Each year, thousands of off-road enthusiasts converge on Moab, Utah, for a spring holiday celebration that has very little to do with jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, or egg hunts.
Hosted by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers, a local but nationally known 4x4 club in Moab, Easter Jeep Safari (EJS), is a nine-day, trail ride extravaganza that draws thousands of amateur, semi-pro, and expert off-roaders and 4WD clubs from around the country. Some even come from across the globe for this annual gathering of the four-wheeling faithful, which is somewhat akin to Daytona Bike Week for motorcycle enthusiasts. And for a number of years, automakers and aftermarket suppliers have used this ever-growing event as a location to try out and show off concept trail machines, as well as display what's new in the off-road glitter and glamour department and the latest offerings of 4WD hardware.
Historically, the EJS also has been a chance for Jeep to partner with Mopar (its automotive parts and accessories supplier and performance group) and to showcase new trail concepts and vehicle equipment. This year, Jeep and Mopar used EJS for the debut of six concept vehicles: three customized Wranglers, a Grand Cherokee, a Jeep J-12 concept, and a Mighty FC concept. This year also marks the launch of an official off-road division of Mopar, with Jeep-certified OEM parts and accessories. The first offerings from the new catalogue are Pro 60 portal axles and a Hemi conversion kit for Wranglers. Jeep invited Truck Trend along for a day on the trails to get behind the wheel of the new models. We tried each. Now, you come along for the ride!
During our time in Moab, we joined Venchurs Vehicle Systems, of Adrian, Michigan, on a day-long trail ride with four new "hero-built," customized V-Werks models: the Bi-Fuel Ford F-250 Park Ranger truck; the 2012 JK 8 Limited Edition Red Jacket Jeep; the 2012 JK Recon; and the VWerks Caballo Diablo (Spanish for "devil horse"). Come along with us on these rides, as well. We even took a night-time, high-rocks run into a swath of isolated Moab back country, and were on the scene for the testing of the flame-throwing Caballo Diablo, designed as an anti-terrorist model to serve in markets like South Africa and the Gulf Coast Cooperative countries. You can feel the heat, too. See for yourself: We have photos and a video clip to prove it!
2012 Jeep Wrangler Traildozer Concept
Remember when Toyota pickup aficionados started repainting the "Toyota" on the tailgate with "Tonka"? In a similar conflation of toy-truck/real-truck love, the Traildozer concept captures the imagination of a kid pushing an unthinkably powerful dozer around the sandbox. But this is better: It's real.
Painted a screaming Dozer Yellow (exclusive to the 2012 Wrangler lineup), the Traildozer is the result of the collaboration between Jeep and engineers at American Expedition Vehicles (AEV). Delivering 470 hp, this special-edition 6.4-liter Wrangler Rubicon shares the Dodge Challenger SRT8 Hemi engine and has a Getrag 238 six-speed manual transmission.
Rubicon-specific Dana 44 axles with 4:10 gears and electronic locking differentials transfer power to the wheels. Trail debris is cleared through an AEV Dualsport RS 3.5-inch suspension lift and 37-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires. The exterior is treated with special "boulder-bashing" front and rear bumpers and corner guards, a Mopar performance heat-reduction hood, a half-door kit, and a Mopar/Warn 9.5 Cti winch. Stepping inside, you'll sit on AEV "F-1" leather-trimmed seats and rest your boots on Mopar slush mats.
2012 Jeep Wrangler Apache Concept
A Mopar imprint, this riverbed runner has a conversion kit available for Jeep owners to build their own 470-hp Jeep. Available this summer, the swap kit will be rolled out first for automatic transmissions and next for manual versions.
To handle the Hemi V-8 that also packs 470 lb-ft of torque along with its 39-inch crawler tires, the Apache has been fitted with Mopar Pro 60 5.13 front and rear axles, a 4.5-inch Stage 3 long-arm lift kit and off-road bead-lock wheels. A Warn 9.5ti XP winch will help you pull others out along the trail, while Katzkin leather seats and a Mopar-inspired interior with a locking center-console box upfit your off-road cockpit. You'll also love the Plus and the cool-blue interior accents and the "bust-a-drum' sound system. Other exterior upgrades include high-clearance flat fenders, rock rails, front and rear half-door kits, a Stinger front bumper and a full-sized spare tire.
Mopar fitted a twin-stick Atlas transfer case to the Apache. This lets you independently select drive range for the two axles for assistance with more tricky or technical maneuvers, i.e., front drive in low-range gearing with the rear axle in neutral enables very tight turns off-road.
Wrangler Display Concept; Mopar Accessorized 2012 Jeep Wrangler
Mopar's Wrangler Display Concept started life as a standard Wrangler Rubicon before Mopar added height with a 2-inch lift kit and 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler tires mounted on Classic 5-hole wheels; and installed Rubicon-standard Dana 44 front and rear axles with electric lockers, which are also available in kit form from Mopar. Other outside hardware includes a Warn 9.5ti XP winch and Mopar rock rails. Inside, you'll love the sound from the Kicker dash 6.5-inch two-way speakers and the muck-absorbing Mopar all-weather mats. These goodies and other add-ons can be ordered from the Mopar catalog, which now includes more than 250 items for Wranglers.
You could call the Wrangler Display Concept a trail addict's mobile mannequin or mini-size candy store as it also showcases new prototype Mopar accessories that include a locking center console box, a rear cargo cubby cover, new windshield-mounted LED lamps, a new hard-top headliner, and an "Add-A-Trunk" partition for secure storage space in the cargo area.