TOM KNOPP’S CJ STRETCH
Holy Cow! Are you crazy? That’s what I heard when I mentioned to fellow jeepers about cutting my CJ in half and making it longer. Why ruin a perfectly good 5 you ask? Well the frame and body tub was in great shape so I didn’t want to waste my money in buying a 7 tub and frame. Being 6ft tall and over 200lbs the lil 5 was getting too small for me. I also needed more driveshaft length and room for all my gear. Also the longer wheelbase would make my jeep a lot more stable. I saw where a jeeper in the FortWorth-Dallas FWD club had done this very project. I contacted him and we talked for a long time over the phone about the project and I got some helpful pointers. I got the jeep ready by removing the seats, brake and fuel lines and cut the electrical wires going to the back. I also removed the fender flares and unbolted the back roll bar points. I got some help from my buddy Wes and we went to town. I built sawhorse supports to put under the frame to support the jeep once it was in two pieces. I took a reciprocating saw and cut the jeep in half just in front of the rear wheel well. Once the jeep was in two I spread them 12’” apart. I choice a foot because its 2” more than a CJ7 and that 12” measurements would be easier than 10”. I then inserted 16” 2x4x1/4” thick rectangular stock in the frame rails. The most important part was making sure the front and back was perfectly aligned. We took measurements in triplicate, and even diagonal. Once I was certain everything was right, the rails were welded up. Thank goodness I was doing this project in the winter because I had full leathers on while welding to keep from being all burnt up from flying slag. I would have sweated to death if it were during the summer. I then wrapped the inserts with 3x16” plate and welded it up so the rails were now smooth and super strong. The next step was to relocate the two body mount supports. It was as simple as cutting them off the frame rail and welding it back to line up with the tubs new location. Now the fun begins. Body panels. I didn’t want to use stock replacement stuff because its only 19 gauge thin stuff. I elected to fab my own out of 16-gauge sheet metal. I made card board patterns first, then cut them out. I did the floor first, then the sides. I would only weld an inch at a time in one spot to help reduce warpage.  I also braced underneath the floor and the sides using 1” angle iron. Once the welding was done, all the welds were ground down using an angle grinder. I then used a 40-grit flap disc to smooth up everything and to give the bondo a good surface to adhere to. At this point I had 40 hours of labor into the project. I then solicited my other buddy Keith who is great at paint and bodywork. He came over several weekends and we DA sanded most of the jeep and added bondo where needed. The interior only needed to be wet sanded. Everything that wasn’t going to be painted was taped off. I put sheets of plastic up in the garage to form a spray booth. Keith first sprayed the whole jeep with etching primer, then shot it with dupont metal flake red. I gave it 24 hours to dry, then unmasked everything. The task of putting everything back on took a couple of weekends. I had to make new fuel and brake lines, and splice in 12” of wire to the electrical system. It was a lot of work, but Im pleased the way it turned out. My jeep rides better; Im not twisting u-joints all the time because I have a longer driveshaft. I can put the front seat back now and have leg room, and inclines aren’t as scary with the extra wheelbase.
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