The buzz started several years ago when our fighting boys and girls began sending photos of these cool-looking long-wheelbase TJ Jeeps the Egyptian military was driving around in the deserts of the Middle East. What were these stripped-down, beefed-up, diesel-powered dream Jeeps and why couldn't we buy one over here? Well, you'll have to thank Uncle Sam's bureaucrats for that one, but at least somebody has finally found a way to get a military-spec, seven-slat vehicle to the US public.
American Expedition Vehicles out of Missoula, Montana, has announced that in addition to its line of high-end Jeep products including the Brute TJ pickup conversion, Highline hood and fender kits, TJ and JK heat reduction hoods, JK Hemi conversion kits, DOT-compliant beadlocks, and a laundry list of other cool TJ and JK products, it will offer what it's calling the AEV J8 Milspec. It's not a Jeep, so don't call it one--it's an AEV.
OK, first the downer: since the vehicle doesn't meet NHTSA safety requirements, it must be sold as a component vehicle only and therefore is delivered without an engine or transmission. Hey, it's the only way the company could make the vehicle happen in this country. And while AEV will sell the J8 Milspec without a VIN number, engine, or transmission, you'll otherwise be getting a complete vehicle that will accept your choice of a 5.7L V-8 Hemi or a 2.8L VM Motori diesel engine, both backed by a 545RFE five-speed automatic transmission. AEV will not provide the engine and transmission assemblies, but the buyer will be able to purchase and/or have the drivetrain installed through a number of independent AEV dealers. Your personal preference or local and state laws will determine which drivetrain you go with, but whether gas or diesel the AEV J8 Milspec will arrive complete and ready for the engine to be dropped in, from its heavy-duty axles, military tow hooks, beefed-up frame, radiator, and even a mil-spec air filter rated for five hours of running in zero-visibility dust storms.
Despite the trepidation potential customers may have about shelling out more than $40,000 for component chassis, in reality it's been done for years in the supercar industry. Take for example the Noble, which had been sold, assembled, and licensed in this country in the same manner as the AEV J8 Milspec will be. The supercar guys have already gone through all the legwork of ironing out the registration, licensing, and title hassles and AEV will be able to assist its customers with information on getting their J8 Milspec vehicle on the road legally in their state. When all is said and done, AEV expects its customers to have an investment of approximately $50,000 for a running, driving, licensed J8 Milspec. Sure, it's not dirt-cheap, but we give AEV a lot of credit for listening to the public clamor and doing all it can to make a modern military vehicle such as this a viable option for US enthusiasts.
While AEV didn't bring along any Hemi-powered examples, they did let us climb behind the wheel of both a five- and three-door J8 Milspec powered by the VM 2.8L diesel rated at 174hp and 339lb-ft. Despite the massive GVW and 2,500lb payload the ride isn't overly harsh. You do know you've got leaf springs in the rear, but you certainly don't get beaten up while off-road. On-road, the four-cylinder turbodiesel takes a second to light up, then rockets forward once the boost builds. We bet mileage will be great. While the five-door is very militarized and Spartan inside, you still feel a bit as though you're driving a stripped production JK. We really prefer the unique looks and vibe of the three-door. And whether five- or three-door, any J8 Milspec customer has the option of running the vehicle through AEV's conversion facility to add items like a radio, rollbar padding, lift, lockers, or whatever you may dream up. We'll be placing our order as soon as that lottery ticket pans out for us.
One other thing we really want to stress is that the J8 isn't just a stripped and slightly beefed JK. The more time you spend in a J8, the more you realize how different it is from a standard JK. The chassis and other components must undergo durability testing that is three times more rigorous than what a regular JK undergoes. The frame is heavier and reinforced, the tailgate and tire carrier are different and very beefy, and there are gussets and reinforcements all over the place in the body. The rear floor is double-thick to support more than a ton of cargo and the tow hooks are strong enough to serve as helicopter lift points. It's truly the beefiest vehicle to ever wear a seven-slat grille.
AEV J8 Milspec Facts
Make: AEV J8 Milspec
Engine: N/A - chassis set up for customer's choice of 5.7L Hemi V-8 or VM 2.8L VM Motori diesel four-cylinder
Transmission: N/A - accepts 545RFE five-speed automatic
T-case: NP231 Command-Trac, 2.72:1 Low
Electrical System: 12-Volt
Body Styles: Five-door, five-passenger or three- door, two-six passenger
Optional Equipment: Desert Sand or Military Green paint color
Axles: J8 HD Dana 44 front, 4.10:1 ratio; J8 Dana 60 rear, 4.10, Trac-Loc limited slip
Suspension: Four-link coil front with Panhard bar; HD leaf spring rear
Length: 184.4 inches
Width: 73.9 inches
Height (with hardtop): 74.4 inches
Wheelbase: 116 inches
Turning Radius: 20.3 feet
Curb Weight: 4,451 lbs
GVW: 7,403 lbs
Payload: 2,557 lbs