You want a Jeep Wrangler pickup truck? Build it yourself. That's Chrysler's message Thursday at it revealed six custom Jeeps, plus the Mopar Wrangler and a Mopar Ram 1500 Ford Raptor-fighter.
Good as the custom Jeeps look, they're eye candy, or at best aftermarket projects for well-heeled off-roaders. Let's begin with the stuff you can buy.
Jeep JK8 Independence
If you're quick and have a garage full of the right tools, you can build a Wrangler pickup out of a Wrangler Unlimited, in your garage over a weekend, Jim Sassorossi, sales chief for the Mopar parts division, insists. The pickup is based on the New Kaiser show Jeep from a couple of years ago. All you need to do is remove and replace a few body panels and rear seat parts, cut the Unlimited's roll bar, and voila! ...The pickup Jeepsters have been waiting for. The bed is 50 inches long by 44 inches wide (between the wheel wells). The new body panels cover the second row entrance. The new JK-8 show truck shows off a Mopar/Dynatrac ProRock 44 front axle, stock Dana 44 rear and 4.88 gears, a 4.5-inch long-arm suspension kit and 37-inch Goodrich Mud Terrain KM2 tires. The JK-8 kit gets you a bed floor, inner/outer body panels, half hardtop and a new bulkhead. No list price yet, but it goes on sale later this summer. Makes you wonder why Jeep doesn't build one itself.
Mopar Ram Runner
This is another package deal. It works with 2009-11 Ram 1500s, and goes on sale after the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari later this month, for $19,000 on top of the price of the truck. It includes a pre-runner stage II lift kit, and off-road front bumper, rear tire carrier and front and rear fenders.
Jeep Wrangler Blue Crush
Jeep and Mopar put this together as a potential "King of the Hammer" competitor, the off-road competitions that combine low-speed rock crawling with high-speed desert racing. Painted Moab blue, the Blue Crush uses a Fox 2.5-inch shock setup and 426 cubic-inch aluminum block Hemi, rated 540 horsepower. It has a performance transmission, gear-drive transfer case and exterior transmission coolers.
Jeep Wrangler Renegade
The first Renegade appeared, in all its gold-on-black glory, in 1972 to celebrate the CJ-5's new V-8 (from AMC). Jeep chief designer Mark Allen muted the flashy gold and black colors of the Nixon-era model, and added black paint to the front bumper, fender flares, mirror caps, etc. The '11 Renegade also includes, of course, the Wrangler's interior upgrade for the model year. The best part from the Mopar catalogue is the Dodge Challenger's new 475-horsepower, 6.4-liter Hemi, coupled to a six-speed manual. Off road toys include a Dynatrac-prepared ProRock 44 front axle, ProRock 60 rear, ARB lockers, 4.10 gears, 35-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw radials, AEV Pintler wheels and AEV/Nth Degree four-inch suspension lift.
Jeep Wrangler 'Pork Chop'
So-named because Jeep chopped 850 pounds out of the Wrangler's 4,240 pounds, targeting a new, lightweight trend among Jeep aficionados. Many Wranglers weigh as much as 5,500 pounds with all their aftermarket parts, Allen says. This is his well-executed, pure-Jeep effort to join the weight loss program. Doors and the tailgate are removed, Sparco seats weigh half as much as stock seats, the carbon-fiber hood is seven or eight pounds and the front bumper is about two pounds. It has a high-speed off-road suspension, aluminum control arms, Mopar ABS fender flares and great ET wheels plus a '60's-style hood stripe. Though the 205-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6, coupled to a six-speed manual, is no Hemi, thanks to power-v. -weight, this one ought to give the Hemi Renegade a run for its money. It's the purest Jeep here.
This is mostly a paint and tape job to give the Euro-market Cherokee (Liberty here) a kind of "Born Free" look (look it up, kids). Note the white steel wheels. The zebra stripes are "tougher than you think," says design chief Allen, who helped apply them in the studio. This Cherokee has the European-market 2.8-liter turbodiesel, an updated version of the VM Motori engine Jeep offered briefly in the Liberty early in the '00s. Jeep brand chief Michael Manley says he's considering bringing it back to the North American market in two or three years, but it depends on the market. In other words, if gas prices remain above $4 per gallon, the consumer cost of clean diesel engines become economically viable.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo
Features a two-speed transfer case, and steel springs instead of the air suspension option, in order to keep ride height constant. Ride height is up two inches over stock. It has serious mud-kicking tires and a Navy ship paint job.
Jeep Compass Canyon
Chrysler is still trying to pass off the Compass as a serious Jeep. This is the first-ever Moab Compass, using the new, facelifted model. It gets the Freedom II drivetrain, a 2 1/8-inch Rocky Road Suspension lift kit, Mickey Thompson Baja ATZ 225/75-R16s on 16-inch alloys from the Liberty, cold-air induction kit and cat-back exhaust system. Mopar also added skid plates and removed the anti-roll bars, for better articulation. Allen says the small size makes it a better off-roader than a Wrangler, in certain settings. We're still not convinced.