Comparison Between CJ5 and CJ7 | What’s the difference?

Finding the perfect off-roader can be challenging, especially for enthusiasts who want a no-frills vehicle that doesn’t have any assist. If you’re an off-road purist who wants to buy the best off-roader, then the decision comes down to the CJ5 vs. CJ7.

The CJ5 and CJ7 are both iconic Jeep models that have been around for a long time. They are known for their ability to handle the roughest off-road terrain and have proven to be very reliable Jeeps. However, there are some key differences between the CJ5 and CJ7 that you should know before making your decision.

In this article, we’ll dive into all the differences between the two models to help you decide which one is right for you.

What Are the Main Differences Between the CJ5 and CJ7?

The two main differences between the CJ5 and CJ7 are the size of the body and drivetrain. The CJ7 is longer with an extended wheelhouse to accommodate its automatic transmission, while the CJ5 is wider and only available in 3-speed manual transmission. The shorter CJ5 has very little leg room inside the vehicle, while the longer CJ7 offers more space and can accommodate taller people.

Below I’ll go over more specific details on the body, transmission, and engine of each model.

Comparison of the CJ5 vs. CJ7

In 1983, the CJ met its demise at the hands of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety due to its tendency to flip over in daily driving. However, the CJ5 and CJ7 both have a cult following for enthusiasts who willingly pay exorbitant prices to get their hands on one of these classic Jeeps.

Here are the differences between the CJ5 and CJ7.


The CJ7 is longer than the CJ5 due to its longer wheelbase; however, the CJ5 is wider. Being shorter, the CJ5 also has lesser legroom for the occupants of the car and is notoriously uncomfortable for tall people.

Door cutouts on both vehicles are also different, with a U-shaped one on the CJ7 and an S-shaped one on the CJ5. Arguably, the CJ5 is significantly more challenging to enter or exit due to its smaller doors.

A soft-top option is also available for the CJ7, while the CJ5 is open-to-air.

Technical Specifications

Specs CJ5 CJ7
Drive 4WD 4WD
Engine AMC 304, 258, 232, 255, GM 151 AMC 304, 258, GM 151
Performance 98 bhp @ 3,200 RPM

192 lb. ft @ 3,200 RPM

126 bhp @ 3,600 RPM

218 lb. ft @ 3,600 RPM

Cylinders 6 8
Transmission Manual / Auto Manual / Auto

The CJ5 was initially offered only with a manual gearbox and came with 4 drum brakes. Later models of the CJ5 and every CJ7 came with front disc and rear drum brakes.

head to head comparison of the CJ5 vs CJ7 JeepsHead-to-Head Comparison

While the technical specs might seem underwhelming by modern standards, the CJ5 and CJ7 have a cult following for their off-road capabilities. Which one is the right one for you? Let us take the off-road track: CJ5 vs. CJ7!


With a curb weight of 2,665 pounds, the CJ5 comes with a naturally aspirated V6 with a bhp rating of 98 at 3,200 RPM and packs 192 lb. ft torque at the same engine speed. The 3-speed manual gearbox is mated to a 4WD drivetrain for off-road bliss.


Weighing in at a curb weight of 2,707 pounds and the V8 engine delivers around 28 more bhp than the CJ5. With a sturdier chassis for improved handling, the CJ7 is the more capable vehicle on paper.

Real-World Performance

The CJ7 has a better power to weight ratio as compared to the CJ5; however, this does not necessarily mean that either vehicle is better than the other. For on-road driving, especially on the highway, the CJ5 was labeled as a death trap during its days of production.

Although the fact is that the CJ5 does flip over during even basic maneuvers, owners of the vehicle defend it saying that they drive it carefully. Similarly, many owners spend thousands of dollars on custom modifications to make their CJ5 unique.

In terms of drivability, the CJ7 has more power as compared to the CJ5; however, it is nowhere close to the average 180 bhp rating on modern cars. If you can deal with sluggish acceleration, the CJ7 might actually make for the ideal off-roading vehicle for you.

Going Off-Road

Taking the CJ7 off-road for the first timeOff-road performance is what Jeeps are known for, and the CJ5 and CJ7 are no exception. If you plan to hit tight corners while off-roading in the woods, then the CJ5’s shorter wheelbase comes in handy. However, for anything more challenging, the CJ7 takes the lead.

With greater torque comes quicker power delivery to the wheels, and the more powerful CJ7 engine is the better option in this case, but if you opt for a base model engine configuration, it may be different.

The CJ7 is known for its incredible 4×4 powertrain that holds up even today. The CJ5, however, might topple over during a steep hill climb or rock crawl.

Which One Should You Buy?

The choice between the CJ5 and CJ7 is complicated. While the CJ5 offers a unique design that makes it stand out from the crowd, the CJ7 is more usable in modern life while also providing the raw 4×4 experience that you want.

We strongly recommend buying a CJ7 if you plan to use the car for things other than off-roading because it won’t flip over. While the CJ5 is an equally capable off-roader, it is a lot more uncomfortable due to the lesser legroom and the shorter wheelbase, making for a bumpy ride.

The CJ5 vs. CJ7 debate has and will go on for years to come. While there is no clear winner off the road, the CJ5’s tendency to flip over can lead to injuries and fatalities, so we do not recommend buying it.

Regardless of whichever one you buy, try to get a more recent model since they have better brakes, transmission options and offer more powerful engines.

A History of the CJ Series

Comparison of an old CJ5 vs CJ7The CJ series Jeeps still remain as some of the most iconic vintage off-roaders to exist in the American market. A fun fact about the CJ’s name is that it stands for “Civilian Jeep,” which is a reminder that the ancestors of these vehicles served in World War II.

In 1944, Willys released the first CJ and made 7 iterations of the vehicle till its discontinuation in 1986. The Jeep Wrangler took the CJ’s place in 1987, and to this day, it keeps the CJ’s heritage as a solid off-roader.

Different Models of the CJ Series

There were many models of the CJ that were available to the general public. Offered in a range of engine configurations, the CJ remains memorable for having decades-long production of certain vehicle models. While the off-roading capabilities evolved over the years, the manufacturers did few cosmetic overhauls. The most significant change to the CJ was when it was sold as a truck towards the end of its production. We’ll take a look at the different CJ models to understand their rich heritage.


The CJ1 was built by Willys in 1944 and remains the most mysterious one in the lineup. With barely any documentation for it available, the CJ1 was a modified version of the military MB that had a few extra features, such as a tailgate and a canvas roof.


Despite being marketed as a civilian vehicle, the CJ2 was not available for purchase as they were used solely for testing purposes. The CJ2 was a stripped-down version of the MB and brought cosmetic changes, as well as functional changes under the hood.


In 1945, the first real Civilian Jeep was available for sale based on the CJ2. Not only did the CJ2A look different, but it brought a significantly better transmission and added options such as rear seats, a cabin mirror, upgraded windshield wipers, two taillights, side steps, and some off-road amenities.

While the CJ2A was made primarily for farm use, the color options left a lot to be desired by modern standards.


Launched in 1949, the CJ3A featured improvements such as an air vent, a windshield wiper, and a better suspension to load it up for transporting farming produce.


There was one CJ4 produced in 1951 that changed the design to a more curved one and used a different engine from its predecessors. However, the vehicle was rejected and never mass-produced. While this was a design that did come back later, it was too ahead of its time since cars were fairly boxy.


Kaiser acquired Willys and introduced the CJ3 in 1953, and they sold the design to other auto manufacturers, allowing them to mass-produce their own version of the vehicle.

Mitsubishi Jeep

Mitsubishi took the CJ3’s design and sold it from 1953 to 1998 with different trim levels. The Mitsubishi Jeep was available in diesel and gas configurations and short and long-wheelbase variants to appeal to a broader audience. This variant went out of production after almost 45 years due to its poor emissions rating.


During 1964, the CJ5 hit the market and remained in production for three decades. Across all 3 models of the CJ5, the vehicle earned a reputation of being indestructible. American Motors bought Kaiser in 1970 and equipped the CJ5 with their in-house engines and a new limited-slip differential.


The CJ6 was a capable vehicle released in 1955 and was used by the U.S. Forest Service due to its off-road capability.


The 1976 CJ7 was the last SUV CJ. While it was succeeded by the CJ8, CJ10, and the CJ10A, all its descendants were trucks.

This write-up was our comparison on the CJ5 vs. CJ7. Let us know what you think, and feel free to ask any questions by clicking here.

Mark Anders

I love my Jeep and will share my years of knowledge with you here! Stay with me and read on!

Recent Posts