It has become a bit of an annual tradition that we show up in Moab for Easter Jeep Safari, and we get a special invite from the folks at Chrysler to flog some of their Mopar image vehicles and design studies. Any of these vehicles could easily be on the turntable under the lights of a convention center- instead, they are built to be functional runners with many of the parts readily available from the Mopar parts catalog. Chrysler has so much faith in these one-off rigs that they turn us loose in them for about half a day to experience their handiwork, play around, and grin from ear to ear. Some of those grins are because we're allowed to really flog these rigs and see what they are made of. Each year the vehicles are better than the last, and we're afraid that Mopar design team leader and Jeep Chief Designer Mark Allen and Mopar Jeep and Ram Off-Road Engineering Manager Keith Montone are going to run out of ideas. As you will see, they put together some awesome rigs for this year's event. But be concerned, as we are, that they'll have a hard time topping this particular group of vehicles next year. The clock is ticking, Mark Allen and Keith Montone!
Mopar Ram Runner
While comparisons to Ford's Raptor are unavoidable, what the Ram Runner really does is remind us of our own Project RangeRunner. This long-travel 4x4 is inspired by desert racing, but is competent enough to be driven on the highway as if it had just come off of the showroom floor. Short of hardcore rockcrawling, it can handle just about any terrain you can throw at it, making it perfect for desert exploration at high speeds. It features a new Mopar suspension system that was developed by KORE. Steel fenders and bedsides have been replaced by fiberglass to make room for the 35-inch General Graber tires and 14 inches of suspension travel without interference. A low center of gravity and wide stance make it superbly stable and Fox 3.0 internal bypass shocks save the truck from terrain. After countless jumps, some of them eight feet off the ground, the Ram Runner just kept soaking it up...run after run.
Our Take: Airing out trucks is unmatched for fun and the link-coil rear suspension really shines in this application.
One of our few disappointments with the 2010 Ram Power Wagon is that the only available body style is the crew cab, which means you can no longer order a Power Wagon with the shorter 140-inch wheelbase. But what if Ram did offer other body styles? How about a regular cab on a 120-inch wheelbase? Would that be the best jumping-off point for an ultimate Power Wagon? This PowerWagon explores that idea by creating a regular cab version of the truck. However, the design team did not stop there.
Instead of retaining the rear Power Wagon leaf springs, they lopped off the back of the HD donor truck and grafted on the rear frame section of a 1500 to utilize the link-coil rear suspension of the 1/2-ton. To give it even more visual impact, they used a Ram Box inner fitted with dually outer box sides for the stepside look. A 4-inch Mopar suspension lift, utilizing Bilstein shocks, makes room for 40-inch BFGoodrich KM2 tires, while the Power Wagon axles, sway bar disconnect and winch are all still present. The paint scheme is a throwback to Power Wagons of the 70s.
Our Take: Ultimate Power Wagon achieved-and then some.
Jeep Nukizer 715
This is not going into production. We repeat-the Nukizer 715 is not going into production. It is more of an exercise to show fellow Jeep enthusiasts that the people behind this concept understand you. The truth is that Jeep engineering needed a chase vehicle and they decided that a modified JK pickup would fit the bill. What we can tell you is that this is one of the coolest, most innovative ideas to grace the JK platform. The Nukizer pays homage to the much-loved military Kaiser M-715. The design team started with a military-spec J8 four-door and converted it into a pickup using the bed from an AEV Brute. To get the proportions right, the wheelbase has been stretched eight inches to 124 and the windshield has been chopped.
Bestop created a custom soft top and Jeep design made a new front clip to capture the look and feel of the military truck. Under the hood is the J8's 2.8L I-4 turbodiesel that has been programmed to deliver more horsepower and torque and routes power through an Atlas II transfer case and Tom Wood's driveshafts. The chassis has been upgraded with a front Dynatrac ProRock 44 and rear Dynatrac ProRock 60 axles stuffed with 5.38 gears and ARB Air Lockers. Modified Mopar bumpers and rock rails protect the body from trail damage. Rounding out the Nukizer's military undertones are 38-inch BFGoodrich KM2 tires mounted on Hutchinson beadlock wheels.
Our Take: Proof that a JK-based pickup is doable and awesome. Please put it into production.
How does 100:1 crawl ratio sound? The portal-equipped Mopar ImMortal has just that with its Rock-Trac 4:1 transfer case and 1.5 gear reduction at the portals. It also has a 5.7L Hemi swap and a 2-inch Mopar lift, allowing it to clear 42x14.5R17 Goodyear MT/R tires. Because the portals provide a 5-inch lift on their own, the ImMortal benefits from 19.75-inches of ground clearance. Jeep performance body armor keeps the body looking fresh.
Our Take: One mean Jeep for tackling boulder fields.
Jeep Patriot Extreme
The Patriot is quite the little controversy in Jeep circles. It's just another little car-based SUV poser, right? Well, not so fast. This little guy has been upgraded with a 2-inch Rocky Road Outfitters lift, TJ "Moab" 16-inch wheels, and the smallest set of BFGoodrich KM2 tires (225/75R16) we've ever seen. Underneath, the Patriot has been treated with full skidplating, while custom bumper protectors and rock rails have been added to keep the low bodysides off the rocks. Whether you like it or not (we like it), we beat on this little guy until we were so tired from laughing that our sides hurt. It was rally-car fun and handled the abuse like something emblazoned with "Monster Energy" on the hood and a big wing out back. A couple of days after the drive, the Jeep team took the Patriot on Fins 'N Things. Not only did it conquer the famed trail, but there's actual proof-search for the video on YouTube. Guess Jeep has the last laugh on this one.
Our Take: People would take the Patriot more seriously if this package was an actual option.
Jeep J7 Stripper
There are those of us who like our leather seats and nav in our $35,000 Wranglers, and then there are some of us who just want a back-to-basics Jeep for the trail in the vein of the mil-spec J8. Taking that line of thinking, the J7 was born. Based on a four-door Rubicon, the J7 has been heavily de-contented. The Mopar team removed the carpet, fog lights, and stereo, but added steel bumpers, helicopter hooks, the military-issued heavy-duty tailgate, and steel wheels. A 2-inch Mopar lift and 35-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claws bump up the capability. So what is our favorite part of the J7? The name of this paint color is Mustard Plug.
Our Take: This is the Jeep that many of us have been looking for at the dealership.
One of the more interesting products that Mopar showed us was this prototype adventure trailer that will be available through Mopar later this year. Featuring 35-inch tires and skidplating, this trailer weighs in at less than 1,000 pounds and is designed to handle off-pavement use. Features include Wrangler-design cues and the ability to accommodate two adults and two children. The trailer comes with a queen-size bed, sofa with stowable table, aluminum cabinetry, 110-volt power supply, and a premium canvas enclosure. Another version of this trailer with 32-inch tires that is designed for light wheeling will also be available. More details and a full review will be in a future issue of Four Wheeler.