Prototypes, Concepts, One-Offs-You Get The Picture
Now that we've spent previous editions of Jeep Autopsy dissecting production Jeeps, how about a flashback to the concept side? You may recall some of these in greater detail from our Sept. '05 article, "12 Worst Jeep Concepts Ever," and we can guarantee those headliners haven't improved with age-some still resemble a villain from Dick Tracy rather than anything you'll find one day on the trail. Chrysler is festing "20 Years of Modern Concept Vehicles" this year (part of its "Daimler Who?" campaign, we guess), and there have been some truly spectacular Jeep creations to toast-the ones we highlight in this story.
You could say the first Jeep concept/prototype was the Willys Quad from 1940. The U.S. military was on the prowl for a "light reconnaissance vehicle" to eventually buy in Costco-style bulk, so Willys-Overland whipped up the Willys Quad, which eventually went to war. (More on that in the next issue when we Autopsy military rigs.) We're not sure who or what was on the prowl 63 years later when we got stuck with the Treo.
A concept vehicle may be designed with the sole purpose of being a shocking booth babe to help an automaker stand out at a crowded auto show, or it may be an early look at what will one day be a future production vehicle. It could be a display of cutting-edge design and technology-like carbon fiber, diesel, or a fuel cell. It may have been built to test the waters and gauge consumer interest in a type of model (is there interest in a pickup? Meet the Gladiator and JT). Some of these vehicles are called "transitional prototypes," which happen to be the most rare of the bunch. An example would be the CJ-1, which happened between the MB and the CJ-2A. And then there are the throwaway packages that display mild bolt-ons or technology, such as the '99 Journey, which to our disappointment was not a Steve Perry tribute Jeep, but rather navigation in a Grand Cherokee (and will now be the name of a production SUV from Dodge).
But as easygoing as that may sound, concepts are serious business. No matter what the theme, the hope is to build something memorable. And look, we're still talking about the dang Treo. Of course, we're still talking about a foot-long scab we once had too.
This Jeep Autopsy has a list of all concepts from Jeep's history, including from the Chrysler Group's Skunkworks/Mopar Underground team (which focuses mainly on customization of vehicles). We think we dug up even the most obscure ones but look forward to learning what we missed, especially if any involved Steve Perry.
Recognize it? You should, because it's the mothership to the Grand Cherokee. This '89 had direct lineage to the '93-or was it direct lineage to the Cherokee? That's what was underneath. Potato, Cherokee. It launched the Grand craze.
Have we mentioned this concept in the magazine enough times yet? Hey, we think it's how we managed to squeeze the JT out of Mopar Underground, so we know in space they can actually hear us scream. It was 2005 when the tease first began, this scantily clad pickup with its removable doors, fold-down windshield, expandable bed, Command-Trac, front and rear locking diffs, six-speed manual tranny, and multilink suspension. There was the Liberty's 2.8L four-cylinder diesel running the show, which made 295 lb-ft of torque. Other specs included a 138.4-inch wheelbase, 13.7 inches of ground clearance, and 34-inch rubber on 18-inch rims.