Every year, Jeep enthusiasts eagerly await word from the company headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., of what crazy new concept vehicles the design team at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has cooked up for the annual gathering of the faithful in Moab, Utah. Spring means a new Easter Jeep Safari, and every year we think it just won't be possible to top last year's crop of fun and functional toys. Every year, we're proven wrong.
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The Jeep design team might just be having the most fun of any group of designers at an automaker today. The latest evidence is in the seven special Jeeps the design team will be showcasing later this week on the trails and mesas of wild Utah. Have a look at what the Jeep team has dreamed up this year — and try not to drool too much onto your phone or keyboard.
We've seen two previous concepts show off the idea of a super-light Wrangler — the Pork Chop from 2011 and the Stitch from 2013. Here's the latest idea in taking the Wrangler from piggy off-roader to lightweight speed machine. Outside, it features extensive use of carbon fiber, including the hood, fender flares and rear tub. Perforated aluminum panels are fitted out back and replace the floorboards, as well. Because of the combined weight savings, 4Speed's ride height is 2 inches higher than a stock Wrangler.
The whole thing has been shortened by 22 inches, but the wheelbase is the same, resulting in increased approach and departure angles. Dana 44 heavy-duty axles are present front and rear with a 4.10 final drive ratio and 18-inch wheels wrapped in 35-inch tires. The doors are cut down, the windshield is more steeply raked and a custom roll cage has been installed. The interior gets a redo, as well, with more streamlining, re-trimmed seats and a customized instrument panel, while the rear seats have been removed — and a welding curtain has been repurposed as a bikini top.
The concept is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Most Jeeps are built for rock crawling, says Jeep design boss Mark Allen, but the Sandstorm has a different focus. Like the Ford F-150 Raptor, this one is made for high-speed desert running. It features a heavily modified chassis that sees two massive Dynatrac 60 axles front and rear, a 5.68 final drive, 17-inch beadlock wheels and 39.5-inch tires. The front wheels have been moved 4 inches on a custom heavy-duty, long-arm four-link suspension and track bar, while the rear moves 2 inches backward on a triangulated, trailing-arm four-link suspension. Custom coil-overs and bypass shocks generate 14 inches of front-wheel articulation, and 18 inches in the rear.
Under the hood is a Mopar 6.4-liter V-8 crate engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The interior dials and multimedia system are replaced by a custom instrument cluster and dedicated off-road GPS unit. Carbon-fiber bits, auxiliary lights, and a race-style fuel filler and on-board air compressor round out the rest.
If the Sandstorm is a bit too manic for you, maybe the B-Ute is more your speed. Showcasing the capabilities of the Renegade Trailhawk, the Jeep team raided the Jeep Performance Parts catalog for items like a 1.5-inch lift kit, roof rack and rock rails. Powered by the Renegade's 2.4-liter Tigershark engine, the B-Ute also features 17-inch wheels on BFGoodrich T/A Baja Champion tires. Unique front and rear bumpers, headlights, wider fender flares and a custom hood round out the exterior, while inside there are custom seats with a new Carbonite finish on the interior trim.
Jeep Wagoneer Roadtrip
For classic Jeep enthusiasts, this is the star of the show. The Jeep team found a 1965 Wagoneer on Craigslist with a trashed interior (but rust-free body) and went to work. First, they boxed the steel frame and then lengthened the wheelbase by 5 inches, reshaping the wheel wells, bumpers and body to match. A newer front bumper, headlights and grille were added, while bottle-green glass went in all the windows.
Underneath, the original drivetrain was ditched in favor of a new 5.7-liter V-8 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The axles are now locking Dana 44s, the suspension is now four-link with coil-over springs, and custom 17-inch wheels with BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires are the rolling stock.
Inside, all of the upholstery was ditched in favor of beautiful oxblood red leather for the front and rear bench seats, door panels, kick and rear panels. The headliner is a wicker fabric, while a custom cooler fashioned from vintage luggage and a toolbox crafted from the valve cover of the original engine sit in the cargo area.
This is what you get when you tick every box on the Jeep Performance Parts catalog before you leave the dealer in your new JL Wrangler. The majority of the parts seen on this cheddar-colored Wrangler can be had from Mopar, with the exception of the prototype auxiliary spotlights and windshield-mounted light bar. The list of what you can buy is long:
- JPP hood and graphics
- JPP cold-air intake for the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
- Satin-black Mopar grille
- Steel Rubicon bumper with Warn winch
- JPP light brackets
- Mopar 2.5-inch lift kit with 2.5-inch shocks
- JPP 17-inch beadlock wheels with 37-inch tires
- JPP rock rails
- JPP tube doors
- JPP fuel-door cover
- JPP tailgate hinge reinforcement
- Katzkin leather seats
Like the Nacho Jeep, the J-Wagon is a showcase of JPP Mopar parts, but in this case is meant to create a custom urban-styled vehicle instead of a crazy rock crawler. It started life as a four-door Sahara, painted in custom Warm Neutral Grey with Brass Monkey accents.
It features a JPP hood with custom cutout that accommodates a snorkel, good for fording deep water. New LED lights on JPP brackets are installed, as is the black grille from a Wrangler Rubicon. Wheels are 17-inch slot-design wheels with 35-inch BFGoodrich MK3 tires. Inside, Katzkin provided camel-tan leather seats with brown piping for a more upscale look.
Like the Nacho and J-Wagon, this model uses a lot of JPP parts, but it includes a few custom touches to create a retro-styled model similar to the old 1966 Jeepster. The most obvious touch is a new windshield with a steeper rake and a chopped custom hardtop fastback-style roof. The red-and-white two-tone with custom fenders also lends a throwback look. JPP parts abound, including a hood, LED off-road lights and steel bumpers. A 2-inch lift kit with 2.5-inch shocks raises everything over the 17-inch beadlock wheels running 37-inch BFGoodrich KO2 tires.
Inside, a custom roll cage eliminates the overhead sport bar, and the rear seats are removed in favor of an in-cabin spare-tire carrier. Black Katzkin leather seats with red Jeep logos and stitching are included, while custom cargo carriers are fitted where the spare tire used to hang on the swing gate.
None of these Jeeps is destined for production; they're simply styling exercises that Jeep uses to excite enthusiasts and for showcasing parts available through the JPP catalog. Look for more pictures and information on these models next week as PickupTrucks.com visits the Easter Jeep Safari.
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