Jeep descends on Moab with a small army of pickup concepts
For years, Jeep used the annual Easter Jeep Safari to dangle the idea of a pickup in front of a hungry audience, mixing various styles of beds into its annual slate of heavily accessorized concepts. With last year's launch of the Gladiator, those concepts finally came to fruition in a Jeep pickup on its way to dealerships. But if you thought the Gladiator introduction meant that Jeep was done experimenting with pickup concepts at the Easter Moab event, think again. This year's lineup is ALL pickup, from a Gladiator camper, to a retromodded M715, to a Wrangler-turned-long bed truck.
Back in 2010, Jeep sent tremors through the deep-red rock of Moab when it revealed the Nukizer 715, a retro military-inspired pickup concept based on a J8. The concept jolted to life a Jeep pickup rumor mill that hadn't quite died since Jeep teased the world with the 2004/05 Gladiator concept. Those rumors only grew louder as Jeep proceeded to string pickup lovers along with subsequent Easter Safari concepts, like the 2012 J-12, 2015 Red Rock Responder and 2016 Crew Chief 715, while also dropping hints and promises of an eventual production pickup.
The Gladiator pickup finally became reality at last year's LA Auto Show (and we certainly dug it), more than eight years after some of Jeep's biggest fans drooled at the retro-deliciousness of the Nukizer 715 in a Moab parking lot. Now that its pickup is here, Jeep is only growing the tradition of Easter Jeep Safari pickup concepts, basing all six of this year's concepts on the Gladiator or a similar pickup design. Some highlight a handful of the 200+ aftermarket Mopar parts available at Gladiator launch, while others explore new ideas or revisit old ones. We start with our favorites.
Something like the M-715 Five-Quarter is about the only vehicle that could have caught our interest more than the very first Gladiator overlander, given how tuned in to RVs and expedition vehicles we've been of late at recent shows like RVX and CMT. Named after historical 1.25-ton Jeep trucks (five quarters), this funky little truck tiptoes the tightrope between civilian and military, a 1968 M715 military truck retro-modded for active off-road duty.
Jeep spends much of its time up front, starting off with the big addition of a 700-hp Hellcrate Hemi V8 to give the old military truck some seriously modern muscle. From there, it reworks the look with a carbon fiber front-end, HID headlights and LED auxiliary lights integrated in the bumper.
Hopping over the lowered soft-top, Jeep drops in a light, skeletal 6-foot (1.8-m) aluminum bed, which adds to the truck's modernized, no-nonsense look. The corners of that bed house LED halo taillights, while the floor includes wood slats.
To help the truck put all its power to proper use, on- and off-road, Jeep reinforces the original frame, swaps in Dynatrac Pro-Rock 60 front and 80 rear axles, trades the old leaf springs out for a heavy-duty link/coil suspension system, and sets the whole package on 20-in beadlock wheels wrapped in 40-in tires.
Ever since the Gladiator's big debut last year, we've been daydreaming about what the first overland-spec Gladiators would look like. A simple roof-top tent mounted on a bed rack? A small monocoque truck camper that slides into the 5-foot (1.5-m) bed? Perhaps more of a hybrid solution, like a Gladiator AT Habitat? The Gladiator just seems like an overland natural, combining Wrangler-like off-road capability with a little more flexibility in hauling all the gear demanded by an extended expedition.
Jeep keeps things simple and functional with its first vision of a Gladiator overlander, plopping a two-person Maggiolina hardshell roof-top tent atop a custom-built bed rack. The two adventurers inside will find space to organize and carry everything they need thanks to a roof rack and Mopar/Decked bed storage drawer system. Auxiliary fuel tanks tucked neatly away in the outer bedsides and an ARB air system help keep the Wayout traveling smoothly over large distances, while a 270-degree awning and amber LED task lighting keep things comfortable at camp.
Jeep adds to the base Gladiator's robust off-road capabilities with a 2-in lift kit, snorkel, 12,000-lb (5,440-kg) Warn winch and 37-in mud terrain tires. The "Gator Green" color will find its way to production Gladiator models.
Not one but two 6-foot bed concepts? Maybe Jeep isn't done teasing future pickup products at Easter Jeep Safari just yet.
The Jeep J6 shows what a two-door long-bed Gladiator could look like, and while it's the subtlest concept of the 2019 mix, perhaps it'll prove the most important. Starting with a Wrangler Unlimited, Jeep shortens up the cab into two-door configuration, making room for a longer 6-foot bed fortified with bed liner matched to the Metallic Brilliant Blue exterior paint, a color derived from the 1978 Jeep Honcho. The capable little truck maintains the 118.4-in (3,007-mm) wheelbase of the four-door Wrangler while offering a foot of extra bed space over the standard Gladiator.
Concept upgrades thrown on for good measure include prototype roll and stinger bars, plenty of LED lighting, a prototype spare tire carrier, a concept removable hardtop and prototype 17-in beadlock wheels. The concept rides high on a 2-in lift and 37-in tires.
The new Gladiator looked picture-perfect when displayed with a pair of dirt bikes dangling over the tailgate in LA, and Jeep builds on that idea with the Flatbill concept. Designed to chase two-wheeled adventure farther off the beaten path, the Flatbill complements its dirt bike duo with off-road upgrades like a 4-in suspension lift, large rear bypass shocks, Dynatrac Pro-Rock 60 axles, redesigned bumpers for improved approach and departure angles, and 40-in tires on 20-in wheels.
Jeep makes loading and unloading easier on this dedicated bike-hauler by replacing the tailgate with a pair of slide-out wheel ramps. A carbon fiber vented hood breaks sharply from the dayglow yellow graphics package to keep the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 breathing freely.
Another retro-modern vision, the JT Scrambler blends throwback 80s styling with the latest in aftermarket components. A number of production and prototype Jeep Performance Parts find their way into the build, from the LED lights atop the body-color prototype roll bar, A-pillars and brush guard, through the non-slip rock rails, and down to the bronze-tinted 17-in wheels holding the 37-in tires. There's also the obligatory 2-in lift.
The highlight of the concept is the vibrant paint job, inspired by the CJ Scrambler of the 1980s. The white exterior serves as the canvas for the prototype Punk'N Metallic Orange and Nacho stripes running the sides, with a hood graphic to match. The vintage amber roof tops a design that blends perfectly with the earthy palette of the high desert it debuts in.
The Gladiator Gravity jumps right into the bucket of Punk'N Metallic Orange featured more subtly on the JT Scrambler, earning itself the most eye-grabbing bumper-to-bumper look of the 2019 concept slate. We reckon Jeep planned it that way, since the Gravity is really a rolling display case of available Gladiator Mopar parts. Designed to crawl rock so its owner can climb rock, upgrades include a climbing gear-filled cargo basket mounted on bed cross rails, Mopar/Decked drawers, and steel tube doors. MOLLE bags inside add additional gear organization.
Optimized for clear, sunny desert, the Gravity is the airiest concept of this year's lineup, and a mesh sunbonnet maintains that breezy feel, even when taking cover from UV. And yep ... there's a 2-in lift and plenty of LED lights.
Jump to the gallery to see more photos of each concept, or hit the Jeep link if you're interested in a few more details about each, including descriptions of the interiors not pictured in the photo album released with Jeep's announcement.