Jeep’s PR people were cool enough to invite me down to the 2019 Moab Easter Jeep Safari, where I got up close with this year’s batch of concepts — and I even got to get behind the wheel of most of them. Here are my thoughts after some seat time and a close inspection of each one.
It goes without saying that the Five Quarter is the craziest vehicle of this year’s bunch. Based on an old M715 military truck — which Jeep design chief Mark Allen calls his favorite Jeep of all time — the Five Quarter rides on Dana 60 axles with a massive lift and 40-in tires. It’s also beautifully hideous, with purposely dull aluminum exterior finish (which is actually a wrap) paired with matte black accents. It’s also got the bluntest windshield you’ve ever seen on a vehicle, resting at a true 90-degree angle. Jeep says they cut a few inches out of the height to give it a more aggressive demeanor. Underneath the black soft top — which stayed up the whole day — were a few metal support tubes, and that was about it.
Under the hood was the only engine appropriate for an outrageous concept such as this one — a 6.2-liter supercharged ‘Hellcrate’ motor, putting out 707 horsepower, just like it does in the Dodge Challenger Hellcat. The Five Quarter was kind of nuts to drive. I barely used 10% of the full pedal travel when piloting it around the half-mile long off-road course. I almost didn’t make it behind the wheel thanks to a blown power steering line that left the Five Quarter dead on the slickrock early on in the day. Luckily someone drove into town and brought back the needed parts, and the Five Quarter was repaired on the spot.
This one is definitely my style. The Wayout is an idealized version of a Gladiator built up for Overlanding, featuring 37-in tires, a custom bed rack, a hard-shell rooftop tent, a set of Mopar bed drawers and a fold-out awning. Additional add-ons consisted of a set of fuel canisters integrated into the bed corners, super simple steel wheels, a Warn winch, an on-board air compressor, and custom steps welded into the rock rails on all four corners of the bed, allowing you to easily get to your gear inside. The Wayout even had a blender integrated into one of the drawers that was powered by the onboard air compressor.
Driving the Wayout wasn’t as much about performance as it was about just how cool you look behind the wheel. Jeep had swapped in brown Katzkin leather with a cool topographical map pattern, which certainly would make long drives to the remote campsites more enjoyable. I also climbed up into the rooftop tent, which had been fully decked out with the help of an interior designer. I’m certain it would’ve been a supremely comfortable place to spend the night.
Jeep was basically trolling when it came to the J6. While it looks like a shortened Gladiator, the J6 actually rides on a Wrangler Unlimited platform, the body of which had been chopped of at the B-pillar and replaced with a custom 6-foot long box that I’m told was made out of three donated Gladiator beds. Regardless, people basically freaked out over this thing, and for good reason. For one, the days of the single-cab midsize pickup seem to be over, with no automaker currently offering one, so to see one reincarnated was certainly noteworthy. Second, just look at this thing: it’s amazing! From the proportions to the metallic blue paint to the light bar, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a better looking truck.
Driving the J6 was just like driving a Wrangler, as the interior was basically identical, save for the lack of a back seat. Jeep’s choice to leave a little bit of space behind the door meant that there was just as much room to slide the seat forward and back as there is in the Wrangler and the Gladiator. The whole time I was behind the wheel, I just wanted to park it up on a rock, get out and stare at it, which is essentially what I was doing when I took the photos you see here.
The Scrambler concept was a call-back to the old CJ-8 Scrambler offered during the early and mid 1980s. Many were expecting the Gladiator to carry the Scrambler name, so the Scrambler concept you see here was perhaps also an acknowledgment of some internal debate over what to call the new JT pickup. Nonetheless, the Scrambler wore a custom real roll-bar — which Jeep called a prototype — and an ultra-rad sticker package reminiscent of one that was available on the old CJ-8. It also featured a custom brown top and custom brown leather interior, and accessory wheels painted in a goldish-orange color the Mopar team referred to as "Gorange."
Jeep’s design head Mark Allen said the team wanted to incorporate both ends of the midsize truck demographic. While the Wayout covers the overlanding side of the equation, the Flatbill was all about dirtbikes, and its name a reference to the flat-brimmed hats you often see on the heads of motocross enthusiasts. The Flatbill even carried a "Bro Rated" medallion in place of the Gladiator’s "Trail Rated" badge. Two KTM dirtbikes resided in the bed, which had the tailgate removed and custom rails installed to support the bikes. The color scheme from the bikes was incorporated throughout the rest of the vehicle, and old motocross jackets cut up and used for the seat inserts. The Flatbill’s carpet had been removed and a bright-green bedliner material was sprayed in to match the graphics on the outside. The Flatbill rode on massive 40-in tires mounted on 8-lug rims, a requirement of its aftermarket Dana 60 axles. Finally, the Flatbill had custom fenders that were mounted even higher than those you get on a basic Rubicon, along with a custom hood with extra ventilation added throughout.
Driving the Flatbill was cool, given just how obnoxious it was, although the 40-in tires made it a little heavy to steer over the slickrock obstacles. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The Gravity carried a rock climbing theme and basically served as an example of the Gladiator you could build if you went all-out in the Mopar parts catalog. Highlights were its 35-in tires, tube doors (each with "EJECT" stamped into its interior-mounted handle), a drawer system loaded up with climbing equipment, and a small cargo basket mounted over the bed packed with camping gear secured in place by an elastic net. It’s funny how tame the Gravity looked next to all of the other concepts, given how epic it would look if you encountered it in the wild parked among plebeian minivans and crossovers. I didn’t actually drive the Gravity, but I did ride in it with the windshield down, something everyone should do in a Jeep at least once. Find a Jeep Gladiator for sale
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.