Armor Up!
4-Wheel & Off-Road|March 2020
Add Quick & Easy Body Protection To A CJ-7
Trenton McGee

SHEETMETAL BUMPS AND bruises are an off-road fact of life. Sooner or later you’re going to drop off a ledge just right, rub up against that rock you didn’t see, or hit that stump you were trying to avoid. Minor scratches and dented sheet metal can be written off as a character. Most of us don’t mind the hard-earned bruises, but we’d just as soon keep them to a minimum and add as much protection as we can to keep the body of our 4x4s reasonably straight.

Bumpers are usually the first things that come to mind when people start talking about body armor, but other parts of your vehicle are just as vulnerable to damage. The rear corners of vehicles seem to attract damaging obstacles with regularity, particularly the passenger rear corner. But it’s the rocker panels that are really the most susceptible, and the longer the wheelbase, the more likely that damage will happen. Extra protection in these crucial areas can mean the difference between a 4x4 that looks good for a long time and one that shows the scars of use and abuse.

Shortly after we acquired our new-tousCJ-7 we were shoving it into places it really had no business being. We knew it wasn’t going to be long before the nice straight sheet metal wasn’t so straight anymore. A few months after we purchased the Jeep we spent a weekend adding armor to the body in an effort to keep the rocks at bay. The rear corners and rockers required drilling a few holes in the body, but it was a small price to pay knowing we could attack more obstacles without fear of bending painted surfaces. Installation required some attention to detail, but it’s really not that difficult to add some easy body armor upgrades.

1 We call this 1984 Jeep CJ-7 our “weenie wheeler,” as we’ve purposely avoided making any major modifications to it or installing anything larger than 33-inch tires. We’ve used this Jeep for everything from long-distance overland trips to prerunning Ultimate Adventures to serving as a dinghy for our motorhome. The rear corners and rock sliders have saved the sheet metal more times than we can count, especially once we ruined our weenie wheeler by adding lockers front and rear.

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