As soon as the Jeep J-12 Concept debuted, we knew we had to drive it. Luckily the Mopar Underground team is very proud of its work and wanted to put journalists behind the wheel to prove the J-12 is the real deal.
From the outside, it's difficult to think of the Jeep J-12 as a concept truck. It looks more like a resto-mod Gladiator pickup riding on modern axles and suspension. Even the 900-16 Super Lug bias ply tires and real chrome bumpers look like they were time-warped straight from a 1960s showroom. It's fitting, then, that the J-12 was referred to as the "OMT," or Old Man Truck, during its ten-week build. With a bit of patina, it would be easy to mistake this beauty for your Grandpa's farm truck.
Inside, the J-12 perfectly walks the line between modern and retro. There's a split bench seat with white Katzkin leather and plaid trim that takes you back to a time when trucks didn't come with bucket seats. The interior trim feels perfectly natural with modern touches like a navigation system and a custom center console only inches away. Everything inside the cabin is immediately familiar to anyone who has ever spent time in a Wrangler. Three switches to the left of the steering wheel control the air compressor as well as the front and rear ARB air lockers that allow this unassuming pickup to tame tough trails.
We drove the J-12 on a short off-road loop at Chrysler's proving grounds outside Chelsea, MI and were immediately impressed by the soft ride, excellent visibility, and how well-built the truck felt. The remote-reservoir Fox shocks and three-inch Mopar lift kit work perfectly together to smooth out the ride over uneven terrain at speed and the TeraFlex sway bar can easily be disconnected when full articulation is needed. At no point during our trail drive did we notice the extra 18 inches of length that were added to a Wrangler Unlimited chassis to make the six-foot bed possible. Consider the J-12 to be the perfect balance between utility and off-road ability.
A no-frills, purpose-built pickup is a no-brainer to add to the Jeep stable. Unfortunately, we're told the J-12 is little more than a creative interpretation of what's possible with a Wrangler chassis. Perhaps we'll see a production Jeep truck after the next-generation Wrangler goes on sale. Until then, we're hoping Mopar will at least offer the Rhino front end as a kit that can be added to a JK-8 or Wrangler. We already know it will fit without modification and it's one of the most sought after grilles Jeep has ever produced.