1978 CJ7 Jeep – The Usual Story – 04

July 20th, 2007 by NZV8

1978 CJ7 JEEP

Certifying your newly completed pride and joy can be a terrifying experience. The mere thought of having someone go over your labour of love with a fine-toothed comb, looking for imperfections, is enough to put fear into most modifiers — it’s not unlike a trip to the dentist when you are at primary school.

Last week, I happened to be the one in the hot seat while a well-known local certifier looked in, under and around one of my toys, and I started to explain how it ended up where it is today. “Oh, it’s a midas car,” he said.

“Na, we did the exhaust ourselves,” I replied, thinking he was way off topic and complaining about my exhaust work. But after seeing the somewhat scared look on my face, he filled me in on what he was talking about. “You’ve gone this far, you midas well keep going.” The look of relief on my dial probably said it all, and he couldn’t have been more correct.

From the moment I said I only intended to drive the car to work, he could have finished the sentence for me.

Up to scratch

One day later I found myself talking to Anton Narin, from The Workshop in Penrose, and he started to tell me the story behind his ’78 CJ7 Jeep. “All I intended to do was paint it and use it as a daily driver,” he exclaimed. Perhaps I shouldn’t have laughed, but he knew exactly where I was going with it. “A midas car.”

He nodded in agreement. “I wasn’t sure whether to paint it red, or paint it blue, and PPG had just released its harlequin range of paints, so I got talked into painting it both.” I knew the exact feeling he would then have endured. The feeling that now everything else you do to the vehicle has to be up to the same high standard set by the paint.

Paint like this can’t be applied to any rough old panels though, and when looking at the vehicle I was surprised by how straight the entire Jeep was. I was born after ’78, and I know I have a lot more bumps and ripples than that. The secret behind the straightness is the fact that the entire body tub, window surround and right front guard were purchased brand new from America. So all that remains from ’78 is the bonnet, grille and LH guard.

When the body was re-assembled the decision was made to run half doors, as the removable roof would be left off as much as possible. Holding the small excuse for doors to the vehicle are Kentrol stainless hinges, which are matched by stainless handles and door sills.

Sighting high

The joy of older vehicles, and 4wds is the ability to lift the body off the chassis to enable easy access to all the components below. The downside, however, is the years and years of accumulated crap that seems to gather on the chassis, regardless of how much the vehicle has been looked after. Instead of messing round scrubbing and sanding to get rid of the dirt and grime, Anton had the foresight to get the entire chassis bead blasted. Once he was satisfied, the chassis was braced for added rigidity and coated in deep gloss black.

Before any steering or suspension could be Nolathane items. By this time it was obvious the Jeep was not going to be your average vehicle, so to go above the norm, Anton did exactly that. A four-inch suspension lift was achieved by the installation of Skyjacker leaf springs all round. To keep them in check there’s a matching set of Skyjacker Softride nitro-filled shocks.

All this lifting wasn’t without its hiccups, however, and besides lengthening of wires, brake hoses and handbrake cables a Skyjacker drop Pitman arm was added to the steering arrangement, as was a MORE steering brace.

Bored rigid

Speaking of wires, while reassembling the Jeep, Anton had friend Roger Parker rewire the whole thing in such a fashion that no wiring was visible. The task of wiring would be easy if he’d chosen to run a carburetted engine, but in the quest for reliability, he’d opted for the fuel injection route. Sure, Anton could have dropped in any late model Aussie motor, but to keep the Jeep true to its roots it’s got a 350ci (5735cc) TPI Corvette powerplant.

Cracked pistons in the purchased motor soon put an end to any fun, however, but being a mechanic by trade it was only a split second decision for Anton to rebuild the thing with stronger internals.

The bores are now filled with hypereutectic pistons that swing off the stock rods and crank. The pushrods were replaced with Crower items, that in turn press roller rockers onto Crower valve springs and stock valves. Helping to satiate the engine’s appetite for fuel is a Commodore fuel pump that feeds through 3/8th-inch lines and an Xtreme Racing fuel filter to the stock injectors. Without spark all this fuel would be able to do is ruin the bores, so thankfully Anton backed it up with an equally impressive ignition system. The Link ECU now sends the firing signals through a MSD HEI coil and MSD distributor, then through MSD 8mm leads to the engine, ensuring bore wash is a thing of the past.

All this combustion creates a wealth of exhaust gases, which are sent on their path to freedom through hand-made extractors and into a three-inch exhaust and turbo muffler. The other by-product of all this carry-on is heat, which is swiftly dealt with by a large three-layer radiator and twin 10-inch thermo fans.

Too much mumbo

The power produced by this combination was far too much for the stock gearbox and transfer case, both of which were replaced with Toyota Land Cruiser items. Inside the five-speed ’box are a Chevy pressure plate and upgraded Toyota clutch plate and stock flywheel. From here power is transferred through custom driveshafts to 4.09-ratio standard front and rear diffs. At each end of the rear axle are the stock drum brakes, albeit with upgraded shoes. Down the front the original 10-inch discs have been kept, and receive signals through the stock pedal box and braided lines.

With the mechanical side of things sorted, the body was lowered back over the chassis and attached via a Performance Accessories three-inch body lift kit. With the bolts tightened down the custom moulded marine carpet could be laid down and the front seats re-upholstered in grey leather, before being re-installed. The rear seat is in fact from a Suzuki SJ413, and also received the grey leather treatment before being modified to fit the Jeep floor pan.

The only thing left original in the interior, and pretty much the whole vehicle, are the gauges, push button radio and steering wheel that somehow avoided that Midas touch.

Freakin’ normal

It should be fairly obvious that the original rolling stock would look fairly out of place by now, so they soon found themselves in the recycling pile. In their place are now far more suitable 15×10-inch Mickey Thompson Challenger rims wrapped in 36/14.5-15 Super Swampers.

After an ongoing six-year build, Anton is pretty happy with the car. Sure it’s not at all what the original plan was, but that’s the midas way, once you start you can’t stop.

After discussing this over an hour-and-a-half cert check, I’ve realised having the Midas touch doesn’t make me some kind of freak, far from it. It does in fact mean I’m completely normal…normal for a modifying-addicted car enthusiast, that is. Anton Narin is no different. Sure, he’s lifted his toy when most of us would lower ours, but really, what’s a few inches between friends?

Owner Profile

Anton & Lisa Narin

Age: 39

Occupation: Mechanic

Previously owned cars: VL Turbo Commodore, 350 Chevy-powered CJ5 Jeep, Grande Cherokee Jeep, 2.0 Escort and various others.

Dream car: Chevrolet Silverado 4×4 double cab with 44-inch tyres.

Why the Jeep? To be different from other people, as most people are lowering vehicles.

Build time: Six years and still going

Length of ownership: Six years

Thanks to: Mike Kitson, Greenpark Panel & Paint — panel work 09 579 3299, Kyle Kitson, Greenpark European — paint- ing 09 579 3297, Roger Parker, Jetwerks — wiring

1978 CJ7 Jeep

Engine: 350 TPI Chevy, hypereutectic pistons, Crower valve  springs, roller tip rockers, Crower pushrods, Pro  coated intake manifold, Holden Commodore fuel  pump, 3/8-inch fuel lines, Xtreme Racing Products Pro fuel filter, MSD 8mm HT leads, MSD HEI coil,  MSD distributor, Link engine management computer,  2.5-inch hand-made headers, three-inch exhaust  and Turbo muffler, three-row radiator; two, 10-inch  electric cooling fans.

Driveline: Toyota Land Cruiser five speed manual, STD flywheel, Chevy pressure plate and Toyota clutch plate, front  Dana 30 diff; rear AMC Model 20 diff, both with 4.09 ratio.

Suspension: Skyjacker leaf springs with four-inch lift, Skyjacker Softride Nitro shocks, Skyjacker Drop pitman arm.

Steering:MORE heavy-duty steering box mount and steering box brace.

Brakes: 11-inch drum brakes on rear, 10-inch disc brakes on front, braided hoses front and rear, STD master cylinder, no booster.

Wheels/Tyres: Mickey Thompson Challenger 15×10 wheels, Super  Swamper tyres 36/14.50-15

Exterior: Jeep fully stripped and body off chassis rebuild; new  steel tub, new windscreen frame, new RF guard.  Grille, LF guard and bonnet repaired. All body panels  and chassis were bead-blasted back to bare metal. Chassis was repaired, strengthened and painted in  gloss black enamel. Body painted in PPG Harlequin  (Blue to Red). Kentrol stainless door hinges, door handles, bonnet fittings, door straps, entry guards,  wiper motor cover, grab rail and petrol filler protector. Performance Accessories three-inch body lift.

Interior: Original Jeep gauges, retrimmed front seats, Vitara rear seat, moulded carpets.

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