It's been mistaken for a Jeep Scrambler, a military truck, and has even circulated through many Web forums in spy pics rumored to be a brand-new, soon-to-be-released Jeep offering. Although it could easily take on any of these personas, the AEV Brute is in fact its very own vehicle. It uses the '97-'06 Jeep Wrangler TJ as its base and incorporates a new rear tub section and a steel truck bed on a stretched, 117.4-inch wheelbase. It's part truck, part Jeep Wrangler, and hands down the coolest Jeep conversion we've ever seen.
AEV first premiered the Brute Concept Vehicle in 2002 at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Bringing home the DaimlerChrysler Design Excellence Award that year, the folks at AEV knew they were on to something. The company built a handful of turnkey Brutes in the following years before redesigning the vehicle so it could be offered in kit form. Significant alterations from the concept Brute included a redesigned stamped-steel bed and an all-new hardtop with increased headroom inside the cab. A frame-extension kit was also created to stretch the frame 24 inches, and a rear frame-extension kit with an integral winch mount and bumper was designed to add further support to the bed assembly. The rear frame extension and bed assembly create a 15-inch overhang, yet rear departure angle is virtually unchanged from stock.
In order to accommodate the lengthened wheelbase, Rubicon Express very easily manufactured a set of suspension-relocation brackets to AEV's specs, so we could move the rear upper control-arm mounts farther rearward on the frame. The Brute conversion can be installed with most aftermarket lift systems in place, and AEV offers suspension attachment solutions for many of these systems.
Though the Brute is billed as a kit, it actually ships 90-percent assembled, with quite a bit fewer components than you'd think it would take to complete such a conversion. Complete kit components include midframe extensions, a cab close-out assembly, a rear frame extension with a winch mount, a bed assembly, a hardtop, CNC-bent fuel and brake lines, an OE-style wiring harness, new rear body/bed mounts, detailed instructions, and all necessary hardware. The Brute conversion can be purchased piecemeal and built in stages using the cab close-out kit, the frame extension kit, the bed assembly, and the rear frame extension kit, or it can be assembled as a complete kit all at once.
AEV indicates that the average build time for the entire Brute conversion is less than 60 hours. We'll attempt to linger near this average as we carry out the conversion on our Project TJ in time for the Moab Easter Jeep Safari. With just two weeks to tackle the job, we sought assistance from Mel Wade of Off Road Evolution in Fullerton, California. Along with his qualified crew, Mel dove into the build headfirst, accomplishing the very important conversion-preparation tasks that are paramount to achieving the finest finished product. Check out the photos and captions for further details on 4 WHEEL DRIVE & SPORT UTILITY's AEV Brute Conversion Project, and tune in next month as we chop our TJ Wrangler in half and begin the conversion process.