A parking lot is a parking lot—unless it’s the Summit Racing parking lot. On any given day or time, the lot outside a Summit Racing store can turn into an impromptu mini car show, depending on who’s stopped by the store. On Wednesday, we often share a notable parking lot find—another benefit of being Powered by Summit Racing Equipment.
Produced from 1954-83, the Jeep CJ-5 has the distinction of being the longest-running single Jeep model in the company’s history. (That stretch is even longer if you include its military counterpart, the M38A1, introduced in 1952.)
Fun Fact: CJ = Civilian Jeep
In many ways, the CJ-5 set the bar for what a Jeep should look like.
Its predecessors, the CJ-2A and CJ-3A/B, were significantly restyled between generations. Those stylistic updates primarily ended with the CJ-5—its dash panel, rounded fenders, headlights, windshield, and grille would carry over to the CJ-6, CJ-7, and CJ-8.
In fact, the CJ-5’s round headlights and seven-slot grille eventually became the face of the Jeep brand.
Going deeper, the words Renegade, Laredo, and Golden Eagle are now inexorably linked to Jeep thanks to their introduction as trim levels on the CJ-5.
That’s why we were so pleased to see a brown-on-brown CJ-5 amble into the parking lot at Summit Racing’s retail store in Tallmadge, OH on a cold, rainy day. Though it’s now wearing a fiberglass tub, the rest of the Jeep is original, right down to its AMC 304 V8. A set of large tires and slight lift give the Jeep a tough-looking stance.
The front fenders and slightly more aggressive windshield rake tell us that this is a 1976-83 edition. American Motors (AMC) had purchased Jeep from Kaiser-Willys in 1970 and made some key improvements to the CJ series throughout the decade. The front fenders were stretched to accommodate AMC’s inline-6 engines and, in 1976, the windshield pitch was revised to improve aerodynamics in the name of fuel economy. The Jeep’s owner confirmed our hypothesis, telling us this was indeed a 1977 model.
Another Fun Fact: The legendary Jeep 4.0L is a derivative of the AMC inline-six engine first produced in 1964.
The Jeep CJ-5’s sales numbers began to decline with the introduction of the CJ-7 in 1976. The CJ-7 had a longer wheelbase, which increased storage space, expanded the door openings, and improved highway road manners.
By the early 1980s, Jeep engineers were drafting a successor for the legendary CJ series.
The square-headlight CJ replacement would be called “Wrangler,” and a new era of Jeep off-roading would begin.
In 1983, the last CJ-5 drove off the Toledo, OH assembly line and down a dusty trail into history.
Behold, the 1977 Jeep CJ-5:
(All Images/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)