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PUTTING A YJ BODY ON A CJ7
Isn't that a GREAT looking CJ7?
You'd never know it had a YJ body underneath it!
Ok here is the dilemma. My son "Joe" has an 85 CJ7, it was all he wanted for his 16th birthday. One problem with Pennsyvania winters, salted roads and
in time you will get rust. The bad thing is no matter how much you fix the rust, it keeps coming back. Nearly 20 years of Pennsylvania winters,
road salt, high humidity summers and 3-4 days of rain a week has taken it toll on a body that really had no protection from rust when new. You slam
the doors and the whole side of the Jeep moves front to rear and vibrates like a tuning fork. The Marine Corps found it necessary to send him to the
Iraq just before the start of the war (9/11 was still fresh in everyones minds) and he and his Gung Ho, JarHead buddies were excited and ready for "pay back".
While he was gone, he wanted me to take care of his Jeep. But I had other plans.
Within days of him departure, I got together a parts list and began to get everything together that would be needed for a total transformation. Sure there
were lots of small things like body mounts and nuts and bolts but there was the big stuff, a custom full roll cage and a body replacment. The original intention
was to install a fiberglass body tub as they are much cheaper than replacement metal ones. I looked at different manufacturers, I see the reasonably priced
ones seem to be light duty but they also sell “heavy duty” ones too…..for about $1000 more. And whats this, you need to buy installation kits and you have to
modify this and that? What do you mean they aren't plug and play?
Then I looked over at my 92 YJ and thought, why not a YJ body, afterall they look the same. The YJs had much better rust protection from the factory than just
paint and primer and they were metal, not "plastic". So I took some measurements and felt that with a few modifications I could make this work. After all
if I was going to have to buy a special installation kit and modify this and that for a new tub, I might as well look for a good YJ tub. I hit the
salavage yards in the area and found the perfect match (the color was close too). It was a front hit that didn't have any effect on the body, nice and clean
and no rust. At $500 it was a bargain considering the options. My mind was made up ! The CJ was going to get a YJ body and the best news is the cost for
a nice YJ body was only $500 ! All steel and no damage, I found one from a 1992 that was in a front end wreck. The body didn’t seem to have any damage
at all, the paint was intact, no rust and it was almost the same color too ! I brought it home the same day. Now I was ready to wrench and with a bit of help
I was going to have a great surprise when he came back home!
This is one of those modifications that several of the magazine technical writers will tell you can't be done...DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT! After I bought my body
I found enough proof on the internet that at least one person has done this conversion in the past with good results. I went into a bit more detail on my sons
Jeep that was needed, but I wanted it to be as close to 100% as possible, and so did he. The biggest benefit to this conversion is it's less expensive than
fiberglass, better quality than the Steel Horse/Acme/Omix replacement steel bodies as well as much less expensive than them, and the YJ tubs are galvanized at
the factory……can you say good bye rust ? Oh, I forgot the YJ body still says “Jeep” and not "Joop" on both sides !
While this could be a “one man” job, it is much easier with two people so my sons buddy Jason, a Toyota loyalist, volunteered to help, even though it was a
Jeep. We stripped the old body of everything in the interior, removed the steering column, the dash along with everything behind it, fuse block, brake stuff,
linkages and other stuff coming out of the firewall, windshield and hood. Now it was time to tackle the body. No amount of WD40 was going to loosen the bolts that
held the body to the frame. Heating, torching and cutting, you name it we did it. We finally got the body off the frame and decided to remove the transmission at
that time because this project was going to get a rebuilt one.
Now it was time to remove the body mounts and the old body. That was fun, everything rusted solid but we didn’t have to worry about much as the body was
trash so we didn’t worry much about cutting and chiseling away metal. No amount of WD40 was going to loosen the bolts that held the body to the frame. Heating,
torching and cutting, you name it we did it. Heating, torching and cutting, you name it we did it. We finally got the body off the frame and decided to remove
the transmission at this time because this project was going to get a rebuilt one. So now we have something sitting in the driveway that looks like something out
of a "Mad Max" movie. One last thing to do is to inspect the frame and to my surprise there was NO rust anywhere. How lucky can one get?
Getting on with the story……………… So we cleaned up the frame, with a good power wash. After a few days for all the water to evaporate, we gave the entire frame
several coats of Rustoleum rust fighting primer and folowed up with a several coats of black. It’s looking pretty new!
Now the time has come to start fitting the YJ body to the CJ frame. We installed the transmission and transfer case 1st as it was easier to do with the body off.
As extra protection, we cleaned up the bottom of the YJ body and gave it two coats of rubberized undercoating. This does a few things, less noise (but not that
much less), protection from rocks chipping away at the factory protection and it just looks good too.
Now, there are some issues as you will see as this is not a direct bolt in conversion. The Body mounts directly in front of the rear wheels on your frame don't line
up with the body. You have 3 choices on this:
If you choose #3 then cut the back mounts from the frame and grind down the residue flush with the frame so it looks good. Then bolt the new mounts (you can reuse
the mounts you took off if you carefully removed them - I used a set of front mounts from another CJ7) to the body with the "poly puck" in place to position them
correctly. If you used CJ7 mounts like I did, there will be a gap between the mount and the body that you can use heavy gauge u-channel to fill (see the picture).
The original rear mounts or the new front mounts with u channel will need to be moved forward to about the center of the spring hanger flush with the top of the
frame and extended OUT about 1.5 inches
- Don't worry about it, there's 9 other mounts.
- Slide a nut into the channel in the bottom of the tub that lines up with the mount and bolt into that. (Not as easy or perfect as it sounds)
- Cut the old mounts off and grind them down then weld on new mounts in the correct location.
Now cut two pieces of heavy gauge u-channel a suitable width to fill the 3/4" gap between each mount and the frame rail. These are welded to the frame, and the
mounts were in turn welded to them. U-Channel is used to lessen the risk of trapping moisture against the frame...water, etc. can drain through the channel.
Like I said you can do nothing or you can take the easy road and put a nut in the body approximately where the mount currently sits on your frame and make that
work ok too. Personally it would have been easier for me if I would have ordered a new pair of metal (my old ones were not in good shape so re-using them was not
an option) mounts but I didn't want to wait so I did it the harder way.
The next problem you'll find are the holes in the body mounts on the rear cross-member need to be "elongated" about 1-3/4" OUT towards the outside edge of the
body on each side... You'll just have to measure your tub to get the correct distance for sure, but they are almost on the outside edge of the YJ bodies and on
the CJ's they're a little further in toward the center. Pretty easy deal if you have a grinder or dremel tool or even better yet a cutting torch
( I used a die grinder to cut away the excess on my frame). Notice how the rear crossmember has been modified in the picture below.
Ok the modifications done for the body mounts and the new poly 1” kit installed we place the YJ body on the CJ and start at the front with the 1st mounting bolt.
Leave all the bolts loose until you have all of them installed. Move to the next bolt and so on, moving the tub as necessary. Now with all your bolts
installed, go ahead and tighten them up. The worst is over. Now comes the fun of putting everything back together.
(picture shows the new 1” poly mounts on top of custom fabbed stainless steel plates, we put the plates on but they are not at all necessary just beefing up the
area the weight of the body on the poly mounts rests)
Now as you can see in a previous picture, our original CJ fenders were rust free so we were re-using the entire front clip. Some people might want to use
YJ fenders with the CJ hood and grill, not a problem but you will find out soon that YJ fenders are longer front to back than CJ fenders. The YJ nose
is about an inch longer than the CJ nose. So, you must move the CJ grill backward so that the second row of holes in the YJ fenders line up with the threaded
inserts in the grill shell. You will of course require some bodywork to fill-in the unused holes that are left sticking out past the grill. You'll also need
to drill a couple of holes in the fender to match with the threaded inserts in the grill shell, fill in the YJ hood catch holes, drill one new hole in each
fender to match up with the catch locations on the CJ hood, drill new holes for the hood cushion pads, and grind a bit of the reinforcement lip off of each fender
in order to get a flush fit against the grill. One advantage I found on my CJ8 with YJ Fenders is they work much better with TJ flares. My son however wanted
his CJ to look like a CJ so we kept the CJ flares.
Our YJ tub still had the whole heater box on the inside. My readings led me to believe that the YJ box was a better box than the CJ one and the fan was
much better in the winter than the CJ fan, besides it was 6 years newer and I didn’t have to move the old one over and remove it so I decided to keep the YJ one.
Pennsylvania winters are cold a better unit and better fan is a good thing. It took a little working but I made some simple brackets and got the CJ heater
control cables to work with the YJ unit.
The next step here involves the defrosters. The defroster duct on the YJ tub doesn't go up through the cowl like it does on a CJ...SO, it's "make a decision time"
again! You can either use the YJ dash and windshield and have the defroster go through the dash directed toward the windshield OR you can cut holes in the top of
the cowl to allow the CJ ductwork to pass the defroster air directly INTO the CJ windshield frame. (this is the way I did it, as I hate the way the YJ dashboards
look and love the “old school” look of a CJ dash) . Use your old tub as a guide to cutting these holes.
While we are on the subject of windshields, What kind of windshield are you going to use? Either a CJ or YJ windshield will work, but if you're going
use a CJ windshield (like I did) you'll have a minor issue with the windshield hold down screws)... on a YJ tub, they are farther toward the outside of the
tub...by around an inch. So, you'll have to drill a couple NEW holes in your dash to accommodate this, and you'll also need to modify your bracket for the
windshield hold down... elongate the hole to make the hold down fit through (this is a lot easier than drilling and tapping new holes in the windshield).
Your CJ tail gate is not going to work on the YJ tub without some help from you. Sure you can keep the JY tailgate but who wants a swinging door, I want
something to sit on or to use as a table or workbench, so did my son so the CJ tailgate was going to work. To go with a CJ tailgate, like I did you'll need
to make some kind of hinge mounts for it on this tub as well as the inner brackets to latch against inside the tub. You can also yourself some headache here
and use your old ones or find a salvage yard that has a tub with these brackets inside and have them cut out with a torch so you can take them and tack weld
them into your YJ tub. Then, take the CJ tailgate and put the hinges on it... use some 1/8" spacers to set the tailgate on the back and use a punch to indent
your holes for where you're gonna drill the holes for the hinges to mount through the tub to. Underneath the tailgate area there are several holes drilled in....
two of these holes happen to be directly under where you will need to be drilling. Take a dremel tool or grinder and grind away some of that area... around 2-3
inches so you can fit your new brackets up inside that area to screw your hinge bolts into. For the brackets, you can either go rape another CJ tub or you can
take some thick metal...around 3/16" and drill and tap some holes in there that will fit the hinge mount...then slide those babies up inside the tub and mount em up!
The fuel filler hole on the YJ tub is on the wrong side (drivers side) for your CJ gas tank. SO, you can do "one of two things" once again... You can either
flip your CJ gas tank around so the fuel filler is on the correct side of the body...(not a good idea because the exhaust is on that side typically) OR you
can cut a hole on the passengers side of the tub that matches the one on a CJ tub so you can use the CJ fuel filler and then just use some sheet metal to patch
the hole on the drivers side with some bondo to cover the old gas filler hole or you can get really cute and put a TJ license plate holder over the old gas filler
hole (which I did) This way the filler hole is on the passengers side like it's supposed to be.
And did I forget the trip to the paint shop. Everything matches nice and it looks almost new!
Roll bars. You could use the YJ roll bar spreader bars if you wanted to (if your tub came with a YJ rollbar that is and YJ windshield)…....but on a CJ
windshield there's not a whole lot of metal there to work with...so you will be taking your chances on drilling and tapping that area... I wouldn't recommend
it...either go with your original roll bar, a full cage or get the OR-Fab sport cage. I got lucky and we found a custom roll cage in a junk yard for I think
$50 or so.
(here Jason is working on wiring with the roll cage, windshield, steering column and dash already all installed) The only thing left to do is hook everything
back up, get it painted if you want and enjoy the rust free ride for years to come without the grounding problems of fiberglass.
And here is the final product, you cannot tell this was a YJ body at one time.
Well, I guess that pretty much takes care of it all….... take your time and make sure you measure everything two or three times before cutting or
grinding and you'll have a lot of fun and save a ton of money doing this upgrade for your CJ.
This was my very first project that I actually kept a record of and wrote about. I've learned alot since them, especially when it comes to writing things down so I can
read them in the future and to take more pictures, lots. With the experience I've gained 12 years later, I thought about rewriting it today but decided to leave it as is.
UPDATE: It's now 2014, how is the YJ body holding up after 12 years? Well my son still has the Jeep, yep his 1st vehicle 16 years later. It's now several
inches higher (I think he told me it has around 8" of lift) and much bigger tires. It's no longer a dailer driver but it gets its share of on and off-road
time. He swears that he will never get rid of it. I am happy to report that the YJ body is still solid and rust free!
I'll try to get a current picture and upload it to this file
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