The Jeeps of Easter, Chapters 14, 50, and 75
It’s a little hard to see commonality between Jeeps and swallows, but there are migratory parallels. Every year, the swallows return to Capistrano, California. Every year Jeeps flock into Moab, Utah, to frolic on the trails that dissect the dramatic red rock country that surrounds the town.
And every year, the people who actually make Jeeps create some special versions to entertain the Moab visitors, concepts designed to make the pilgrims want to buy more Jeeps and/or add equipment to the ones they already own.
The 2016 Moab pilgrimage has a little more significance than prior years. The faithful will be celebrating the 50th renewal of the Easter Jeep Safari. And Jeep will be celebrating its 75th anniversary.
Jeep has had a corporate presence at the Safari since 2002, annually importing a collection of concept vehicles, as well as vehicles augmented by new components from Jeep Performance Parts and/or Mopar, Chrysler’s vast in-house accessory source.
This year’s factory collection includes six concepts and one very cool survivor from an earlier era. None are likely to appear in showrooms, but all suggest applications for hardware available through Jeep accessory sources.
Jeep regularly tantalizes us with small pickup concepts that never quite make it to the assembly line, and this cool little ragtop is another. Reviving the name that adorned the company’s 1985 – 1992 compact truck, this Comanche began as a subcompact Renegade crossover. The fabrication team removed everything from the B pillar aft, as well as the steel roof, stretched the wheelbase 6 inches, and grafted on a 5-foot cargo bed. A 2-inch lift kit adds ground clearance, as do 16-inch steel wheels with 32-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires. Off-road rock rails add rough terrain durability; the front fascia has been revised to accommodate a winch, and the sand beige paint lends an element of Jeepish militarism. The same can be said for the 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine.
Jeep Crew Chief 715
The military is obviously an indelible part of Jeep DNA, and the Crew Chief 715 is a tribute to that heritage, commemorating the Kaiser 715 ¾-ton utility pickup truck that replaced the Korean War-era Dodge M37. A Vietnam era veteran, the Kaiser 715 was in production from 1967 through 1969. Based on a Wrangler chassis, with the wheelbase stretched to 139 inches, the latter day 715 carries its Kaiser tradition to the forward slanting grille and NDT military-type 40-inch tires on contemporary 20-inch beadlock wheels. While it sustains the look of the original, the Crew Chief’s body has four doors, rather than just two, although it does retain a convertible top. The steel bumpers support electric winches, fore and aft, there are Dana 60 axles at both ends. A 4-inch lift kit adds to the ground clearance, and Fox 2.0 remote reservoir shocks enhance suspension compliance in trackless terrain. The Crew Chief also includes an on board pneumatic system for airing up tires or what-have-you. The cargo bed is a typical military 5-footer, and the design team calls the paint “tactical green.” Interior elements include leather bucket seats with canvas inserts, aircraft-style switches, and a compass.
Jeep FC 150
Unlike the other Jeeps destined for Moab, this one began life on a production line, rolling into service as a 1960 model. The FC (Forward Cab) was built from 1956 to 1965, utilizing a Jeep CJ chassis, 4.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine, and 3-speed automatic transmission. This FC spent most of its life in Colorado, which helped to preserve its sheetmetal. Thus the skin and 6-foot cargo bed are original. But the Jeep design team replaced the cracked original frame with a 2005 Wrangler chassis, modified to fit Dana axles front and rear. The 17-inch steel wheels wear 33-inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires. Inside, the FC sports vinyl-clad seats, an analog compass, and a CB radio.
Jeep Renegade Commander
It’s not likely that you’ll see many Renegades trundling the trails around Moab—most of the Easter pilgrims are mounted in Wranglers, and most of those Wranglers sport various off-road mods. But the fundamental proposition of all Jeeps is off-road capability, and that includes the Renegade. The Commander concept is a mildly modified Renegade Trailhawk, with a 2-inch lift kit, and 17-inch Rubicon aluminum alloy wheels (Jeep Performance Parts) wearing 29.5-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires. Mopar accessories include off-road rock rails, skid plates, and exhaust system. Interior extras are Katzkin seat covers, Mopar foot pedals, and all-weather floor mats. The appeal of this package is that it’s all available bolt-on parts.
Conceived as a tribute to one of the most beloved of all Jeeps—the 1954-’85 CJ5—the Shortcut is based on a shortened (by 12 inches) Wrangler. The grille, hood, tailgate, fender flares, and chromed bumpers were all created specifically for the concept. Contemporary elements include a modified exhaust system, and 17-inch red-painted steel wheels with 35-inch BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain tires. The Jeep Performance Parts inventory was tapped for a 2-inch lift kit, Dana 44 axles, and Fox shock absorbers. Inside, the leather low-back bucket seats are highlighted by red plaid inserts. There’s also a four-point rollover cage. Aside from a shortened driveshaft, the powertrain—3.6-liter V-6 and 5-speed automatic transmission is stock Wrangler.
Wranglers with V-8 power aren’t exactly unknown. Aftermarket outfits have been wedging eights into Jeeps for years. But this one is unique. There’s a 6.2-liter Hellcat engine under the Mopar power dome hood, paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The fabricators stretched the wheelbase 12 inches to accommodate the supercharged V-8, and chopped the windshield 2 inches, to make the rig look even more butch. The Trailcat rides a 2-inch lift kit and Fox shocks, with Dana 60 axles at both ends. The 17-inch beadlock wheels wear 39.5-inch BF Goodrich Krawler T/A KX tires. Jeep publicity materials say the musclebound Wrangler is “equally at home on Moab’s rugged trails or a high-speed section.” Of course—707 horsepower, 650 lb-ft of torque makes it ideal for rock-crawling.
Conceived and fabricated by Mopar staffers, the Trailstorm concept is based on a Wrangler Unlimited model, and aside from the digital camo paint job almost all elements are bolt-on. The inventory includes a 2-inch lift kit, Fox shock absorbers, Dana front and rear axles, plus Rubicon steel bumpers and a winch from Jeep Performance Parts. Other Mopar bits are rock rails with a step bar, a brake kit, tail light guards, and a fuel filler door. The soft top is a Mopar concept, not yet on sale, which is also true of the 17-inch wheels, equipped with 37-inch off-road tires.