Lockheed Martin's famous "Skunk Works," named after the "Skonk Works" backwoods still in Al Capp's comic strip Li'l Abner and because the shop was originally located downwind from a plastics factory that sometimes stunk up the area, has produced some of the world's greatest aircraft and continues to do so. Chrysler has its own "SkunkWerks," which operates much as the Wikipedia definition says, with Mark Allen and the rest of the crew there bringing us some stunning idea vehicles, including the bright orange Rubicon King JK Wrangler, the Jeep Liberty Liberator, and the SkunkWerks Commander that impressed us with its on- and off-road prowess last year. This year, Mark brought the SkunkWerks' "JT," their Jeep truck concept, out West and let us all have a look and a drive in this exciting new vehicle.
The JT is a styling exercise that we beg Jeep to build. It's put together on a standard JK Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited chassis with a 116-inch wheelbase, Dana 44 front and rearends, 4.10 gears, Tru-Lok electronic locking differentials front and rear, a 3.8 V6, automatic overdrive transmission, and NV241 Rock-Trac transfer case with a 4:1 Low range. SkunkWerks raided the Jeep parts bin for a J8, the Egyptian Army JK Unlimited body that has only two doors and the rear footwell replaced with a truck-style steel cargo floor.
In Egyptian (and Israeli) trim, the Jeep J8 has leaf springs and a Dana 60 in back. As we already said, SkunkWerks set this body on a North American-spec JK Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon chassis with its linked coil-spring suspension and Dana 44s front and rear. SkunkWerks fabricated the rear bulkhead from a Dakota pickup box and fiberglass cab (chopped two-door JK hardtop) to make this the new truck to own if it goes into production. The passenger compartment retains the factory JK sportbar, and the cargo box measures out to 47 inches wide by 61 inches long.
There's a giant hole in the market, as all of the OEs except Ford have left the mini-truck arena (and we're afraid Ford is thinking of exiting it too). The reasons that mini-trucks became so popular decades ago still exist today. Fuel economy looms as the biggest reason to own a smaller truck, but other reasons, such as maneuverability, size, and just plain "we NEED this" say to Jeep, "Build this truck, please!"
Besides those like us who will purchase one of these for fun, we can see ranchers and farmers all over the country heading out into the backcountry with bales of hay in the back to feed the livestock, as well as running fence lines no matter where that fence line may go.
The JT is a very cool, innovative idea whose time has come. SkunkWerks builds great vehicles. Now it's time for Jeep to take over and build it for us!