Jeep blasts back into Moab with 4 rockin’ Easter Jeep Safari 2021 builds
After a one-year hiatus, Jeep is returning to Moab, Utah for the 2021 Easter Jeep Safari with a flock of concepts. Four will be new for this year — the all-electric Wrangler known as Magneto, the retro-rebody Jeepster Beach, the Red Bare overlander built upon an EcoDiesel Gladiator; and lastly, Orange Peelz, a sneak peak into the next wave of dealer-supplied accessories. Joining them will be the 392-powered Wrangler, along with the Gladiator’s Farout and Top Dog concepts. With the Ford Bronco approaching, Jeep brought a little something for everyone this year.
Gladiator Red Bare
Dipped in diesel and battered like chicken fried steak with Jeep Performance Parts, the Red Bare shows off numerous bits from the Jeep Performance Parts catalog — like the two-inch lift that fits 37-inch BFGs — which can be ordered through the dealer with a factory-backed warranty. Crawling performance was the center of Jeep’s attention here, so the Dana axles have been stuffed with 4.88 gears, which work with the 4:1 Rubicon-spec four-low ratio to bring the total crawl ratio to 90:1.
With the 3.0 EcoDiesel at the ready, the name of the game for the big-Jeep this year is torque to the wheels. Cosmetically, half-doors and a soft-top also carry out Jeep’s “open air” theme this year, while modest additions to the body armor wrap up the JPP wishlist.
Easily one of the most interesting machines out this year will be Magneto, the
evil mutant super human all-electric Wrangler Rubicon, complete with a manual transmission. “To be clear, this is a retrofit,” said Mark Allen, head of Jeep Design Studio. Out went the Pentastar V-6 along with its fuel system, and in its place is an electric motor and battery system. With the manual transmission intact, off-road driving finesse is said to be wicked, as a manual offers a direct connection to the tires with the motor’s precise torque delivery. The clutch is only used to shift, but without an engine to idle, can be totally ignored from a dead-stop. If you’ve ever challenged yourself to wheeling a manual vehicle through trails and obstacles, you know that precarious moment when you’ve got to balance the vehicle right on the edge of the tires’ grip and the clutch’s slip to get going, and that’s where Magneto shines. And for those who use Jeeps for getting up close with wildlife, it’s hard to argue against the near-silence of an EV powertrain. Allen mentioned that they intend to test this over three years, pushing their EV powertrain with more power during this prototype phase.
As of right now, output is matched to the Pentastar, though the 273 lb-ft torque is immediate from the moment the motor begins to spin, and 0-to-60 times are at a respectable 6.8 seconds. 800-volt batteries are mounted saddling the driveshaft, in a similar position to the original fuel tank, with the fourth pack under the hood, combining to offer 70 kW/h. Jeep assures everyone that it won’t go toaster-in-the-bathub at the next water crossing, retaining the Wrangler’s 30-inch water fording capabilities. Weight is said to be around 5,750 pounds however, putting it north of 1,000 pounds heavier than a comparable combustion-powered Wrangler.
For many reasons, this concept will be carefully scoped out on our radars.
Riding on a modified 2020 Wrangler Rubicon chassis, the Jeepster Beach is a rad throwback to one of Jeep’s earliest attempts at a civilized off-roader. We take for granted what the JL-generation brings to the table with creature comforts, but in the 60s, CJs were little more than stamped-steel boxes with axles under them. Kaiser-Jeep at the time wanted to take dig at the sales of the International Scouts or Toyota Land Cruisers, and responded with what amounted to a wide-body CJ with a more conventional set of options for creature comforts.
Today, Jeep began with a 1968 Jeepster Comando, stretched the wheel base a smidge, and dropped it onto the aforementioned 2020 Wrangler Rubicon frame. Jeep used the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder here, with a little help from the mad-scientists at SRT to bring output to 340hp and 369 lb-ft, a healthy bump over the factory 270/295 numbers. The JL-generation dashboard was also fitted to the Jeepster, and the whole interior is bathed in Katskinz leather, a favorite supplier of Jeep for their dealer-ordered interior kits. Lastly, the reto-modded Jeepster body was fogged in a “Hazy IPA and Zinc Oxide” two-tone that keeps the earthy, old-school feel, adding in mountains of metallic depth to it.
Orange Peelz Wrangler
We’re not saying this feels like it’s dropping a subtle gauntlet, but this shade of yellow-on-black feels vaguely familiar. Frankly, the Orange Peelz is another tour de 4-by-fource of the Jeep Performance Parts catalog, but what a handsome little nugget it is. 37-inch BFG KM3s and a 2-inch lift by JPP set it up for success in trails, and the JPP-specific Warn 8,000-pound winch is there for when trouble comes knocking — getting stuck is never a case of if, but when, while playing hard enough. Surrounding that winch is JPP’s prototype grille guard, with the two-inch tubes protruding from the modular steel bumper we’re already familiar with. The interior will be kitted out in more JPP accessories, though with a slant towards more rough-and-tumble gear like grab-handles and weather-proof floor mats. These kit-bash builds are great for future buyers to ogle while day-dreaming what bits and bobs would look slick on their own Jeep, but we’d love to see Jeep offer factory two-tone paint jobs like Orange Peelz features — going beyond the inadvertent two-tone that results from most of the black-colored offerings in soft- and hard-tops.
While they were perfect for the occasion, Jeep’s two Gladiator-based overland builds had to sit out the canceled 2020 Easter Jeep Safari. And with much of last year’s auto show circuit off-line, there were few opportunities for the growing Gladiator owners contingency to get there eyes on these two builds.
Farout and Top Dog are two spins on the overland format with vastly different lifestyle setups. Farout features a comprehensive AT Overland Equipment Habit truck topper, taking a cue from owners who commonly mount them upon bed racks while keeping the box open for storage. Making room for bike racks, and a lower roof line, is the Top Dog with its Patriot Campers flat-bed and utility box. Both are built with the familiar combo of a JPP 2-inch lift with 37-inch tires, body armor, and accessory lighting.
For many, of course, the real treat will be seeing the 392 getting twisted up at Moab. We first drove the much-anticipated V8 concept form last September, though the asphalt ribbons around Southern California aren’t exactly the right home for Jeep’s most powerful Wrangler ever. “The engine sings to its redline and makes the 1–2 shift with a loud brap from the exhaust, just as you’d expect from a Challenger,” said editor Brandan Gillogly during his time behind the wheel, which we expect will sound excellent echoing through the walls of Moab’s many canyons and valleys.
Any of these factory-customs strike your fancy? Or is the Bronco still peeling your eyeballs away from the venerable solid-axle stalwart?