Portal Axles & Army Influences In Moab
Whenever we head to Moab we're bound to see something new and exciting. It's a simple fact: When there is a big event like the Easter Jeep Safari coming up, four-wheelers stay up late wrenching to debut their latest projects to the masses. For some it's a new winch bumper on their old CJ, for others it's a $100,000 buildup of a brand-new Wrangler, but for the guys who work for Jeep and Mopar it's their goal to show up with something really awesome for the masses to drool over.
This year the Jeep Design Studio and the Mopar aftermarket accessory team came up with a bunch of really neat stuff, but two rigs really stood out from the rest. The first was the Immortal JK on portal axles (we like to call it the Big Jeep 'cause it's ginormous!). The other custom Mopar was a retro-wheeling war machine known as the Nukizer that was built to be a modern-day iteration of the classic Jeep M715 military cargo truck. Both of these Jeeps are crazy, almost to the point that we wondered what happened at Chrysler/Jeep to allow these guys to even attempt such builds, much less accomplish them. The answer is simple: to create a buzz and keep people excited about the Jeep brand, and showcase new and future products.
What are they like to drive?
We had a chance to take both the Nukizer and the Immortal for a spin and realized our perfect truck would be halfway between them. The portals and power of the big green Jeep make it trail-ride like a champ with no concern for diff-grabbing rocks, but some fine tuning on the brakes and a narrower track width would be a priority. The new 715 has plenty of storage space, style, and capability, but wheeling with the small diesel is a constant on-the-throttle, off-the-throttle affair (can we swap in a manual trans?). Also, the low roof line and high belt line make for a great-looking truck but reduce visibility, as you can imagine. Both Jeeps are awesome and will hopefully lead to future production models.
The four-door Jeep JK Wrangler was the most numerous vehicle of Moab, and this monster built by Mopar was the biggest of the bunch. With skyscraping ground clearance, gobs of power, and a bright paintjob that would poke a Prius in the eye for claiming to be more "green," the Immortal is one big bad Jeep.
Don't think this big Jeep is all custom axles. It also carries a full line of Mopar protection in the form of front and rear bumpers, rock sliders, and prototype tube fenders. The half-doors and soft-top are Mopar aftermarket parts, the iridescent leather seat covers are from Mopar Katzkin, and the beadlock wheels are from Walker Evans. Almost all these parts are available or will eventually be available from your local dealer, including the portal axles.
Under that Day-Glo Viper Green Mopar AEV hood is a 5.7L Hemi V-8. The Hemi feeds a 545RFE automatic transmission and a standard Rubicon 4-to-1 Rock Trac transfer case. The engine swap was done with assistance from an American Expedition Vehicle, while the power is fed to the axles via Tom Wood's driveshafts.
The rear axle is a Mopar AAM 101/2-inch Power Wagon axle also outfitted with portal gearboxes. The boxes multiply the 4.56 ring-and-pinion gearing by 1.5 for a 6.84:1 overall axle ratio while also adding 5 inches of ground clearance. This affords the Immortal plenty of gearing for massive 42-inch Goodyear rubber with just a 2-inch Mopar suspension lift.
Whereas the Mopar guys are looking to show off new and future products with the Immortal, the Jeep Design Studio's Nukizer 715 is reminiscent of the late '60s Kaiser Jeep M715. This concept was built to showcase Jeep's military heritage and to continue investigating the idea of a Jeep brand pickup.
The bed of this battleship is a modified AEV Brute bed that has a recessed spare tire divot and Boyce Equipment military lights. The soft-top was custom-built by Bestop for this classified concept, while the jerry can carries gasoline for the guzzling V-8 Jeeps that run trails with the Nukizer.
The Nukizer is based off the foreign military Jeep J8 chassis with a set of Dynatrac axles underneath. The rear is a tried and true, full-floating Pro Rock 60 above some leaf springs, while the front is a custom hybrid ProRock 44 with a new 35-spline ARB air locker and Dynatrac 60 steering knuckles holding up some coils. Feeding both axles is an Atlas transfer case and Tom Wood's driveshafts.
Rattling away like a turbocharged sewing machine, under the hood is the military variant 2.8L turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. This engine is standard fare for the military J8s, but the Nukizer was treated to a hopped-up version to more easily push around the 124-inch wheelbase and 38-inch BFGs. The custom fiberglass front clip is longer than the JK front clip so the original cooling system remains intact.