Best Jeeps EVER

75 years of Jeep cel­e­brated with an im­pres­sive line of her­itage-in­spired con­cepts

4WDrive - - Feature - WORDS BY BUDD STAN­LEY, PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF JEEP

There are sev­eral rea­sons why we love Jeep, but the most im­por­tant of these is that they ac­tu­ally care about the off-road life­style.While the mas­sive cor­po­ra­tions, that build the cars we are pas­sion­ate about, only look to what they can sell us next, Jeep re­wards its en­thu­si­asts on an an­nual ba­sis, let­ting its de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers off the leash to be­come Santa’s elves for a few short weeks. Their con­cepts are un­veiled to the largest col­lec­tion of Jeep fans on the planet at the Easter Jeep Sa­fari (EJS), an event that sees the small town of Moab, Utah, in­un­dated with thou­sands of off-road en­thu­si­asts. Aside from the mar­ket­ing data it helps them col­lect, the con­cept ve­hi­cles show that Jeep is pas­sion­ate about their prod­ucts, that they take the off-road life­style se­ri­ously and backup mar­ket­ing hype with ac­tions. This year in par­tic­u­lar is es­pe­cially ex­tra­or­di­nary as it is the 50th an­nual EJS, which just so hap­pens to co­in­cide with the 75th an­niver­sary of the Jeep brand. As such, Jeep, Mopar and Jeep Per­for­mance Parts have paid spe­cial at­ten­tion this year to the group of seven spe­cially mod­i­fied Jeeps. We present to you the Easter Jeep Sa­fari Jeep con­cept ve­hi­cles class of 2016.

JEEP SHORT­CUT A care­fully crafted take on the beloved Jeep CJ-5, Jeep has taken a mod­ern Wran­gler and hacked a whop­ping 26-inches out of the body to pro­duce a dis­tinctly 1950’s-era look. The rear tub, from the wind­shield back, has an un­mis­tak­able CJ-5 shape with cus­tom fender flares, a unique grille, hood, tail­gate, 17-in red steel wheels and cus­tom chrome front and rear bumpers.

In­side, the sim­ple yet func­tional in­te­rior fea­tures low-back leather bucket seats with plaid in­serts, a red ball shifter han­dle, four-point safety cage and Mopar all-weather mats.

Don’t let the his­toric looks fool you; this Wran­gler is still pow­ered by a 3.6L Pen­tas­tar V-6 that has been cou­pled with a mod­i­fied ex­haust. Un­der­neath, Jeep Per­for­mance Parts in­clude a front and rear Dana 44 axle and a 2-in lift with Fox shocks. With the aid of 35-in BFGoodrich Mud-Ter­rain T/A KM2 tires, we love how the Jeep Short­cut main­tains the look of an icon and adds light­ness and ma­neu­ver­abil­ity to the large JK. JEEP FC 150 There is just some­thing about a For­ward Con­trol (FC) that tugs at our heart­strings. We’ve seen Jeep build a mod­ern JK into a FC once be­fore, and as awe­some as that con­cept was; Jeep hit this one out of the park with a resto-rod take on a proper FC. Well, okay, more resto than rod.

Jeep started with an ac­tual steel FC body and kept it in the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter­ful patina. This body has ob­vi­ously lived a full life on a farm some­where. They then placed that body on the chas­sis of a 2005 Jeep Wran­gler JK.

The mod­ern chas­sis has been re­vamped to fit the old body and gives the FC a health up­grade in struc­tural rigid­ity and power. A 4.0-liter Pow­erTech I-6 that is mated to a 3-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion de­liv­ers power to a Dana 44 front axle, Dana 60 rear axle and 17-inch white steel wheels wrapped in 33-in BFGoodrich MudTer­rain T/A KM2 tires.

In­side, the FC 150 fea­tures vinyl seat cov­ers, a cus­tom head­liner wrapped in a vin­tage duck hunt­ing pat­tern, CB ra­dio, ana­log com­pass and Mopar all-weather mats.

JEEP COMANCHE

Last year we were pretty dis­ap­pointed with Jeep’s off-road vi­sions of their new Renegade. A slight lift, tires and a roof bas­ket were all we re­ally got. Not this year!

The Jeep Comanche con­cept ve­hi­cle takes the Cute Ute to all new lev­els. A nod to Jeep pickup trucks of years past, the Comanche con­cept takes styling cues

from mil­i­tary and civil­ian Jeep her­itage. The wheel­base has been stretched an ad­di­tional six inches ver­sus a pro­duc­tion Renegade to ac­com­mo­date Comanche’s cus­tom built 5-foot bed. Sport­ing “Beige Against the Ma­chine” ex­te­rior paint ac­cented with a Satin Black hood, the

Comanche also fea­tures a lower front fas­cia com­plete with winch, steel rear bumper, a soft-top and spare tire in the bed.

In­side, the Comanche fea­tures cus­tom seat cov­ers, pedal cov­ers, door­sill guards and Mopar all-weather mats. Jeep Per­for­mance Parts, like off-road rock rails, a 2-in lift kit, 16-in painted wheels and 32-in BFGoodrich All Ter­rain T/A tires in­crease the Comanche’s off-road cred­i­bil­ity. This is fur­ther backed up by Jeep’s Ac­tive Drive Lock driv­e­train, which in­cludes low range and a lock­ing rear dif­fer­en­tial. How­ever, Jeep are teas­ing us with the 2.0L diesel I-4 en­gine only avail­able in Euro-spec Rene­gades, pos­si­bly test­ing the wa­ters on this side of the At­lantic for a fu­ture model.

JEEP TRAILSTORM

The Trailstorm con­cept de­vi­ates from the “her­itage” theme, re­mind­ing JK own­ers what a cou­ple of sim­ple mod­i­fi­ca­tions can do to their ve­hi­cles. The whole ve­hi­cle is an ex­er­cise of what a JK can be turned into with only the use of the Jeep Per­for­mance Parts cat­a­log in hand.

This means that the Trailstorm’s of­froad ca­pa­bil­i­ties are en­hanced with 17-in con­cept off-road wheels wrapped in 37-in BFGoodrich Mud-Ter­rain T/A tires, a 2-in lift kit with Fox shocks, a Ru­bi­con winch,

and Dana 44 front and rear axles. Half doors of­fer a clear view of ob­sta­cles ahead and a bed­lined in­te­rior makes clean­ing up af­ter a day on the trails easy.

Mopar ex­te­rior en­hance­ments in­clude a winch guard, Satin Black grille, LED head­lights and fog lights, high top fend­ers, pow­er­dome vented hood, Mopar of­froad rock rails with a step, Big Brake Kit, a con­cept fast-back soft top, tail light guards and a Mopar fuel filler door. Fin­ish­ing the Trailstorm’s ex­te­rior up­grades are steel front and rear Ru­bi­con bumper and tire car­rier.

JEEP TRAIL­CAT

We know that there are a fair num­ber of you in search of the ul­ti­mate power up­grade for a Wran­gler. What red-blooded Jeep fan hasn’t thought what a Hell­cat crate mo­tor could do in the en­gine bay of a JK? Well Jeep were think­ing this too, so they went ahead and did it.

Uti­liz­ing the su­per­charged 6.2L HEMI Hell­cat V-8 en­gine, and mated to a 6-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion with a cus­tom shifter ball fea­tur­ing an em­bossed Hell­cat logo, the Trail­cat con­cept sports the oblig­a­tory 707 hp that comes with such a manic idea. Jeep de­sign­ers stretched the wheel­base an ad­di­tional 12 inches while chop­ping the wind­shield two inches for a sleeker look. Mopar ex­te­rior en­hance­ments in­clude a power-dome vented hood, Satin Black grille, LED head­lamps and fog lamps and rock rails.

The Trail­cat’s ter­rain ter­ror­iz­ing abil­i­ties are fur­ther aided by steel front and rear bumpers, 17-in bead­lock wheels and 39.5-in BFGoodrich Krawler T/A KX tires, front and rear Dana 60 axles and Fox shocks.

Sub­tle de­sign cues, such as a Hell­cat de­cal on the front quar­ter pan­els and a “Trail­cat” de­cal on the side of the hood, hint at the horse­power that lurks be­neath, mak­ing this much more than a typ­i­cal pro­duc­tion Wran­gler. The Trail­cat’s in­te­rior is sim­ple yet func­tional and fea­tures sport bucket seats from the Dodge Viper, made from car­bon fiber and fea­tur­ing Katzkin leather seat cov­ers with ac­cent stitch­ing.

Can any­one say, “Ul­tra4 racer for the street!”

JEEP CREW CHIEF 715

Fi­nally, we come to the grand daddy of them all, the Jeep Crew Chief 715. One of the all time favourite con­cept ve­hi­cles to be un­veiled by Mopar was the Nuk­izer M-715 show­cased at the 2010 EJS. We had the ex­traor­di­nar­ily good for­tune to be at that launch and drive the Nuk­izer in the sand dunes south of Moab. It lived up to all the hype, but by judg­ing the new Crew Chief on looks alone, we’re fairly cer­tain that the crown of “Best Moab Mopar Con­cept” has now been passed on to the 2016 edi­tion.

Based on a Wran­gler Un­lim­ited, the Crew Chief re­ceives a healthy dose of cus­tom body­work to show­case a burly de­sign with her­itage styling cues. The Crew Chief 715 uti­lizes mod­ern-day con­struc­tion with a rear seat and ex­tra doors for ad­di­tional pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity and fea­tures a mil­i­tary themed 5-ft cargo bed.

The im­pres­sive body­work is backed up with steel front and rear bumpers, 20-in bead­lock wheels, and the 40-in NDT mil­i­tary tires pay homage to the orig­i­nal Jeep mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles. The Crew Chief 715 uti­lizes an on-board air sys­tem with a hard-mounted quick­dis­con­nect fit­ting for air­ing up or lend­ing as­sis­tance to other ve­hi­cles on the trail.

Ex­te­rior fea­tures, such as Jeep Per­for­mance Parts off-road rock rails, winches mounted into the front and rear bumpers, Dana 60 front and rear axles and a 4-in lift kit with Fox 2.0 Re­mote Reser­voir shocks, give the Crew Chief 715 the abil­ity to flex on the rocks.

In­side, the no-non­sense in­te­rior fea­tures leather bucket seats with can­vas in­serts, air­craft-in­spired con­trol switches, but quite likely the coolest en­hance­ment has to be the nav­i­ga­tional com­pass that oc­cu­pies the area once used for the in­fo­tain­ment screen.

Un­for­tu­nately, the Jeep Crew Chief 715 is not pow­ered by the same diesel pow­er­plant that was in the Nuk­izer, but a 3.6L Pen­tas­tar V-6 en­gine mated to a five-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Af­ter look­ing at this de­sign, it re­ally doesn’t mat­ter what’s pow­er­ing it.

Vol­ume 18/2

An in­cred­i­ble 26-in was taken out of the body to give Short­cut that CJ-5 look and feel.

We ap­plaud Jeep for not only us­ing a true FC body, but keep­ing all its scars and char­ac­ter.

Last year’s Renegade was mostly mod­i­fied with trim pieces, not this year.

Want to out­fit your JK with ev­ery­thing from the Jeep Per­for­mance Parts cat­a­log; this is what it will look like.

The Trail­cat is a scream­ing street le­gal Ul­tra4 racer from hell

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