Spring is almost here. Snow will melt, flowers will blossom, and next week, hundreds of dedicated off-roaders will flock to Moab, Utah to take part in the 50th Annual Easter Jeep Safari. Last year, Jeep brought seven official concepts to the party, upholding a tradition they began back in 2002. This year, it’s back at it with another seven, guaranteeing that there will be something for everyone.
This is no empty platitude either; Jeep knows full well that its fans are some of the most loyal gearheads on the planet, and while most of the concepts don’t have a chance of seeing production, the event (which is organized by the Moab Chamber of Commerce, not Jeep) nevertheless allows the company to get feedback on how to make its production models and aftermarket parts even better.
From the mouthwatering to the mind-bending, the attainable to the near-unstoppable, here’s a preview of Jeep’s seven new concepts ahead of the 2016 Easter Jeep Safari.
1. Jeep Crew Chief 715
Following the in the footsteps of the 2010 Nukizer 715, 2012 Jeep J-12, and ’12 Mighty FC concepts, the Crew Chief 715 draws from Jeep’s time as an independent automaker, recalling the trucks that were known to civilians as the J-Series Gladiator, and to soldiers as the M715. Astonishingly, this concept began life as a Wrangler Unlimited before getting a custom suspension, cold air intake, exhaust, and that perfect retro front end.
2. Jeep Shortcut
In 1976, The Jeep CJ-5 was joined (and eventually replaced by) the slightly larger and more civilized CJ-7, to address rollover and safety issues. But with its impressive 29-year production run, the CJ-5 is one of the most popular Jeeps ever built, and for some purists, it’s simply the greatest of all-time. So Jeep decided to reimagine the icon for the 21st century, and the result is this, the Shortcut.
Shortened 14 inches and stripped of everything it doesn’t need, we think the Shortcut looks perfect with its ’40s-style steel wheels and plaid seats that look like they could’ve come straight out of a ’72 Commando. For those die-hards who feel that the Wrangler is too civilized, here’s your perfect modern rock-crawler.
3. Jeep Renegade Commander
Now in its second year of production, the Renegade has been instrumental to Jeep’s growing sales of late. To prove that its compact crossover isn’t afraid to leave the pavement, Jeep gave the Renegade a 2-inch lift, some 29-inch tires, a custom interior, and brought back the Commander name. The fact that it didn’t need to do much else proves how capable this little crossover is.
4. Jeep Comanche
Sticking with the Renegade as a base, Jeep paid tribute to the criminally forgotten ’85 to ’92 Comanche pickup, and possibly dropped some clues for what it has in mind for its upcoming production pickup. With a 2-inch lift, 5-foot bed, 2.0 liter diesel, and military-style canvas top, we have to admit, while we have our hearts set on a Wrangler pickup, the Renegade does look good as a truck.
5. Jeep Trailstorm
At every Safari, Jeep usually offers at least a couple production-based models to show off its Performance Parts division, and the Trailstorm is a vision of what you could transform your Wrangler Unlimited into with some extra cash, a well-stocked garage, and a few free weekends. With a 2-inch lift, Jeep Performance/Fox shocks, 37-inch tires, and soft top, the Trailstorm is the perfect modern Jeep to get lost in around Moab.
6. Jeep Trailcat
In a moment of sheer insanity, Chrysler engineers somehow managed to get the 6.2 liter 707 horsepower Charger and Challenger Hellcats into production. Since then there have been rumors that a Hellcat-powered Grand Cherokee is on the way too. But could they be crazy enough to drop it in the Wrangler too? Yes. Yes, they would.
In fact, the Trailcat goes one up on the production Hellcat twins: It has a six-speed manual transmission. Seeing how the stock Wrangler doesn’t exactly do highway speeds well, we figure the Trailcat would be better as a Ford Raptor rival than a Ferrari-fighter.
7. Jeep FC 150
We decided to save our favorite for last. While the official concepts have always been new concepts, this FC 150 shows how important the brand’s history is to its employees. Unlike the 2012 Mighty FC, a Wrangler-based (and Jeep fan favorite) take on the company’s 1956-’65 Forward Control trucks, this concept began life as… a 1960 Jeep FC150. But instead of the Eisenhower-era frame and powertrain, it was upgraded by the iconic AMC 4.0 liter straight-six, and mounted atop a new-old-stock 2005 Wrangler frame. The result is a perfect Jeep greatest-hits package, and a near-unstoppable off-roading pickup we’d love to have in our garage.