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The 1981

Jan 28, 2024

For starters, we need to point out that in 1982, Jeep increased the CJ-7 and CJ-8 axle width by 4.3 inches in the front and 5.1 inches in the rear. Dubbed "Wide Track," the wider axles increased stability (a minority of Scramblers come with the old "narrow track" axles). In either case, from 1981 through the end of production in 1986, the front axle would be Jeep's open-knuckle Dana 30 with disc brakes. The four-cylinder models were equipped with either 3.54 or 4.09 axle ratios, while the 4.2-liter six gearing options were 2.73, 3.54, or 3.73. For the rear axle, the 1981 to mid-year 1986 vehicles were equipped with a somewhat weak AMC Model 20.

Despite a decently sized ring and pinion, the Model 20 suffered from relatively weak axle tubes that could bend with severe use. A keyed, two-piece axleshaft design in which a single nut held the flange tight to the tapered, keyed shaft didn't help matters, either. If the nut backed off, the key would shear and the flange could spin on the shaft. Shortly before the end of production, Jeep began installing the excellent Dana 44 rear axles in its CJ lineup. With 30-spline flanged axles and thicker tubes, it was a much-needed upgrade, although with only 128 Scramblers built in 1986, finding a factory Dana 44-equipped model is like hitting the lottery.