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What A Concept: Jeep And Mopar Rock Moab With 7 Incredible New Vehicles

Posted in Features on May 8, 2016
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The show-stopping tradition of incredible concept vehicles continued in 2016 as Jeep and Mopar hit the town of Moab like a whirlwind during the 50th Annual Easter Jeep Safari (EJS), unveiling a host of eye-popping one-off vehicles.

Over the years, Jeep and Mopar have trotted out some memorable concepts in Moab. Remember the Lower Forty Wrangler that ran 40-inch tires with no suspension lift? It was a Moab concept in 2009. Do you recall the Pork Chop concept that had 850 pounds of weight removed? Moab 2011. How about the J12 that was a nod to the Gladiator pickup? Moab 2012. Remember the Mighty FC, which was a hat tip to the Jeep Forward Control? That was Moab 2012. Do you still have the incredible Nukizer 715 that paid homage to the Kaiser M-715 bouncing around in your brain? That was Moab 2010.

For 2016, Jeep and Mopar continued the concept-in-Moab tradition in grand form by unveiling seven wildly different vehicles. The Jeep Crew Chief 715 is a four-door salute to Jeep military vehicles; the Jeep Shortcut was inspired by the tight-’n-tidy classic CJ-5; the Jeep Renegade Commander is a trail-ready newbie; the Jeep Comanche is a crazy combination of Renegade and pickup truck; the Jeep FC-150 is a history-laden classic on a modern chassis; the Jeep Trailcat is a 707hp Hellcat V-8–powered animal; and the Jeep Trailstorm is a fascinating look at what can be done with Jeep Performance Parts (JPP) and Mopar accessories.

Over the next few pages you can read about some of the features and little-known facts of this year’s batch of Jeep and Mopar concepts. These seven machines got a lot of people talking, including us, and we’ve included our opinions on these rigs because, frankly, we always have an opinion. If you want to see many more photos as well as cool video of each of these concepts, visit fourwheeler.com!

Crew Chief 715
When we posted a short video of the Crew Chief 715 to the Four Wheeler Instagram page (@fourwheelermag), it quickly became the Number One post of all time (so far) in views, comments, and likes. This Wrangler Unlimited-based truck pays tribute to legendary Jeep military vehicles, most notably the Kaiser M715. The rig’s features include a 4-inch suspension lift with remote-reservoir shocks, dual winches, onboard compressed air system, rock rails, dash-mounted navigational compass, and 40-inch NDT military tires on 20-inch beadlock wheels.

The Crew Chief 715 is based on a Wrangler Unlimited and retains the 3.6L Pentastar V-6 engine. The wheelbase has been extended 23 inches from stock.

The cargo bed was fabricated from scratch and includes a wood floor and mesh-style side panels.

A pair of JPP Dana 60 axles are under the Crew Chief, and they’re fit with 5.38:1 gears.

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Backstory Bits
“Of all the pickup trucks we’ve done, we’ve never done a crew cab, so we wanted to do that. The whole Crew Chief was just like ticking every box. The military tires and wheels, it’s a 40-inch NDT on a 20-inch beadlock, which is a really difficult thing to find in a beadlock. This happened to be the one that we found. But putting that vehicle together was kind of straightforward beyond that. We knew what we wanted, we knew what would make people excited. The paint scheme on it—we didn’t want it be like the infantry truck but more like the base commander truck. It’s really kind of a weapons-grade Wrangler.” -Mark Allen, head of Jeep Design, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) North America

What We Think
Christian Hazel, Four Wheeler editor
It kind of reminds me of a fullsize pickup truck chassis, but it’s not. To me, the wheel and tire combo is somewhat reminiscent of swamp buggy tall and skinnies. I think not putting a 3.0L EcoDiesel in this thing was a missed opportunity, but on the other hand, look at it. It’s the Jeep pickup everybody has been clamoring for come to life.

Ken Brubaker, Four Wheeler senior editor
Personally, this truck contains all the cool functional features that I want (including four doors), and it has a cool military look of which I’m a fan. To be true military it needs a diesel, but other than that, its fine the way it is. I love the unique, but functional bed and the rig’s wheelable size. This is a concept that I feel could go into production, with some tweaks of course.

John Cappa, Four Wheeler contributor
Unfortunately, this is the big, heavy, and lumbering Jeep pickup on 40-inch tires that everyone has been asking for. Don't get me wrong, I love the industrial body lines, crew cab, and large bed, but I would prefer a hardtop, more compliant lightweight tires and wheels, and an engine that would provide more tow capacity than the weight of a ’80s pop-up trailer. Now, if you slung this body on a Ram 3.0L EcoDiesel or 5.7L V-8 powertrain and chassis, you might have something I’d be interested in.

Ali Mansour, Four Wheeler contributor
Visually, this concept hits every mark. Of course, the hood and grille layout we’ve seen before, but the overall stance of the 715 throwback is spot on. Like many concept vehicles, it’s a mix of show and go. Case in point are the 40-inch-tall NDT tires that were extremely stiff and the underwhelming 3.6L engine. I think we can all agree that this heavy-duty rig could have benefited from a V-8. It appeared very similar to an AEV Brute Double Cab, which took some of the wow factor away, but I still say Jeep is on the right path. Will this be its new pickup? I hope so. Just don’t forget the extra cylinders under the hood.

Jeep Trailcat
“Is this totally inappropriate? Yes. It is totally unnecessary? Yes. Does it totally put a smile on your face? Absolutely.” This was how the 707hp Hellcat-powered Trailcat was introduced to us in Moab, and it’s a pretty accurate summation of the rig. That power is routed through a six-speed manual transmission, eventually finding its way to the 39-inch tires. The wheelbase of the rig was stretched a total of 12 inches as compared to a standard two-door Wrangler, and the Trailcat has a number of prototype parts and Mopar offerings.

A close look reveals that the windshield has been swept back and undergone a 2-inch chop. You’ll also notice a modified Power Dome hood, unique fender flares, and custom tube doors.

The 6.2L Hellcat V-8 churns out 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. This gives the Trailcat an impressive power-to-weight ratio.

Fox coilovers are fastened onto the Dana 60 axles, and the axles are fit with 5.38:1 gears.

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Backstory Bits
“This was actually an idea we had for last year’s Moab. For whatever reason, we decided to lift it. We put it in a shipping container. It was 30 percent done. We busted it out this year; we said, ‘We gotta do it.’ We took it before our bosses and they basically said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ It was an easy sell. Dusted it off and started to rework it again. – Joe Dehner, head of Ram and Mopar Design, FCA North America

What We Think
Christian Hazel, Four Wheeler editor
It’s big and shouty and loud and shouty and shouty. The first time we saw the supercharged 6.2L Hemi get plunked into a car, what Jeep enthusiast didn’t think to him or herself, “That would be a fun engine in a Wrangler”?

Ken Brubaker, Four Wheeler senior editor
I don’t think I saw a person drive the Trailcat and not come back smiling. The power is incredible, and the Jeep itself is a very capable machine that’s very astute off-road. Ultimately, I think this rig would be most at home in sand dunes—or my driveway.

John Cappa, Four Wheeler contributor
Let's get one thing straight, Jeep will never offer a 707hp supercharged Hellcat V-8 in a Wrangler. With that much power backed up to even stock-sized tires you could pretty much turn most of the drivetrain into a mist of metal shards and gear oil. Although, the 6.2L V-8 and manual transmission would make this a fun Jeep in the dunes if you threw four paddle tires at it. Ultimately, it's not a very practical engine for a Wrangler. It's a very tight-fitting swap that would require the engine to be removed for something as simple as replacing the alternator. The Trailcat is more of a street show pony than a workhorse you could regularly abuse on the trail.

Ali Mansour, Four Wheeler contributor
We all knew it was coming sooner or later. Fit with a 6.2L Hemi Hellcat V-8, the 707hp Trailcat is designed to leave skid marks on the road and in your pants. It’s almost obnoxiously powerful in the short-wheelbase JK, but who cares? Set this thing loose in the dunes with a set of paddle tires and you’ll be the king of the hill in seconds. It’s loud, powerful, and fit with everything to satisfy the most hardcore wheeler and eccentric oil baron.

Jeep Comanche
Is this the Jeep pickup you’ve been waiting for? Probably not, but leave it to Mark Allen and his team to come up with something totally unexpected like the Comanche. The wheelbase of a 2.0L I-4 diesel-powered export-model Renegade Trailhawk was stretched 6 inches and fit with a custom 5-foot composite cargo bed that was designed with military overtones. The Comanche is fitted with 32-inch tires that are mounted on 16-inch Wrangler wheels. The color is creatively called “Beige Against The Machine”.

The front fascia was reworked to improve the Comanche’s approach angle and a Warn 9,000-pound winch was added.

The 5-foot composite cargo bed is completely custom. The rear bumper is a modified 10th Anniversary Wrangler steel rear bumper.

There’s a spare tire and vintage fuel can among other things in the cargo bed.

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Backstory Bits
“It’s the one we were a bit apprehensive about doing. The whole reason for doing Comanche was just that I’m really curious about the Renegade, and I want to do an even tougher Renegade. We did a bunch of concepts, and the pickup truck kept coming up, but when we did the first pickup truck version, we just kind of extruded the door back and made it a smoothside/fleetside kind of a pickup truck. We went back into it and had kind of Nukizer on the brain and a more military look to it and that’s what came out. Some people see it and say the front and the back don’t match. I’m like, ‘yeah, great,’ it looks more rugged that way to me. I’m really curious as to how that thing works off-road. I’ve been watching it. Of course, it has the diesel in it for torque. Making that [the Comanche] was a bit tricky because I’m making essentially a car into a pickup truck. It’s been done before, but for on-road. A lot of extra effort went into connecting the shock towers up through the rollcage, there’s a full rollcage in there up through the windshield.” – Mark Allen, head of Jeep Design, FCA North America

What We Think
Christian Hazel, Four Wheeler editor
I’ll say it: there’s a real place for a vehicle like this in the global market. Not everybody outside of North America can have a pickup as big or bigger than a Toyota Tacoma. A real mini-truck like the Comanche concept puts a 4x4-capable workhorse in the hands of tradesmen from Europe to South America and everywhere in between. I doubt we’d see the ragtop, but man, I kinda dig this thing a whole lot more than I thought I would. And did I mention it’s a diesel?

Ken Brubaker, Four Wheeler senior editor
Prior to seeing it in person, I was indifferent to the Comanche. When I got hands-on with it, I instantly liked it. The bed and the cab don’t seem to go together visually, but that’s one of the quirky aspects I like. With the diesel engine as an added bonus, the Comanche is actually really cool to me. I could see a vehicle based on this concept doing well in the market if it was offered. Times have changed, and I think there are buyers for a compact, light-duty pickup that’s nimble off-road and returns good fuel mileage.

John Cappa, Four Wheeler contributor
I grew up in an era inundated with true mini-trucks. They were simple, underpowered, slow, and somewhat uncomfortable. The manufacturers were unapologetic and most people didn't care. The small trucks were a lot of fun to modify and drive off-road. I like the idea of a small, simple mini-truck like the Comanche, without all the bells and whistles of the much larger and more expensive midsize trucks currently available. I would prefer a less complicated and more robust drivetrain than the Renegade chassis found under the Comanche concept, but I like the idea of the 2.0L diesel for a small 4x4 truck runabout that gets good fuel economy.

Ali Mansour, Four Wheeler contributor
As much as I don’t care for the Renegade platform (Fiat 500L anyone?), I can’t help but dig the Comanche. Yes, it has a diesel under the hood, but I don’t think this is the rumored diesel Jeep pickup that we’ve all been waiting for. The size and styling make it the perfect midsized pickup alternative. Off-road features such as a selectable rear locker, 32-inch-tall tires, and cleanly mounted winch are all marks for the good. At the end of the day, it’s still based on a Renegade, so you get the show, with not as much go.

Jeep Shortcut
The Shortcut is a modern interpretation of the respected Jeep CJ-5. Based on the two-door Wrangler JK, the body was “crunched.” Overall length was reduced by 26 inches, which included 4 inches removed from the front of the vehicle. The width of the vehicle was also decreased by narrowing the flares. Power is provided by a 3.6L Pentastar V-6 engine that’s mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. A pair of JPP Dana 44 axles with 4.10:1 gearing reside under the Shortcut, and a JPP 2-inch lift with Fox shocks provide additional height. BFG 35-inch tires are mounted on 17-inch steel wheels.

If you look close you’ll notice that the rake of the windshield has been decreased to make it more upright, and there’s a unique grille and hood. Also note the Jeep-stamped front fenders.

Both the front and rear of the Shortcut are fit with stainless steel CJ-5 bumpers, and there’s also a CJ-5 tailgate and outside rearview mirrors. Note the lack of spare tire, which helped decrease overall length.

The old-school swingset rollbar is a nod to the CJ-5s of the ’50s. So are the low-back seats with plaid inserts.

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Backstory Bits
“The idea behind Shortcut was to see how close could I get a current JK to be like a CJ. My dad had a red CJ-5. I thought for sure he was going to give me that car when I turned 16. Thankfully he didn’t, but that vehicle there is really that car. It was how close could I get it to my first experience with a Jeep. My dad was a big Jeep enthusiast, and there’s kind of a little piece of dad in it.” – Mark Allen, head of Jeep Design, FCA North America

What We Think
Christian Hazel, Four Wheeler editor
I was giving Mark Allen some grief for putting a CJ-7–sized door opening on his CJ-5-esque Shortcut, but there’s so much in this thing that appeals to me. From the super lightweight CJ bumpers to the retro Coke cooler in the back, this one just nails the carefree spirit that owning and driving a Jeep in the ’60s and ’70s embodied.

Ken Brubaker, Four Wheeler senior editor
The Shortcut was my favorite of the seven concept rigs brought to EJS 2016. I love the size, which translates to incredible agility. I also like the outstanding visibility from the driver seat. I think the market needs a 4x4 vehicle like this. In an age of porky 4WDs, the Shortcut is refreshing. I wish the Shortcut would come to fruition, preferably “stripped” with a low price tag.

John Cappa, Four Wheeler contributor
I think the Shortcut concept is much more than a current JK Wrangler nipped at both ends. I see it as a window into future Wrangler lineage. I believe the next two-door Wrangler will be much smaller, lighter, and a lot more nimble than the current two-door JK and not simply a Wrangler derivative. This Jeep is likely being used to test the waters for that idea. I suspect that Jeep thinks empty nesters who grew up around the smallish CJ-5 and even the CJ-7 may flock to such a Jeep, and the company may be right.

Ali Mansour, Four Wheeler contributor
At first, the Shortcut is a real mind trip. It looks short, but technically, the wheelbase is the same as the standard JK. It reminds me of an old CJ-5 that lives in the garage and only comes out on sunny days to go get ice cream or putt around the Back 40. My only complaint would be about the lift. I would have liked to have seen this sans any lift, but with the same size tire. I’m hearing rumors that the next-generation Wrangler (currently dubbed the JL) will be smaller than the current model. The Shortcut might be hinting at that.

Jeep FC 150
The unique Forward Control (FC) trucks, originally produced from 1956 to 1965, were cleverly designed to keep overall length to a minimum for maneuverability, while maintaining a full-length cargo box for utility. A “tractor with doors and a heater” is how Jeep describes the FC. Jeep Design guru Mark Allen began this build with a stock FC that he found online and he mated it to a Wrangler TJ chassis. The result is a vintage FC that includes outstanding drivability and a modern fuel-injected engine.

The wheelbase of the TJ chassis was lengthened to fit under the FC. Jeep intentionally left the FC unrestored so that it retained its years of patina. Those are 33-inch tires on 17-inch steel wheels.

A Dynatrac Dana 44 axle resides up front, while a Dynatrac Dana 60 axle was added in the rear. Both axles are fit with 5.38 gears and modified cast-aluminum differential covers.

Inside, there’s a vintage CB radio, a dash-mounted analog compass, and old parking tickets among other things that reflect this FC’s long history.

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Backstory Bits
“We were convinced that we were going to put it on a late-model chassis. We were going to put in on a JK chassis. We measured and measured and just determined it’s just not going to fit. I needed to go right to a TJ because the frames are very similar. I called Craig who I work with and said, ‘Look man, we just determined it’s not going to fit on a JK. I need a TJ now.’ Thirty minutes later, he found me a right-hand-drive TJ export we had somewhere in our cupboard. It had about 30 miles on it. So it’s a 4.0L with an automatic, and we took that car apart. It was good that we did that, and it happened to be a right-hand-drive because we used that steering box to make the forward control work. We used the right-hand-drive steering box turned around from back to front to make it work.” – Mark Allen, head of Jeep Design, FCA North America

What We Think
Christian Hazel, Four Wheeler editor
Done deal, man. Its orange (my favorite color), has a lifetime of earned battle scars (my favorite bodywork), has a trouble-free modern undercarriage (the 4.0L engine is one of my all-time favorite powerplants), and retains the vibe and character of 52 years on this planet. The color pops, the body is unusual, the wheels and tires are just right, but honestly it’s the accent “Easter eggs” that push this farm Jeep–inspired concept over the top. A pack of unfiltered Camel cigarettes, parking violations, period-correct CB, and the single spot on the front bumper just like my own ’52 M-170 project. Nailed it!

Ken Brubaker, Four Wheeler senior editor
I give big kudos to Jeep for building this rig and bringing it to Moab. Personally, I’m a sucker for unusual 4x4 rigs and the FC defines unusual. I love that it has a modern drivetrain but retains the patina of an old truck. Its way cool and impeccably done.

John Cappa, Four Wheeler contributor
Don't hold your breath: Jeep will not be offering anything remotely close to the FC-150 concept. It's pretty much made completely from older Jeep models that would never pass current crash standards, emissions, or fuel economy regulations. Think of it as more of an experiment in revitalizing old iron by slinging TJ Wrangler under bits and powertrain into a Jeep that likely never hit 65 mph in factory form. The FC-150 concept would be a fun and reliable Jeep to take on a road trip and make heads turn.

Ali Mansour, Four Wheeler contributor
I would have loved to have been at the meeting where this concept was pitched! “We’re going to put a ’60 FC-150 body onto a Jeep Wrangler TJ frame. Wait, What?” It sounds like something a few buddies would throw together in their garage. I assure you, however, the execution of this is far from home-scab-fab. Everything about the FC feels right. I miss the 4.0L inline-six engine, so it was a real treat to see it again. I can’t see the FC coming back, but if it did, this bare bones retro-mod version would be perfectly fine by me.

Jeep Renegade Commander
We’ve tested the Renegade previously and found it to be surprisingly capable off-road. Out of the box it has outstanding approach and departure angles, decent power, an array of towhooks, and a tight turning diameter, among other things. The Renegade Commander concept takes that formula and improves on it by adding a custom 2-inch suspension lift and 29.5-inch BFG tires. Additionally, the Renegade Commander gets a JPP skidplate and other mods to improve its performance, durability, and aesthetics.

Look close and you can see that the roof has been coated with spray-on bedliner material and JPP rock rails have been added to protect the body. What you can’t see is the JPP skidplate kit and after-cat performance exhaust.

Custom Fluorescent Gray paint and topographic map decals (of the Moab, Utah, area of course) have been added to the Renegade Commander to help create a unique look.

A 2-inch suspension lift helps make room for the larger BFG 29.5-inch tires that are mounted on 17-inch Wrangler wheels.

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Backstory Bits
“It’s very on- and off-roadable, but I wanted it to be more Moab-grade. Bigger tires, bigger lift on that. We took the swaybars off of the vehicle. If the tires are on the ground, it’s got traction; it’s going to go. It’s working really well.” -Mark Allen, head of Jeep Design, FCA North America

What We Think
Christian Hazel, Four Wheeler editor
I’ve gone on record as saying I don’t hate the Renegade. It’s not supposed to be hardcore. Buy a Wrangler for that. But for what Renegade is, it’s a happy, eager little puppy. And adding more off-road–specific gear like the Mopar rock rails, roof rack, small lift, and BFG All-Terrains just makes an economical commuter an even better weekend wheeler.

Ken Brubaker, Four Wheeler senior editor
The suspension lift and larger tires really make the Renegade Commander come alive off-road. It’s a fun little rig, actually. It’s nimble, compact, and easy to drive. Not my cup of tea, but it works.

John Cappa, Four Wheeler contributor
The Renegade Commander is basically a Renegade Trailhawk that anyone can build using off-the-shelf parts. However, I don't think many Renegade owners will go down this path. The Jeep Renegade isn't what I would consider an enthusiast Jeep. Very few will ever be extensively modified like this. The lift and bigger tires will sap power and fuel economy from the small 2.4L engine. Anyone looking for the kind of performance a lifted Renegade Trailhawk provides will probably be looking at a different Jeep model.

Ali Mansour, Four Wheeler contributor
This is how the Renegade Trailhawk should come from the factory. I totally understand the Commander concept, but a two-inch-lift and 29.5-inch-tall tires are not enough for me to sing its praise. Sure, it looks sharp, but let’s be clear that rockcrawler it is not. You could barely squeeze a business card between the strut and the tire. The Renegade has its place, but I still leave the driver seat always wanting more.

Jeep Trailstorm
The Trailstorm is a real-world example of how a Wrangler Unlimited can be modified by using off-the-shelf JPP and Mopar products. Quite frankly, it’s an eye-opening look into the vast portfolio of products that are offered. Aside from the prototype 17-inch wheels and custom digital camo wrap, almost all of this vehicle’s mods are available through JPP and Mopar.

A 2-inch suspension lift with Fox shocks makes room for 37-inch tires. JPP Dana 44 axles with aluminum diff covers and Big Brake Kit are tucked under the Trailstorm. Note the JPP half-doors, which also include the door lock kit.

The digital camo wrap was created using rocks from the Moab area as a guide to ensure that the color was accurate.

Exterior mods include a Mopar Satin Black grille, a Rubicon Warn winch, and JPP High Top Fenders, LED headlights, and Power Dome vented hood.

PhotosView Slideshow

Backstory Bits
“I think a lot of people that are Jeep enthusiasts—they know about Mopar, they know about Jeep Performance Parts. It’s like wow, we need to do a rolling catalog, and so that’s how the Trailstorm came about. We wanted to not rely on paint but do something that the average customer could do if they went out and bought the majority of these parts and with a little bit of creative influence. So we did this digital camo that matches the Moab landscape. And prototype wheels. I think it looks pretty cool. Of all the concepts that we have, this one’s probably the most achievable for somebody if they were going to go out and spend, I’ll say, a minimal amount of money and do something that really stands out and turns heads.” –Joe Dehner, head of Ram and Mopar Design, FCA North America

What We Think
Christian Hazel, Four Wheeler editor
They dragged this one through the Mopar Performance catalog and look what stuck. The new wheels are somewhat reminiscent of Dick Cepek DC-2s (but they’re not). The thing you’ll notice right above those Mopar wheels are the raised fender flares, which allow 35-inch tires on a stock suspension. They’re a bit wider than factory flares. I think a raised flare in factory width would be just about perfect. Build them, Mopar, build them.

Ken Brubaker, Four Wheeler senior editor
This rig looked good to me, and it actually worked well off-road too. To me, it’s a good combination of parts that allow the Jeep to excel on-road and off. And I have to admit that I really liked the camo wrap. Well done.

John Cappa, Four Wheeler contributor
You can nearly build this entire Jeep with nothing more than a Mopar catalog. I appreciate that the available Mopar parts have expanded far beyond stickers and grab handles. I would likely never build a Jeep using all the same brand of products, but it certainly has an appeal for those that want to wrap the cost of the Jeep and aftermarket parts into one car payment.

Ali Mansour, Four Wheeler contributor
Finance me now! It’s all Mopar and all readily available parts. It’s made up of all great products, but there isn’t anything overly exciting about it. If it was sitting on your dealer lot, it would be an excellent turnkey option for some looking to go straight from the showroom to the trail. It’s practical but lacks the passion and creativity that other concepts have. If it were sitting in the parking lot, you would likely walk right by it.

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