Our cover story makes it clear that we're pining for a Jeep pickup. This is not a new desire, nor a unique one. We haven't forgotten the Comanche, and we haven't forgotten the 2005 Gladiator concept: Jeep grafted a 68-inch bed to a Wrangler cab, slathered it in forest green paint, and roused the hopes of Jeep fans everywhere. Alas, no production Jeep pickup has come forth from Auburn Hills, but American Expedition Vehicles stepped into the void and started building, to order, examples of its Jeep-based Brute from the 2002 SEMA show.
At last fall's SEMA show, AEV followed up the Brute with the Brute Double Cab. Based on the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, the Double Cab gets a 23-inch wheelbase stretch and a 61-inch composite bed. Like all the vehicles we've seen from AEV, build quality is on par with OEM standards, and there's nary a whiff of cheesy aftermarket-ness in the Brute. AEV employs several former Jeep engineers, who help ensure that the AEV modifications mesh well with the core Jeep vehicles. One of those engineers, Dave Yegge, pulled up to our curb recently in the same Brute Double Cab that was on the SEMA show floor. It is a rolling display of AEV's available goodies, including but not limited to a custom hood and bumpers, remote-reservoir dampers, a 4.5-inch suspension lift, and DynaTrac axles. The costliest add-on here, though, is the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8, at $28,000. This is on top of the basic body conversion, which is likely to be about $25,000. We'd choose the $20,000 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 or even stick with the stock 3.6-liter V-6, or before you know it, you'll have a six-figure Jeep. Like this one.
When we drove the Brute, its 6.4-liter Hemi was limited to 3500 rpm because it was still being calibrated, the vehicle was missing some body and bed mounts, and Yegge pointed out that he's still fine-tuning the rear springs, but, really, this still felt like a solid piece of machinery.
The full-boat AEV experience is certainly not cheap, but AEV builds the pickup that Jeep fans -- at least well-heeled Jeep fans -- want but Chrysler won't build. Bravo to them, and let's hope Jeep is paying attention.
The SpecsOn Sale: Mid-2012
Price: $50,000 (Jeep Wrangler Unlimited plus conversion, est.), $100,000 (as tested, est.)
Engine: 6.4L V-8, 470 hp, 470 lb-ft