Words: Mike Ryan
Photos: FCA Media
Every year, thousands of four-wheel drive enthusiasts make an Easter pilgrimage to Moab, Utah, for the Easter Jeep Safari. And this year was no exception.
What started as a simple, one-day event in 1967 has grown to a nine-day festival of all things off-road, and while trade stands, entertainment and other attractions draw people to the event and the town of Moab, it’s really the off-road trails – all 40 of them – in the surrounding mountains that serious four-wheel drivers come for.
This year’s 53rd Easter Jeep Safari also continued a tradition dating back 16 years of Jeep unveiling concept off-roaders. In the past, these concepts have been a mix of mildly-altered production models, more substantially modified creations and pure flights of fancy.
This year was no exception, but what made Jeep’s offerings for the 53rd Easter Jeep Safari unusual – and possibly a first in the brand’s history at the event - is that all were pickups, either closely based on, using parts for, or inspired by the all-new Gladiator.
Speaking ahead of the Safari, Tim Kuniskis, Head of Jeep Brand - North America, said: “This year’s Safari will mark the debut of the highly anticipated all-new Jeep Gladiator on Moab’s scenic and demanding trails. To celebrate, we are showcasing six fun and ultra-capable new truck-based Jeep concept vehicles that are certain to turn heads and delight the crowd.”
The Jeep concepts are more than just a PR or branding exercise, though. Jeep use the concepts to test customer reaction to new and prototype ‘Jeep Performance Parts’ developed by FCA’s Mopar parts division.
“The Moab Easter Jeep Safari provides the perfect venue to interact with and gather feedback from our most loyal and passionate customers – diehard off-road enthusiasts,” Kuniskis added.
The concepts on show this year featured some of the more than 200 parts and accessories already available for the new Gladiator, with more to come as market demand for the new Jeep pickup grows.
“At the 2019 Easter Jeep Safari, we will be inspiring our customers by showcasing just a fraction of what is currently available in our catalogue and also some conceptual accessories that might make it into production in the near future,” said Steve Beahm, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) and Passenger Car Brands, FCA - North America, on the eve of this year’s event.
“This portfolio is backed by a factory warranty and has been put through tens of thousands of hours of development, testing and validation, providing our customers a great array of products and peace of mind.”
Jeep weren’t the only ones presenting Gladiators this year. Despite being a new vehicle, there were plenty to be found on the streets and trails at Moab this year, some already customised with aftermarket wheels, bars and lift kits.
The factory-produced customs were the real stars, though and the following pages show just how many ways the new Gladiator could be reimagined.