The rumors were stirring when we walked into the SEMA show. "Did you see the Jeep Brute truck?" "You've got to go check out the Jeep booth." "Duuuude! You won't believe this crazy truck I just saw!"
Now of course, as big-time magazine guys, we get to see lots of cool stuff, and we like to think it's hard to impress us. So we strolled over to the DaimlerChrysler Jeep booth to see what the fuss was all about. We were giddy as schoolgirls when we laid eyes on this rig. The Harriton brothers from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) are Jedi masters when it comes to cutting apart a perfectly good Jeep and putting it back together so well that the seams are unnoticeable, but the end product is not. This custom vehicle even won a Design Excellence Award, and the prestigious informal 4-Wheel & Off-Road Baad-Azzz Award.
Dave Harriton, his brother Jordan, and a few loyal employees and friends took a brand-new Jeep Rubicon and turned it into this within a few short weeks. At the SEMA show in Las Vegas, where DaimlerChrysler had invited them to display it, people were sure it was a factory-made vehicle. The big dogs at DaimlerChrysler are not going to build this, but you can call AEV up and they will.
With experience building stretched and custom Jeep Wranglers, they knew this was going to be a big job. Building the entire vehicle on a computer before even firing up the plasma cutter is the secret to success. After everything was planned and drawn up they knew that they would need to first stretch the frame 24 inches in the middle and add 15 inches on the tail to support the bed. Next they removed 35 inches from the back of the body to shorten it into a pickup cab. The top and 6-foot-by-59-inch bed are both custom-made from new fiberglass molds (top) and newly bent 14-gauge steel (bed).
The pristine original work isn't just for looks. Under that body is a new handmade fuel tank by Transfer Flow Fuel Tanks. In addition, the rear suspension is a new AiRock airbag system that you can check out at OffRoadOnly (offroadonly.com). The sides of the body are protected with AEV rocker guards that cleanly wrap around both the cab and the front of the bed. The special features of the Rubicon package were carried over with front and rear Dana 44 axles with Tru-Lok air-actuated locking differentials and 4.11 gears, a Hi-Output 4.0L straight-six, an NV3550 five-speed transmission, and an NV241OR Rock-Trac transfer case with a 4:1 low range. Depending on your imagination and wallet, you could have them build your dream Jeep and still be able to haul a few bales of hay.