1977 Jeep CJ7 – The Pride of the Family Farm
The 1977 Jeep CJ7 featured suspension upgrades, a longer wheelbase and different doors than its CJ5 and CJ6 predecessors. It proved to be a worthy progression by American Motors Corporation continuing their 1970s revival of the CJ line. At a recent Goodguys event in Colorado, we found one that would have former AMC executives bowing down in the board room. It’s a magnificent mashup of both CJ and YJ parts along with some seriously custom tricks all sewn together with superior craftsmanship.
Owned by Stephen Epple, we came across this gorgeous custom Jeep in the Goodguys Colorado Nationals winner’s circle. Originally meant to be a weekend rock-crawler, Epple’s CJ7 was transformed into something more – a custom show stopper that wins at the car show and masters any obstacles in its path. Even though the Jeep has only seen a handful of shows due to the family’s busy schedule, it garners some serious attention wherever it goes.
Just about every piece of the Jeep has been altered or fortified in some way, with many components hand-crafted by Epple himself out of old farm implements, while others were borrowed off of various other Jeeps and grafted to perfection for the CJ’s unique style. Defining features of the build include a custom front bumper crafted out of an International Harvester planter hitch; a handmade roll cage grafted onto the Jeep’s factory roll bar; a custom rear bumper and tire carrier made from the same International Harvester planter hitch; and handmade, frame-mounted rock sliders. All of this stems from an ’89 YJ tub and windshield frame (with all evidence of factory YJ components and fittings removed by Epple), outfitted with fiberglass front fenders, an ’84 CJ hood, and the Jeep’s original grille and tailgate melded into the mix.
The build is topped off with five coats of PPG Blue paint which then received a full block job before four coats of White and three coats of Blue Pearl were laid down for the stripes. All of this is layered under another three coats of clear coat. Now if that isn’t a show-truck worthy paint job, we don’t know what is!
For the interior of his 1977 Jeep CJ7, Epple went a simplistic and functional route with some custom twists thrown into the mix. The rear seat was salvaged from the original Jeep and then wrapped in a Corbeau cover to match the front Corbeau seats. A one-off DD Custom dash was used, featuring AutoMeter gauges, Carling Contoura II rocker switches, and a Pioneer stereo, tied to an Alpine amp, 4-inch JL Audio front speakers, and 6×9-inch JL Audio rear speakers. Other features include an ’82 CJ steering column, a Cadillac Escalade fly-by-wire gas pedal, one-off automatic-style brake pedal, Heater Craft heater, Art Carr Rock Gate shifter, and a custom Levi’s covered center console.
While Epple’s Jeep has everything covered in the looks department, it’s not too shabby when it comes to performance components either.
Underneath, the Jeep is just as custom as the interior/exterior, from the Throttle Down mandrel-bent frame to the handmade trans mount/cross member/skid plate combination Epple proudly pointed out to us. The front axle is the Jeep’s original Dana 30 fitted with 4.10 gears and an Eaton E-locker. It’s fully rejuvenated with new ball joints, bearings, etc. Out back, the Jeep is outfitted with a 35-spline, Currie 9-inch rear end, Ford Explorer disc brakes and an ARB locker.
Giving the 1977 Jeep CJ7 its rock-crawling stance is a 3-inch BDS lift with Dynatrac U-bolt flip kits. Rolling attire on the truck consists of 15×8-inch Mickey Thompson Classic III Wheels wrapped in 33-12.50 Toyo Open Country MT tires, while
Powering the custom Jeep is a cammed and tuned Lq9 6.0L V8 from a 2003 Cadillac Escalade, which has been otherwise upgraded with a Griffin aluminum radiator fitted with Flexa Lite electric fans. The handcrafted 22-gallon gas tank features an in-tank Walboro pump, Aeroquip teflon-lined braided stainless fuel lines, a Trick Flow billet fuel filter, and a custom 2 ½-inch exhaust with Flowmaster 40 series mufflers. It sounds bad ass! The massaged Caddy engine is backed by a built 4l65E automatic transmission with an Earl’s Performance transmission cooler, which pushes the V8s power to the front and rear wheels via a 3.8:1 Atlas II transfer case and Tom Woods driveshaft’s.
Truly a one-of-a-kind ride, Epple’s 1977 CJ7 is one of the nicest custom Jeeps we’ve seen. But no matter how nice it is, the best part for Epple is enjoying it with his wife Amber, and their sons Cole and Jackson. A family that off roads and shows together stays together! Not only that, custom cars and trucks built at home tend to strengthen family bonds, making it all that much sweeter when their hard work is rewarded.