Over the better part of the last month-and-a-half, current auto news headlines have been lightly (if not consistently) dusted with stories leading up to – or stemming from – the 2019 Moab Utah Easter Jeep Safari. Held from April 13th to April 21st, the Safari is an annual nine-day event hosted by the Red Rock 4-wheelers off-road club, designed to serve a number of purposes within the Jeep community.
Sure, there are quite literally hundreds of vendors, present to ply their wares to the enthusiast community that they’re designed exclusively for; but it’s the opportunity to enjoy scenic (some damn near challenging) trail riding through the rocky Utah terrain that serves as the primary draw. Ranked as either Easy (Circle), Moderate (Square), or Hard (Diamond), trails are then sub-classified numerically from 1-10 to further denote the extent to which they’ll challenge both Jeep and Jeeper alike.
As with all desert vistas, iconic naming like ‘Hell’s Revenge’ is all that’s needed to get the blood pumping of those eager to air down and get moving. Offering blends of slickrock, rocky ledges, broken terrain, and hair-rising descents that leave almost no room for error, riders can find themselves facing episodic threats like ‘Tip-Over Challenge’ and ‘Rubble Trouble.’ In other words, stretched out over nine days, it’s basically Disneyland for off-roaders: the happiest Jeepin’ place on earth.
But there’s another element factored into the event’s appeal, and it comes in the high-level form of Jeep’s official contributions to the Safari. Ranging from more attainable mods, buildable from existing aftermarket inventory to near mind-bending bespoke offerings, the Moab concepts served up each year are highly-anticipated, highly-publicized and inevitably highly-coveted by enthusiasts (be they in attendance or not).
And in 2019 Jeep came at it hard, offering six distinct mods, each one iconic in its own right catering to a very specific facet of the automaker’s historic identity. So, for the benefit of those who weren’t all over the headlines related to these concepts, let’s start with Jeep’s own ‘official description’ of each:
Introducing for the 2019 Moab Utah Easter Jeep Safari…
The ‘Jeep Way-out’ – A fully capable overland concept utilizing the all-new Jeep Gladiator’s best-in-class payload to allow for a full roof-top tent and custom canopy.
The ‘Jeep Flatbill’ – Extreme 4×4 capability and utility of all-new Jeep Gladiator with a playful nod to Motocross culture.
The ‘Jeep Five-Quarter’ – “Resto-Mod” of 1968 Jeep M-715 Gladiator-based military vehicle is a true 4×4 showpiece featuring a blend of vintage and modern chassis and drivetrain components.
The ‘Jeep J6’ – Mixes classic Jeep truck styling with concept and production Jeep Performance Parts and accessories from Mopar.
The ‘Jeep JT Scrambler’ – Combines retro 1980s-era appearance with Jeep Performance Parts and innovative touches.
The ‘Jeep Gladiator Gravity’ – Rock-climber-themed trail vehicle courtesy of launch-ready Jeep Performance Parts.
Now that introductions are out of the way, we’ll spend some time getting to know each of these enticing concepts and see if they make the cut in terms of meeting Jeep’s intentions, or if any of them fall short. So, let’s get down to it, starting with the ones that made a slightly less impact on us (relatively speaking, of course).
A two-door variant of the Gladiator, the J6 gains another 12-inches of bed length, infused with a certain degree of functional credibility. But then what? Despite some admitted appeal of the pop-Blue paint job (which we like quite a bit) there’s just not enough going on to make this a stand-out.
Motocross inspired, the ‘extreme’ aesthetic of the Flatbill is a little too out-there for our likes, but we do like the 4-inch lift and oversized 40-inch tires mounted upon 20-inch wheels. Combined with Dynatrac ProRock 60 axles on both the front and rear of the Flatbill, we’re sure it’s a lot of fun to drive — the look just wasn’t for us.
Jeep JT Scrambler
While we appreciate the concept, slapping a bed on a Rubicon and painting it like a CJ8 from the ’80s speaks to a niche component of the Jeep fanbase. But the dated… I mean ‘retro’ appearance does nothing for us visually. And the incision of the stock V6 (even with a cold-air intake and cat-back exhaust) just don’t do very much to sweeten the deal.
Okay. There’s some appreciable effort here. Armored with extra body protection and two auxiliary fuel tanks, the Way-Out feels a bit like the automotive equivalent of an ex-pat veteran who now makes their money as a mercenary-for-hire, or safari tour guide. A 2-inch lift kit and 37-inch mud-terrain tires upon 17-inch wheels lend a sense of gravitas, and a Warn winch with 12,000 LB rating provide plenty of assurance. But the showpiece of the Way-Out is the custom canopy which houses a two-person tent, reinforcing its sense of almost boundless freedom.
It’s hard not to appreciate the ‘Five-Quarter’ as one of the easy favorites in the lineup. For those less familiar with the term ‘restomod,’ it speaks to any attempt to blend the strengths of a classic vehicle’ original design with forward-thinking modifications equally strong in their own right. Ranging from subtle counterpoints to near-outright contradictions, restomods have empowered a whole generation of visionary freelancers to create the vehicle of their dreams, by blending anachronisms of design philosophy, performance, and other amenities.
And it’s with this in mind, that the one-and-one-quarter-ton vehicle (get the name now?) shows us what happens when Jeep evolves the overall conceptualization of the 1968 Kaiser Jeep M715 and merges it with 2019 engineering. More than just a workup, it’s like Jeep tried to play God and succeeded. A reinforced frame, jacked up link & coil suspension, Dynatrac ProRock axles and 40-inch tires on 20-inch beadlock wheels are all part of the core build. A 3.5-inch drop of the soft-top adds an air of aggression, while full-length rock rails and steel bumpers add to trail-readiness. And the inclusion of a six-foot bed, adorned with wood slats and a die-cut tailgate, makes the overall aesthetic of the Five-Quarter something unto itself.
Powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcrate Hemi V8, there’s no shortage of performance ability under the hood, providing the icing on the cake. All in all, it’s why this might just be our favorite out of any of the concepts.
Jeep Gladiator Gravity
And if we had to pick a runner up, it’s a pretty easy pick in the form of the Jeep Gladiator Gravity. Described in one article as “here to show off the Mopar parts catalog” (wait, is that supposed to be a bad thing?) the Gravity boasts $8,000 of aftermarket components. Riding on 35-inch tires (mounted on 17-inch offroad wheels) and a 2-inch lift, the Gravity boasts a distinctive stance, just high and wide-enough but with a visually appealing length that pulls your eyes full-way around it. Equipped with a cold-air intake and cat-back exhaust the Gravity is well-equipped to tackle the most challenging of inclines and – like the Five-Quarter – just looks so damn good.
We might have favored the Five-Quarter, with the Gravity behind it, but it’s hard to find fault in Jeep’s clear intent to put some unique offerings out there – and their decision to double-down on the Gladiator. But whether you made the trip out to Moab, or not, we want to know which ones ranked atop your list. Let us know!