I am doing the same swap on my 76' CJ7. I have done the research and you need a 80's rear, I believe a lot of the 70's were pass side drop, which is great, bu you need a D18 T-case or Q-trac(which suck ass).
if you have a narrow track 79 d44 a toyota 8" from any 4runner or pickup from 86-95 will work and they are just as strong or stronger. Will also have better stock gear choices available so you dont have to re-gear. Just get a V6 dif and your all set. Mine has held up for 3 years with a v8 and 38" TSL and 72:1 low.
It is not so much a year break as it is how the Waggy was optioned- and what they had on the shelf. I believe all Q-trac Wags are offset, and part time Wags are centered d44 or 20. They went back and forth, so looking for a certain year won't mean much.
And they never made a wide track Wagoneer. Only Cherokees (and all J trucks)
Widetrace Waggys started in the early 80's. All the 70's waggys had offset rear, only wide tracs had a centered rear diff which also had a Driver drop front. Those are great for a wrangler. For your CJ7, I would say to probably go and get a late 70's front D44, (early waggys had a closed nuckle D30, shitty) and then a 80's rear end.
And to even outthe front with the back you'll need 2" spacers due to the wide trac waggys (the rear you need) were 65" wide. The front will be 61" wide.
the cherokee cheifs came wide track which is 65 wms to wms, other waggys were 61 ish. i also never heard of running a spacer from factory if thats what you mean? i know that you can to make things work but its like a last option i think. Another good option for a axle thats about the same width for the rear is a scout D44, axles are center rear and passenger side drop front. i did this swap in my cj5 and worked good but the front scout axle is a lot of work not simple swap. any scout II early 70's cant remember if it was 70 or not, to 80 will have the d44 rear for sure. And maybe i missed it but what 80's rear are you talking about? if its a d44 then its a 10 bolt. good luck
You need to look at the axle and confirm it, because, well, AMC sucks with the continuity thing. Last couple of years they ran out of 20's and started throwing 44's in the back. But I think they found a couple of pallets of 20's here and there along the way. There is no firm serial number or year break on the axles. You need to confirm the axle is a 44 and not a 20.
It is a near perfect match for your 79 front. I know because I have the same setup. A couple pics of the axles are here
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