It's no secret that the Easter Jeep Safari has caught the attention of new vehicle manufacturers. As a matter of fact, it's getting to the point where a manufacturer isn't considered a serious playa in the off-highway market unless they make an appearance in Moab. If a manufacturer makes vehicles with real off-highway talents and ignores Moab, it's akin to Harley-Davidson not going to the Sturgis Rally. And that friends, is crazy talk.
Some manufacturers roll big with displays on Moab's Main Street, while others choose to be on the down-low rollin' stealthy. We actually spoke with employees from one manufacturer who made the trip to Moab on their own dime, burning their own personal vacation time to represent their brand. That's dedication.
Here's another cool fact: Many of the rigs they bring are one-offs or works-in-progress, so they're the cutting edge of what could potentially come down the pipe.
But wait, there's more. These rigs don't just sit around all week pimped out with tire dressing and wax. Moab offers a very rare opportunity to see these rigs in action on the trail.
Which brings us to the crux of this story. We had the opportunity to drive many of these special vehicles in Moab. And drive 'em we did. With the manufacturers' blessings (well, sort of anyway), we put 'em through the paces to show you what these rigs are capable of. Some may eventually make it to your dealer in some form, some never will.
Nw here's something you don't see everyday. This '08 Liberty is called the Liberator II, and if there's a masculine KK on the planet, this is probably it. It has a prototype 2-inch lift by Superlift, 33-inch BFG Mud-Terrain tires, and a rear ARB Air Locker. It also has a few Mopar Accessories bolt-ons including an after-cat exhaust, rock rails, and a brushguard. Does this make the Liberty more palatable to you?
What's Up In The Hoss?
We'll tell ya; it's this FX4 HOSS Edition '08 F-350 Super Duty SuperCab shortbed. It's what Ford calls an Engineering Proof of Concept and a casual glance doesn't even begin to tell the full story of this special SD. What makes a HOSS a HOSS? Well, it's the addition of electric lockers front and rear (wired to the factory Upfitter switches); a Warn 12000 winch on a Warn heavy-duty front bumper; a custom rear skidplate/bumper with integrated steps that is high-mounted in the trimmed bed for added departure angle; a bed-mounted spare; snowplow-package front springs to counter the extra weight; a bed-mounted Hi-Lift Jack; and 35x12.50-17 BFG Mud-Terrain tires. Power comes from a snortin' 6.8L V-10 and it's routed through a bulletproof ZF six-speed manual transmission and a manual-shift NVG271 transfer case to the axles with 4.30:1 gears.
There Are Hardly Words
Let's get right to the point. This is the Power Wagon we've all dreamed about. It was built by the Mopar Underground to explore the feasibility of a diesel-powered Power Wagon. At its core is an '08 standard-issue P/W with a bunch of mods and tweaks. It has the 6.7L Cummins engine, automatic transmission, locked AAM axles, a Prerunner 2.5-inch suspension, Fox remote-reservoir racing shocks, 40-inch Goodyear MT/R tires, factory 17x8 forged-aluminum wheels with 2-inch wheel spacers, and a Warn winch. The fenders are stock but have been cut (generously, we're told) to fit the bigger meats. Over the cut fenders are molded plastic flares. So did we like this rig? Heck, yeah! With a low center of gravity, gobs of power, and rugged durability, it's incredible.
Shock And Awe
Simplicity and ruggedness rule. This rig, which made its debut in Moab, is called the J8 Sarge, and it has both in spades. So what's its story? Well, it's manufactured in a Chrysler LLC joint-venture facility in Cairo, Egypt. Its imbedded with a 2.8L four-cylinder diesel engine, a five-speed automatic transmission, a two-speed transfer case, a Dana 60 rear axle, a rear leaf-spring suspension, larger front disc brakes, 17x8 steel wheels with a 5-on-51/2 bolt pattern, and a Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential. Other attention-grabbing stuff: Heavy-duty steel bumpers with forged military-spec "helicopter hooks" rated at 1.5 tons GVWR each, a hood-mounted air-intake snorkel, dual rear-mounted battery boxes, and heavy-duty spring hood latches. This vehicle also sports 1.25-inch Superlift coil spacers, BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires, and a custom cargo top. Jeep says there are currently no plans to offer the J8 for retail sale in the North American market.
Of all the vehicles Hummer brought to Moab, this was the only one with a suspension lift. As expected, this '08 H3 Alpha was like a mountain goat on the trail. It has a Rancho 4-inch lift up front and a custom spring-over-axle lift in the rear. The rear SOA was accomplished using the stock springs and fullsize Chevy truck U-bolts and anchor plates. Other mods to this H3: LT315/75R16 BFG Mud-Terrain tires, 16x8 Hutchinson bead-lock wheels, front and rear Eaton electric lockers, factory rocker protection, a Hummer Accessories brushguard, a custom tailgate-mounted trail rack, a front-mounted receiver, and a low-profile transfer-case shield. Finally, the front and rear of the rig are hard-wired for a receiver winch.
T Is For Trail-Ready
Hummer brought out its '09 H3T Alpha and turned us loose on the Kane Creek Canyon trail. How did it do? Well, the 23.7 inches of added length (as compared to an H3) decreased its rampover angle as expected, but we think that Hummer engineers found great middle ground by creating a truck that can haul a decent amount of cargo while offering above-average off-highway capability. This rig also had the new-for-'09 front diff locker which, when combined with the rear locker and 4.56:1 gears, made the rock stairsteps in Muleshoe Canyon a non-issue.
This H3 was one of our favorites. It has a low center of gravity, a muscular stance, and slobber-inspiring power. What's its secret? Well, the low center of gravity comes from leaving the suspension height stock. There are worthy mods, however, in the form of Rod Hall remote-reservoir racing shocks and a set of Light Racing JounceShocks. The muscular stance comes from a set of LT315/75R16 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires on stock wheels that use 3/4-inch spacers. And then there's the power. That comes from a 6.2L V-8 engine that produces an estimated 380 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. Other mods include a 4L70E transmission, front and rear electric lockers, a 1.25-inch body lift, a relocated rear bumper, and a relocated Hummer Accessories brushguard (to compensate for the body lift), a body-colored grille, 4.56:1 gears, and electric cooling fans.
This '05 Wrangler Rubicon was created to "demonstrate that Mopar listens to its off-road enthusiasts." It's powered by a 2.8L four-cylinder VM Motori diesel engine that generates 120 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to an Aisin five-speed manual transmission, which sends power through an NV241 transfer case. Other mods include Tru-lock-equipped Dana 44 Rubicon axles, a 3-inch Black Diamond suspension, 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tires, and a High-line hood and fender kit from AEV.
This Surf Blue Wrangler is called the "All-access," and it was trotted out to promote the new Dana 60 rear axle that's available from Mopar Performance. Naturally, we gave it the old Four Wheeler flight test. It also features the new Mopar Performance upgraded brake kit, so reining in the 35-inch BFG Mud-Terrain tires on AEV Pintler wheels wasn't a problem. Other mods include a Rubicon Express 4-inch lift and Mopar Accessories front and rear bumpers, rock rails, a cold air intake, and a Warn 9500ti winch.
Four Doors Of Fury
This diesel-powered Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon has been around for a little while, but to the best of our knowledge this Rolex Silver machine hasn't been seen doing this. Thanks to the 3.0L CRD engine, it had plenty of oomph to power through the dunes, and when it caught air it landed well, thanks to a Superlift Black Diamond 3-inch lift and a set of 35-inch BFG Mud-Terrain tires. Exterior mods include a Warn 9.5ti winch, an AEV front bumper, and Mopar Performance Parts rear bumper/tire carrier.
A Little Pick-Me-Up
You may have seen this rig before, but probably not airborne like this. It's called the Wrangler JT and it's based on the same platform as the J8 Sarge. This 3.8L V-6-powered rig has a 5-foot bed and a 116-inch wheelbase. It sports a 4-inch Superlift suspension, 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires, Mopar front and rear bumpers, and a Warn 9500ti winch. According to Jeep, it made mincemeat out of Hell's Revenge. We know it did pretty well in the sand too.
Mopar unveiled this rig for the first time this year at Moab. Yep, it's got a Hemi. A 6.1L Hemi, to be exact. It also has a 110-inch wheelbase, a Mopar/Rubicon Express 4-inch suspension lift, 37-inch tires, Mopar/Hutchinson bead-lock wheels, and a Hanson front bumper with a Warn 9.5ti winch. Is it fun to drive? Heck, we're still smiling.