Lock up your daughters. They built it. It’s the Jeep almost nobody outside of our wacky little circle of hardcore Jeep nuts knows about: the Forward Control. And that’s the model the Mopar Underground guys chose to emulate. The engine that drives the delightfully bent Underground team is Head of Ram and Jeep Design, Mark Allen. Each year, Allen spurs his marauding horde of compatriots to build seriously innovative and functional works of Jeep art, which are unveiled at Moab Easter Jeep Safari. These are the guys who hold in their hands the future of the Jeep brand. To us, it just goes to show the naysayers that, although the Willys Overland plant in Toledo, Ohio, is gone, the Force still runs strong through the Pentastar building—from the guys who screw the bolts at the assembly line, all the way up to the Jeep CEO and president, Mike Manley, who green-lights projects such as this.
The Mighty FC looks like it’s built atop a JK Unlimited chassis, but to truly emulate a Forward Control (which placed the engine behind the driver and the front tires below the front seat) the team started with a two-door JK Rubicon chassis. Mechanically speaking, the front axle was moved forward, resulting in roughly a 52-inch front driveshaft. The stock placement of the engine, transmission, and T-case helps keep the vehicle balanced. Despite appearances, it’s not nose-heavy. Weight distribution works out to roughly a 60/40 front-to-rear split. The steering box is out of a right-hand-drive JK and was flipped 180 degrees and linked up to the steering wheel with a 16-inch Wizard Fabrication Steer Clear unit. The brake master cylinder/booster assembly is the stock JK part that was flipped 180 degrees and mounted under the floor. It tickles four-piston front and two-piston rear Wilwood calipers. The extra whoa is required considering the Mopar Performance portal axles’ combined 6.15:1 gearing atop the Rubicon’s 4:1 T-case and creepy auto transmission. This sucker crawls.
The body was hewn together from various and sundry components. The top 14 inches of the bed bed is from Tafco Equipment, a company manufacturing contractor bodies and components for work trucks. The drop-side, tray-style bedsits atop custom sheetmetal bodysides and many surprises lie behind the shaved-down JK tailgate. Primary of which is the spare tire, a GenRight fuel tank, and a Challenger SRT8 radiator that sits in a north/south configuration along the passenger-side bedside. On the top of the bed, a custom contractor box lid hides the access to the stock 3.6L Pentastar V-6. Up front, the cab was made from a JK body—more or less. The windshield height is stock, but the doors were shortened, the roof is from a Mopar JK8 pickup kit, and the nose was laid out in carbon fiber.
Inside, moving the dash forward by roughly 6 feet required most of the wiring to be extended as well as custom-length shift linkages for the five-speed auto tranny and Rock-Trac T-case. Despite the industrial gray/blue exterior paint that was inspired by a mechanic’s coverall, the interior of the Mighty FC is more welcoming and inviting. The seats feature leather outers and the plaid inserts were cut from a snowboard bag. The zippered bag pockets were even retained. Could we expect a plaid soft-top option in the ’14 JK? Probably not, but it’s a nice piece of whimsy in an otherwise-paramilitary-flavored build. Spray-on liner replaces the carpet, which is how it should be in most off-road-oriented Jeeps. It’s more realistic to expect the liner option to crop up in dealership option boxes in the distant future.
One of the nice things about being part of the huge media machine that is Source Interlink Media is the vast amount of other hardcore enthusiasts we call colleagues. In this particular case, 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine Technical Editor Fred Williams graciously offered us his ’64 M-677 for comparison. To the uninitiated, it’s a two-stroke, supercharged, direct-injected, three-cylinder, multi-fuel, Cerlist diesel-powered crew-cab military version of the classic ’57-’65 FCs of yore. William’s M-677 is one of the finest (well, figuratively speaking) running examples in the world. Okay, at least it’s one of the most recognized. And we got to drive it back-to-back against the Mighty FC concept. The comparisons are night and day. Where the M-677 is vintage, smelly, auditorily assaulting, and alive with vibration, the Mighty FC soothingly hums you along with comfortable seats, working HVAC, good brakes and steering, and satellite navigation. But both offer a driving experience few outside of a VW Vanagon or Mercedes Unimog can wrap their head around. When climbing, you feel like you’re going to keep going up into the sky forever, and when descending you always feel like you’re about to endo and roll to your death. And, for every trail obstacle you pass over, your feet and rear end are over it before the front tires encounter it. It’s comically entertaining—like riding in the very front seat of a roller coaster.
1964 M-677Vehicle: M-677
Engine: Three-cylinder, multi-fuel, 170ci Cerlist diesel
Power (gross): 85hp @ 3,000 rpm; 170 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm
Transmission: Spicer 18; 2.43:1
Transfer Case: NV241 Rock-Trac; 4:1
Suspension: BDS leaf spring to level stance (front); stock leaf spring (rear)
Front Axle: Dana 44; 4.88 gears; limited-slip differential
Rear Axle: Spicer 53; 4.88 gears; limited-slip differential
Tires & Wheels: 255/85R15 BFG M/T on 16x7 stock steel
Curb weight: 4,750 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 22 gallons
Approach Angle: 40 degrees
Departure Angle: 30 degrees
Engine: 3.6L V-6
Power (net): 285hp @ 6,400 rpm; 260 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: A580 five-speed auto
Transfer Case: NV241 Rock-Trac; 4:1
Suspension: King 2.5-inch-diameter, 10-inch-travel coilovers with remote reservoirs (no lift; stock JK height); Teraflex JK-length control arms; 5.5-inch lift provided by portal axles
Front Axle: Mopar Performance Dyna- trac ProRock Dana 44; 4:10 gears, ARB Air Locker; Mopar 1.5:1 reduction portals; 6:15 final drive
Rear Axle: Mopar Performance Dyna- trac ProRock Dana 60; 4:10 gears; ARB Air Locker; Mopar 1.5:1 reduction portals; 6:15 final drive
Tires & Wheels: 39x13.50R17 BFG Krawler TA/KX on 17x9.5 Hutchinson beadlocks
Curb weight: 6,550 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 18 gallons
Approach Angle: A lot
Departure Angle: Even more