The Jeep CJ-7 featured a longer wheelbase than the CJ-5 and lacked the noticeable curvature of the doors previously seen on the CJ-5. The other main difference to the CJ-5 was to the chassis which hitherto consisted of two parallel longitudinal main c-section rails. To help improve vehicle handling and stability the rear section of the chassis stepped out to allow the road springs and dampers to be mounted closer to the outside of the body. It was introduced in 1976 and 379,299 were built during 11 years of production.
The CJ-7 featured an optional new automatic all-wheel drive system called Quadra-Trac, as well as a part-time two-speed transfer case; an automatic transmission was also an option. Other features included an optional molded hardtop, and steel doors. The CJ-7 was also available in Renegade and an upgraded Laredo model. Noticeable by their different body decals, the Laredo model featured nicer seats, steering wheel tilt, and a chrome package that included the bumpers, front grill, and mirrors. An optional Trak-Lok differential was available for the rear. Rear axle ratio typically 3.54, but later went up to 2.73.
The reports of the CJ7 were different in each type of engine: the 2.4-liter diesel was mated to the short 4.10 axle (in both Renegade and Laredo), while the 4.2 and 2.5 straight sixes used 3.73 and AMC V8 304-powered models (produced 1976-1981, which became part of the Golden Eagle version) used 3.55.
From 1976 to 1980 was mounted a Dana 20 transfer case, Dana 30 front axle (27- or 31-spline), and an 29-spline AMC 20 rear axle, while in recent years, Laredo package added tachometer, chrome bumpers, tow/recovery hooks and interior, comfortable leather seats, and clock. In 1980, the Laredo was first fitted with an AMC model 20 rearend until mid year 1986 when it was equipt with a dana 44 and all 1980 and newer cj7s came with the Dana 300 transfer case; parts for the 300 are still in production and the case is sought after by lovers of off-road due to its durability and upgradability.
During its 11 years, the CJ-7 had various equipment packages:
- Renegade 1976-1986 (2.4D L6-2.5-4.2-5.0 AMC 304 V8)
- Golden Eagle 1976-1979 (5.0 AMC 304 V8)
- Laredo 1982-1986 (2.4D-4.2 l6)
- Jamboree Edition (Limited Edition 2500 models which were built for the 30th anniversary 2.5 and 4.2)
A diesel-powered version was made in the Ohio factory for export only. The engines were provided by General Motors, the owners of Isuzu Motor Cars. Production of this diesel version is believed to have been only between 1980 and 1982. This model had the Isuzu C240 engine, T176 transmission, Dana 300 transfer case although there are reports of some being produced with the Dana 20. Typically they had 4.1 ratio, narrow track axles.
The CJ-7 continues to be used in the sport of mud racing, with either the stock body or a fiberglass replica. It is also a favorite for rock crawling.