A recent Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk event also set the stage for a concept demo in Jeep’s natural habitat.
FCA designers and fabricators unleashing their creativity and dipping into the Mopar and Jeep Performance Parts inventory customized these variations on the Jeep theme.
Seven concepts were unveiled earlier in the spring for the horde of Jeep off-road enthusiasts who flock to Moab, Utah every year for the Easter Jeep Safari.
Five of those eye-catching concepts were held over in Moab for journalists to see, feel and, yes, even drive.
1. Jeep Chief
Dude, this ultimate ride for any surfer is my pick of the bunch.
The Wrangler-based Chief Jeep concept gob-smacked me with its exterior tribute to the classic 70’s era, full-size Cherokee, bedazzling in Ocean Blue and white-striped to complement a white, French bread roof.
The Chief accents its retro style with a custom razor grille and chrome bumpers. A tongue-in-cheek “Surf Rated” badge marks the fender instead of the usual Trail Rated badging. The doors and windshield have been chopped two inches and custom parts include a two-inch lift kit with Fox shocks, along with front and rear Dana axles with lockers.
Under the skin, this wagon is pure Wrangler with a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
Inside, the design gets whimsically Hawaiian with “surfer” blue, white and pink flowered cloth seats edge-trimmed in white leather. A vintage surf sticker motif covers the centre stack and door handles and wood boat decking lines the cargo floor and headliner.
Finishing touches include a tiki god stick shift knob and a classic, kitschy hula dancer doll atop the dashboard. The only thing missing was a surfboard to stick out the back window, but I hear they are hard to find in Utah.
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2. Jeep Staff Car
No, they didn’t actually have these in World War II but every general would have wanted one.
And the Jeep Staff Car certainly passes muster as a salute to the legendary military vehicles of the past. Recruiting the foundation of an Unlimited four-door, the Jeep Staff Car has no “B” pillars or doors, for a pure Jeep, open-to-the-elements driving experience. Like real military vehicles every inch of the Staff Car is painted the same Sandstorm colour.
Styling cues include a “Hungry Horse” canvas roof, retro round headlamps, J8 bumpers, a rear-mounted spare, fender-mounted blackout lamps, a vintage gas can, a WWII-era whip antenna, plain-Jane bench seats and an uncarpeted painted steel floor.
That artillery box in back is actually a cooler that will hold 85 beer cans, plenty of ammunition for you and your friends. The hand grenade shifter knob atop the six-speed manual stick adds a piquant touch.
3. Jeep Grand Cherokee Overlander
Grand Cherokees tend to spend more time in paved mall parking lots rather than on bush-bashing off-road trails but the Overlander Jeep concept pushes the Grand Cherokee’s already considerable credentials.
And it goes further with front and rear skid plates, oversized wheel flares to accommodate 18-inch milled wheels with BF Goodrich All-terrain T/A tires, an SRT-styled matte black hood, SRT taillamps, off-road rock rails, tow hooks, yellow front lamp covers and an integrated front-winch mounted on the one-off front fascia.
A 3.0-litre diesel V6 provides plenty of low range rock-crunching oomph, mated to the modern eight-speed TorqueFlight automatic transmission.
To top it all off, Jeep takes the coating usually sprayed on pickup beds and applies it to the Overlander roof, serving as the base for a two-person hard-shell rooftop tent to keep you high and dry.
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4. Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk
Based on the Jeep Renegade, the Desert Hawk mixes Mopar and Jeep Performance parts for a desert adventure theme.
A 2.4-litre Tigershark four-cylinder is mated to a nine-speed automatic tranny with Jeep’s Active Drive Low. Off-road rock rails and a skid-plate kit boost the machismo factor along with a Mopar roof rack and trailer hitch receiver.
Inside, the Desert Hawk has been outfitted with Katzkin seat covers, all weather floor mats and body-colour bezel accents to reflect the Desert Tan exterior. A Jeep Performance Parts decal marks the rear haunches and a topographical hood decal shows a map view of the Fins and Things Moab Trail. The Mopar guys told me that the hood decal can be personalized to any map view the customer requests.
And don’t be too quick to pooh-pooh this new Fiat-based addition to the Jeep lineup. I’ve tested Trail Rated Renegades and they have earned their badging.
5. Jeep Wrangler Red Rock Responder
The Red Rock Responder does the very thing that a small minority of Jeep owners constantly clamours for – it converts a Jeep into a pickup truck.
In this case, the design theme was a mechanic’s support vehicle for the harshest terrains. Off-road enhancements include a four-inch lift kit, Fox shocks and front and rear Dana 60 axles with 5.38 gearing. This Jeep concept also mounts high-top fenders, prototype off-road rock rails, Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition steel front and rear bumpers and 37-inch BF Goodrich Mud Terrain T/A KM2 tires on 17-inch bead- lock wheels.
Side cargo boxes and an under floor tray hold the mechanic’s tools as well as a hi-lift jack, dual compressor and air hose, fire extinguisher and other accessories.
Like most of the concepts listed above, a future Jeep pickup seems unlikely but, for now, diehards can investigate the JK8 Mopar kit that converts an Unlimited Jeep into a pickup.
And with 3D printing and other parts manufacturing innovations, maybe future limited productions based on concepts will become a more distinct possibility.
We can only hope.
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