The Jeep CJ-7, introduced in 1976, sported a longer wheelbase, full-time four-wheel-drive and optional automatic transmission, steel doors and a molded plastic top, all of which were departures from the CJ-5 model. While the CJ-5 wheelbase measured 83.5 inches, the CJ-7's measured 93.5 inches.
When AMC unveiled the CJ-7, it noted that the model signified the first major redesign of a Jeep in two decades. The new Jeep's longer wheelbase accommodated the automatic transmission. The CJ-7 was equipped with Quadra-Trac, the first ever automatic, full-time four-wheel-drive system, which was also available in full-size Jeep pickups and wagons.
In 1980, the CJ-7 became available with one of two new manual four-speed transmissions, both of which were designed with a greater focus on street use, versus off-road use. The same year, the model became available with two new automatic transmissions also made with city, suburban and highway driving in mind.
Not only was the CJ-7 longer than the CJ-5, it was slightly wider, providing improved stability as well as more cargo and leg room. In 1982, the model received axle upgrades, which allowed for improved cornering and general handling.
Demand for the CJ-7 significantly outpaced that for the CJ-5, prompting AMC to discontinue the latter after a three-decade run. The Jeep CJ series launched in 1945 with production of the CJ-2A, the first "civilian Jeep," marketed as a work truck for construction workers and farmers. Prior to that occurrence, Jeeps were primarily military vehicles.