Every year, gearheads at Jeep make a pilgrimage to the off-road mecca that is Moab, bringing along a yaffle of concept vehicles. Some of these rigs point to a future model, others too-cool restomods, and a few are tremendously bonkers one-offs.
We’re not entirely sure into which category today’s teaser will fall but, knowing Jeep, there’s a decent chance they’ll be putting this terrifically overpowered off-roader into production.
The Jeep Gladiator Top Dog concept vehicle is headed to Moab for the first time. First built in 2020, it sat in limbo for events to open up again, and the 55th Annual Easter Jeep Safari was the opportunity Jeep had been waiting for.
Due to COVID-19, the host group, Red Rock 4-Wheelers, had Easter Jeep Safari canceled, only to have the Grand County Commission in February approve a revision to the group’s special permit, and their event permit. Part of their compliance required cancellation of the vendor portion of the show, although the group has announced they will do a virtual live-streamed giveaway, to be held Friday, April 2nd at 6:30 p.m. Mountain time on their Facebook page.
Every year, the Easter Jeep Safari treats us to a batch of Fiat Chrysler’s finest off-road concepts and breathes a little fun into the auto industry.
While assuredly a marketing ploy, it’s one of the most enjoyable (and something this author eagerly waits for every spring). This year’s marketing proved a little more heavy-handed, thanks to the presence of Jeep’s all-new Gladiator, but no less palatable. Jeep is bringing six models to Moab for 2019 and every one comes with a truck bed and loads of accessories Mopar cannot wait to sell you via the Jeep Performance Parts catalog.
Jeep and Mopar have teamed up to create another round of concept vehicles for the annual Easter Jeep Safari. Now in its 52nd year, thousands of off-road enthusiasts will once again head to Moab, Utah, for a week of technical off-roading and dirt-related camaraderie. They’ll also get to see these 4x4s in the flesh. This year’s batch was a little less showy than the previous annum, but pursuing substance over style isn’t a terrible impulse when you’re planning on slamming a vehicle into boulders all day.
“Pushing the limit is something the Jeep brand is no stranger to and these seven new, exciting and capable concept vehicles are the latest example of that,” said Jeep head Mike Manley. “Every year, we look forward to introducing new concept vehicles and ideas to our enthusiasts. The Moab Easter Jeep Safari presents a unique and perfect opportunity to collect valuable insight from our most loyal customers.”
For over half a century, Jeep has held an annual safari in Moab, Utah, where 4×4 enthusiasts come to tackle the rough terrain in all manner of off-road vehicles. It’s also become an opportunity for Jeep to showcase its modern concept vehicles.
While Jeep has in past years leveraged nostalgia as a theme for its based-on-current-model concepts, the crème de la crème from this year wasn’t even from the current millennium and comes to us — via Craigslist — in the form of a 1993 ZJ Jeep Grand Cherokee.
It can take you a long time to start truly missing someone. Three years ago, I was dating a lovely federal attorney who had ordered herself a six-speed Wrangler Unlimited Sahara as a sort of step-stool to get her to the more adventurous life she thought we’d end up living together. In March of 2013, after taking delivery of her Jeep, she left it in my custody, got on a plane, and joined one of her oldest friends on a sight-seeing trip to Utah. She’d asked me to go but I’d refused; I had a date with someone else planned for the same week and at the time I took a sort of cruel joy in crushing every dream she had about our future. “I’m busy. Go to Moab,” I told her, “and see the Delicate Arch.”
“Too far north,” she replied. “Anyway, I want to save it for a trip with you.” We never took that trip. The last time I saw her was when she came to visit me in the hospital eight months later, the day after my January 2014 crash. I was incandescent with pain and incoherent from painkillers. She did something to upset me. I told her to leave the room and never come back. In the years between now and then, I didn’t think about her much. Too many other people and things on my mind.
The 2015 Easter Jeep Safari “Chief” is an homage to the full-size Cherokees of the 1970s.
Jeep has this whole concept car thing figured out.
Whereas most manufacturers use concept cars as a glimpse into the near future (or not, See “NSX, Acura”), Jeep makes weird-ass, proof of bad-ass concepts like this Chief, a 2012 “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” Wrangler turned surf-weirdo-baby blue-SUV that goes to show how much lead Jeep designer Mark Allen has nothing to do all day.
(Allen once told me his job with the Wrangler is done every year when nothing changes and that’s how it should be.)
Jeeping in Moab isn’t only a neologism — it’s also a tradition. Like most traditions (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.) it’s hard to pin when the rites began, why they started, or – most importantly – why they continue. For people who live in and around Moab, Jeeping is a mostly tolerable exercise that pours money into the small, southern Utah town that welcomes more its hikers, bikers and frequent hitchhikers to its two spectacular national parks than any rolling convoy of rock-crawling muscle.
I’m guessing very few people in the town can remember why the first person took a motorized vehicle up a beautiful geological formation and into the sand behind it.
Jeeping is also mildly entertaining for locals, up until the moment someone rolls up the hill in a car that looks like it has very little business being there. Then it becomes wonderfully fascinating for everyone.
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