Current Jeep 4x4s are often deemed too rugged to a fault, but this was not the case four decades ago. When the 1985 Jeep CJ7 launched in the market, AMC was still establishing itself as a trusted manufacturer of commercial vehicles. The Jeep’s brand image consistency eventually paid off – thanks to the CJ7’s penultimate version.
The 1985 Jeep CJ7 was a famed 4×4 that preceded the Scrambler and Wrangler models. Sporting optional diesel-fed engines and a dealer-exclusive trim, it delivered exhilaration and off-road fun. The CJ7 was the next-to-last iteration of the Willys-inspired CJ series that ran from 1944 to 1986.
Though caught between sub-segments, the 1985 Jeep CJ7 is not a mere stopgap, nor is it Jeep’s failed attempt at riding the compact-pickup-truck wave. After all, this ’85 version belongs to the product line regarded as the “Last of a Great Breed.” Continue reading this guide, and revel in more discoveries about this reputable 4×4.
An Era of Realization
The 1985 Jeep CJ7 (the entire series, in fact) played a significant role in the life of the Jeep brand. The transition of then American Motors Corporation from being a manufacturer of military/agricultural vehicles into more mainstream product lineups with many commercial and industrial applications mostly took place within the Civilian Jeep era.
Some riders disagree that the company’s efforts actually bore fruit during the same period. However, more enthusiasts believe the CJ lineup was the first step for the Jeep brand to become the success it is today.
Customarily, vehicle production models go from simple to overkill as they near their end of line. However, the release of the 1985 Jeep CJ7 was quite the reverse of this. Except for three trim packages carried over from previous years, this specific iteration only had the ’85 Spring Special added to the lineup’s plate. Even so, this special-edition trim did not have any extreme, attention-grabbing features – only subtle cosmetic touches here and there.
Perhaps, the penultimate version of the long-running 4×4 was designed to stay true to its roots while highlighting its newfound purpose as an encouraging, consumer-friendly four-wheeler. The CJ7 wanted people to explore and have fun while riding instead of just hauling or doing farm work.
More than a niche change, Jeep aimed to influence the average customer’s perspective when it came to off-roading as a way of life. And the 1985 Jeep CJ7 tremendously helped secure this foothold – just right before AMC moved to bigger and better things.
1985 Jeep CJ7 Specs & Features
The 1985 CJ7 is brought to life via engines with dual-barrel carbs – owners can choose from a 2.46-L/150 in3 I4-1V engine or a naturally-aspirated 4.2-L/258 in3 I6-2V AMC OHV engine. Jeep also offered a 2.46-liter, diesel-fed engine as a 3rd option.
Among these powerplants, the 4.2-liter AMC engine reportedly has better wear resistance than the other two. Durability aside, all three engines share the same 9.2:1 compression ratio and 75 – 80 mph (120.7 – 128 km/h top speed rating.
Depending on whether the CJ7 had the smaller or larger-displacement engine, the bore-stroke ratio could either be 98 x 80 mm (3.876 x 3.188 inches, 2.46-L engine) or 95.25 x 98.9 mm (3.75 x 3.895 inches, 4.2-L engine). These configurations lend to a horsepower of 82 – 110 hp (60 – 80.9 kW) @ 3,200 – 4,800 RPM and a maximum torque output of 169.5 – 261 Nm (125 – 192 ft-lbf) at 2,600 – 3,200 RPM.
Fuel & Lubrication
The manufacturer recommends 56 – 57 L (14.8 – 15.1 US gallons, standard) or 75.5 L (20 US gallons, optional tank) of unleaded gasoline. The said fuel capacity with a minimum PON 87/RON 91 rating containing no more than <15% MBTE, <5% methanol, or <10% ethanol should yield a gas mileage of 17 – 24 MPG (9.8 – 13.8 L/100 km, EPA estimate). Methanol-containing variants within the said limits are permitted but ideally avoided if you want to prevent drivability issues or fuel-component damage.
Engine oil requirements are 3.78 L (4.0 US quarts, 2.46-L AMC I4) or 4.75 – 5.7 L (5.0 – 6.0 US quarts, 4.2 L AMC I6) of SAE 10W-30 engine oil with a minimum API grade of SJ+ meeting JASO T903 MA standards. Conversely, transmission oil capacity ranges from 1.7 liters/3.5 US – 4.0 liters/8.5 US pints and is dependent on the engine-transmission combination – Chrysler A-999 Auto, Tremec T-176, or a Borg-Warner T4/T-5 – that came with the 4×4. Other viscosities are allowed following ambient temperature, such as SAE 5W-30, 10W-40, 20W-40, or 20W-50.
Like previous models, standard 1985 Jeep CJ7s had either a Borg-Warner T4 or Tremec T-176 transmission. Chrysler A-999 and Borg-Warner T-5 came in other trims, including the 3-speed automatic versions. These engine-transmission combos pair with a part-time 4×4 Dana 300 transfer case and manually engaged front hubs (view on Amazon). A recirculating ball steering system offered improved steering travel and was more economical to repair or replace in case of wear or damage.
While the ’85 CJ7 offered an optional diesel-fed engine, it is unspecified in the service manual if this power mill is similar to the 2.4-L Isuzu C240 diesel engine by GM made exclusively for export. What is clear is that this power mill mates to 4.10-ratio narrow-track Dana 20 axles and is only available in Renegade and Laredo versions.
The CJ7’s electronic ignition system consists of a trigger wheel, an ECU, and a pick-up coil circuit. Depending on engine displacement, Ignition timing with vacuum advance hose can either be 12° ± 1° or 19° ± 1° @ 1,500 RPM. Its charging system has a Delco SI alternator with a 2-wire clip (and an internal voltage regulator). A 590-CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) 12V battery powers the vehicle and electronic accessories (if any). Fuses are similar to that of the 1984 Jeep CJ7.
Tires & Brakes
Tubeless P235/75R15, P205/75R15, or P215/75R15 radial tires mount on 15×7 or 15×5.5 rims (forged aluminum, chrome-plated steel, or wide-rim spoke-type sport rims) for the Jeep CJ7. Cold-tire pressure for these tire sizes is between 193 – 241 kPa (1.97 – 2.46 kgf-cm2, 28 – 35 psi), with the lower limit recommended for sustained driving not exceeding 65 mph (105 km/h). Dual front discs, rear drums, and a single-diaphragm power brake unit complete the tire-and-wheel assembly, which can withstand speeds up to 75 mph.
Enclosed in its redesigned chassis are two parallel longitudinal main c-section rails, which improve the 4×4’s stability, handling, and maneuverability off-road. This structure allows the rear suspension to mount closer to the body’s exterior, enabling flexibility in shocks customization. Additionally, semi-elliptical leaf springs and dual-action hydraulic shocks complement the vehicle’s 7.5-inch ground clearance and 93.4-inch wheelbase.
Dimensions & Capacities
Overall dimensions are 3,891 x 1,659 x 1,755 – 1,826 mm (153.2 x 65.3 x 69.1 – 71.9 inches – L x W x H). Variations in height are negligible and depend on whether the trim was open-bodied or soft/hardtop. The front and rear overhang measure 23.5 inches/597 mm and 36.3 inches/922 mm, with front tracks at 55 inches/1,400 mm and the rear tracks at 55.8 inches/1,417 mm.
Its compact cabin offers 39.6 – 40.6 inches (1,006 – 1,031 mm) of headroom and 53.8 inches/1,367 mm of hip and shoulder room. The rear bed capacity is 16-cubic-foot and provides ample space for equipment and other off-roading necessities. GVWR with standard suspension is 1,700 Kg/3,750 lbs. and 4,150 lbs./1,882 Kg with either the molded hardtop or H.D. suspension type. The weighted rating also includes a 461-Kg/1,020-lb payload capacity and a curb weight of 1,228 – 1,240 Kg (2,707 – 2,730 lbs.).
Standout features include 1985 Jeep CJ7 parts such as factory-installed auto-reversing cassette deck, transfer case skid plates, optional injection-molded hardtop, and trademark body stripes. Other inclusions found in sport trims are chrome bumpers, leather seats, spoked wheels, and instrumentation (among others).
1985 Jeep CJ7 Trim Packages
Jeep CJ7 versions offered in 1985 were also available in previous and succeeding year models of the vehicle. The 1985 Jeep CJ-7 Spring Special stands out the most out of the lot, followed by the fan-favorite Laredo and Renegade packages. Learn more about these trim packages in this section:
1985 Jeep CJ-7 Spring Special
This handsome paint-and-decal special launched in the market in April of 1985. The trim was available on any powertrain combo (including those with diesel-fed engines) and finished in either Garnet Red Metallic (“Red Micatallic,” Paint Code 3C) or Dark Honey Metallic (“Bronze Micatallic,” Paint Code 5D) – both clear-coated. Tricolor orange stripes on the side panels and hood, optional 7-inch white-spoke wheels mounting P235/75-15 Goodyear Wrangler tires (view on Amazon), and vinyl seats welted in red/orange – details that cost an extra $1,300 – tied up the Spring Special’s overall look.
1985 Jeep CJ7 Renault
Another version of the base production model, the Renault, was a 2-door, soft-top CJ7 assembled in France by Renault – hence, the name. It came with a 5-speed manual gearbox fed by either gasoline or diesel. Its piston displacement is 1,995 – 2,068 cm3/121.5 – 126.4 in3, giving off an advertised horsepower of 59 – 84 hp (44 – 62.5 kW) and maximum torque of 147 Nm (108 lb-ft). Dimensions are pretty similar to U.S. releases. However, curb weight is 100 Kg more than the standard.
Available from 1975 to 1986, the optional top-and-interior Levi’s Package took advantage of the Levi’s® reputation as a reputable clothing brand. Similar to the Levi’s® theme, this 1985 Jeep CJ7 interior package featured denim sun visors, padded roof or hardtop, dash padding, jean-style stitching on the seats, and a Levi’s badge on the cowl just right above the Jeep lettering.
1985 Jeep CJ7 Renegade & Laredo
Originally a package option for the CJ-5, these versions carried over to succeeding Civilian Jeep models, including the 1985 Jeep CJ7 and earlier Scramblers. Consumers can choose between a 2.46-L Inline-4, 4.2-L straight-6, and 2.0-L diesel engine to go with either a Borg-Warner T4 or T-5, Tremec T-176, or Chrysler A-999 transmission.
Air conditioning, rocker panel moldings, spray-lined floors, black door inlay decal appliqués, and a trailer hitch came standard with these two – with the Laredo trim having slightly more creature comforts.
1985 Jeep CJ7 Pros and Cons
- The CJ7’s 93-inch wheelbase provides more legroom, adequately compensating for its lack of width while improving the overall riding experience.
- The availability of various engine-transmission combos (including a diesel engine option) enables the CJ7 to meet drivers’ personal preferences. Plus, wide-ratio axles lend to a reliable low-end grunt and smooth shifting.
- Trims like the Levi’s®, Laredo, Renegade, and Spring Special add a touch of character and style. They also improve the vehicle’s comfortability and off-road aggressiveness.
- Customizing shocks has become easier – thanks to the ’85 CJ7’s redesigned framework and factory shocks placement.
- Wide-ratio axles of different transmissions retain low-end grunt while supporting smooth shifting.
- Trims with hard doors and injection-molded tops are not fool-proof against excessive wind noise and air leaks.
- The steering tends to be overly responsive (if not difficult), making the ride feel jerky.
- It can be challenging to maneuver or control the 4×4 at both high and low speeds in some cases.
- Secondhand transmissions tend to leak fluid unless re-sealed at the point of purchase.
- The longer wheelbase adds to the spaciousness f the cabin but may still feel cramped for bigger riders or if the vehicle had four (4) passengers.
- Factory front bumpers, brush guards, and skid plates can damage from a crash or off-road vehicle abuse.
- The lack of a grab handle/overhead grip for the front passenger was still not addressed for the ’85 CJ7 model.
1985 Jeep CJ7 Value
The list price for the 1985 Jeep CJ7 was $7,282, approximately $300 cheaper than the previous year’s model. This value was subject to change, depending on the vehicle’s engine-transmission combo, package add-ons, and whether it had a soft/hardtop or open-body. Sources for resale values of ’85 CJ7 trims are pretty obscure and, unfortunately, cannot be checked against the service manual. The Spring Special trim was believed to be of the same value as a standard CJ7.
On the other hand, retail pricing can fall anywhere between $6,125 and $31,885. Most units priced below $12,800 often have high mileage with minor cosmetic damage but are still in great working condition. Anything above $20,600 would be considered pricey but are guaranteed to have at least one or two performance-enhancing parts or relevant modifications.
Stellantis N.V. (then American Motors Corporation, Fiat S.p.A.) is a world-renowned automotive manufacturer critically acclaimed for its luxury automobiles and Jeep off-road series. Founded in 1908 as Willys–Overland Motors, this 113-year-old industry giant initially appeared in the automotive scene through its military and agri-vehicles. Eventually, the firm transitioned to civilian-appropriate Jeeps after WWII – alongside a plethora of 4×4 vehicles, including the 1985 Jeep CJ7.
Conclusion – 1985 Jeep CJ7 Review
In the words of the 1950’s American politician Lincoln Chafee, “Trust is built with consistency.” And no other iteration exemplifies this truth better than the 1985 Jeep CJ7. This four-wheeler aptly supported the Jeep brand’s strive for excellence and its vision of turning the CJ7 into a tool for recreation and sport.
The ’85 production model already had all the necessary goods to become a handy workhouse and off-road companion. Riders just needed to realize the vehicle’s worth. And sure enough, they did – and continue to do so.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.