Jeep always builds a few cool concept vehicles to bring to the annual Easter Jeep Safari held in Moab, Utah. The concepts range from pie-in-the-sky ideas that have no chance of production to virtual test vehicles for new parts and accessories that will be available at your local Jeep dealer in the coming months. As the Easter Jeep Safari brings Jeep’s most loyal customers together for a week of off-road adventures on some of the best trails in the country, it gives Jeep an excellent venue to solicit feedback on new ideas.
This year’s biggest announcement is the creation of an off-road division of Mopar, Chrysler’s in-house tuning division. With more than 1,000 Mopar accessories and performance parts for Jeep vehicles already on sale, we can hardly imagine how awesome the parts catalogue will be once there’s an entire division focused on off-road goodies. Mopar is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and in the words of Pietro Gorlier, president and CEO of the division, the goal is “tapping into a growing trend among extreme Jeep enthusiasts who want even more power and capability on the trail.” The first products the new division will offer are Pro 60 portal axles and a Hemi conversion kit for the Wrangler. These products will be called Jeep Authentic Parts and Accessories and they offer owners a way to customize their Jeeps with the peace of mind that comes from OEM parts.
Jeep Mighty FC ConceptSince the Mighty FC is the most outrageous concept heading to Moab, we’ll start here. The FC began life as a 2012 Wrangler Rubicon that was lengthened. The roof from a JK-8 conversion kit is about the only recognizable part, with pretty much everything else being custom-made for this concept.
Jeep used to sell Forward Control vehicles from 1956 to 1965. They were as functional as they were cool to look at. The FC layout allows for a full-size cargo box without making the vehicle too big to maneuver in tight quarters. Sure, the drive becomes the crumple zone in this layout, but the obvious solution is to run a set of portal axles that allows the driver to sit several feet off the ground. Now you can just run over the Miata in front of you instead of rear-ending it.
Portal axles are essentially a planetary gearset added to the ends of a solid axle. The off-road community has been forced to fabricate its own portal axles for years by adding a Hummer hub/planetary gearset to the ends of a solid axle. Now Mopar will offer brand new purpose-built portal axles for a mere $11,000, or $12,500 with steering. Why bother with these expensive axles? They allow enormous ground clearance without a suspension lift, which should improve ride quality. The Mighty FC rides on a set of King coilovers.
Other cool touches on the FC include a 16,500 pound Warn winch on the front bumper, a bottle opener mounted on the bed just behind the cab, a full-size spare tire mounted inside the bed, and two-piece 17-inch beadlock wheels that keep the 39-inch BFG Krawler T/A tires under the truck. Our only suggestion is to offer an integrated ladder to help the driver get up to the cab.
Jeep J-12 ConceptAlthough the Mighty FC grabs your attention instantly, the J-12 will hold your attention longer because it actually makes sense as a production vehicle. During the build, this truck became known as the "OMT," short for Old Man Truck. That's a fitting name given the regular cab, long-bed configuration of this concept. The J-12 recalls the Jeep Gladiator pickups built from 1962-1971 and features the iconic "rhino" grille. Gladiator pickups were based on the Wagoneer platform, so they were full-size trucks. A Gladiator concept debuted in 2004, but it was more complicated than the J-12 we saw today. The J-12 is as basic as the original Gladiator, which only offered a regular cab.
The J-12 rides on a Dynatrack Dana 44 front axle and Dynatrack Dana 60 rear axle and both differentials are equipped with ARB air lockers. A mild 3-inch Mopar suspension lift kit gives clearance for the 36-inch tires, which look relatively modest next to the FC's 39-inch rubber. The 16-inch steel wheels really compliment the other throwback touches on the truck. Our favorite detail is the vintage tread pattern on the narrow tires. The only way to make these tires more authentic would be to convert them to bias-ply.
A Wrangler Unlimited with JK-8 conversion kit was stretched 18" to make the J-12, which allows for a 6' cargo bed and a full-size spare mounted under the bed. Inside the cab, there's a split bench seat and a few simple details like a fishing pole rack on the rear window and compass on the shifter. This truck is equipped almost exactly the way your Grandfather would have outfitted his Gladiator for hunting and fishing -- functional, not flashy.
2012 Jeep Wrangler Apache from MoparMost of the items you see on the Apache are available through Mopar right now, or will be very soon. The real purpose of the Apache is to showcase Mopar's Hemi V-8 conversion kit for the Wrangler. Yes, AEV has offered a Hemi conversion for several years now, but this is the first kit fully backed by Chrysler. Mopar went with the 6.4-liter Hemi, so this Wrangler is packing 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to tackle the terrain in Moab. The kit will be available this summer for five-speed automatic transmissions and later on for six-speed manual Wranglers.
The stock Wrangler axles weren't designed for the power of a 6.4-liter Hemi and big tires, so Mopar is also showing off its Mopar Pro 60 axles with 5.13 gearing on the Apache. That gearing, along with a 4.5-inch Stage 3 long arm lift and high-clearance flat fenders, allows the Apache to run 39-inch BFG Krawler tires, just like the Mighty FC concept. A seriously beefy rear bumper/tire carrier allows the Apache to carry a full-size spare tire without ripping off the tailgate.
Mopar also fitted a twin-stick Atlas transfer case to the Apache. Twin-stick transfer cases allow the driver to select high and low range independently for each axle. Why would you want to choose a different range for each axle? You don't. But this allows for front-wheel drive in low range with the rear axle in neutral, which can help drivers make very tight turns off-road. This is the sort of detail hardcore Jeep owners will love at Moab.
2012 Jeep Wrangler Traildozer ConceptJeep partnered with American Expedition Vehicles to put together the Traildozer concept. While the Traildozer isn't the most radical vehicle Jeep is bringing to Moab, it is a good representation of the reason Jeep brings concepts to Moab each year. The "Dozer" paint on the vehicle is a new production paint color for Wranglers that was first seen on a Moab-bound concept a few years ago. The Dozer name came from the event.
The Traildozer is powered by a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that sends power to all four wheels through a Getrag 238 six-speed manual transmission. Rubicon Dana 44 axles with their stock lockers and 4.10 gearing are used front and rear. An AEV Dualsport RS 3.5-inch suspension lift provides the required clearance for the beefy 37-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires that cover the Mopar Classic five-spoke wheels. Mopar premium front and rear bumpers and rear corner guards provide protection for the body on tight trails. Mopar's heat reduction hood ensures the massive engine doesn't overheat in the desert while Mopar half-doors allow the driver to get a better view of obstacles. A Mopar-branded Warn 9.5 Cti winch can help free the Traildozer should it becomes trapped between a rock and a hard place. An AEV F-1 leather seat trim kit gives the interior a unique appearance.
Mopar Accessorized 2012 Jeep WranglerThis isn't the best-named vehicle Jeep is bringing to Moab. One executive dubbed it the "Ultimate Daily Driver," which explains the mission of this vehicle quite succinctly. For those who wish to commute and play in the same vehicle, Mopar bolted on a modest two-inch lift kit, 35-inch Goodyear tires, tasteful front and rear bumpers, a Warn 9.5 ti XP winch, LED lamps mounted on the windshield, and Mopar rock rails. A pair of Mopar Dana 44 axles with electric lockers gives the Ultimate Daily Driver some extra capability on the trail without sacrificing drivability on the street.
Interior modifications are minimal with Kicker 6.5-inch two-way speakers, Mopar all-weather floormats, locking center console, rear cargo cubby cover, "Add-a-trunk" secure storage for the cargo area, and hardtop headliner. Anyone who has commuted in a Wrangler alfresco will immediately appreciate the locking storage. If your daily driver also needs to tackle trails on the weekends, equipping it like this Wrangler makes a lot of sense.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk ConceptJeep understandably puts the most effort into Wrangler-based concepts for the Easter Jeep Safari, but there are a lot of loyal Grand Cherokee owners out there, too. The Trailhawk is based on a Grand Cherokee equipped with Quadra-Drive II four-wheel-drive, air suspension, Selec-Terrain traction control, Off-Road Adventure package, and rear electronic limited slip differential. Extras include 18-inch Mineral Gray alloy wheels with Goodyear Wrangler SilentArmor tires that optimize off-road durability and traction without the incessant hum at highway speed that typically comes with more aggressive tires. Mopar rock rails protect the rocker panels when the Trailhawk leaves pavement.
Visual changes to the Trailhawk include a Stone White, Mineral Gray, and red color palette. Mineral Gray finish on the grille surround, lower front fascia, mirror caps, and rear light bar match the five-spoke wheels. Red accents on the upper grille mesh, tow hooks, Jeep logos, wheel center caps, and outline around the matte black hood applique compliment the white and gray color scheme.
Jeep officials told us to look for the Trailhawk touches making it to production as soon as late this year. The anti-chrome, pro-trail attitude of the Trailhawk is a nice departure from the sort of urban appearance packages that seem to be proliferating across 4x4 vehicles lately.