Independence Day: We Drive the Mopar Jeep JK-8 Pickup Truck

Independence Day: We Drive the Jeep JK-8 Pickup Truck
By Mark Williams for PickupTrucks.com

You’ve seen and read about the JK-8 Independence project truck and its conversion kit Jeep recently unveiled as part of a coordinated herd of secret build projects being brought to the 2011 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, but we wanted a closer look. Chrysler’s Mopar parts and accessories division has made big promises about turning a four-door Wrangler Unlimited into a pickup truck, so we jumped at the chance to get up close and personal with the vehicle.

To review, the kit will consist of 18 parts that include a short 50-inchbed floor, half a hardtop, a lower bulkhead, inner and outer rear body panels, several brackets and two bedrail extensions. As you might expect, a host of body, rollbar and floor modifications are also necessary, not to mention some serious welding if you want the looks of the JK-8. The kit will be available from Mopar by July 4; pricing will not be announced until right before it goes on sale.

JK8-box-560

The JK-8 Independence has somewhat awkward proportions. Its regular cab looks too fat, and the bed looks too small for the wheelbase. This particular specialty vehicle sports a 4.5-inch lift and 35-inch-tall tires. The regular cab configuration offers a small amount of storage room behind the seats and does allow for some seat travel for long-legged drivers. There are no changes to the Unlimited’s swing-out rear door (now a door gate) so this pickup would have to skip tailgate party duty.

The Independence also seems a little odd in that Jeep is inviting those interested in this kind of model to load the vehicle like a pickup, but it makes no accommodations for improving the payload capacity of the vehicle beyond the stock Unlimited.

Jk8-cab-560

To date, Mopar has no plans to offer a heavier or progressive rear coil spring or some stronger bump stops (maybe overload springs?) to help improve the rather meek SUV-like payload capacity. For reference, a fully clothed stock Wrangler Unlimited can weigh around 4,100 pounds with a maximum gross vehicle weight rating around 5,400 pounds. In the most optimistic scenario, the rear coils should be able to handle a little more than 1,000 pounds of payload without trouble. Of course, if you make too many modifications, install a few parts and leave your luggage in the passenger seat, you could cut that number in half.

As you might expect, from behind the wheel, there isn’t much difference between this and a standard Unlimited in drive feel or responsiveness. Our JK-8 Independence had a manual transmission and the 3.8-liter V-6, rated at 202 horsepower and 237 pounds-feet of torque — certainly not a monster, but adequate for a smaller vehicle like this, especially one that’s likely to be doing some rock crawling in low-range four-wheel drive.

JK8-welds-560

We’d expect the Mopar package to make the rear section feel a bit lighter on a stock vehicle, possibly creating a stiffer, jumpier feel to the back end when on rougher roads. As it was, with the heavier wheels and tires on this special project vehicle, and a huge piece of General Grabber and steel wheel hanging off the back end of the Jeep, it was impossible to determine any lightness or imbalance in the chassis. Additionally, this vehicle had a stronger front Dana 44 axle and a set of burly front and rear Mopar JK (this particular Wrangler model designation) HD bumpers.

For our tastes, the wheelbase needs to be longer to give the bed more length, and something needs to be done about the meager payload capacities, even if this kit is just an appearance package. With that said, if this is going to be the placeholder for a couple of years for the coming Jeep pickup truck, with Mopar getting all the glory for offering a unique body package, we think we can live with that … for a couple of years.

JK8-rear-door-560

As previously mentioned, pricing won’t be out for a while, but we’d guess it will be below AEV’s Brute pickup truck conversion kit. On the plus side, Jeep already has all the stamping paid for because it has an export-only military model, called the J8, that uses the same side and floor body panels.

One interesting note: Jeep had a huge display right in the middle of town at the Easter Jeep Safari, where it built an entire shop that put together a bolt-on version of one of these JK-8s in front of a large audience in about two hours. We’re guessing it might take us a little longer.

JK8-pairofjeeps-560

Comments

And it will probably cost two arms, two legs and a testicle. Just like their RAM Off-Road kit.

Why not just ad the J8 to the options list and go with that....?

Friggin Awesome!

And you can't get the current Wrangler in yellow !

It's a good truck for a girl.

They have to get over this departure angle BS. The tail could definitely be a foot longer. A friend stretched his TJ Unlimited (8" I think) and it makes a huge difference. Slick part was that the CJ tail-gate w/o tire mount provisions fit, along with bottom hinges. I don't like that you need your own T-top sections, making it harder to sell your parts.

Great article! I would totally drive that truck! Thanks for sharing. I added this link to my site so people from their can read this article. Hope that's okay. Check it out at http://www.nwextreme4x4.com/

I'll stick with my traditional pickup truck...

At least I will get solid payload, more bed space and a functional tailgate...

That ride with an empty bed is going to be ridiculous as a daily driver...

@Dave
Agreed! I can picture sorority girls in bikinis with this thing.

I'll be impressed when the bring back the J-Series trucks. Now those were some awesome Jeep trucks.

Mike,
On Motortrend's website, they have a article stating that there is a 50% chance of the Grand Cherokee getting a diesel motor (V-6, 237 hp and 406 lb-ft). Have you heard anything and any chance it could end up in the Wrangler?
Thanks

To bad Jeep wont pull there heads out of there posteriors and just build a Jeep pickup from the factory .

Quite a small pickup. This would revese the trend of midsize pickups becoming default full size ones.

Mark Williams-

Great story!

A savvy Jeep dealer will convert one or two of these Wranglers and have it waiting, ready to go, in the showroom for a prospective customer. Just as long as they do not try to gouge the customer with a ridiculous mark-up.

@Buy American I completely agree, even if it doesn't move as quick as some other Jeep items (although I think it would) it would be a sharp showpiece for the lot. I don't think it's real functional but I'd take one any day as a rental car on a work trip, haha.

I don't get it.
You loose the seating capacity of the Unlimited, and you loose the full cover of the Unlimited.
For what?
50 inch box. 4 feet 2 inches.
What could you fit in there?
Who wants a Jeep truck that badly?

Lou,
This package gives buyers more choices! Not everyone wants a gigantic supercrew with a long bed.

The average joe can buy one of these and install it on his used jeep instead of paying $50k for a Raptor!

Jep JK-9 Pickup Truck will outperform the Raptor offroad. It will also outperform the F150 in the highway fuel economy. It is the best of both worlds. These are facts you cannot deny.

Unlike the Ford with its all up front cost for a new Raptor or nothing, you can buy it in stages. Buy your jeep one day. Package another. And then put it together on a weekend.

Sorry Raptor fans you lose again. This is a great day to be a Mopar fan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

@ Mopar Man - This is a great day to be a Mopar fan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Agreed. Who else would buy it!

The package is best in class and beats the Raptor offroad. We also love the fact that it will also outperform the F150 in highway fuel economy.

@Lou, What don't you get? It only takes 2 hours to install.

@ Dodge mechanic - how many ham fisted guys out there are going to buy this and install it in 2 hours?
If this is a fairly cheep kit - well maybe.
I'd rather just buy the Unlimited and call it a day.

Please explain how this will outperform a Raptor?

I would love to see a Jeep JK-8, with it's minivan 3.8L V6, try and keep pace with an S.V.T. Raptor out in the desert.

On the Rubicon trail... now that would be a different story.

@Buy American - good point. All depends on what you want to do with the truck.

@Mopar Man,

I agree about the Raptor.

My Tacoma can beat a Raptor off-road here in Wisconsin!

The Raptor is big and heavy which means much more sinking in the terrain and more body damage if it can get through the tight forest in the first place.

Full-size trucks need bigger than 35" tires to match their weight if they are to survive some of the logging trails up here, I'd say at least 38" tires to keep them axles up high enough not to drag enough to stop the momentum and try and daily drive a pickup with 38" tires. Good luck!

Will it tow a 5,000 pound trailer?

Does it need to? I have a commander w/ Hemi for that. Tow the Scrambler and trailer with the XK, and wheel the Scrambler and JK together.

I like the Comanchee in the picture better then the J8, they need to just re-make it or the Jeep truck they said they were going to make, and put in the 3.5 V6.

Jeep is missing the boat here. The JT is what should be offered right now. Jeep, its a no-brainer. Same Unlimited tub, no rear door cutouts. Remove the carpeting. Remove rear seats, rear speakers, rear roll-bar. See Jeep? You just saved thousands of dollars on manufacturing and parts. And guess what? People will pay an extra grand or two for it. Win-Win.

Ideally, I would love to see the J8 come as-is. Insanely beefy frame, dana 60's f/r, 3k payload and 8k towing. Seriously Jeep, you would have the only midsize 3/4 ton truck, and its a diesel to boot.

For Mike: as a 3 time Manche owner, I absolutely LOVE the last picture. Thank you for that.

If you can't hall a 4X8' sheet of plywood with the taigate closed, it isn't a truck...good for picking up groceries for the wifey-poo though...don't forget the milk.

oxi-

Your Tacoma would get spanked by an S.V.T. Raptor in the deserts of California near where I live.

How many articles/reviews have you read of an S.V.T. Raptor going on mountain/forest trails? Probably none. The Raptor was not designed for these types of trails. Let it go already!

I wonder why they didn't make the truckbed a bit longer?

Looks like you can add about 12" there to make it a bit more functional.

Can I get a rollbar to weld my rocket launcher to?

Mustafa
Free Libya

Bring back the 428 all wheel drive they had in the Honcho, and you all can shut the front door!

Search Jeep J8
A 2.8 litre turbo diesel Jeep that will tow 7,000lbs
and get 24 MPG highway. sold everywhere in the world
except in the USA. Bummer for the US Truck and
Jeep drivers. They still can't beat my '43 Willys
after all these years.

Finally! this is great



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