Words: Mike Ryan
Photos: FCA Media
In the US, they call it ‘overlanding’. Here in Australia, it’s simply ‘4x4 Touring’ or ‘Going Bush’. They’re pretty much the same thing: taking your 4x4, fitting it out with suitable gear and then heading off the beaten track.
Overlanding isn’t a particularly new phenomenon in the US, but the name for it is and the whole overlanding movement has grown in recent years, reflected by an equally growing market for products to kit out vehicles for adventure. That growth was demonstrated with the first-time addition of a dedicated display space – the Overland Experience – for these vehicles and products wat the 2019 SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
There were plenty of customised pickups and SUVs on show in the Overland Experience and features on each one would fill these pages many times over, but one in particular is worthy of closer attention in the form of a RAM 1500 Rebel that had been specially-equipped by Mopar, the service and parts division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
Here and There
The success of RAM pickups in Australia has been a surprise for many. Oversized by Australian standards and certainly not cheap, these pickups have nevertheless found a market here, with RAM Trucks Australia, the company overseeing their importation and conversion to RHD, completing their 5,000th vehicle for the Aussie market in December, 2019. That milestone was reached in less than four years since production started, with year-on-year growth seeing close to 3,000 RAM trucks sold here in 2019 - a significant increase on 2018’s total of 767 and 2017’s total of 449.
That growth is even more remarkable when you consider Australia’s new car market shrank by almost 8 per cent in 2019, with annual new vehicle sales the lowest since 2011.
In North America, the RAM is more successful than the Aussie operation could ever hope for, with 633,694 sales in 2019. RAM’s 1500 model also recently secured the Motor Trend magazine ‘Pickup of the Year’ award.
So, with all this buzz around the RAM in the US, even before the sales figures were announced and Motor Trend award was handed out, it made sense for RAM to explore the possibilities – and specifically the possibilities of their 1500 Rebel – as an overlanding machine. The result was the RAM 1500 Rebel ‘OTG’ concept.
One of no less than 14 vehicles that Mopar and FCA presented at SEMA 2019, the OTG stands for ‘Off the Grid’: implying this vehicle is capable of leaving the bitumen and heading deep into uncharted territory.
A 2020-model RAM 1500 Rebel was selected as the starting point for the concept as it’s more off-road oriented than other RAM models, with standard 33-inch all-terrain tyres and Bilstein suspension, while the optional Off Road package for this model adds a 1-inch lift kit (raising the ride height to 9.8 inches) and skid plates along the entire driveline.
The RAM 1500 Rebel normally runs Chrysler’s proven 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 as standard, with a 5.7-litre V8 optional, matched to an 8-speed auto in each instance.
However, the OTG is powered by the new-for-2020 ‘EcoDiesel’ 3.0-litre V6, which is an update on a similar turbodiesel engine last offered on a RAM in 2017. Producing a claimed 194kW at 3,600rpm and 650Nm at 1,400rpm (better than the previous t/d V6 in both instances), the new EcoDiesel was selected for the concept truck as its abundant low-end torque is better suited for low-speed off-road work.
Another benefit is enhanced range, with the optional 125-litre (33 US gallon) fuel tank making around 1400+kms possible between refills.
The Rebel’s part-time four-wheel drive set-up is fairly standard, with selectable 2H, 4H and 4L, while the 2.64:1 gearing in the transfer case allows inclines, declines and severe ruts to be tackled with confidence.
With the EcoDiesel fitted, towing capacity is listed at 5,697kg (12,560lb), so pulling camper trailers or a boat is a cinch, too.
Off The Grid
So, with the 2020 RAM 1500 Rebel running some fairly well-credentialled kit in standard form, what does the OTG add?
For starters, there’s a set of serious off-road tyres in the form of 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler MT/Rs with kevlar reinforcement. This rubber surrounds Mopar concept beadlock wheels.
Like many other auto parts and accessory manufacturers, Mopar use SEMA to unveil both new and concept products. Industry reaction to these concept parts, as well as public feedback at consumer shows, ultimately determines how many reach production.
In the case of the OTG, the wheels were just one of the Mopar concept products fitted. Others include a 2-inch lift kit and one-piece front bumper with a skid plate, integrated Warn winch and quartet of LED driving lights. The grille is a concept part, too: with a larger weave pattern and ‘flow-through’ RAM badging.
For fording rivers, a Mopar concept snorkel is fitted, while further concept parts include wheelarch flares and step-assist rock rails.
To improve the OTG’s departure angle, the exhaust has been re-routed and the standard 1500 Rebel bumper has been replaced with a modified unit from a RAM 1500 Tradesman that adds integral LED reversing lights on each corner. To aid access to the load area, a concept swing-away step has been added at the rear, too.
The multifunction tailgate introduced by RAM for 2019-model trucks (that uses a 60/40 split side-hinged system, but also functions as a traditional bottom-hinged tailgate) has been added to the OTG, allowing easier access to the slide-out kitchen unit that includes a three-burner gas-powered Dometic stove, sink with onboard water supply and storage for cooking utensils on one side, with a slide-out, battery-powered Dometic fridge on the other side. A storage basket sits above the stove and a Dometic auxiliary battery system has been added.
Also housed in the bed is additional storage and a solar-powered compressor with air hose attachment points on each side of the body for easy tyre inflation.
Atop the bed itself, Mopar have added a Yakima rack that serves as the base for a Yakima SkyRise-style two-person collapsible rooftop tent and 270-degree batwing awning. This rack system also serves as a mounting point for Rotopax auxiliary fuel and water containers, recovery gear and LED task lighting for illuminating both the load bed and the area surrounding the vehicle.
Above the cabin at the rear is a 26.5-litre Road Shower 4 fresh water tank that feeds an external shower head and the kitchen’s sink, while a Yakima roof rack holds additional gear (a Hi-Lift jack and Tred recovery tracks in this instance), another set of Mopar LED driving lights and a solar panel pack that can be angled in multiple directions to best catch the sun.
Inside, the OTG is mostly unchanged from a stock 1500 Rebel dual cab, including Rebel-branded seats and this model’s huge 12-inch central touchscreen, but adds a few custom touches. Outside, the Rebel graphics are production items, too, but Mopar has added recovery shackles at each end, while the Mojave Sand paint is unique to this concept.
Mopar calls the finished article a “reality-based concept”, meaning a RAM owner could feasibly fit out their 1500 Rebel out in the same way, as most of the added accessories are either available now, or will likely be in the future.
“In overlanding, the journey is the final objective - the goal is to explore rather than conquer obstacles,” said Joe Dehner, Head of Ram Truck and Mopar Design. “This is why we developed this concept, to allow vehicle-supported, self-reliant adventure travel, typically exploring remote locations and interacting with other cultures. This is the vehicle that I’d like to have whenever I choose to go ‘off the grid’.”
NOTE: While the RAM 1500 is available here in Express V8, Laramie V8 and Laramie EcoDiesel V6 forms, there are currently no plans to bring the Rebel to Australia.