Driven: Jeep J-12

John Discher – Chrysler Photo Imaging
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:
Never
Price: Priceless
Engine: 3.6L V-6, 285 hp, 260 lb-ft (est.)
Drive: 4-wheel
Fuel Mileage: Irrelevant

terpinator
Typical for Jeep lately. Create a concept that is so desirable, and then never build anything even close to it. These design exercises make me dislike the brand more than like it, and I've owned two Jeeps in the past (CJ-5 and Cherokee Sport).

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