Upfitters American Expedition Vehicles has become the go-to company for manufacturers like Jeep, Ram, and GM for rugged, limited-edition off-road trucks. It has handled special Jeep Wranglers since 1997, designing the Ram HD Prospector XL, and the Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison. All of these off-road specials utilize state-of-the-art components combined with tough looks and special features truck customers crave for.
AEV Knows What It Doesn’t Know
But one thing the folks at AEV know better than anything is what they don’t know. Matt Feldermann is AEV’s marketing manager, and recently, Muscle Car and Trucks asked him about doing an AEV version of Ford’s Raptor or Ram Rebel TRX. He makes the distinction between desert racing and rock crawling as a major reason AEV won’t get into the Raptor-type of special-edition.
“We know our niche,” he says. “There’s a lot of guys that are good at going fast in the desert, and we’re located in Michigan and Montana. It’s just not our expertise.”
So is an AEV-designed truck good on the open road? He continues, “On paper, we know how to design a good suspension, but we’re shooting in the dark when it comes to what we’d need to make a fast suspension work in the desert. We know how to make something work awesome on the road and on the trail. Technical rock crawling, heavily wooded two-track; but when you get out into the pre-runner stuff it’s a different ball game. It’s not the right equipment for that job.”
AEV has a big following of off-road enthusiasts, and we’re sure they’d like to see AEV jump into all sorts of trucks to see what they can do, but so far it has stayed clear of pickup trucks. It did do the Ram Prospector, so why not branch off and do more pickups? It has to do with what the manufacturers already make.
Why The Ram Prospector?
“We only did the Prospector because we could share a front bumper and enough tooling from the Ram Heavy Duty, so it wasn’t as big of a risk,” Feldermann said. “I don’t know if we would have done it if we couldn’t share a bumper between the two.” But there is more available in the aftermarket for pickups, so it would seem there would be plenty of components without having to tool up new parts.
“Half-ton trucks are the most accessorized vehicles on the market, but we don’t really make accessories, we make full packages, very high end,” he says. “It’s not just a brush guard, it’s a full front bumper. It’s integrated fog lights and winch mounts. It’s something completely different than the accessory market. If we were in the bug shield business we could start with half-tons all day long.”
The AEV Brute was a Jeep that kick-started the Gladiator discussion at Fiat Chrysler. With it now being a production vehicle AEV can look at doing overland and rock-crawling offshoots for Jeep.
AEV Brute Inspired Gladiator
“It’s no secret that it was inspired by the AEV Brute a bit. That was very much a break-even halo vehicle for us,” said Feldermann. “Each one was hand-built, and the man-hours were insane. We wanted to break even on it because it got us so much notoriety. With that being said there was a lot of things that we wanted to do that just didn’t make sense because the volume was so low.”
“With the Gladiator, now we’re talking mass-produced vehicles. So now we can think outside the box with things we had to make a case for before. I think that gives us a lot of opportunities.”