AUBURN HILLS, Michigan – Design chief Mark Allen calls them the “Spy vs. Spy” of the 51st Annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari concepts. The chopped black Jeep Quicksand sports a 392 cubic-inch Hemi under what’s left of its hood, and it’s designed for kicking up sand, quickly, with all four wheels, as a sort of off-road dragster.
The white Jeep Safari concept with yellow trim, based on a Sahara Unlimited, is more of a family ride, Allen says, with its carpeting removed and two raised and canted outward rear seats designed to give the kids in back a view of the nature through which the V-6 Pentastar-powered off-roader is treading lightly. Back seat passengers have control of the drone that stows at the tail end of the plate-aluminum roof rack. The rack frame features its own “Easter egg” — a trail map of Newspaper Rock in Moab cut into one of the crossmembers.
It has become an annual tradition for Jeep to roll out concepts ahead of the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari. This year marks the 51st safari and one egg hidden in plain sight is the 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s grille design, which is cleverly imbedded into the noses of the Quicksand, Safari, and Switchback. As with previous years’ concepts, the six here are meant to accompany diehard offroaders attending the Easter event in their personally owned rides.
In detail, this year’s featured Jeeps are:
The Jeep Quicksand’s Mopar-sourced 392 Hemi crate engine features eight-stack injection and headers with an exhaust valve. It’s based on the standard Wrangler, but features an extended wheelbase, a body that has been trimmed, and a hardtop and windshield that have been chopped. There’s a recovery rope in back disguised as a drag chute and a Warn winch with a Moon tank up front. Staggered tires – a first for a Jeep concept – are 32-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2s in front and 37-inch KM2s in the back, mounted on 18-inch vintage “kidney bean” alloys.
There are flat aluminum door panels (perhaps another nod to the 2018 Wrangler), two low-back buckets, tilt-out windshield, chrome roll bar, and a Hot Wheels Jeep inside a clear acrylic knob for the Getrag manual’s shifter. Allen says his crew found the Hot Wheels model on eBay.
“Go fast, look good,” Allen says, prompting a FiatChrysler employee to fire up the Quicksand’s Hemi, producing a lumpy, throaty dragster brapp. “If you’re not smiling,” he tells the auto journos assembled, “get out.”
The Jeep Safari is not a Pontiac wagon, but a family Jeepster built from a Rubicon Unlimited with 35-inch tires, a two-inch lift kit, and a trimmed body front and rear to better handle tight trails. It’s designed to offer the best possible views for all four passengers. Jeep calls the clear plastic replacing the glass and steel (or is it aluminum?) “windoors.” The top material is white-translucent, and an Apple iPad in the dash, replacing the navigation screen, features Google Earth and Google Map programs.
Billed as the ultimate off-roader, the Jeep Switchback is based on a Rubicon Unlimited and features a power-bulge hood with heat extractors and a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, steel Rubicon bumpers, and a Warn winch. This Jeep is lifted four inches and rides on 37-inch Goodrich Mud-Terrain KM2s fitted onto 17-inch concept wheels with JPP (Jeep Performance Parts) logos. It’s designed for an “open-air experience” with half-doors and safari-style roof rack with twin baskets over a concept hardtop featuring skylight windows (shades of Volkswagen Type 2 and Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser). There are JPP high-top fender flares, Mopar black fuel door and tail lamp guards and swing-gate hinge reinforcements with an oversize spare tire carrier. Inside are Katzkin leather seats, body-color bezel accents, concept sport bar grab handles, spray-in bedliner-style floor and Mopar all-weather mats.
Jeep Grand One
Nostalgia for the ‘90s hits a new high with this tribute to the original Jeep Grand Cherokee, in time for its 25th anniversary. Jeep bought a nicely kept daily driver in Pennsylvania, cleaned it up, and gave it a subtle blue “woodgrain” vinyl trim along the sides (a Grand Wagoneer package was offered with full fake woodgrain for a couple of years). There’s a plaid-blue headliner and new, 18-inch “lace” wheels mimicking the 15s and 16s offered 25 years ago in the original, 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee. A 5.2-liter Chrysler V-8 sits behind the Grand Cherokee’s eight-slat grille, and the Jeep has been outfitted with a cassette player, shoebox-size mobile phone, David Hasselhoff stickers in the door jambs and the words “Hammer Time” etched into the center high-mounted stop light (CHMSL).
Based on the new 2017 Jeep Compass, the Trailpass features a 1.5-inch lift kit, 18-inch satin-black crystal wheels with orange notches (and inside those, traditional Jeep grille graphics), complementing orange tow hooks and a gloss-black two-tone top treatment. There’s a Mopar/Thule roof rack with a cargo bag and orange traction mats, gloss black side mirror caps, a custom hood graphic, side stripes and tinted headlamps and taillamps. The interior features Katzkin custom leather seats and armrest, body-colored bezel accents and JPP all-weather floor mats. Engine is a 2.4-liter Tigershark four mated to a nine-speed automatic.
Two repeats from the 2016 SEMA show are the Jeep CJ66 and Luminator concept. The CJ66 has a Wrangler TJ frame, a 1966 Jeep Wrangler CJ universal Tuxedo Park body and a Mopar 345 Crate Hemi that comes from Mopar with wiring and control modules that make for a plug-and-play engine swap. The Luminator concept is a Rubicon Unlimited with trick LED lighting. The CHMSL, for instance, flashes amber when the Luminator is being driven at single-digit speeds along Moab-style rock trails, and turns green when it reaches a safe speed.
Like the four new (well, three new and one very old) concepts, the two from SEMA will accompany the brand’s rabid fans at the 2017 Moab Easter Jeep Safari.