Seven Jeeps, countless Easter eggs
Once again this spring the Red Rock 4-Wheelers are playing host to what will be the 51st annual Easter Jeep Safari on the rugged trails outside Moab in southeastern Utah. Although the event is open to all high-clearance low-range-equipped 4WD vehicles, Jeep is right there in the name. Once again the brand will have a big presence on the Safari’s trails and campsites. A total of seven concept vehicles will be on hand demonstrating the brand’s off-road cred and showing off its design chutzpah—as well as the designers’ ability to hide little Jeep icon “Easter eggs” in odd places.
More Easter Jeep Safari Concepts:
By far this year’s most outrageous off-roader is this vaguely Wrangler-Rubicon-based little hellion inspired by ’60s gasser hot rods of yore. Dig the 4-inch chopped roof and bobbed tail, the Moon tank in front (which here houses a Warn winch), the fender-well headers with trumpet cutouts (exhaust can be routed through a conventional muffler), the custom Halibrand knockoff look-alike wheels wrapped in 32-inch front and 37-inch rear BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A tires, and the parachute bag in the back (which just carries recovery cables). Power comes from a 392 Crate Hemi with Borla tall-stack injection, featuring intake trumpets that poke through the giant window in the hood (which articulates forward and down to open). The Dana 44 front and Dana 60 rear axles are moved forward and aft respectively. Look closer, and you notice little design surprises and delights such as the shift knob that is a little red Jeep encased in acrylic, round tail lamps suspended in larger round holes in the bodywork, the top-hinged bottom-venting windshield glass, twin fuel fillers leading to the central fuel cell with caps reading “Detroit Rocket Fuel Only,” and the CNC milled fender badges reading “X Rated 4×4” on the driver side and “Hemi Crated 392” on the passenger side.
In celebration of the impending 25th anniversary of the Grand Cherokee as we know it, the Jeep design team went out, found a presentable 1993 ZJ-generation Grand Cherokee, and very tastefully updated it while retaining the original 5.2-liter V-8 (upgraded only with a cold-air intake and freer-flowing exhaust). To tackle Moab’s toughest trails, it gets a 2-inch lift with Dana 44 axles on new suspension links that effectively move the front axle 2 inches forward and the rear axle 1 inch aft. It also receives 33-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tires wrapping 18-inch lace wheels that sort of ape those of the original. The stock rocker panels are clad in heavy-gauge steel rock-rail material painted body color. Styling touches include enlarged fender flares to cover the repositioned tires, a revised grille with numerals counting the eight slots, and a very subtle half-tone wood grain applique that pays homage to the short-lived ZJ Grand Wagoneer. Inside there’s a plaid flannel headliner, a hard-wired car phone, and a Game Boy in the back seat. Oh, and there’s a Bay-Watch sticker on the driver door inner panel proclaiming “Hoff Tested, Hoff Approved.” Nice.
Here Jeep looked to optimize a Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon model for family enjoyment of the great outdoors, with special emphasis on the rear seat occupants’ fun and enjoyment. Note that the rear bucket seats are slightly angled outboard to maximize the views out of the “windoors,” aluminum frames with full-height clear vinyl glazing that zips open for ventilation. The rear ones are rear-hinged to open “cabinet style” (don’t say suicide—also, don’t count on hermetic sealing out of gale-force rains). The roof also incorporates a drone dock, allowing the passengers to prerun the trail or simply peer over that impending precipice. A translucent roof panel lets in plenty of light, and larger than usual windows in the rear area ensure superb 360-degree visibility. There’s an iPad in the dash, and a stainless countertop with a slide-out cutting board on the inside of the tailgate simplifies trailside food and drink prep. Functional upgrades include bodywork that trims 4 inches off the front and rear for greatly improved approach/departure angles, a 2-inch suspension lift, Dana 44 lockable axles front and rear (from Jeep Performance Parts catalogue), and 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tires on custom 18-inch wheels shaded by modified fenders. An integrated ARB compressor makes it easy to air the tires back up to pavement pressures after a day on the rocks or sand. The grille features outer slots that are squeezed CJ-style by the round headlamps—that’s one styling feature we expect to see more of.
This concept starts with a Compass Trailhawk and kicks the off-roadability up a notch with a 1.5-inch concept lift kit and 18-inch wheels wearing 245/60R18 Continental TerrainContact tires. The Jeep Performance Parts bin contributes the roof basket, roof rack cross rails, and lower rock rails, as well as the roof cargo bag and traction mats. The green paint is set off by a gloss-black hood graphic and roof treatment, with orange accents (tow hooks, badge backgrounds, and wheel details). There’s also a concept side stripe graphic and tinted head- and taillamp lenses. The green body color is echoed inside in the Jeep logos stitched into the Katzkin seat covers, on stitching on the seats and doors, and on anodized trim rings on the speakers, instrument cluster, and shifter.
This Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon-based concept features another take on the safari experience, with a custom roof offering several vista windows above the rear seat and cargo area, as well doors that let plenty of air in above and below the belt line. The rest of the package consists of concept products that might eventually make the JPP catalogue—the power-bulge hood, 17-inch wheels (which are wrapped in 37-inch BFG Mud-Terrain KM2 tires), the aforementioned doors, the roof, the roof rack, sport bar grab handles, and LED lighting on the A-pillars, above the windshield, and in the taillamps. JPP parts include the Dana 44 axles, 4-inch lift kit, remote-reservoir Fox shocks, heavy-duty cast differential covers, steel front and rear bumpers, Rubicon winch, grille, cold-air intake, high-top fender flares, black fuel door, taillamp guards, reinforced tailgate hinges (to handle the weight of the oversized spare tire and first aid/roadside safety kit), and the LED head and fog lamps.
With the advent of lower-power, brighter LED lighting, more participants are showing up prepared to produce serious retina-searing candela. As a result, more folks are mounting after-dark trail runs. This Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon-based concept pulls out all the stops on the lighting front, developed with input from Magnetti Marelli’s lighting division. The unit mounted to the hood includes an infrared camera that scans the horizon for the heat signatures of animals or pedestrians and then floods them with extra light. In back there’s a multifunction center high-mount stop lamp designed to provide visual confirmation of your progress or lack thereof. Green light indicates the vehicle is moving along at above 3 mph (5 km/h), amber suggests slowing to maneuver (1-3 mph), red obviously indicates full stop, and white illuminates when reversing. Other lighting includes concept A-pillar mounted stop lights, bumper-mounted fog lamps with cornering lights that illuminate with steering input, magnetic underbody rock lights, 7-inch LED projector headlamps, grille- and bumper-mounted LED lamps, and unique round LED combination taillamps. Helping power all this lighting is an auxiliary lithium-ion battery mounted in the cargo area that gets recharged during the day, a roof-mounted photovoltaic solar energy collector. Naturally the concept also gets a 4-inch lift, Dana 60 axles, and 37-inch Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires on a set of Mickey Thompson Deegan 38 Pro 2 black bead-lock wheels.
This one first broke cover last fall at SEMA, but it’ll be giving rides in Moab, so we’re including it here. It’s a mashup of three generations of Jeep: A reproduction 1966 Wrangler CJ universal body from Tuxedo Park is combined with a TJ-generation Wrangler frame and powered by a current-gen Mopar 345 Crate Hemi 5.7-liter engine. Dana 44 crate axles from Mopar ride on a 2-inch lift kit and spin JPP 17-inch beadlock wheels wrapped in 35-inch BFG tires. The seats are Viper-spec, and most of the rest of the exterior bits are from the JPP catalogue.