For the past 53 years, Jeep enthusiasts have made a pilgrimage to Moab, Utah, not merely to take in the majesty of its monumental red-rock scenery but to drive up it, over it, and on it. What started as a one-day trail drive in 1967 with a handful of local Jeep owners has grown into a nine-day event with thousands of participants from all over the country. For the past dozen or so years, Jeep, as a brand, has been leveraging the Safari by unveiling concept vehicles to the throngs to gauge interest, prove their commitment to the niche endeavor, and gather trail cred in the process.
Jeep concepts aren’t merely fragile show queens. They’re a legitimate “trail-rated” show of force. And because the 2020 Gladiator made its debut this year, all the concepts this year were truck-based. Three were built from available-at-launch Mopar/Jeep Performance parts, and three are outrageous concepts with a good amount of fabrication, but all are wholly capable. Let’s take a look at each one but dive deeper into two in particular.
The Jeep team located an original 1968 M-715 military vehicle, based on the original Gladiator, and reimagined it as a monster desert runner and rock crawler. More than just a resto-mod, the Five-Quarter is so named as the original was rated to carry one-and-one-quarter tons. Unlike the rest of the concept Gladiators, which were all powered by 3.6-liter V-6s, this stunning machine gets a 6.2-liter supercharged “Hellcrate” V-8 engine producing 707 horsepower going through a TorqueFlight 727 three-speed. Everywhere you look, there are fascinating details. The sheetmetal grille surround was replaced with carbon fiber, its convertible top was dropped by 3.5 inches, and the rear features a custom-fabricated perforated 6-foot aluminum/wood bed of water jet–cut panels and wood slats. The floating Jeep tailgate is also water jetted aluminum.
The truck’s original rockers were replaced with functional rock rails, and modified front Gladiator Rubicon steel bumpers have been installed. New HID headlights along with LED auxiliary lights provide excellent illumination. LED halo lights have been installed in the original taillight buckets. Original leaf springs and suspension bits were replaced with a heavy-duty link/coil suspension system and axles with Dynatrac Pro-rock (60 front/80 rear). The entire thing sits on 40-inch tires riding 20-inch wheels. Inside, repurposed Wrangler seats, free of headrests, are just the start. Also, water-jetted aluminum components make up the instrument panel and the Design Operations Jeep Division door panels. A repurposed, vintage 8-71 supercharger housing encases the transmission and transfer case shifters. The truck’s original spec placards have been lovingly restored to new.
Driving, even on a short, unchallenging off-road course, was harrowing. Just thinking about the amount of time and money put into the Five-Quarter served as its own organic-based stability and traction control system. The throttle pedal was light and very sensitive; just a fraction of an inch produced an immediate and loud response from the Hemi. The ultralight power steering was almost inappropriate for the hulking truck that originally had no assist. Once underway, bouncing on the top few inches of the purpose-built suspension, I could tell we weren’t coming close to Five-Quarter’s capabilities. As if they weren’t even there, the one set of rock steps it crawled up and over wasn’t a challenge in the least. The drive was over too quickly, and I asked the Jeep folks if they had yet “opened it up.” The said the day before we arrived, they’d seen 75 mph on flat stretch of desert, and I believe them. At least I got 10 minutes in what is already a Jeep icon.
Painted and badged as a homage to the 1978 Jeep Honcho, this J6 concept drew so much attention at the Safari that Jeep is considering it for future production. Built on the bones of a four-door Wrangler Rubicon chassis, the two-door J6 features a 6-foot bed that’s 12 inches longer than the standard Gladiator’s bed. The upsized bed is protected by a prototype body-color-matching spray-in bedliner and has a 37-inch spare tire carrier. Each of its 5-inch Jeep Performance Parts LED lights shine at 4,800 lumens. Its prototype 17-inch beadlock wheels with a deep-dish design are finished in what Jeep calls Brass Monkey color. Inside, the dashboard matches the body color, and custom leather seats, armrests, and the steering wheel are also accented with body-color blue stitching. Even the horn pad is customized with a classic Jeep badge. Like the enthusiasts who cried out this year for Jeep to build it, we hope the standard-cab long-bed Gladiator will soon be a reality.
Built as an homage to the ’80s-era CJ8 Scrambler, the JT features Punk’N Metallic Orange and Nacho body-side stripes running from the front panels to the bed and a matching hood graphic. It’s finished off with Gorange wheels.
This open-air rock climber–themed Gladiator is built with Jeep Performance Parts, including 2-inch round steel doors and bed-mounted cross rails that work in concert with a cargo carrier basket to deliver storage space for rock climbing gear, such as ropes, carabiners, helmets, and shoes.
Jeep built this neon in-your-face desert-lifestyle truck with rigid-mounted dirt bikes and increased its off-road capability with Dynatrac Pro-Rock 60 front and rear axles plus a custom 4-inch lift kit.
A true overlanding vehicle, Wayout sports a custom integrated roof rack supporting a two-person tent, a 270-degree awning, and a working slide-out Margarita maker. We love the new Gator Green paint, which will be available on production Gladiator models.
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