Ahh, trends! Some are really annoying, while others make sense and are here to stay. If you are like us, you have been focused—no, obsessed—with Jeeps and how they are built for many, many years. Ideas that seem to be a good to someone pop up from time to time, and many end up becoming trends. Most of these trends are good and reflect what actually does work to make the sport better. Other trends are just like boy bands—catchy in the short term, but over time more annoying than an endlessly squeaky wheel. The fact is that it’s our job to tell you about Jeeping trends, and we are happy to do it. One of the best places to see building trends emerge in the Jeep world is in none other than our very own Jeeping heaven, Moab, Utah, during Easter Jeep Safari. Or for that matter, how about at the Desert Safari near the Salton Sea? So, to get back down to brass tacks, what trends did we see in Moab and at TDS? What do we like, and what works? What makes sense, and what will soon be more annoying than a Justin Beaver song? We’ll tell you!
Trends We Like
Stock Still Works
Here’s the thing; we all got started off-roading in stock or near-stock rigs. Yeah, it’s nice to think about how fun it would be to drive a fully built tube buggy, but honestly, stock Jeeps are still fun…lots of fun. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, lockers and massive tires make you a lazy driver. Plus, the smaller your Jeep, the tougher all the easy obstacles are. That means more fun for you. If you don’t think you should take your stock Jeep to Moab or Tierra Del Sol’s Desert Safari because its stock, you are wrong. We promise you’ll have fun, and in the end, you’ll probably be a better driver for the experience.
Retro Is Groovy, Man!
Yeah, baby! Shagadelic! Yeah! So unless you were born a few years ago, you can probably identify the iconic look of a Jeep. That iconic look is tied into the history of what a Jeep is, and we love retro. Luckily for us, we are not the only ones. Over the past few years we’ve seen lots of patina, fake patina, and vintage vehicles modernized. We spotted several newer Jeeps with some little vintage flair. It makes sense and celebrates the history that is Jeep. Mopar does it, we do it, and you guys do it. We love it! Keep it up!
Keeping It Real…Low
We’ve been pushing the low-lift trend since before it was popular. If you don’t know what the big deal is, know that a well-balanced, well-built, low-slung Jeep can be built with as much ground clearance as taller rigs. These Jeeps will always inspire more confidence in their drivers because they feel way more stable off-road. People keep building low Jeeps that work, and we love seeing them.
We like the idea of going fast in the desert while still being capable enough to do some crawling. In fact if you look back to the Jp archives (“Building the Cherokee,” Sept. ’01), we talked about how with a few compromises you could pretty easily build a go-fast Jeepspeed-style rig that would also crawl. That was long before KOH. We like the idea and we like the tech that is coming out of this influence, but don’t expect us to start building full-on race rigs. Sure, it might be fun, but we have a magazine to write. Anyway, we do like seeing the high-end suspension ideas that work in the slow and the go. Keep it up!
If anything works as well as keeping things low, it’s keeping things light. Over the past few years we have been touting the benefits of substituting lightweight materials for steel when possible. We have seen lightweight bumpers, fenders, rocker guards, corner guards, skidplates, and so on come out of the aftermarket in materials like plastic, aluminum, and fiberglass. We love it. It almost always makes sense, and lighter Jeeps are quicker, stop faster, use less gas and so forth. Keep this trend alive.
Trends We Love and Hate
At an almost-constant rate since the beginning of time…well, the beginning of Jp anyway, we have had the occasional reader and fellow wheelers ask us to shoot features on their mildly built, newer Jeep. Yeah, your Jeep is nice, yeah, it works pretty well off-road, yeah, it’s yours, but beyond that it is unfortunately just like almost every other Jeep buzzing down Main Street, Anywhere, USA. Trust us, we do this for a living. Just because we are not shooting a feature on your new JK with lots of fancy bolt-ons does not mean we don’t like it. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to go wheeling with you. It doesn’t even mean we don’t own stuff like that ourselves. It just is not different enough to do a full four-page feature. Don’t hate us. Keep wheeling. Eventually it will become unique with time, dents, and modifications, and heck, if you wait long enough, it may come full circle and become retro cool.
Yep, this seems to be a constant mod that people want to do. Alright, it’s not wrong, and it can work if you know what you are doing, but we don’t really think it’s the way to go for a of a couple reasons. For one, driving a Jeep with rear steer down the road is a frightening concept. That’s right, your fancy rear steering Jeep can now go anywhere…except down the street to the grocery store. Keep the rear steer for your dedicated rock buggy trailer queen. We’ll drive our Jeeps on-road and off.
Chrome to highlight a certain retro style is alright. Spending $5,000 on cheap chrome geegaws hot off the boat from China only helps to cheapen your Jeep.
Trends That We Hope Will Die, But Never Seem To
Uber-Tall Jeeps With Tires That Are Way Too Big
The fact is that this thing is not safe on the road. Nor will it work very well off-road. Sure, it might be able to scale huge rocks like they are pebbles—as long as it does not get too off camber. Hey, and that’s just cause the rocks are pebbles compared to those stupid big tires. Plus, if you dare take it down even slightly off-camber sections on an easy trail it either feels like it’s gonna roll over, or it just did. Let’s not even get into emergency lane changes at highway speed or accidents with normal cars or guard rails. Ugh! Please stop pretending you are doing anything other than compensating for something. Yeah, the wow factor is there, but anyone who knows anything about off-roading knows this is just an attention-getting gimmick.