Check Out this Awesome Jeep CJ-7 V8 Conversion With a GM Gen V L83 Engine and Holley EFI

Author: Bryan McTaggart | 03/02/2021 < Back to Motor Life Home

While there is no definitive proof that it is the ultimate end-all, be-all vehicle to modify routinely, there is little doubt that the original Jeep CJ is one of the most modifiable vehicles ever produced. By the time CJ production wrapped up in 1986, over one and a half million examples had been produced by four different companies (Willys-Overland, Willys Motors, Kaiser-Jeep, and American Motors) and had been manufactured, licensed or sold the world over. The open-utility shape that had been the staple of World War II battle fields molded into civilian live well. By the end of the production run, the top-tier Jeep was the CJ-7 that had debuted in 1976. Wearing a wheelbase ten inches longer than the CJ-5, a squared-up door cutout and no less than three different methods for putting the power down to all four wheels, including the Quadra-Trac all-wheel-drive system, the CJ-7 was an icon from the moment they started rolling off of the assembly line. There is no mistaking that shape from near or far. They are the darlings of off-roaders of all types and those who simply love a good rig with character. The sky is the literal limit when it comes to building one...there's enough suspension, engine, powertrain and style choices out there that you can pretty much put together a brand-new example without any part that came directly from the factory!

Wittkopf Jeep engine bay

The Jeep's engine bay is all business, with the L83 5.3L Gen V occupying the real estate between the fenders. The engine is kept cool via a Frostbite radiator and fan package.

Mike Wittkopf is a research and development engineer at Holley who specializes in electronic fuel injection, and at first blush his 1976 Jeep CJ-7 Renegade might not come across as too wild. If you've gotten used to super-flexible rock crawlers or mud machines that can till 300 feet of saturated earth faster than a tractor, then you aren't likely to be that impressed. For those who are just casually passing by, it looks like a lovingly restored Jeep sitting on period-correct Western Cyclone turbine mag wheels, with a V8 rumble coming out of the exhaust. That's not out of the ordinary for a CJ-7...the AMC 304ci V8 was an option. But the rumble coming from Wittkopf's CJ-7 is a far, far cry from the 304's all bark, no bite attitude. Replacing the American Motors mill and its 125 furious horsepower is an RPO L83 V8, a 5.3L direct-injected GM LT engine that was raided from a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. Bringing at least 355 horsepower to the table, the L83's heartbeat gives the Renegade the power to keep up with traffic nicely. The Gen V LT engine is managed via a Terminator X ECU that is able to manage the direct-injection system, and Mike monitors everything via both a Racepak UDX dash and the Terminator X's touchscreen interface.

Wittkopf Jeep interior

Inside, the Jeep is about as luxurious as a Jeep CJ gets. A Racepak UDX dash and the Terminator X's touchscreen keep Mike informed on what the vitals look like.

We love the approach that Mike took with this Jeep. It looks solid and basic, like the Jeep you expected it to be, yet it's been brought up to the performance standards of modern times. Just please, never get rid of those wheels. They are perfect!

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