Last of a Great Breed: A Meticulously Restored 1983 Jeep CJ7 Laredo
When now-defunct automaker Willys began selling their military-use Jeep to civilians in 1945, little did they know that their humble CJ (civilian Jeep) would become the American icon it is today. Persevering through several corporate buyouts over its lifetime, the CJ largely stuck to the original recipe of a bare-bones, supremely capable off-roader.
The CJ-7 model, released in 1976, was an attempt to “modernize” the platform, giving passengers more space, as well as allowing for an automatic transmission with the additional space due to the upsizing of the chassis. These changes not only made Jeeps more accessible to a wider variety of people, but laid the groundwork for the brand’s commitment to function over form, even as buyers demanded more and more livability out of the 4x4.
Full Blown Restoration
As vintage 4WD models enjoy their resurgence, owner Kelly Williams wanted to restore his 1983 Laredo to as-new condition. Working with Georgia-based shop SOB Motorsports, they went the OEM+ route, rebuilding the original powertrain and beefing up the suspension with modern equipment.
The original 258ci inline-6 received a complete overhaul to OEM specs. SOB installed a Holley Sniper EFI system to move away from the finicky carbureted fuel system. A Hyperspark distributor adds ignition timing control for a headache-free conversion.
To add a little bit of aggression to the restored powertrain, Kelly added a Headman header and Borla Touring cat-back exhaust. In addition to expediting the removal of spent gases, the combo allows the straight-six to sing.
The Laredo option originally featured a chrome package that included the bumpers, front grill cover, and side mirrors, and all of those have been restored to their original shine to contrast with the black exterior. The Jeep does sit higher thanks to a 4-inch Skyjacker lift kit that employs Hydro 7000 shocks and steering stabilizer.
Wheels and Tires
The largest change to the original CJ7 is the addition of an upgraded and upsized wheel and tire package. Starting with a set of polished Mickey Thompson Classic III wheels, Kelly wrapped the 17x9s in massive LT315/70R17 Nitto Trail Grappler M/T tires. The Trail Grappler M/T tires provide the off-road capability inherent to the CJ platform, while also minding their manners on-road for weekend trips to local enthusiast get-togethers.
More Black and Chrome on the Inside
For the interior, the trend of restoration over modification continued. The Laredo package included high-back, black leather bucket seats, and those have been kept for historical accuracy. With the open interior, the color scheme flows perfectly with the monochromatic exterior for a simple, effective aesthetic.
Comparing this CJ-7 to modern Jeep Wranglers makes one realize the extent to which the modern JL has departed from the original military chassis. With a fully modern interior, an available 392 V8, and even a plug-in hybrid available, it would seem that complexity has ruled out. Ultimately, the purpose remains the same; allowing enthusiasts to explore off of the paved roads.
With exception to Porsche’s 911, no other modern vehicle has held stronger to its original form than the Wrangler. The CJ-7 was a necessary change to the original to accommodate a wider variety of owners, and to that end, so is the JL. Kelly’s restoration of this 1983 Laredo cements this point in the marque’s history for a whole new generation as the last of a great breed, but one who’s legacy continues today.
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