Having covered the Army with past vehicles such as the Jeep Nukizer 715, this year, Jeep and Mopar gave the Navy a nod at their 11th annual concept-fest outside Moab, with one of the Mopar units painted Battleship Gray and a concept sporting the name Flattop.
During Easter Jeep Safari, Mopar and Jeep have shown nearly 40 concept vehicles and a host of parts exercises. For 2013, they brought three from each division for a peek at what they're considering for both vehicles and parts. With more than 70 million vehicles on roads worldwide, Mopar sells plenty of parts, but it's the Jeep Performance Parts (hereafter JPP) line that appeals to the hard-core element in Moab. These aren't the chrome exhaust tips or baby strollers, but more useful stuff like suspension systems and engine upgrades. As with most manufacturer-associated parts, Mopar and JPP pieces aren't cheap, but the integration is often superior, as is any warranty coverage. The Mopar-equipped vehicles here do double-duty as parts development mules and marketing test-beds, and they're drivable.
Slim is closer to stock than any of this year's fleet, essentially a Wrangler Sport with mostly bolt-on parts. It's also the only time we've heard a Jeep spokesman expressing enthusiasm about a headliner with improved acoustics -- because Slim actually has one.
Running gear is Wrangler plus a Mopar cold-air intake, 4.0:1 transfer case, limited-slip 3.73:1 in back, and lightweight rock rails, rear bumper, and modified 10th Anniversary front bumper with outer lips that meet the fenders for better aero. Slim sports a prototype 2-inch Mopar suspension lift that is all spring and shock -- no spacers -- to handle 35s on prototype JPP forged beadlock wheels and Rock Lobster beauty rings. Cosmetic upgrades include Katzkin leather seats and Rock Lobster paint, with LED headlamps. Its CB and a locking gas cap add function. It drives very much like a Rubicon, but rides better. While we weren't given time in it on the pavement, we expect it works well there for all but enthusiastic corner carving.
Wrangler Sand Trooper II
A revision of the Hemi-powered Sand Trooper shown at SEMA last year, the sequel/remake uses a 375-hp Hemi, portal axles, and eight-lug JPP forged wheels with 40-inch Super Swampers.
Given that substantial base, STII also carries plenty of Mopar bits: black grille, hood lock, half-door and window kits all around, front and rear third-generation "Shorty" modified bumpers, Warn winch, flat fenders, rock rails, vented hood, LED off-road lights (you can see them in the fenders), and headlamps, Rubicon 10th Anniversary swing-away rear tire carrier, trailer-tow hitch receiver, black tail-lamp guards, locking fuel door, and a Jeep Performance Parts badge. The truck-wide, truck-heavy STII also carries myriad locking storage areas, grab handles, leather seats, and a rearview camera.
Wrangler Mopar Recon
Sized like a boat and therefore painted Battleship Gray, the Recon would be welcomed by any sailor, thanks to a 470-hp, 6.4-liter crate Hemi and a bottle opener built into the rear bumper. Its Dana 60s with eight-lug ends carry 4.10:1 gears and electric lockers, and there are JPP forged wheels and 39s. The 4.5-inch long-arm suspension system with tall coils and Fox shocks is a prototype, but offers good travel and articulation.
Mopar calls the bumpers Stingers; they're modified Rubicon 10th units with a Warn winch tucked in front. The Recon also gets the half-door/window kit, big-clearance flat fenders, rock rails, Rubicon 10th Anniversary hood and spare-tire carrier, LED headlamps, canvas soft top, body and taillight guards, and JPP badges. The locking fuel door is almost redundant with the thirst of a 6.4 Hemi driving 39s.
Inside, the upholstery is ocean horizon camo with bolsters in a rough Navy blanket fabric. Cabin trim highlights are bright green, like that on a monochrome radar display, and the one time we got it out of the green-dot zone on the bottom third of the tach, the ECO light came on. Go figure. With limited top and door coverage, the Mopar side visors could come in handy; other accessories include locking subfloor storage, grab handles, thick mats, and door-sill guards, because most will stumble or trip climbing to that altitude.
Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Concept II
You wouldn't think SRT would be the place to turn for off-highway Jeep stuff, but the Trailhawk concept, in wild poppy-orange with black roof and trim, sports an SRT hood and fascias that have been modified for "ground clearance," but we think they meant they were modified to improve approach and departure angles.
Open a rear door and you can see how much wheel and Sawzall wheel work was done to make 35s fit with only 1.5-inch spacers added to the steel-spring suspension. Wrangler Rubicon wheels carry the Mickey Thompsons under custom fender flares, with plenty of skidplating, dual rear tow hooks, and massaged Mopar rock rails.
The Trailhawk Concept runs the EcoDiesel V-6 with buckets of torque. Even with the stock running gear, the crawl ratio is better than 44:1 so it manages to turn the 35s; we'd honestly be more worried about slowing it down on a fast dry wash than getting going. A Banks pipe helps it sound more menacing. For comparison, the next day we took a stock-right down to the pressures in the Michelin all-season tires -- Grand Cherokee diesel through Elephant Hill without tweaking any bodywork or breaking anything. We could have used the Trailhawk's thick Mopar floor and cargo mats.
Wrangler Flattop Concept
Styled more akin to a sailor's haircut than an aircraft carrier, the Flattop sports a chopped top and runs 37s without a lift. According to that Jeep's designer, 40s are "dumb." The windowless, no-B-pillar Flattop has a one-piece lightweight roof that sits 2 inches lower than stock. The grille comes from the Dragon special edition for the Chinese market, and it gets modified Rubicon 10th Anniversary hood and bumpers, Warn Zeon winch, and TeraFlex spare tire carrier. It's all finished in sandstone metallic paint with copper and brown details on grille surrounds, hinges, side rails, mirrors, tow hooks, and the LED headlight trim.
To fit the M/T 37s, the fender flares are 1.5 inches wider and mounted 3 inches higher. The fenders were then opened up underneath, a process the designer noted could be undertaken by the backyard mechanic. Mopar is working on adding something very close to these to the catalog. Underneath, the six-speed manual Flattop breathes through Mopar intake and exhaust, runs Dynatrac ProRock 44 and 60 with ARB air lockers, TeraFlex anti-roll bars, Full-Traction control arms, and King shocks. The greenhouse gets the same brown/copper color scheme, seen in the Katzkin leather seats and on the dash.
Wrangler Stitch Concept
While we were in Moab, we heard a Jeep employee admit out loud, "Already, the Wrangler's a bit porky." That confession about Wrangler heft -- the truth hurts -- was the driver behind Stitch, which is essentially an updated Pork Chop that takes the philosophy one step further.
This is the diet concept: The windshield has been chopped a couple inches. It has the same rollcage as Pork Chop, but substituting chrome-moly steel saved about 35 pounds. The frame has been drilled to lighten the Wrangler, crossmembers needed only for towing rigidity were removed, and a "10-gallon bucket was filled" with all the brackets, mounts, and braces they pulled off. It has a tiny battery that weighs "like, four pounds," no audio system beyond the faceplate, no ventilation system of any kind, a carbon-fiber replica of the Rubicon 10th Anniversary hood, lightened Viper front seats, no rear seats, and a vinyl "top" fashioned after welding curtains. Not done there, Jeep substituted aluminum Full-Traction control arms, aluminum floorpan, and aluminum GenRight fuel tank. Much of the body paneling has been removed, replaced by an "architectural fabric" any man on the street would call heavy-duty aluminum window screen. Most motorcycles have more protection from the elements.
As a result, Stitch weighs about half a ton less than a stock Wrangler, but with Mopar cold-air intake and exhaust, makes at least as much power as a regular Wrangler. That gives Stitch a better power-to-weight ratio than a Grand Cherokee SRT. Mickey Thompson 35-inch tires on light, forged 17-inch wheels are countered by 4.88:1 gears in the ARB-locked Dynatrac ProRock 44 axles. King shocks with pneumatic bump stops and Tom Woods driveshafts keep the standard springs settled. There's no lift -- it just sits higher because of the missing 1000 pounds. As you'd expect, Stitch is a blast on fast dirt sections, where it's easily steered with the right foot in 2WD but faster to launch in four (it spun all of them in 4-Hi -- after switching off traction control). It also crawls and climbs more easily and gives a gentler ride from lower air pressure, but the diet most showed its advantage slowing from speed.