By Jim McCraw
Every year at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, the Jeep folks bring along a bunch of concept vehicles, most of them using available Mopar aftermarket parts, to gauge the vehicles' acceptance among the thousands of Jeep faithful who gather there each year.
In addition to showing off a bunch of Wrangler and Grand Cherokee specials, Jeep unveiled two pickup truck concepts this year: the Jeep J12, reminiscent of the old Gladiator pickups; and the Mighty FC long bed, a stunner styled after the old Forward Control Jeep pickups.
The J12, in brilliant red, uses Wrangler doors and hinges, as well as an extended version of the Mopar JK-8 pickup truck conversion bed. It's built on top of a Wrangler Unlimited chassis that’s been extended 18 inches and fitted with a Mopar 3-inch lift kit, Teraflex sway bars coupled to an ARB air locker, Dynatrac D44 and D-0 axle assemblies, and 36-inch mud tires, all mounted to 16-inch wheels. The new bed is 6 feet long.
Up front, there are Gladiator-style fenders, a new version of the Gladiator grille and the trademark brow over the windshield header. Inside, there’s lots of body-color paint and a wild plaid interior with not-so-practical Katzkin white seat inserts on the bench seat and bedliner floor material.
The outrageous Mighty FC is also based on a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon chassis and cab, once again using the Mopar JK-8 pickup truck conversion kit as a starter and made over to look very much like the Jeep Forward Control pickups built between 1956 and 1965. The cab has been fitted with a custom flat nose, seven-slot grille and an extra pair of high-intensity-discharge headlamps positioned directly over the front Mopar Portal offset axle assembly for enormous ground-clearance numbers.
The axles use King coil-over reservoir shock assemblies front and rear, and Teraflex control arms and track bars, with giant 40-inch tires mounted on Hutchinson 17-inch eight-lug beadlock wheels. The body features Hanson bumpers, a Warn 16.5 winch system and an 8-foot cargo bed with drop sides and a cut-down tailgate hiding the spare tire. The interior is fitted with a red plaid Katzkin leather bucket seat.
No definitive announcements are likely to be made about these two trucks, but we hope these pickups get the kind of reaction they deserve. No doubt there will be questions about pricing and crashworthiness, but if Mopar can offer a Ram Runner kit to change the personality of your Ram 1500, why not offer similar packages to turn your Wrangler Unlimited into unique pickup?
We'll have more to talk about when we get behind the wheel of these vehicles at the 46th annual Easter Jeep Safari in a few weeks.