The recent reveal of two Wrangler-based concept trucks again raises the question as to whether Jeep will add a production pickup to its lineup.
"As I think about the future generations of Wrangler, always in my mind is a pickup or a pickup version," Mike Manley, President and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC's Jeep Brand, told AEI after the reveal of four Jeep and two Mopar concept vehicles at the automaker's Auburn Hills, MI, headquarters in late March.
While a Jeep production pickup "would be a great thing. You have to make sure if you're going to do something like that, that you time it perfectly," Manley said.
Chrysler last produced a Jeep pickup in 1988, an offshoot of the Jeep Gladiator launched by Willys Motors in 1962. In 2005, Jeep unveiled the concept Gladiator pickup. And, in the summer of 2011, Mopar-Chrysler's service and parts brand-introduced the JK-8 pickup conversion kit for the Jeep Wrangler.
According to Mark Allen, Head of Jeep Design, "We leveraged that conversion kit by modifying it even further to craft the J-12, a brand new two-door concept vehicle that looks very appealing and recalls a period of time when Jeep built pickup trucks," Allen told AEI.
Jeep's Underground design team customized a front end on a four-door 2012 Wrangler Unlimited, making the vehicle unique from the cowl forward. Two Mopar conversion kits, including the JK-8 package, were used for the roof and to extend the Wrangler's rear frame 18 in (457 mm).
"We've done a couple pickup truck concepts in recent years, but I think this version is the final answer with a spare tire underneath and a full 6-ft (1.8-m) box," Allen said.
Complementing the concept's unique nose are a custom-built, carbon-fiber hood and carbon-fiber front fenders. The J-12, which rides on 36-in (914-mm) tires mounted to 16-in steel wheels, gets its off-road grit via a Mopar 3-in (76-mm) suspension lift kit as well as Teraflex sway bars for controlling Dynatrac D-44 and D-60 axle assemblies that are fitted with ARB air lockers.
The J-12's interior features a white leather bench seat with the sides trimmed in a black, white, and red flannel material. Instead of carpeting, the body-colored flooring is partially covered by Mopar tire tread-styled rubber floor mats.
The concept pickup retains the Wrangler's wheelbase and the SUV's 285-hp (213-kW) 3.6-L V6 engine with six-speed manual transmission.
A 2012 Wrangler Rubicon was the starting point for creating the Mighty FC concept, which takes its cues from the Jeep Forward Control that was produced from 1956 to 1965. Because the Mighty FC driver sits directly atop the front axle, the steering system was reconfigured.
According to Toby Curran, Jeep studio engineer, a right-hand drive steering box was used "to reverse the steering around since the input is now on the other side of the front axle. The end result is a vehicle that drives astonishingly similar to today's Wrangler, albeit with a striking new vantage point."
Mighty FC's front axle was moved 21.6 in (549 mm) forward of the standard Wrangler front axle position.
To balance the vehicle, the 39.6-in spare tire was located underneath the truck in close proximity to the swing-down tailgate, and an aftermarket aluminum fuel tank was positioned approximately 3 ft (0.9 m) rearward from its original location.
The 117-in (2972-mm) wheelbase truck has a custom-built 8-ft (2.4-m) cargo box whose 8-in (203-mm) tall sides can be dropped down for a tray bed.
Mighty FC uses Mopar's front and rear portal axles, which position the axle tube above the wheel hub's center to gain higher ground clearance. The concept also features coil-over reservoir shocks, a Corsa stainless steel exhaust system, Hutchinson 17-in beadlock wheels, and a 16,000-lb (7257-kg) Warn winch.
The Wrangler-based concept pickup trucks might or might not be a prelude to a production Jeep pickup truck.
Manley told AEI that determining what should occur with the next-generation Wrangler is always top of mind, but "I can't confirm we would do (a pickup) because we're at the very early stages of that work. But it's something we have a history of in Jeep."