It’s January 1984. We got back from the Med just before Christmas. I went on leave over New Years and now I’m back on the ship missing my Jeep. I go down to the dealer to look at the new small Cherokee that Jeep had introduced for the 1984 model year and they offer me a deal on a leftover 1983 CJ7.
It’s still a soft top. Which means it’s just as cold at sub freezing temperatures on the highway even with a good heater. It has the Iron Duke 4 and a manual transmission and I can afford the payments so I say goodbye to the Rampage and drive home in my second brand new car 🙂
It’s a fun vehicle to drive, especially when camping with the Boy Scouts. It looks like a Jeep and with a longer wheelbase rides better than the CJ2A. Those all season radials are quieter on the highway than the NDT mud & snow tires the 2A had. It’s a reliable vehicle and the Iron Duke 4 makes enough power. In the year and a half I owned it it got scheduled maintenance and a minor accident repair. About 8 months after I bought it I got rear ended at a stop light and the spare tire (& wheel), spare tire carrier and and spare tire cover had to be replaced. A Toyota shoved a newer Chevy Nova into me. I had some space in front of me and released the brake as the Toyota hit the Chevy. They were both totaled.
In December 1984 I took it cross country to bring my sister home from her failing marriage in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Driving across central Kansas the temperature was in the low single digit’s (F) overnight and the snow drifts on either side of the highway were a good 15′ to 20′ high. We followed a plow for most of the night. We taped over the zippers on the top and the gaps from the doors with duct tape. The heater kept the windshield clear and our hands and feet warm. At one gas stop we bought a couple of warm soda’s and put them on the (uncarpeted metal) floor to chill. Fifteen minutes later they were slushies.
Headed west out of Denver on the morning of Christmas Eve towards the Eisenhower Tunnel the sign said snow tires or chains required. The State Trooper looked at the all season radials, asked me if I’ve ever driven in snow and waved me past.
As we were coming down the pass west of the tunnel in 1st gear it was snowing so hard I had to stop and clean the snow off the nearly vertical windshield every 10 to 15 minutes. Nearly 3 hours after clearing the tunnel we’d covered the 8 ½ miles to the first exit. When I went inside to pay for my gas the clerk told me that they closed the tunnel 3 hours earlier. I’m glad I didn’t sleep in that morning. The tunnel was closed for three days. I was the last car that made it through.
It’d been snowing heavily in Grand Junction that day for the first time in many years and the city had put out a call out for people with plows. I rolled in after the local dealer has closed for the evening. If I’d made it there a couple of hours earlier I could have bought a plow and made enough money to pay off the loan on the Jeep. Other then my sister panicking when she hit Kansas City and her first real traffic in three years the trip back east was uneventful.
In the spring of 1994 I bought my first motorcycle (next weeks COAL). An accident on that led me to a medical discharge from the Navy in May 1985. With plans to go to college and knowing that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the payments I sold the Jeep a few weeks before my discharge. Unknown to me at the time there was a real Jeep in my future.
Driving a CJ7 cross country seems like torture, even in good weather. I have a JK with a hardtop and I wouldn’t do it.
I was thinking the same thing. My in-laws have a bare-bones 1995 JY Wrangler, and I love driving it on the rural roads around their house, though not so much on the highway.
On the other hand, reading about that I-70 snowstorm, a Jeep would be among the first vehicles I’d choose.
I couldnt agree more Andy. I have 1978 CJ7 Renegade V8 Auto Levi package and it rarely sees the highway. Topless and mountain / Gravel roads are it and that has become rare now that I have a S by S. Highway vehicles there aren’t
It’s not that bad in a JK with a hardtop, but you do have to get into a rhythm, then it’s just fine and actually fun, or at least not boring. Besides the trip from CO to NV to OR and back to CO through ID including WY both ways two summers ago I just drove the same Jeep from SoCal back to CO after Christmas. And it’s a 2-door.
In a CJ with a softtop? Eh, not sure there although it’d be different doing it then than now, traffic moves faster now and most cars were louder inside already. Add the snow to the mix though and most other things would be really terrible.
I have always had a small thing for the old CJ. I never wanted one to be my only vehicle, but I would still love one as a second/backup/play car. I always had a slight preference for the CJ-5, which always had a more classic Jeep look (in my eyes, at least) and I would require one equipped like the one a cousin bought new, with the AMC 304 V8 and a stick. I know, that was way too much engine for a CJ-5, but that’s kind of the point.
After the CJ2A, this one must have felt like a Lincoln on the road. 🙂
Nice basic Jeep .
In the mid 1960’s we had a pristine 1952 M38A1 Jeep from Ft. Devins, it had no top and no heater, we drove it like that all year ’round in rural New England .
I used to be envious of the older MB and CJ2A guys who had SEARS ‘winter kits’ consisting of a all metal aluminum top and heater .
This simple 4 cylinder configuration is what I’d want from a Jeep if I ever go down that road, though at this point my 4wd needs/wants are better filled by my more versatile 4 door Tacoma. It sounds like this VJ treated you well. I’ve driven a few Grand Cherokee’s and had a rental Liberty once, but my only “true” Jeep experiences have been riding in a colleague’s YJ Wrangler and another colleagues JKU. With soft top and side curtains the YJ was not fun even as a passenger on the brief stretch of freeway we drove. And I was a lot younger then!
Oops, meant CJ not VJ.
We rented a basic four cylinder Wrangler (YJ) in Colorado for a day, and had a most memorable experience on a loop that took us on old mining roads and a rough and rocky trail over Engineer Pass (elev 12,800). It was mid October and started out cold, but the sun was out and we took the top down and had a blast. There’s nothing quite like being up in spectacular mountains with no top. I’d like to do more of that.
I have always been a distant admirer of Jeep CJs since my second wife and I honeymooned on Nantucket Island in the mid-1980s. With no super highways and lots of slow and sandy roads, a CJ seemed to represent the kind of informal and carefree life that I kind of knew I’d never actually live.
Back home on the mainland, with the need to run with interstate traffic at speeds that did (and still do) frighten me, I elected to stick with larger and more traditional vehicles with good heaters, A/C, roll-up glass windows, and room for a child-seat.
When the opportunity to get a fun (third) car in the family arose, we chose the Miata for reasons that could have equally taken us to a CJ. Like the CJ, high speed driving in the Miata is very noisy (the gearing is way too low); additionally it is nerve racking on interstates because the Miata is usually the smallest, most vulnerable feeling vehicle on the road.
Heading west out of Denver towards the Eisenhower Tunnel in a blizzard was a gutsy move for you and your sister. Clearly the State trooper that waved you through knew that you and the Jeep could handle what you were heading towards.
Nantucket seems perfect for a Jeep. Agreed on the Miata. Used to have an NA and took it for a meandering backroads trip thru western mass and Vermont, it was heaven. Had to come home from Burlington on the interstate, 4 hours of hell. But there will be another Miata in my garage someday.
I’ve got a soft spot for soft top / topless vehicles. They’re definitely noisy at highway speeds, but really make you feel like you’re moving at more reasonable speeds (30 – 45 mph). When you get off road you can do WDBOT (Windshield Down Bugs on Teeth) driving. Cross country in sub freezing weather was not fun. Even with a heater the CJ7 wasn’t any more comfortable than the CJ2A in those conditions.
Engineer Pass needs to go on the list for my next Colorado trip. I’ve done some off roading near Salida and north of Denver. It wasn’t snowing on the East Side of the Eisenhower Tunnel so not so gutsy. I had no clue what I was facing as I started down the West Side. Once I knew stopping would have been a worse choice then pressing on. By the time the next plow came through we’d have been corpsicles. We didn’t have our sister yet at that point it was just my younger brother and me. The weather was great a week later when we headed east.
Ok…now this makes sense. You and your brother headed west to rescue your sister. I mistook the “we” for you and your sister even though her Grand Junction location was well west of the tunnel.
My history with dyslexia sometimes causes right/left, east/west issues.
Yes even though they closed the tunnel and you got through that’s not always the best thing…they don’t close that tunnel lightly, usually it’s for very good reasons. And that is quite the grade after it (on either side).
I too was wondering about the “we”. Of course it means that someone had to ride in the back seat for the return trip. Now the back seat in a 2door Wrangler is NOT the place to be for any length of time, especially with a soft top.
The attendant in the gas station was surprised that we got thru (so was I).
The back seat in a Wrangler is spacious and comfortable compared to a CJ7.
My brother didn’t make the trip all the way back to the east coast. We stuck him on a Frontier Airlines flight out of Denver. One day in that back seat was more then enough even for a teenager.
That’s good (and you are right about the Wrangler vs CJ, but still…)
Although flying Frontier these days, well, maybe the back seat of that CJ all of a sudden starts looking pretty good comparatively.. 🙂
Wow! This reminds me of the bare-bones 1985 CJ-7 that I used for transportation when I spent the summer at my parent’s house in Winnie, Texas during the summer of 1986. It was a basic (only option being the soft top) CJ, tan w/skinny tires and white steel wheels. Under the hood was the carbureted AMC 2.5 hooked up to a 4-speed manual. It had been bought by my younger brother, but he decided to default on paying for it, so mom & dad took over payments and it became a spare vehicle.
I found myself at my parent’s doorstep that summer after a job co-driving a semi went sideways and I decided I wanted out (i lived-and still live-in Washington state). I thought I could try to find work in Texas and my parents let me use the CJ as my mode of transportation (sadly-the petrochemical industry was on a downswing at the time, so no luck there).
I had more fun with that Jeep. The AMC 2.5 had more than enough suds under the hood to keep up with Houston freeway traffic when I would venture there. I once had to pick my grandma up at the airport (Intercontinental). I decided to use the Jeep. Luckily, grandma had a sense of humor. We had a blast driving back to Winnie.
One day, I think I set a world’s record for erecting a factory CJ7 soft top in a thunderstorm. I’m driving along, sky clear, grinning from ear-to-ear. All of a sudden dark clouds appear and it starts to rain.
I pull over and start re-assembling the top frame, stretch and fit the top over the frame, snap every snap, and and the doors.
5 minutes-it has to be some type of record..
There really wasn’t much chance for massive off-roading fun. Here in Washington, we have the mountains on one side and the water on the other. Ample chances for varied terrain.
East Texas? Flat….
The only hills were the overpasses over I-10. Oh well. I did manage to do some beach driving on the Gulf.
I ended up moving back to Seattle that September. Sadly, I didn’t have any money (or income at the time) to assume the payments (and embark on an epic Texas-to-Washington road trip in the CJ).
The CJ taught me the virtues of simplicity and bare-bones fun.
I miss that rig!
1986 was lean times in Texas. I was in Arizona then with my next Jeep (which I still own). The top it has is a decent sunshade but doesn’t help much with rain. Now I’m in Houston. I see plenty of Jeeps but they’re never dirty 🙂