From its brave beginnings as an American war hero, to its humble service as a civilian workhorse, the Jeep CJ paid its dues as a utilitarian, jack-of-all-trades with limitless, ‘go-anywhere’ and ‘do-anything’ capabilities. So, when it came time for the model to segue into the life of a pleasure craft, the buying public knew it had an extremely solid foundation on which to build. This made the Jeep CJ – a unique 4x4 vehicle with no real contemporary – an instant hit that quickly grew into legend with each iteration. The diminutive CJ-5 got the party started and showed us that a vehicle with a ‘tub’ and easily removable roof/doors is actually quite practical, the CJ-7 stretched its legs and helped us get more comfortable, while the CJ-8 proved that it could carry a big load whenever called upon.
CJ5 - First-Generation
Developed for the masses that wanted a civilian version of the rugged military Jeep, the original Kaiser CJ-5 improved upon the previous rudimentary Jeeps with a better array of engines, safer suspensions, and more comfortable interiors. AMC takes over and in the early ‘70s produces the world’s first ‘modern’ CJ-5, a slightly elongated model filled with many of the typical components and designs that we’ll see for decades, including a dependable and powerful array of drivetrains that catapult it from recreational vehicle to daily-driver. 1976 ushers in the contemporary CJ-5s with well-rounded tubs, boxed-in and fortified frames, and taller/roomier cabins. Several options/amenities are added through the years, they’re built with better safety/performance in mind, and special trim/packages like the Renegade, Golden Eagle, and Laredo debut.
CJ7 - Second-Generation
AMC answers millions of fan’s wishes and builds a 10-inch longer wheelbase CJ-7, which stabilizes the design and makes it more driver-friendly. The bodywork is more curved than its smaller sibling and features a reengineered chassis with dual-parallel frame rails that extends the suspension, not to mention makes for a roomier cabin that fits four. Numerous drivetrains are offered, including the first automatic transmission, and both a full-time (Quadra-Trac) 4WD system and 2-speed transfer case cover all manner of preferences. ’82-’86 models are the most popular of all CJ’s, mostly because of their wide-track axles that set an aggressive, modern stance that becomes the quintessential Jeep set-up. Special packages and trims remain popular, and the CJ-7 proves so successful it essentially makes the CJ-5 obsolete.
CJ8 Scrambler - Third-Generation
Ronald Reagan’s favorite Jeep, the CJ-8 Scrambler combined everything that was great about the CJ-7 with the added benefit of a truck with a 103-inch wheelbase. Arguably the most adaptable and practical Jeep’s ever made, it featured a removable cab top, a utility tray with a removable bench, steel doors, and a roll bar just like in the CJ-5s and CJ-7s. Like the CJ-7, the Scrambler came loaded, and although a V8 wasn’t available, the Iron Duke I4 and 258 I6 were the most popular engines. Options were identical to the CJ-7, and even a top-of-the-line Laredo was offered. As a final entry in the CJ world, the Scrambler was an excellent choice, and if the ‘Gipper’ approved, we do too.