By Jon Maib
When I was 18 or 19 years of age, I was working full time for an insurance company in southern California and I decided it was time to head to the bank for my first car loan so I could purchase an older Jeep. I began to scour the Truck/Auto traders, looking in newspapers and such for the perfect CJ7 that I could afford. I wanted a CJ7 because to me, they are the perfect combination of rugged and comfort. The 80's series Jeeps were still built to be tough and minimalistic, but were given a number of creature comfort upgrades from their predecessors. As Jeep use to say, "Jeep CJ's, built this tough for the fun of it."

After searching for the right CJ7 for several weeks and not finding one that fit my budget, I began to broaden my search adding in CJ5's. I found one and based on the black and white photo in the Trader, it seemed to be a great deal. I tried calling the number several times that week but got no answer, so I moved on. A month later, I noticed that Jeep was still listed in the Truck Trader, so I decided to call once again. I finally got someone on the phone and discussed the Jeep and decided to head over to check it out with money in hand. Seeing that Jeep for the first time outside the black and white pages of the trader, I couldn't believe how beautiful it was and was shocked it had not sold. After taking it for a test drive, I asked the owner how this beautiful Jeep had not sold yet. They told me that they had been out of state for a while and just recently got back. I couldn't resist, I bought that 1971 CJ-5 on the spot.

I loved that little 5 and wish I still owned it today, but since day one, a CJ7 has been the Jeep I've always wanted to own and drive. I have had many Jeeps throughout the years, but for some reason, never had my hands on a CJ7. Recently though, through a series of events, I was able to come into contact with a guy that had a CJ7 that needed some work. I restored my 1948 CJ2a, so a new project did not deter me. I figured as long as the Jeep had good bones (Frame, body, etc...) I was willing to take it on. I picked up a trailer and headed to check this Jeep out with cash in hand. When I got there and saw the Jeep, it wasn't that same warm fuzzy feeling I got when I first laid eyes on that CJ5. Obviously this Jeep had been on a ranch or deer lease and had seen better days in its life. I did a thorough inspection of the Jeep, it seemed this one would work for what I wanted; a project! The previous owner had recently swapped out the 4cyl engine with standard 258 6cyl that Jeep is known for and had started the process of installing a 2" lift on it, but for some reason, stopped after installing one spring. It barely ran and the clutch wouldn't engage, so driving it onto the trailer was out. To get the Jeep loaded on the trailer, the owner grabbed a tractor and pushed it onto the car hauler while I guided it on. Once on, I strapped it down and headed home with the 'dream Jeep'.

Digging further into this Jeep build, you will begin to understand why I decided to call it 'Project Oh Deer'. First and foremost, that weed leaf camo paint job was probably for a deer lease and then I continue to find stuff on this Jeep that previous owners have done to 'fix' it and I just have to say to myself, "Oh dear". My first order of business was to get the Jeep running. I found there were parts missing off the carburetor and it also needed some major adjustments. After working on it for a while, I was able to get it running; not great, but running. With the engine running, I knew I had to drive it, but the clutch wasn't engaging the flywheel so I began to troubleshoot that. I started looking at the hydraulic clutch system, I fiddled with it to see if that was the issue. After determining that was working properly the only other thing to do was to pull the clutch, tranny and transfer case to see why it wasnt engaging. I pulled the nasty dirty grimy drivetrain out of Project 'Oh Deer' and began to clean it off so I could open everything up and see what was going on. The cleaning in itself was a ton of work, but was a much needed procedure. Once I had the drivetrain cleaned up a bit, I did find that the T4 transmission had a broken synchro gear in it and needed a few other warn parts replaced. I ordered new parts and worked on trying to figure out what was happening with the clutch. The best I can figure out at this point is, that when the previous owner did the engine swap from the 4cyl to the 6cyl, the bell housing was the wrong size and was not allowing the throw-out bearing to properly reach the clutch fingers and no matter of adjustment could get it engage. To remedy this, I purchased a Novak adjustable throw-out bearing. The adjustable throw-out bearing allowed me to set the distance I needed in order for it to reach the clutch fingers. I put everything back together, painted it and then put it back into the Jeep. After some additional adjustments, I was able to get the clutch engaging and was able to drive the Jeep for the first time.

Next on the list was to tackle the barely installed 2" leaf spring situation and replace all the bad suspension parts that have clearly been neglected over the years. From this point, Im going to break this build into sections so that you can follow along with the many 'Oh Deer' issues I have found through the process of getting this old Jeep back on the road. Be sure to check back often and find out where I am at with the resto-mod of my 1985 Jeep CJ7 – Project Oh Deer