For American off-road enthusiasts, the annual Easter Jeep Safari, held at Moab in Utah, has been a mecca for the past five decades. For the past 15 years, the nine-day Safari has also seen Jeep and Mopar present a range of concept vehicles, where designers have free rein to produce Jeeps that vary from the practical to the fanciful. This year’s 51st annual event was no exception, with Jeep and Mopar presenting a “Magnificent 7” group of concepts.
An array of production and prototype Jeep Performance Parts were used on this year’s collection of concept vehicles, which consisted of six debutantes and one concept that first appeared at last year’s SEMA show in Las Vegas.
FCA’s Mopar parts and performance brand is responsible for developing, building and ensuring that all Jeep Performance Parts meet rigorous specifications. With 4x4 capabilities in mind, these parts are also built to last, enabling Jeep owners to further enhance their stock vehicles with gear that’s suitable for rugged off-road conditions.
“It’s truly a labour of love for the Jeep team to develop exciting, capable concept vehicles each year for Moab and the Easter Jeep Safari,” said Mike Manley, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA Global, on the eve of this year’s Safari.”
Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA – Global, added: “These concept vehicles are a perfect example of how off-road enthusiasts can use Jeep Performance Parts to personalize and enhance the already outstanding Jeep capability, allowing them to face the toughest trails in the world.”
Jeep uses these concepts to gauge customer reaction to both existing and concept parts, showing enthusiasts how they can upgrade their vehicles with currently-available items, as well as gaining feedback on what concept parts might work as production parts in the future.
The concepts may seem whimsical, but in terms of helping FCA develop new products and accessories for future Jeep models, the concepts are invaluable.
The following is a rundown on the concepts presented this year:
Perhaps the most conventional and “production ready” of the seven Moab concepts, the Trailpass is a heavily-accessorised version of the new Jeep Compass Trailhawk.
Using that model’s top-spec 2.4-litre Tigershark four-cylinder petrol engine and nine-speed auto transmission, the Trailpass adds a 1.5-inch suspension lift and fits custom 18-inch wheels with a unique “pocket” contrast-colour accent. These rims are wrapped in Continental TerrainContact rubber; an all-terrain tyre that Jeeps says increases the off-road abilities of this concept.
Exterior touches include gloss black mirror caps, custom graphics on the bonnet and bodysides, plus tinted head and tail lamps.
Kit from the Jeep Performance Parts catalogue include cross rails, rock rails and a Mopar/Thule roof basket designed to carry the roof storage bag and traction ramps (as fitted in the photos), as well as other gear.
Inside, the Trailpass features leather-trimmed Katzkin seats and armrests, body-coloured bezel accents on the dash, plus all-weather floor mats from the Jeep Performance Parts range.
Taking some of the “open” elements of the Safari, the Switchback concept uses that concept’s hard top and roof rack system and adds its own half doors and bonnet treatment. The “windowed” half doors are a particularly interesting touch.
Exterior additions from the Jeep Performance Parts range include high-top wheelarch flares, a swing-gate hinge reinforcement at the rear and oversized spare tyre carrier, while the black fuel cap and tail lamp guards are from the Mopar catalogue.
Off-road kit from the Jeep Performance Parts range fitted to this concept includes Dana 44 axles at both ends, heavy-duty cast diff covers, a 4-inch suspension lift with remote-reservoir Fox shocks, Mopar Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary steel front and rear bumpers, a Rubicon winch, winch guard, grille and cold air intake.
The Switchback rolls on custom 17-inch wheels, fitted with 37-inch BF Goodrich Mud-Terrrain KM2 tyres.
Powered by FCA’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol engine and fitted with a five-speed auto trans, the Switchback also features a shortened axle-back exhaust, which Jeep says increases this concept’s off-road abilities.
Designed to be as capable at night as during the day, the Switchback carries a raft of lighting upgrades, too, including a concept LED windshield light bar, concept LED A-pillar lamps and LED tail lights – all designed specifically for off-road use. Also fitted are LED head lights and fog lights from the Jeep Performance Parts range.
Inside, the Switchback features Katzkin seats trimmed with leather, Mopar all-weather floor mats and similar body-coloured bezel accents to the Trailpass concept, but adds a spray-in bedliner.
Finishing touches on this Wrangler-based concept include a Mopar swing gate storage rack that carries first aid equipment and roadside safety gear.
Perhaps the most radical of this year’s concepts, the Safari is described as a “family-focused” concept. Designed to bring the outdoors as close as possible, particularly for back seat passengers, the Safari features numerous see-through door and body components.
Based on a current model Wrangler, the Safari concept is all about enhanced vision. To this end, the main features are a translucent roof-top panel and “windoors,” made of light aluminium and clear vinyl, to further improve opportunities to see outside. The doors open in an unconventional manner, too, and feature zippered openings to let in fresh air.
A split-level aluminium cargo rack on the roof includes a drone (a feature on a couple of concepts this year), with the raked windshield and boatsided sill panels being other areas where the body of this concept differs from a standard Wrangler. The concept is also shorter than a standard Wrangler to deliver what Jeep says is greater ability on rough trails.
That ability to handle heavy going is enhanced with custom full-length underbody skid plates, steel front and rear bumpers, 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tyres and custom 18-inch rims.
The Safari also features LED headlamps, plus custom LED tail lamps and parking/turn lamps.
Inside, the pair of rear bucket seats have been rotated outboard, making it easier for rear seat occupants to view out the side of the vehicle. Other custom interior touches include an instrument panel-mounted iPad, adding to the high-tech vibe.
Gear from the Jeep Performance Parts range featured on this concept includes a 2-inch lift kit and front and rear Dana 44 axles equipped with selectable diff lockers.
The Jeep Safari is powered by a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol engine, fitted with a unique cold air intake system and matched to a five-speed automatic transmission.
Also included is an integrated on-board tyre pressure monitoring system (allowing tyre pressures to be raised or lowered from inside the cabin) and upgraded brakes.
Jeep Grand One
Based on and inspired by a classic 1993 ZJ-model Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Grand One was created to mark the 25th Anniversary of that model.
While it looks close to stock, the Grand One features an extended wheelbase, as well as custom 18-inch wheels that mimic the lace-style originally available on the Grand Cherokee of that era, shod with 33-inch BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tyres.
High-clearance wheelarch flares, trimmed front and rear fascias for improved clearance and a subtle woodgrain finish are also part of the exterior modifications.
Under the skin, there’s a 2-inch suspension lift and locking diffs on both the front and rear axles.
Inside, the ‘90s vibe continues, with much of the original switchgear retained and a chunky of-its-era car phone added. The seats are trimmed in blue and there’s a durable bed liner in place of the carpet, but the eye-catcher inside is the plaid headlining material – very odd!
Powering the Grand One is a potent 5.2-litre V8, matched to a four-speed automatic.
As the name suggests, the Wrangler-based Luminator concept is all about “light” and packs a comprehensive range of lighting upgrades and additions. Assisting Jeep here was the lighting division of Italian electronics company, Magneti Marelli.
In addition to a powerful pair of 7-inch LED projector bi-function headlamps, there are high-power LED spot lamps on the A-pillars, LED auxiliary lights on the front bumper, cornering fog lamps (that move with the steering) and unique LED tail lights.
The standard Wrangler 100mm fog lamps and grille-mounted indicators have been upgraded to LED for this concept, while behind the windscreen are a pair of low-profile LED overhead auxiliary lights.
Continuing the theme, a “scanning” LED light bar has been fitted to the bonnet. Jeep says this active lighting technology is designed to help detect and avoid trail hazards and wildlife.
At the rear, a colour-coded tail light acts as a scouting lamp, with four colour modes – red (stop), amber (1-3mph) and green (3-25mph) to guide following vehicles – as well as white for bright rear floodlighting.
All that lighting needs a lot of power, so the Luminator has been fitted with a rooftop solar panel. A landing pad for the included light-up drone and spare tyre storage have also been added to the roof.
Powertrain info for the Luminator is unlisted, but an interesting inclusion is the touchscreen on the rear driver’s side window that accesses GPS and internet services from outside the vehicle, instead of the usual dash- or console-mounted touchscreen.
Looking more like something you’d see on the dragstrip, the Jeep Quicksand takes inspiration from quarter-mile “gasser” racers of the 1950s and 1960s, updating that idea with a bunch of modern tech and a thumping V8 engine.
Power comes from a Mopar 392 cubic inch (6.4-litre) ‘Crate HEMI’ V8 engine; one of two new crate motors that were released by Mopar last year. On the Quicksand, the 392 features old-school velocity stack induction, visible through the cut-out bonnet. Matched to this are short gasser-style exhaust headers that exit just aft of the front wheelarches and a Getrag six-speed manual transmission.
Acknowledging this powerplant, the Quicksand features a ‘Hemi Crated 392’ body badge that mimics the style of the ‘Trail Rated’ badge found on Jeep’s most off-road capable models – a clever touch.
Based on the Wrangler, the Quicksand also features trimmed front and rear body sections, in the style of altered wheelbase dragsters, while the lowered roofline, open top section and side window delete gives a classic hot rod look to this concept.
Continuing that old-school inspiration, the interior is finished in bold red to contrast the black exterior, with low-back bucket seats with quilted stitching, flat aluminium door panels, tilt-out windshield and a chromed roll bar. Another neat touch here is the long gear shifter, which features a clear knob containing a Hot Wheels-style toy car.
In a first for a Jeep Moab concept, the Quicksand features a staggered tyre set-up, emulating the “bigs and littles” approach applied to retro dragsters. In this instance, the pairing consists of 32-inch front tyres and 37-inch rears, both on 18-inch ‘kidney bean’ alloys. The tyres are BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain KM2s.
Other clever touches on the Quicksand include the gasser-style Moon front fuel tank, which actually houses a fully-functional Warn winch, while at the back, a recovery rope is housed in a packet designed to mimic a drag racer’s parachute.
Unveiled at last year’s SEMA auto industry aftermarket show in Las Vegas, the CJ66 combines a Wrangler TJ frame with a ’66 Wrangler CJ universal ‘Tuxedo Park’ body, and packs a mighty engine under its retro bodywork.
That engine is a Mopar 345 cubic inch (5.7-litre) Crate HEMI V8, one of two released by Mopar last year (a 392ci Crate HEMI powers the Quicksand concept). Matched to this 383hp (286kW) V8 is a complementary engine cover, cold air intake and cat-back exhaust system from Mopar, and a six-speed manual transmission.
Off-road performance is enhanced with Dana 44 axles at each end, a 2-inch lift kit, Mopar 10th Anniversary Wrangler JK Rubicon bumpers at both ends, as well as Jeep Performance Parts skid and front bumper plates, concept Jeep Performance Parts rock rails and concept oversized wheelarch extensions, which sit over the 17-inch beadlock wheels from Jeep Performance Parts.
BF Goodrich 35-inch all-terrain tyres can be ‘pressured’ to suit trail conditions, thanks to a concept two-way tyre pressure monitoring system similar to that found in the Safari concept.
The bold ‘Copper Canyon’ body colour is enhanced with ‘CJ-SIXTY SIX’ bodyside graphics in matte black, with additional matte black detailing on the concept bonnet, as well as the grille, JK Wrangler headlights and bezels, fog lamps, bonnet latches and Mopar Warn winch.
An unusual touch is the repositioning to the fuel filler cap to inside the body.
The copper-and-black theme continues inside, with a pair of seats from a Dodge Viper, custom roll cage and Wrangler JK centre console and gear shifter fitted. The seats sit on concept risers, while the roll cage is also a one-off. Gauges on the CJ66 are from Mopar, as are the floor mats.
Topping this is a removable bikini top for occupant shade, while the windshield has been bobbed to suit this concept’s racy look and enhance the size of the wheel and tyre package.