New Car Reviews

Driven: Jeep J-12

Mopar Underground team members affectionately referred to the J-12 concept as the Old Man Truck during its hasty ten-week build. It only takes a glance at the finished product to understand why. This basic pickup looks just like your grandpa’s old truck: no extended cab, no bucket seats, and a fishing pole hanging in the rear window.

We asked for a reincarnation of the Comanche pickup in our April 2012 issue, but Jeep dug a little deeper into its history and arrived at the 1963-1972 Gladiator for the J-12’s inspiration. The “Rhino” grille, the chrome bumpers, and the brow over the windshield give the concept a vintage-cool vibe. Remaining faithful to the notion of a functional truck, the J-12 uses a six-foot cargo bed and a slightly stretched regular-cab configuration.

Running gear is an intriguing mix of new and old technology. Tall, 36-inch bias-ply tires are wrapped around old-school steel wheels. Solid axles feature ARB air lockers and modern disc brakes. Fox shocks and a three-inch Mopar suspension-lift kit give the J-12 a surprisingly supple ride, and the TeraFlex antiroll bar can be disconnected for extra articulation. A 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 strikes the right balance between power and fuel economy and meshes seamlessly with the rest of the components.

It’s remarkable how well the J-12 works off-road: as we climb a cement staircase and cross moguls at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds with ease, the J-12 has a sense of dignity that perfectly matches its looks. It is just as basic and as functional as a Jeep pickup should be. Ditch the lift kit, swap out the tires for a set of radials, and this truck is ready for the showroom.

It’s never quite that simple, though. As much as we’d love to see the J-12 reach production, Jeep has no intention of building it. The six-foot bed requires stretching a four-door Wrangler frame eighteen inches, which means almost none of the parts from Mopar’s JK-8 pickup-conversion kit are compatible. Jeep designers did let it slip that the entire carbon-fiber front clip would bolt on to any current Wrangler, so it’s possible we’ll see a Gladiator front end from Mopar in the near future. At the very least, the J-12 is affirmation that the people at Jeep are as obssessed with trucks as we are.

The Specs //
On sale:
Price: Priceless
Engine: 3.6L V-6, 285 hp, 260 lb-ft (est.)
Drive: 4-wheel
Fuel Mileage: Irrelevant

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