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Jeep CJ5 vs. CJ7: What’s the Difference?

Both the Jeep CJ5 and the CJ7 have an iconic status. CJ5’s production run is the longest of all the Jeeps ever manufactured. On the other hand, the CJ7 is the “last of a great breed,” the CJ series. What’s the difference between the two?

The CJ7 is bigger than the CJ5. It’s longer and taller, and also has more leg room. The Jeep CJ5 is wider than the CJ7 and has a shorter wheelbase, which is great for tight turns.

But which is better between the two?

This article delves into that question and gives you comprehensive information about each of these Jeep models.Here’s what you’ll find:

  • A Brief History of the CJ5 and the CJ7 Jeeps
  • Which is Bigger: CJ7 vs CJ5
  • The Pros and Cons of the CJ5
  • Are CJ5s Dangerous
  • Is the CJ7 a Better Investment?
  • So Which is Better, CJ5 or CJ7?

First, let’s look at how these iconic models came to be.

Classic Jeep in the Snow

A Brief History of the CJ5 and the CJ7 Jeeps

You might be wondering, “What does CJ5 stand for?” The CJ stands for “civilian Jeep,” a series that was manufactured from 1945 to 1986. Introduced in 1955 by Kaiser Motors, the CJ5 was the fifth generation of the CJ series. It was built to replace the CJ-3B model, but Kaiser continued producing the latter until 1968. The original CJ5 was heavily influenced by the U.S. Military’s M38A1, which had rounded-off front fenders. The CJ5 was used mostly for rugged outdoor work such as farming and ranching. It wasn’t designed for family or commuter use.

The CJ5’s production run spanned three decades, from 1954 to 1984, the longest of all the Jeep models. Kaiser established Jeep manufacturing plants in 30 other countries and made the vehicles available to more than 150 countries.

When did they stop making Jeep CJ5?

American Motors Corporation stopped manufacturing the CJ in 1983 after the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) staged a demonstration on the TV program, 60 Minutes, to show that the vehicle tended to roll over “in routine road circumstances at relatively low speeds.”

In 1970, American Motors Corporation acquired Kaiser Jeep. In 1976, AMC introduced the CJ7, making the first significant change in the Jeep’s design in 20 years. The CJ7’s wheelbase was slightly longer than a CJ5. This allowed automatic transmission to be fitted in the vehicle.

When did Jeep stop making CJ7?

The production of the CJ7 ceased in 1986. The last batch came with a factory dash plaque that read, “Last of a Great Breed – This collectors-edition CJ ends an era that began with the legendary Jeep of World War II.”

Which is Bigger: CJ7 vs CJ5?

You may be wondering, “how can you tell the difference between a CJ5 and CJ7?”

The easiest way to tell the two models apart is to look at their size. The CJ7 is definitely bigger. It’s longer and taller than the CJ5 and has more leg room. However, the Jeep CJ5 is wider and has a shorter wheelbase, which is great for tight turns.

Their door openings are distinctive, too. CJ5s have S-shaped door openings. On the other hand, those of CJ7s are U-shaped.

But there are more differences and similarities between the two models than meets the eye. Below is a comparative table that summarizes the similarities and differences of the CJ5 and CJ7:

Years Produced1955 to 19831976 to 1986
Drive Train4WD4WD
Door OpeningS-ShapedU-Shaped
Maximum Seating44
Length142 inches153 inches
Width68 inches65 inches
Height66 inches70 inches
Leg Room 37 inches39 inches
Wheelbase83.4 inches93.5 inches
Windshield59 inches59 inches
Fuel TypeGasolineGasoline
Fuel Tank Volume15 gallons15 gallons, 22 gallons
Fuel DeliveryCarbureted – 1bbl, 2bblCarbureted – 1bbl, 2bbl
EnginesAMC 304, 258, 232, 225, GM 151AMC304, 258, GM151
Compression Ratio9:19:1
Displacement2,500 cc2,500 cc
Rear AxleAMC20(76-86), Dana 44(72-75)AMC20(82-86), Dana 44(86)
Front AxleDana 30(72-83)Dana 30
Wheel Bolt Pattern5 x 5.5″5 x 5.5″
TransmissionsT150, 14, 176, 18, SR4T15/14/5/18, TH400, SR4, TF999/904
Transmission TypesManual(early), Auto(Late)Manual, Auto
SuspensionLeaf Spring UnderLeaf Spring Under
BrakesEarly(4/Drum), Late(Disc/Drum)Front Disc / Rear Drum
Brake OptionsManual (early), Power(later)Manual (early), Power (later)
SteeringManual (early), Power(later)Manual (early), Power (later)

So if you were to buy an old Jeep, should you choose a CJ5 or a CJ7? We’ve scoured the internet for people’s opinions about both models, and summarized what they have to say in the following sections.

The Pros and Cons of the CJ5

When it comes to general appearance, people prefer the classic Jeep look of the CJ5. There are fewer CJ5s in the market, which makes the model rarer than the CJ7. But the model has more to offer than its looks. Some prefer the CJ5’s shorter wheelbase and breakover angle. They say that it’s easier to maneuver the CJ5 through tight trails, making it fun to drive. It’s lighter than the CJ7 so that you can use any engine with it.

Lack of Leg Room

One of the biggest downsides of the CJ5 is the lack of leg room. Those who have driven it have said, if you’re tall, you’re bound to have leg and back pain after driving for a while. Some also find the opening for the door too small. They also point out that the CJ5 has less overall storage space and is narrower.

But if you want to add a bit of storage space in your CJ5, you can check out the Rampage Denim Black Deluxe Locking Center Console (view on Amazon). It has a dual-locking hidden storage area for CD’s, DVD’s, cassettes, and other small stuff that you might want to carry around. The console doubles as a comfortable armrest and comes with cup holders.

Difficult to Find Parts

Another problem that Jeep enthusiasts have with the CJ5 is that it’s difficult to find parts for the vehicle because it’s an old model. For instance, 1974 Jeep CJ5 hardtops and full doors are scarce, and those in good condition are even rarer.

But if you’re looking for a dashpad for a 1976 to 1986 CJ model, you won’t have a hard time. Check out the Omix-Ada dashpad (view on Amazon). It’s easy to install and fits perfectly using factory mounting holes. It’s made of sturdy material and has a great finish.

Shorter Wheelbase

Some claim that the shorter wheelbase is a minus when rock climbing and descending. Also, the ride is rougher because of the lack of wheelbase, which becomes more of a problem with a beefed-up suspension.

Swapping the manual transmission for an automatic transmission may prove to be difficult, but possible. An automatic transmission usually has an extended rear drive shaft that can limit your rear suspension travel. You can move the rear axle back a few inches, but you might need to relocate your fuel tank or get a fuel cell and put it where the back seat would be. This means even less space for your gear and storage.

Are CJ5s Dangerous?

The research director of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claimed that the CJ5 was “the most dangerous thing on four wheels. It is probably more dangerous than anything on two wheels as well.” A study conducted by the IIHS revealed that three out of four CJ5s flipped over when going 22 miles an hour in a 90-degree turn. Three out of three turned over at 32 miles an hour while trying to avoid an obstacle.

IIHS also staged a demonstration on 60 Minutes to prove how unsafe the CJ5 was. But years later, after the TV demonstration, an article published on the National Review claimed that the testers had to put the CJs through 435 runs to achieve eight rollovers. The article also reveals that the IIHS told the testers to hang weights in the corners of the vehicle’s body that were hidden from the camera. This implied that the IIHS deliberately created worst-case conditions for stability.

Jeep Enthusiasts Defend the CJ5

So if you bought a Jeep of this model, say a 1974 CJ5, should you regret it? Not necessarily. Some Jeep enthusiasts defend the CJ5 saying that it isn’t inherently dangerous. They say that drivers will do well to keep in mind that this vehicle wasn’t meant for general use and should drive it accordingly.

Whether you own a CJ5 or a CJ7, a reliable headlight is essential for safe driving. The LX-LIGHT 7″ LED Headlight (view on Amazon) is perfect for any Jeep CJ. It’s easy to install–just plug and play! Made with original Cree LED Chips, it’s 50% brighter than any other headlight of its kind and has a lifetime of over 80,000 hours. It’s approved by the Department of Transportation. 

Is the CJ7 a Better Investment?

Many Jeep enthusiasts would choose the CJ7 over the CJ5. Its primary advantage is its size. Compared to the CJ5, the CJ7’s door opening is bigger, making it easy for the driver and passengers to get in and out of the vehicle. Tall drivers like the extra leg room because it’s easier for them to fit behind the wheel. You can also have more room in the back for gear and storage without sacrificing the rear seats.

The CJ7 is more popular and easier to find on the market than the CJ5. Because the CJ7 is newer, it’s easier to find parts for it, like a hardtop and a tub. Jeeps are bound to rust eventually, but some claim that the CJ7 doesn’t rust as much as the CJ5. For rust, the only thing you have to worry about replacing is the tub. A CJ7 tub isn’t hard to find, but if you don’t have any luck finding one, a TJ tub is a good alternative.

Jeep CJ7 Soft Top

You can also choose to have a soft top for your CJ7 like Bestop’s Traditional Bikini Top (view on Amazon). Made with premium fabric, it protects from direct sunlight and light rain. It has reinforced edges that help prevent flapping. This bikini top is stain and mildew resistant and has industrial grade webbing for a secure fit.

The CJ7 lets you opt for automatic transmission without having to extend the wheelbase. Some prefer to have a longer wheelbase when driving through rugged terrain (though this isn’t always better). The CJ7 is said to be less twitchy at highway speeds. You’ll have fewer angle problems with a lift with the longer driveshaft.

What is a 1984 Jeep CJ7 worth?

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) places the value of a CJ7 between $6,000 to $11,000, depending on factors such as condition and mileage. However, prices do vary, so it’s best to do your research on eBay and Craigslist.

So Which is Better, CJ5 or CJ7?

When you’re choosing between two Jeep models, you have to be clear about what you want in a vehicle and what you intend to do with it. For tight trails and mud holes, the CJ5 is the better option. Also, you’d prefer the CJ5 if you’re going for a unique vintage look.

If you’re tall and want more leg room, the CJ7 is the better choice for you. The same is true if you’re planning to swap the manual transmission for an automatic. It has more room for storage and cargo, and it’s easier to find replacement parts.

Whether you choose a Jeep CJ5 or CJ7, you’ll be driving an iconic model, and that’s something you can be proud of.