You know you want a Jeep Wrangler hot rod.
The Easter Jeep Safari started in 1967 and was initially operated by the Moab Chamber of Commerce. Back then, there was only one trail to drive, one day of the year, and ice cream packages were dropped by airplane to the trails at lunch. The event has evolved over the years, and sadly ice cream isn't dropped for participants anymore. However, it's grown since then. Events are currently run by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers club and go on for a lot longer and cover more Moab trails - including the famous Hell's Revenge and Golden Spike.
Jeep has embraced the Easter Jeep Safari as a brand-building opportunity, a testing ground for the latest Jeep products and performance parts, and a place to show off one-off custom vehicles. You could call those one-off vehicles concepts, but they're more like working prototypes than something you will see on a static display at auto shows. Hence we get excited by them, and have come up with a list of our favorites from over the years.
We've all seen lifted Jeep Wranglers with a set of big wheels and tires, but when the Mopar Underground design team (formerly known as Mopar Skunkwerks) did it in 2009, fans went crazy. However, there is thought behind adding Mopar-designed 20-inch forged aluminum wheels and caricature-like 40x13.5-inch tires. The brief was to add ground clearance without altering the vehicle's center of gravity, which likely also explains why the windshield was chopped and the rake of the vehicle increased. It also has a domed carbon-fiber hood, a shorter roll cage, and a long list of parts from the Mopar catalog to go with the 5.7-liter Hemi engine under the hood.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the most powerful Jeep available at the time of writing, but many still dream of a factory-built Wrangler with a Hellcat engine under the hood. In 2016, Jeep teased the idea by putting the 707-hp V8 in the Wrangler, then added a six-speed manual gearbox, 39.5-inch BF Goodrich Krawler tires, and bucket seats from a Dodge Viper. Engineers had to extend the wheelbase by 12 inches to house the engine and then had to rework the body to fit. The Jeep Wrangler Trailcat was created in celebration of the 50th annual Easter Safari, and the automaker claims it's "equally at home on Moab's rugged trails or a high-speed section." We suspect it would be utterly compelling on either.
A fast Jeep built in a hot rod style sounds like a terrible idea on paper. In reality, though, it looks like an absolute blast and completely insane. It's powered by a Mopar 392 HEMI with an eight-stack injection system hooked to a Getrag manual transmission. Style-wise, it's hot rod all the way, including a lengthened chassis, gasser-style downturned open headers, a hood cutout, and something we've never seen on a Wrangler before - a staggered wheel and tire setup using BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tires.
The Pork Chop concept has a more literal name than the first impression gives. Jeep set about chopping all the pork from a Wrangler in 2011. Basically, if it didn't help the Wrangler start, move, stop, or go over bumps, it was removed. Doors, tailgate, bumpers, carpets, stereo, the lot. Where necessary heavy items could be replaced, it was done so with either carbon fiber or aluminum, and the rear end was given a makeover. In total, 600 pounds of weight were removed, which gave it a 2-inch lift without actually touching the suspension. Jeep gave it an extra 2-inch suspension lift anyway, and a set of 35-inch Mickey Thompson tires for good measure.
The original Forward Control (FC) Jeep was designed in the 1950s from a design by Brooks Stevens. It fulfilled the design brief to create something that could venture off-road but also made efficient use of space and came with added versatility. The 2012 Wrangler Mighty FC pays homage to the piece of design that places the driver and passengers above and in front of the engine. It's built using, among other things, a two-door Wrangler extended to have a 117.0-inch wheelbase, the roof from a Mopar JK-8 pickup kit, Mopar Portal Axles, and a set of repurposed Jeep four-door rock rails.
Not all of Jeep's Easter Safari concepts have been over the top, and the Wrangler Africa is as close to sensible as it gets here. The base model is a standard four-door Wrangler Unlimited that's stretched by 12 inches, and the fun starts with a two-inch lift and Fox Racing shocks. From there, the tailgate-mounted spare tire is moved under the vehicle and, the roof is raised by four inches, creating even more usable cargo space. To handle the extra stress, the drivetrain includes Dana 44 axles front and rear, and it has a lightweight 2.8-liter turbo-diesel engine under the hood.
An all-electric Jeep seems inevitable at this point, and if it specs out like this, we're in. The Magneto is powered by a custom-built axial flux electric motor that operates at up to 6,000 rpm, generating 285 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor is paired with something nobody expected - a six-speed manual transmission. Four waterproofed battery packs produce a combined total of 70 kWh while running on an 800-volt system, while two 12-volt batteries run everything else. The Magneto concept is rounded out with a 2-inch lift kit, 17-inch wheels, 35-inch mud tires, Mopar Rock Rails, steel bumpers, and a custom roll cage.
While we like the Magneto, we like the Jeepster Beach from 2021's Easter Jeep Safari even more. It's a retro-modded throwback to the Jeepster, but with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder pumped up to generate 340 hp and 369 lb-ft via a twin scroll turbocharger. An eight-speed auto distributes power to a 4:1 transfer case then four 35-inch wheels. It's the style that blows us away, though. Its chrome trim matched with two-tone Hazy IPA and Zinc Oxide paint over a red interior looks absolutely stunning.
Jeep describes the Blue Crush as having "high-speed off-road racing and rock-crawling capability." Inspired in large part by the King Of The Hammers rock crawling event, it's a serious machine. Powered by a 426-cubic-inch Hemi making 540 horsepower, then delivering it to the wheels via a Chrysler performance-built transmission and a gear-drive transfer case, Blue Crush has the grunt to push through or over anything, and then take on the desert at speed. To do either or both, it needs serious suspension, and Jeep went down the off-road race-ready route, using internal bypass shocks, a front stabilizer bar, and then a fully hydraulic steering system for good measure. Blue Crush is then topped off with a full roll cage, bucket seats, lightweight off-road bumpers, and a fuel cell.