Jeep does this to us every year. They break our hearts with all these incredible concepts, built for the Easter Jeep Safari at Moab, and then never release them. In 2012, they made the Mighty FC and the J-12. In 2015, they built the Chief and the Red Rock Responder. This year is no exception. Here’s a handful of the coolest machines from the 2017 event, with the coolest at the bottom. No, they’re not building any of them for production.
These days, no Jeep is complete without a massive LED light bar or three. But the Luminator takes its lighting beyond just bigger and brighter. The hood unit has an infrared camera that automatically activates the lights when it detects a heat signature ahead. This can help scare animals out of the way and automatically switches the light on for you when you’re winching, setting up camp, etc. There are also tricked out headlights and fog lights, and the center stop light switches from red at a stop, to yellow at speeds under 3 mph, to green at speeds over 3 mph. This could be helpful on night trail runs, especially to the folks behind you in line.
The Safari’s party piece is its airy, see-through cabin. In place of doors, it has aluminum door frames filled with clear vinyl you can zip open. The rear bucket seats are angled slightly outward to improve views of the deer and the antelope and such. Or maybe it will just get your kids to stop fighting. The billet aluminum trim is especially eye-catching, and surrounds all the “glass” from the A-pillar back, and comprises the gorgeous roof rack. The Safari sports a trick on-board air compressor, with ports and a gauge in a special plate in the fender. But what everyone, well, every hardcore Jeeper, notices first is the distinctive, angled grille, which looks like the one believed to grace the 2018 Wrangler. Oh, and there’s a drone. Because of course there is.
Maybe, at this point, you’re worried that Jeep is taking themselves too seriously. Fear not, and gaze upon the Grand One. This is Jeep’s light restomod of a 1993 ZJ Grand Cherokee, the ultimate upscale suburbanite mom-mobile of the ’90s. Rather than build a crazy, ostentatious beast, they just gave it a light restoration and a few modern tweaks to the clean, original design. It retained the 5.2 liter V8, but got a two inch lift with Dana 44s on either end. The wheelbase has also been lengthened by two inches, one per axle, and the subtle and stunning bodywork adjusted to fit. This includes pronounced fender flares and body-colored rock sliders to match. Inside you’ll find a plaid headliner, a Hasselhoff sticker, and an original, grey-cased Game Boy in the back seat, because suburban kids got those in the ’90s. Under the hood they added a cold air intake with a Jeep/Eagle dealership sticker, which rather seals the deal.
As reserved and winky as the Grand One is, every EJS concept must have its wild uncle, and this year it’s the QuickSand, a chimera of a drag racer, trail Jeep, and dune buggy. In short, it’s utterly brilliant. The 2-door Wrangler’s cab has been chopped and reshaped to throw back to some kind of early hot rod. Fenders have also been eliminated for this reason, or perhaps to see how high you can fling sand. But it’s not low like a hot rod. It’s still fully trail capable, with a Dana 44 up front and a Dana 60 out back. Like the Grand One, the wheelbase was stretched from stock. Jutting through the flip-front hood are eight beautiful velocity stacks. They’re bolted to a 392 crate Hemi with Borla injection. It has cut-out exhaust trumpets jutting out of the fenders, or exhaust can be routed out back with the flip of a switch. It’s slightly less loud that way.
The QuickSand shines in the details. The rear tires, for example, are 5 inches bigger than the fronts, for that dangerous drag rake. Those tires are fitted to custom knock-off wheels. Out back there’s a drag chute that isn’t a drag chute at all, but a pouch for a tow strap. Inside the beautifully aluminum and leather interior you’ll find a zany dog-leg shifter whose knob is an old toy Jeep entombed in acrylic, like the giant mosquito in Jurassic Park. But perhaps the coolest, silliest detail on the QuickSand is its winch, which hides inside a false Moon fuel tank up front. It’s not a drag racer, but it sure might fool someone at first glance.
As a reminder, Jeep isn’t building any of these for production. Just to bring you back down to the ground.
You can always mod your own Jeep, though.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.