Jeep never holds back when it comes time to stretch its imagination and create some crazy concepts. This year at the 50th Annual Easter Safari, the American off-roading brand has taken things to the next level with seven concepts including a 707-hp Hellcat-powered Wrangler, a Renegade-based "Beige Against the Machine" Comanche pickup, and a look back at the Forward Control.
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To our eyes, the most exciting concept launched at the Easter Safari is the Trailcat, designed to be a dual-personality sports car that can crush the Rubicon Trail or show a BMW M5 a clean set of heels on the drag strip.
Power comes from the same supercharged 707-hp (527 kW), 6.2-liter Hemi V8 made famous in the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcat, and is put down through a 6-speed manual gearbox. In order to fit that massive motor into the Wrangler's body, the car's wheelbase has been stretched by 12 inches (30 cm) and it's been fitted with a chopped windshield for a sleeker look that's more in sync with its speedy demeanour.
Jeep's designers have also fitted the Trailcat out with 17-inch beadlock wheels and 39.5-inch BFGoodrich Krawler tires, Fox shocks and steel bumpers. There's a raft of add-ons from the Mopar catalogue, including a power dome bonnet, LED headlamps and rock rails.
Crew Chief 715
The Crew Chief is an clear throw back look back to military vehicles like the Kaiser 715 that inspired the current model line, as well as the tough-as-nails ethos that underpins Jeep's off-roaders.
Based around the Wrangler, the Crew Chief is fitted with steel bumpers, 20-inch beadlock wheels coupled with massive 40-inch NDT military tires and an on-board air system that can be used to pump your own tires up, or to help out stranded travelers on the side of the road. The 3.6-liter V6 engine has been upgraded with a cold-air intake and a modified exhaust system, while there's a beefed-up master brake cylinder to stop the whole package.
Of course, there's more to the Chief than just a set of engine and styling changes. Jeep Performance off-road rock rails, front and rear mounted winches, Dana 60 axles and a four inch lift kit that takes advantage of Fox Remote Reservoir shock absorbers.
Inside, there's leather and canvas bucket seats, aircraft-style switches and a large navigation compass.
Can you imagine trying to thread a Grand Cherokee down a shrubby, narrow, winding path? Jeep has tackled this problem with the Shortcut, a shortened Wrangler designed to evoke the spirit of the 1950s with its flared wheel arches, chrome bumpers and 17-inch steel wheels with 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires. The most dramatic change is that shortening, – the Shortcut is a staggering 26 inches (66 cm) shorter than a regular Wrangler.
We're huge fans of the simple, maneuverable approach to the outside, but it's the Shortcut's interior that really tips us over the edge. With low-backed plaid seats, a four point safety cage and all-weather mats that fit in with the go anywhere ethos Jeep is famous for.
Most Renegades won't ever see a gravel road, let alone a proper off-road trail, but that hasn't stopped Jeep from jacking its little SUV off for adventure.
Despite the fact the Renegade shares its underpinnings with the Fiat 500X, Jeep has fitted it with a 2-inch lift kit and 17-inch aluminum wheels for better ground clearance and performance off road. It's also replaced the panels in the sunroof with Wrangler-style removable panels and fitted rock rails, skid plates and a modified exhaust system.
Beyond that, the Commander is just a styling package, finished in Flourescent Gray (no, that's not made up) and powered by the same 2.4-liter Tigershark engine that features in the regular Renegade.
The Comanche is also based on the Renegade, but looks unlike any SUV you've seen in your supermarket carpark. Chief among Jeep's changes is the 5-foot (1.52 m) truck bed sitting behind the cabin, an addition that forced designers to extend the car's wheelbase by 6-inches (15.2 cm).
Finished in a color dubbed "Beige Against the Machine," the concept has a military-style soft top, a winch and spare tire in the bed. There's also a 2-inch lift kit fitted, which makes room for the 32-inch BFGoodrich All Terrain tires.
Power to escape enemy territory (or the Fashion Police) comes from a 2.0-liter diesel, hooked up to a 9-speed automatic with low range.
FC 150 concept
The FC 150 is a blast from the past that's all about tackling tricky trails, with room for everything you need to run a cattle station in the cargo box on the back.
This Built around a 2005 Wrangler chassis, the FC 150 concept has been modernized with a Dana 44 front axle, a Dana 60 rear axle and 17-inch steel wheels wrapped in 33-inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires. Jeep has been careful, however, to use an original steel body scarred with scrapes and scratches from its first life.
Inside, things have been designed to feel authentically 1960s, so there's vinyl seat covers, a new headliner finished in vintage duck hunting pattern, a CB radio and an analog compass.
If this one isn't taking you all the way back to the '60s, that might be because Jeep also resurrected the Forward Control with the Might FC Concept back in 2012.
Whereas all the other concepts shown in Moab are built to showcase a particular part of Jeep's past or, in the case of the Trailcat, a crazy engine from a sister brand, the Trailstorm has been built with a refreshing singularity of purpose: to be the ultimate off-road Wrangler.
The upgrades to the Trailstorm start with 17-inch concept off-road wheels wrapped in 37-inch tires. They sit underneath a 2-inch lift kit with Fox shocks, and are attached to the ends of Dana 44 axles, while there is a winch attached to pull yourself out of particularly sticky situations.
Not that getting stuck is too much of a burden – with space for extra cargo and fuel, you could spend weeks in the wilderness without worrying too much.
On the outside, there's a whole catalogue's worth of Mopar goodies to set this apart from regular Wranglers. With flared fenders, LED headlamps, a satin black grille, a fastback soft top and a special tire carrier you won't mistake this for anything but a special-edition.
That's if you can actually pick it out - thanks to a desert camouflage paintjob, the Trailcat should blend into the background as well as a V6 powered off roader can.
The Easter Safari kicks off on the 19th of March in Moab, Utah.
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