CHECK OUT THIS SMOKIN’ CJ-7 FROM OREGON
Three things are most important to David Diens. They are family, sand, and Jeep CJs;
in that order. We met him in the Oregon Dunes and learned about all of them. Twenty years ago his then-girlfriend, and now-wife, Alicia, knew he loved ripping up the sand in a CJ-5 running a 327 SBC. But he’d sold his beloved Jeep to help buy his first house a couple years earlier. So when the Oregon couple saw an ad for a stock ’86 CJ-7 in an Autotrader during a road trip in 1998, she pushed him to buy it.
“That was the last year of the CJs,” says David. “After years of driving different crappy $500 cars and saving money, the Jeep bug was coming back. I was on the hunt for a 1986 Jeep CJ-7 with a fourbanger, rare Dana 44 rearend, and Dana 300 transfer case to do another SBC conversion. Alicia knew our budget was tight, but she was all in.”
At the time David worked at a local body shop in Springfield, Oregon, and with help from friends working nights and weekends, they had the Jeep back on the road, complete with a 383ci Chevy stroker and 700R4 tucked neatly into a totally reworked and painted body by Steve Hines at Collison Too in Eugene.
David Diens’ 25-year romance with Jeep CJs created a 525hp LS3-powered ’86 CJ-7 built to conquer the dunes
They named the color “Badass Yellow.” The revamped, bright yellow CJ-7 became a regular sight on the dunes.
Ten years later the economy tanked at the same time the Diens had a 6-monthold daughter. Once again, family security and money in the bank overruled family fun on the sand. David sold his beloved Jeep to a friend of a friend—with the caveat he had first-right to buy it back if the new owner ever sold it.
Fast-forward to 2007. Diens is now the owner of a thriving car wash business, The 525hp Pace Performance LS3 looks like it came from the factory. Dunks Performance in Springfield, Oregon, handled the final wiring, plumbing, and programming of the 4L60E and engine. A Wilwood hydroboosted disc brake system handles the stops; Optima delivers the juice.
A stock Jeep cage with front hoops provides protection, and Sand Tires Unlimited rolling stock provides the traction. Diens runs a full soft top and 33-inch Toyo M/Ts on the street. It’s hard to miss this ’86 CJ-7, whether it’s climbing the dunes or cruising the streets around Springfield, Oregon. David Diens’ classic is as clean as they come, all the while hiding the Chevy under the hood. Custom hood louvers help keep the LS3 engine bay cool and add a nice custom touch to the otherwise stock body appearance. Paint is “Badass Yellow” DuPont, according to Diens.
the family is growing, and they are cruising the dunes in a Rubicon LJ along with their other Jeep-loving friends when one of them gets a text that David’s old CJ-7 is up for sale. He didn’t hesitate buying it back, even though the engine and transmission were on their last legs.
Three months later David and friend Richard Travis had transplanted a Pace Performance 525hp LS3 into the old classic, along with a 4L60E and Dana 300 built by Transmission Solutions, another local shop. They also discarded the Dana 30 and Dana 44 axles for a Crawl King Dana 60 in back and a Dana 44 up front, upgraded the springs with Alcan 4-inchers, and had a custom exhaust built by Jeremy’s Muffler.
Then the Badass Yellow Jeep was driven across town to Dunks Performance shop where techs Eric Dunks and Casey Castle put the finishing touches on the wiring, plumbing, cooling, and custom air intake; set up the custom tuning for the engine and transmission; and installed the Fox 2.0 shocks.
The result of nearly a year’s worth of loving care and custom workmanship on this classic CJ-7 has resulted in one fine dune runner. “We are super happy to have this Jeep back in our family,” said David when we caught up with him at one of his favorite places, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area just south of Florence, Oregon. “My wife and I truly look forward to passing it down to our kids when the time comes.” The only question we have is: “Can we be adopted?” After all, this is the last of the CJs!
A Winters Sidewinder shifter is a perfect match for the built 4L60E behind the powerful LS3. The transmission is mated to the CJ’s Dana 300 transfer case thanks to a Novak adapter. Diens used Bedrug for carpet, which works really well in the sand.
One reason Diens likes plenty of power under his right foot is he enjoys competing with the side by sides that roam the big dune complex. Most of the time his yellow CJ-7 is king of the hill.
PRP Enduro buckets up front are a nice touch. Diens’ future plans are adding fourpoint harnesses and bucket seats in the back to keep everyone in the family secure, and going to a more robust full cage to replace the stock hoop and front supports.
Alcan custom 4-inch leafs at all four corners give this CJ-7 just the right amount of clearance to run paddle tires on the sand and 33-inch Toyo M/Ts on the street. Shocks are single Fox 2.0s all around. Planting 525 hp to the paddle tires takes some...
The Grant steering wheel is a nice complement to the classic CJ-7 dash. Diens had Dunks replace the stock gauge with a sweet Dakota Digital gauge cluster that keeps tabs on all the powertrain vitals and brings the dash into the modern era. The stereo...
Diens had Dunks Performance build the Dana 44 up front with a Truetrac and 4.11s. They also installed the Fox steering stabilizer, PSC steering box, and hydraulic steering system. Desert Track 14.50x15s up front provide excellent traction and turning...