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  • Easter Jeep Safari 2010: Dodge, Jeep, and Mopar Bring Their Toys to Moab

Easter Jeep Safari 2010: Dodge, Jeep, and Mopar Bring Their Toys to Moab

Jun 16, 2010
The sleepy town of Moab came alive once again in April, when the 44th Easter Jeep Safari brought 4x4s from all over the country for nine days of four-wheeling on 30 different trails. Motels were booked, bars and restaurants were packed, parties and receptions were held every night, and 4x4s of all kinds filled the streets. Moab's 4x4 Outpost was open 24/7, making overnight repairs and keeping 4x4s out on the trail, and the coin-op car wash seemed to be in use day and night.
The Red Rock 4-Wheelers 4x4 club negotiated with various agencies to establish a policy that included some 51 stipulations affecting camping, wildlife, water quality, and motor-vehicle-operator conduct. Land-use fees paid by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers, between the Bureau of Land Management and State of Utah, totaled about $38,000. Much of the money is returned to local agencies, which help keep the Moab trail system the national treasure it is.
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During Easter Jeep Safari, the streets of Moab are a nonstop open-air 4x4 parade and a showcase of American entrepreneurial ingenuity. You might see any kind of 4x4 equipped with any kind of engine, any kind of suspension, using any kinds of body parts--OEM or fabricated. There were fewer extreme rock buggy rigs in town than last year, since there was no rock-crawling competition taking place on Saturday. But there was no shortage of masterpiece trail machines made by shops, magazines, and manufacturers from around the country. Many of those rigs were on hand at the trade show Thursday and Friday, but almost all were out on the trails earlier in the week.
Some of the most interesting were a group of custom 4x4s brought by Chrysler, built using spare parts commandeered by a group of dedicated engineers, designers, and fabricators working in their spare time. Their goal is to expose enthusiasts to ideas and products that might become part of the Chrysler/Mopar lineup in the future.
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In a sense, their outreach allows individual enthusiasts to influence the course of Jeep and Dodge Truck development. As Mark Allen, head of the Jeep Design Studio, put it, "We will take all the feedback we get from customers back to the design studio." Shown here are some of the more interesting.
Jeep Patriot Extreme
Here's something you don't see every day: a Jeep Patriot with practical off-road capability. That makes it an affordable, 30-mpg highway compact 4x4 with some entertainment value. In stock trim, the limiting factor on the Patriot is ground clearance, so they added a little lift (two-inch Rocky Road Outfitters kit), and larger, P225/75R16 BFG KM2 Mud Terrain tires on 16-inch TJ wheels.
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The combination raises ground clearance to an estimated 10 inches, without use of a tire so large as to require installing lower axle gears. The greater ground clearance did improve the standard angles of approach and departure--to 29 degrees and 33 degrees, respectively, but just in case protective rock rails cover the rocker panels and stout bars guard the front and rear, where the Patriot might drag on steep entries or exits. Also in place is a factory Freedom Drive II off-road package, which includes 19:1 low range gearing, underbody protection, full-size spare, tow hooks and foglights. Power is supplied by a 172-horse, 2.4-liter 16-valve I-4 engine. That might not make the Patriot Extreme a hard-core trail machine, but it did make it fun on sand dunes, and surprisingly able on trails around Moab.
Ram Power Wagon
This is what happens when you shorten up a standard Power Wagon Heavy Duty pickup, and trade stock 31-inch tires for 40-inch rubber. Instead of a 148-inch-wheelbase Crew Cab, the Powerwagon concept shown here is 120 inches from axle to axle, and it seats two.
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It keeps the standard Power Wagon 4.56:1 axle ratio and the 5.7 Hemi, but adds a four-link coil spring rear suspension from a Ram 1500 to greatly enhance suspension travel. A four-inch lift and careful fender and bumper design allow the 40-inch rubber to fit, just barely, making the Powerwagon concept about four inches taller, four inches wider, with an estimated 16 inches of ground clearance. The spare tire was moved into the stepside bed, where it takes up most of the space. Body protection includes sill guards and custom bumpers on both ends by Rock-Slide Engineering.
Given that the Hemi makes 400 pound-feet of torque, and low range gearing is 2.72:1, the Powerwagon concept still had plenty of crawling power on the rocks at Moab...and ground clearance to burn.
Jeep NuKizer 715
Not many people know it, but in Egypt, there's a Jeep plant that manufactures a basic Jeep for military use, called the J8. The J8 has straight axles, leaf springs and a small diesel engine. Today there are no Jeep pickups in North America, no diesel Jeeps, and no military Jeeps. But there was once the Kaiser M-715, with an iconic look Mopar engineers decided to revive in the NuKizer 715 concept, which you see here. To replicate the Kaiser, the Mopar team got their hands on a military-issue J8, stretched the frame, cut the cabin and added a pickup box, borrowing pieces from an American Expedition Vehicles body kit.
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An Atlas II transfer case sends power through Tom Woods driveshafts to custom Dynatrac Dana 44 and Dana 60 axles set up with 5.38 gears, manual hubs, and ARB lockers at both ends. The front clip is a carbon-fiber piece that emulates the original M-715. It's all freshly painted in glossy industrial gray. The unique soft top was sewn to spec by Bestop. Tires are 38-inch BFG MTs on Hutchinson beadlock wheels, housed by huge round fenders. The front anti-roll bar is a dual-rate TeraFlex street/trail unit; shocks are Bilsteins.
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The engine is a version of the 2.8 VM Motori turbodiesel, a four-cylinder common-rail engine once offered in the Liberty. It's been tuned for higher output, now yielding something in the area of 400 pound-feet, we were told. Whatever the number, the Nukizer has plenty of power, enabling it to rip around sand dunes and idle up hills with ease.
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Nifty custom treatments abound. In the bed, the spare tire is stowed in a recessed pocket behind the cab, flanked by a Warn compressor and a fuel canister. Bumpers at both ends are custom, fitted with a pintle hook at the rear and a Warn 9.5XP winch up front. Tubular rock rails were fabricated with a ventilated step blending the interface between body and fenders.
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Mopar ImMortal
This concept Wrangler, which the Mopar team calls ImMortal, rides on prototype Mopar portal axles, allowing the axle tube to be located well above the wheel hubs. In this case, the five-inch ground-clearance gain allows the use of huge tires without the need for massive lift.
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Coil springs and Bilstein shocks allow the axles to move around, but this Jeep's capability is based more on ground clearance and gearing than extreme articulation. The portal axle ends contain their own reduction gears, which combine with a 4:1 transfer case for a super-low, 100-to-1 crawl ratio. Not-for-highway-use, 42-inch Goodyear MTR Kevlar tires on 17-inch beadlocked wheels add still more ground clearance.
Most of the parts here will be available through Mopar: axles, two-inch lift, body armor, heat reduction hood, half door kit, sun bonnet, and seat covers. The body armor includes a front brush protector and strong, compact rock rails. Using an AEV swap kit, a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 was installed to replace the stock JK 3.8 six. To handle the large tires hydraulic steering assist had to be worked out, and custom Tom Woods driveshafts were needed as part of the engine swap.
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Custom bumpers are used front and rear, with a Warn winch mounted up front. Wide tube-and-panel fender covers house the 42-inch rubber. Viper Snakeskin Green Pearlcoat paint covers the new bodywork; Katzkin leather seats upgrade the interior.
Mopar Ram Runner
Dodge doesn't offer a full-size go-fast factory prerunner that might compete with Ford's Raptor SVT. And it probably never will, although it seems there is a plan to offer parts that would allow individuals to convert a Ram 1500 into something akin to the limited-edition Raptor XT. The Ram Runner is intended to demonstrate that possibility.
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To get the suspension developed, they enlisted off-road-racing legend Kent Kroeker to prototype strong, light pieces that would permit smooth running over rough terrain at higher speeds. The suspension uses high-strength, T6 billet aluminum upper A-arms with rebuildable, long-travel ball joints. The lower control arms are made from 4130 chromoly steel. Axle shafts are made of 300M tool steel. Tie rods are one inch in diameter and have Heim joints on both ends. CV joints are used to accommodate extreme travel, estimated at 15 inches in the front. At the rear, the Ram Runner has variable-rate coils and 14 inches of travel, about the max that can be achieved without extending shocks through the bed. The shocks are Fox internal bypass units, three inches in diameter, that can be tuned in jounce and rebound cycles.
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The suspension permits a low center of gravity and maintains stock alignment specifications, allowing the Ram Runner to corner flat off-road at speed, even when the path is irregular. Tires are 35x12.50 General Grabber Competition tires, and although they are DOT approved, the suspension kit is not, so it will likely be sold through Mopar as "off-road only" equipment, without warranty. Still, many Dodge dealers will install Mopar parts on a new vehicle, so it would be possible to purchase a truck like the Ram Runner, turn-key, and finance the cost.
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More likely, individuals will purchase the parts as a kit, which will include the suspension pieces, Baja bumper and lights, front bash plate, fiberglass fenders to replace OEM steel and a prerunner-style, bed-mounted tire carrier. Educated guesses as to price range from $12,000 to $15,000, plus the cost of the rollcage, installation, and paint.
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XJ Stroker Revised
Last year at Moab, Mopar teased us with a 4.7-liter I-6 in an otherwise stock Cherokee XJ. The story was the powerplant would undergo durability testing and might be available later on. This year, the Mopar team is back with the proven engine in the same 2001 XJ, now extensively modified. Word is that a bolt-in long block is now available through Mopar Performance and that the parts include roller rockers, hypereutectic pistons, and oversize valves. Which means any of the vehicles originally offered with the 4.0 six--XJ, TJ, YJ, and others--can be hot rodded with the new long-stroke powerplant, which yields 290 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm.
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The XJ now offers a completely different level of capability, with a four-inch coil spring lift, tube doors, and custom rock rails. Mopar XJ front and rear bumpers provide protection and add clearance; The front bumper houses a Warn winch. Tires are 33-inch Goodyear M/Ts on AEV wheels.
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Jeep Wrangler Trail Boss
This Wrangler was built to show that serious trail machine buildups can be achieved by using Mopar trail catalog parts, parts that can be dealer-installed and financed on a new vehicle. This two-door 2009 Wrangler Rubicon has a half door kit, sun bonnet, and AEV heat reduction hood. A three-inch lift kit allows fitment of directional 35x12.50 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires on Hutchinson Rock Monster beadlock wheels. Bumpers on both ends are also from AEV; the front bumper houses a Warn 9.5ti winch. The spare is relocated to a rear tire carrier for better ground clearance. Inside a Katzkin leather seat trim kit has been installed, along with slush mats and a Kicker audio system.
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Jeep/Trailer Combo
We think this Wrangler and pop-up trailer combo is pretty cool. Anyone can build a lightweight trailer, but building one that won't get hung up off-road is not so easily done. The trailer has the same amount of ground clearance and tire size as the Wrangler Unlimited that is pulling it, so it can go along for the ride on the trails, and it's light enough to go out on the dunes. Once at the campsite, it quickly pops open and folds out to create a surprisingly inviting living space, with bench seat, dinette, lockable storage box and queen-size sleeping area.
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