Flinging Sand With Some Of The Toys In Mopar's Sandbox
It seems only natural that the folks from Jeep would have a presence at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. If Jeep wasn't there it would be like having a big party without inviting your best friends. This year, Jeep once again had a major presence in Moab and as usual, they brought along a few fascinating vehicles created by the Mopar Underground design team. This team creates vehicle concepts that are meant to develop performance parts, accessories and customization, as well as new vehicle concepts. This program is overseen by Mark Allen, chief designer at the Jeep/Truck Design Studio of Chrysler LLC. Since 2002, this team has introduced 14 Jeep concept vehicles at the Easter Jeep Safari.
Mopar also had a presence with a number of unique vehicles. Jim Sassorossi, director of Mopar Global Parts Sales and Marketing for Chrysler, said that they created these vehicles to gauge their core off-road enthusiasts' consumer feedback and reaction. "We wanted our core off-road customers to talk about their vehicle usage so we can address their unmet needs and identify emerging product trends to better support their off-road adventures," he said. We like his attitude.
All of these vehicles were displayed at the Jeep booth on the main drag of Moab, where anyone could give 'em the "once over." In addition, Jeep held a private media event where a handpicked group of journalists could get some off-highway seat time in these vehicles. We like this, because not only was it fun, it also solidified the fact that all of the vehicles are off-highway-ready and not just window dressing. Here's some of what they trotted out.
This '78 Cherokee Chief was one of our favorites. What can we say? We dig the classics, especially when they're infused with new tech. This rig was built by current and retired Chrysler Jeep engineers. They began the build with a rust-free, stock vehicle from the state of Oregon. The finished product features a number of Jeep Performance Parts. Under the hood is a stout 6.1L Hemi V-8 mated to a durable 545RFE automatic transmission. Behind the trans is a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Rock-Trac 4:1 transfer case. This unit splits the power to a pair of lockable Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Dana 44 axles. The rig's flexy suspension consists of a Jeep Wrangler 4-inch long-arm kit. The tires are new-design Goodyear MT/R 37-inchers. Inside the Cherokee, the stock gauges have been replaced by Mopar gauges, and the seats feature Katzkin by Mopar leather seat upgrades. Tunes come from a Mopar Kicker audio system
Grand Canyon II
If you think luxury and off-highway prowess are not compatible, the Mopar Underground design team wants to show you this '09 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland. They built it to illustrate that these two seemingly incompatible things can coexist. According to the Underground, this is the most luxurious off-road vehicle they've built so far. They've taken the high-zoot Grand and lifted it 4 inches with a Superlift suspension system. This creates room for a set of 33-inch BFG Mud-Terrain T/A tires mounted on Wrangler Rubicon wheels. Exterior protection consists of heavy-duty rock rails and a customized ARB high-clearance front bumper. Inside, the outside elements are kept at bay via a Mopar Accessories cargo liner and front and rear slush mats.
This '09 Dodge Ram 1500 was built to highlight the latest Mopar Accessories and Performance Parts. Yep, Mopar is expanding its off-road performance line to include Dodge trucks. This rig has its new 4-inch suspension system. This system requires a minimum 18-inch-diameter wheel and it allows for up to 37-inch tires. Speaking of tires, this rig is wearing 37x12.50 BFG All-Terrains, which are available through the tire program at local Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealers nationwide. Big Red also has a Mopar Cat-Back exhaust system and cold air intake to provide a throatier exhaust note and increased horsepower. The list of installed Mopar Accessories continues with a tonneau cover; hood with integrated scoop and bezels; front tow hook kit; and transfer case skidplate.
"Cool" doesn't even begin to describe the Overland. Jeep says that this vehicle, built on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited platform, is perfect for those craving travel and adventure. Hence, whether you plan to explore the Serengeti in Africa or a fire road in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you'll have a comfortable, capable rig and a warm, dry bed at the end of the day. The Overland sports a new Mopar 2 -inch suspension lift with a Full-Traction rear swaybar. This system allows fitment of 35-inch tires mounted on 17-inch steel Mopar winter/off-road wheels. The exterior of the rig features American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) front and rear bumpers; a Warn 9.5ti winch; an AEV Heat Reduction Hood and Snorkel Kit with Pre-Filter; Mopar windshield-mounted off-road lights; and Daystar bumper-mounted off-road lights. One of the rig's most unique features is the ARB two-person Simpson II rooftop-mounted tent with touring awning, and it's mounted on a cargo rack. Inside the Overland, the rear seats were removed and replaced with a large, flat, rubberized utility floor to increase cargo capacity.
Last, but certainly not least, is probably the most talked-about rig that Jeep brought to Moab. This JK has undergone a significant number of mods in order to fit 40-inch tires with no suspension lift. Yep, you read that right, no lift. The result is increased ground clearance without an altered center of gravity. Other mods include a raked and chopped windshield; one-piece carbon-fiber hood; 5.7L Hemi V-8 engine; Getrag 238 six-speed manual transmission; and custom rollcage. We'll have a full feature on this rig in next month's issue.
The Jeep folks didn't give this JK a fancy name, but they did give it a slew of authentic Jeep Accessories and Performance Parts from Mopar. The list includes a 2-inch coil spring suspension lift that features a lifetime limited warranty; corner guards; hood; front bumper; hard top kit; rock rails; chrome grille; black fuel-filler door; snorkel; winch; leather seats; floor liners; and silver appliqu kit.
This XJ Cherokee was trotted out to display Mopar Accessories' new ATK 4.7L stroker motor. Yep, this XJ is fitted with the same engine that won the 4x4 SUV category at the '08 SCORE International Baja 1000 in Ensenada, Mexico. Mopar says this engine will be available beginning this September. This XJ also sported Mopar's 2 1/2-inch suspension lift and a set of 31-inch tires.
Not all of the vehicles we drove were "over-the-top." This Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon was a "development mule." It was fitted with a prototype 4-inch short-arm lift kit, which is currently under development. Other mods to the rig included 37-inch tires, concept premium vinyl interior by Automotive Trim Technologies; black grille throats; A-pillar-mounted off-road lamps; black fuel door; and taillight guards.