that the big AMC six outlasted and replaced the AMC V8s as the primo CJ/YJ/TJ power.

      Like 6
    • Jim ODonnellAuthor

      This Jeep was originally powered by a 258 CI in-line six which weighed about 483 lbs. A Chevy LT1 is about 535 lbs. dressed, so your “motor DOUBLES the weight” argument is specious.


      Like 16
      • HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

        Okay, doubles is a bit much, but still additional weight, but all this says, is I have a bigger wiener than you, an American necessity, apparently.

        Like 0
      • Jim ODonnellAuthor

        The entire American muscle car movement, a staple of this website, was predicated on that “mine is bigger than yours” mantra. You can buy a Wrangler today with a 470 HP Hemi – bigger/faster sells, it always has and it won’t be any different when, and if, everything goes all-electric.


        Like 4
    • Jesse Jesse MortensenStaff

      Oh come on Howard. We all know it’s a bad idea but it’s still awesome that someone built it!

      Like 12
    • RKS

      Hey everyone Howard says it’s not cool! And he is an expert on this subject so pay attention!

      Like 12
      • HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

        Thank you, although your sarcasm should be “reported”, although, sarcasm is surprisingly not one of the “reportables”. You “one line wonders,” think you are so smug, but at least I contribute SOMETHING. And to “up your ante”, yes, I am kind of an expert on Jeeps, what are you an expert at?

        Like 1
    • Big Bob

      Crazy boomers…

      I would have a hard time putting a non amc motor into a amc Era jeep but it would have a ton of benefits. Such as wheel spin for mud bogging. Better fuel mileage and so on. Oh and EFI. The list goes on.

      The weight comment. Cmon man. Not only is it not double the weight but also the weight distribution of the inline vs a v8. My father had a 82 bronco with a 351w that threw a rod. He put a 300ci in (its within 10lbs of each other IIRC) and the 300 made the front sit measurably lower..

      Like 0
  2. Maggy

    Buddy of mine had a mid 70’s cj5 with a early 70’s 307 2bbl and it drove and handled great on or off the road and mileage was pretty good. I like the bowtie lt1 and would love to test drive this thing on and off road to see what it’s like. Had a lt1 in my 95 9c1 Caprice.Wasn’t crazy about the optispark or changing plugs on the pass. side though.

    Like 7
  3. Dave

    Hi Jim. Sure I like it too, and it certainly is cool, so cool that it has A/C! The motor looks like it was born there, so I don’t see anything that looks “poorly engineered”. As you already stated right there in your article the 304 V8 was an option for Jeeps, so the argument that a 350 “DOUBLES the weight” is false as the Jeep was indeed intended for that setup. The ’93 Corvette got 25 mpg with that motor, the Chevy Caprice got 23 mpg. I imagine the Jeep will pull at least 20 mpg. Guys have been swapping Chevy 350s into CJs for at least half a century, I was a teen in the early 70’s and saw them hill climbing Chevy CJs regularly, it’s nothing new! I don’t see any downsides to this Jeep. People that are offended by this stuff and really get so angry all the time should leave the comments to other folks who don’t have such a negative view of the hobby.

    Really this is a well done swap, kudos to the builder!

    Go ahead, get mad

    Like 20
  4. Barry Ervin

    Back in the early 70s a friend had a Toyota Land Cruiser (FJ40) and we swapped a Chevy 327 engine into it, along with big fat off road tires. It still worked about as well off road as it did with the original inline six. Just out of curiosity he once drove it to a gymkhana (I think they are calling them auto-cross now?) and entered it and won his class, which included two highly modified Mustangs, complete with race numbers on the doors, which arrived on trailers. The Mustang guys were totally bewildered. They couldn’t believe they’d been beaten by a street legal “Toyota Jeep”, driven by a guy with zero competition experience. LOL!

    Like 8
  5. Papa Bear

    Guys, this is a very common swap. You can buy all the parts you need for this. Where I work 2 guys have them with small block chevys in them and one guy has built 2 different ones with a 302 small block ford in them. All 4 of these are carb set ups, no fuel injection on any of them.

    Like 5
  6. Rw

    Have 2 4.0 YJs, disconnect front sway bar,I’m right there with just about any rig.

    Like 1
    • HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

      Hmm, that’s odd, my YJ had the front sway bar removed, and handled poorly. I replaced it ($52 bucks) and handles much better, as intended. Why would you remove such an important piece of the front suspension?

      Like 0
      • Rw

        Disconnected front sway bar adds crazy articulation, maybe the extra weight of the 6cyl over your 4 banger makes the difference my 2 drive better disconnected than connected, I’m a expert on the subject with over 300k on both..

        Like 2
  7. Rik

    Jim – quick note about the CJ-6…it was the extended bed version of the CJ-5, as was the CJ-8 being the extended CJ-7

    Like 1
  8. Kirk

    I had a few 80s cj7s 2 renagades and a plain cj all with the.258 straight 6 and I am surprised no one has brought axles or drive shafts . I used to get spirited from time to time with stock 31 ×10s and I’ve snapped and broke a few axles and drive shafts so unless they’ve beefed up some of these items I’d imagine that 350 has enough torque combined wuth those 33s to break these weak links on a regular basis unless babied

    Like 0
    • Rw

      Edzactly Kirk.

      Like 1
      • frank
    • Papa Bear

      The 2 guys at work had 9 inch ford rear ends in their jeeps, not for sure what was up front, but I know they had changed them out also. Drive shafts were built models also. That is the 2 guys with small block Chevys in them, they beat on them pretty hard. They both had welded spiders in them, front and rear, just drove around normal with one front wheel unlocked and locked it in when things got rough.

      Like 0
  9. Scooby

    My thoughts are simple – Jeeps were made to negotiate Rough Terrain at a pace of that of a man walking.
    I did own an 86 yj 258 manual trans and from what I learned from that rig was it was not a freway cruiser by no means, at 75mph happens too fast with a top heavy short wheel base vehicle.
    As for Off Road, I did not care for the vacuum operated front axle for starters.
    Call me a pu..y but Jeeps are dangerous and like all Hunters should be required to pass a Hunter Education Course all Jeep owners pass a Jeep Education Course Cuz if You don’t know Jeeps don’t drive with Passengers and get a good life insurance policy Your family will appreciate IT.

    Like 1
    • Jesse Jesse MortensenStaff

      Lots of things are dangerous but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t experience them. Just don’t try to tow anything heavy and you’ll be fine!

      Like 4
  10. Rick R

    Lol this conversation has kinda got out of control, some know everything about nothing and some know nothing about everything. I’m not touching this with a ten foot pole!

    Like 4
  11. B F

    I’ve had an 80 cj5 with a 4 cylinder, loved the jeep, hated the underpowered iron Duke.
    I’ve had an 83 cj7 and an 86 cj7. Both with the 258 inline 6, used all of them extensively off road all of Moab and Rubicon trail in Lake Tahoe, tge 6 cyl was adequate, you could break parts, even bigger parts that were never in the jeeps originally. I loved them both, not very good highway cruisers, but adequate even with 5 speeds. I currently have a 2019 2dr JL, I’m sure this will offend the purist jeep guys, but the JL seems better to me in almost every way, 8 spd automatic, 285 hp v6 with 410 gears, e lockers etc, built for off road, better axle articulation with coil springs, better ride, more power it will probably break things as well. I’m looking forward to it.

    Engine power and use of said power is in the hands of the driver. I think the v8 in the jeep would be fun, probably weighs less than the 304 jeep put in cj5’s and cj7 from the factory. Sure it probably will break some parts when used off road, but the smaller engines did too, pretty much the same axles provided in all of them regardless of engines. I’ve owned jeeps for 40 years, I’m pretty educated about them, never worked on them professionally, I also pretty well rebuilt 2 of them, engines, body’s etc.

    Like 0

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