Build Thread Bill's 75 CJ5 ground up rebuild

Build Thread Bill's 75 CJ5 ground up rebuild


Senior Jeeper
Arnold, CA
75 CJ5 304V8 T15 D20 D44 D30 2 1/2" lift, 05 Victory Kingpin, 2011 GMC Sierra 3500 Diesel 4x4
I traded my nephew a 12' fishing boat & trailer for this 75 CJ5 back in December. I knew going in that I was going to take it down to the frame and start over. Besides a general clean up it needed a new brake system, new wiring harness, steering work, new tires, and who knows what else until I started tearing it apart. My goal is to build a reliable trail rig. I want it street legal, but most of the time it will be used off road.

I needed to have a decent place to work on it, so I spent most of January working on the garage (insulation, sheetrock, lighting, more electrical and storage space for my wife's craft stuff). Moved the Jeep into the garage the 1st of Feb. and started taking it apart.

Being new to Jeeps, it took me awhile to sort out exactly what I have - 75 CJ5, 304 V8, T-15 trans, Model 20 TC, Dana 44 rear & Dana 30 front with 3:73 gears. It has an existing 2 1/2 inch Rancho lift on it and 33x12.5x15 tires. The tub is steel with a little minor rot and the front end is a one-piece fiberglass unit.

The photos are from the 1st of Feb. Will post more over the next couple of days to show the progress up to date.

And thanks to all of you guys on the forums who have helped and given advise so far :notworthy:
So, I spent most of Feb and Mar tearing down & cleaning the beast. Found that the front 3rd of the frame was a little bent & twisted. I'm told that a tree fell on it a few years back and that's why it has the fiberglass front end. Anyway, I spent a lot of time with degreaser and pressure washer (in between snow storms) and a wrench getting this thing down to the bare frame.

Also spent a lot of time with repair and build manuals trying to figure out where to go with this build.

You can see from the photos, that a lot of things were cobbled together by POs

The last photo is about Apr 1st
On April 8, I took the frame in to be straightened. You can see by the first photo we were having great California spring weather. They said it would take a couple of weeks because they were backed up after all the accidents during the recent storms.

While I was waiting for the frame, I started refurbishing and painting bits and pieces - steering box and mount, motor mounts, etc. and the leaf springs. Since I already have a 2 1/2" lift kit and the springs appeared to be in good shape, I decided to just clean them up and reuse them. I found an article on line about how Deaver prepares leaf springs for off road racing. I pulled the leaves apart and sand blasted them all. Then I wire wheeled everything smooth. I coated all of the inside faces with Moly Coat and then reassembled the springs. Once they were back together, I primed and painted the outside surfaces.

I also got the front and rear axles rebuilt. Alot more work than anticipated - about $1500 in parts. All new bearings, seals, a couple of new axles, new ball joints and u joints on the front, new Limited slip case and clutches in the rear, and new brakes all around including backing plates and drums.

When I got the frame back, I sand blasted it and got it primed.
All I can say is "Your doing it right!!" On every CJ build I've done it always ends up being more involved than I planned but when finished you know what you have - not another persons cobble this, jury rig that. I love watching great builds on this site and you got one going on. Keep it up and keep posting, a lot of us will be watching.
Oldguy - Thanks for the comments. I've been watching the progress on your 78 project and with the quality of that build your comments mean a lot :notworthy:.

I've been wanting to build a Jeep for a lot of years, but never had the time or money. Still don't have the money and I figure at my age, I'm starting to run out of time.

Anyway, I'm hoping that by posting this thread that you guys will help keep me out of trouble.

Thanks again - Bill :chug:
Bill :notworthy:

Looking great man!

I'd like to do this as well at some point... Seems like all I'm doing now is fixing broken stuff as i go.

Can't wait to see it as you keep going man. :chug:

~ JR
JR -

Thanks :chug:

Like I said, I knew when I got it that it was going all the down to the frame. My nephew had put a few band aids on stuff and ran it a couple of times before he found a 73 that was already built and parked this one. When I got it wouldn't even stop because the brakes were so gone. So the best thing was to just start pulling it apart.
Had planned to spend some time out on the driveway today sandblasting the last set of leaf springs so I could them rebuilt. Anyway, woke up to 6" of snow (see first couple of pics) so I thought I'd update my build thread.

I got my frame painted and ready to start bolting stuff back on. I tried to clean up inside of the tubes on the frame to shackle mounts with a flapper wheel, but they were badly cruded up with rust. I really didn't want to cut them off and replace them, so I took a Dremel tool with a little grinder and cleaned out all the flakey rust. Then I cleaned the tubes out with metal etch and got back to shiny metal, although kind of pitted and uneven. I figure there isn't alot of stress on the inside of the tube (it's mostly there to hold the bushings in place) so I spread some JB Weld on the inside of the tubes to fill in all the pitting. Then I took a small grinder and smoothed the inside surface out and trued it back to round as best as I could.

Once I got that finished, I installed the rear end.
I'm replacing all of the old worn out parts and upgrading where I can. I put on new shackles, all new greasable poly bushings, new ubolts and new spring center pins. Replaced the breather tube on both front and rear axles. There wasn't one at all on the rear (just the hole) and the front one didn't have a hose on it. Not suprising there was water in the gear lube when the axles were pulled apart. I'm also replacing all of the bolts with grade 8 hardware as I go.

Not that I really need them now, but I bought a new set of BFG KM2 Mud Terrains last week. I figure that having new tires will help with set up and aligning when I get to that point. My tire guy also says that prices will be going up again soon.

I also found that the engine hoist is a great place to hang stuff on for spray painting. :)
Bill I know what you mean about money and time. I finished my rebuild last year in July. I started in November of the previous year with a $2000 budget and thinking about 2 months long. Well 4 grand+ and 9 months later (like a having a kid LOL) it rolled out of the garage on its own. In the previous 3 yrs I had done the motor,trans and tc so they didn't need done. I also did the rears a month after the build just because I ran out of money. Like was posted now you know what you have and can take pride in knowing you put every stinking bolt back on that thing. Keep up the good job. Keith
Keith -

Thanks for the encouragement! I really didn't plan a full-on restoration when I started, but that's what it's turning into. It seems like just about every piece on it is shot and needs to be replaced. But I guess that should be expected on a 36 year old vehicle. I'm really enjoying the process though. I haven't really worked on anything like this for about 30 years. I had a Triumph TR3 when I was in college, that I pretty much rebuilt, and I'm starting to remember how much fun it was to go through and make a vehicle new again.

Anyway, I'll keep posting and my progress.

Thanks again, Bill :chug:
woooter61 -

Thanks! Hope to post some more progress pics by the end of the weekend.
So I didn't get anymore progress pictures posted by the end of last weekend. I made progress, just didn't get to the pictures :(

I've been cleaning and painting all the small parts, brackets and stuff. Cleaned up the fuel tank skid plate. Painted the top side and put bedliner on the underside. I also decided to drill some drain holes in some of the parts that looked like they had been collecting water, like the fuel tank skid plate and the transmission cross member.

Some where in the process here I decided not to box the frame. I really didn't want to create a trap for water and muck. I did, however, install reinforcing plates at the spring mounts. Also got some rectangular tube and made spacers to drop the bump stops down.
So over this past couple of weeks, I got the rear brake drums cleaned, painted and installed, along with new e-brake cables, then mounted the rear tires. I finally finished rebuilding the last set of leaf springs and got the front end on. It wanted to fight me a bit, but I finally got it installed :D Still need to get the front drums cleaned and painted, then I can get the tires on and back to a rolling chassis.

Went out this morning and got the fuel tank and skid plate installed. Finally figured out how the mounting brackets were supposed to go (Thanks again CJ). I added the rubber mounts at the skid plate.

My sister & her husband are down from Oregon and have invited a bunch of our high school friends up for the weekend, so I probably won't make too much more progress until next week.
Jeeps looking real good! Your weather looks like :dung:, and I thought we had it bad up here. Keep the posts comming.
oldguy - Thanks, I'm pretty happy with the way it's coming together.

And you're right about the weather here! It usually stops raining and snowing by the 1st of May, but it just keeps coming down. Rained all weekend and is raining again today. :eek: Being in the construction business, it's making it harder to make a living, on top of what the economy has done to us.

Oh well, I guess I should be happy it's not snowing.

So I'm sitting here drinking Jack and eating ice cream, so I thought I would post an update on my progress. The weather has decided to go abrutly from winter (rain last weekend) to summer (85 today). Great California weather. WTF happened to Spring?

Over the last week I got the front brake drums cleaned up, painted and on. Mounted the front wheels and started on the brake lines. I got pre-bent SS lines cause I thought it would be easier. :rolleyes: Front lines were pretty good, but the rear axle lines looked like they were for a completely different vehicle. Fortunately, a friend had a bender and I made the needed adjustments. Still got a little tweeking to do and install the new prop valve, but it's about there. Nice to have a rolling chassis again.

The old Rancho RS 5000 shocks that were on it seemed to be in reasonable condition, so I gave them a coat of paint and reinstalled them (easy to change later).

I had 3 wheels that matched when I got it. I was able to clean up the 3 existing wheels and found a 4th that matched. Will use the odd ball for the spare.

Got a few things on the chassis left to do (like get it set level and check the caster at the front end) and then it's on to the body, engine, tranny and tc. With a little luck (and few extra bucks) I might have it on the trail by the end of summer.

:chug: Bill
The last couple of weeks have been busy with other stuff, so progress on the Jeep has been a little slow.

Got a little bit of plumbing completed. Brake and fuel lines. I got my new Painless harness, but haven't started to hang it yet. Still a couple of things to sort out on the chassis, but decided to start sorting out the body.

The PPO put undercoating on and it looks like it went over rust and everthing else. Decided to try to strip off the undercoating and see what I've got. I took my pressure washer to it and got some of the goop off. Then a bit of paint & epoxy remover and a lot more came off. A bit of scraping and a wire wheel and it's starting to look pretty clean.

Got a little rot and some body supports to repair, but all n' all I don't think it's too bad. Actually, I'm feeling pretty good about this. I spent 4 years working on my TR3 and didn't get this far. I guess that patience comes with age!
Bill, You are doing a great job! I am especially impressed that you have done all this in only 60 days. I'm still collecting parts and have been at it for 15 years. Keep it up, you're an inspiration.

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