It’s apparently Jeep week here on Oversteer, in the sense that I reviewed a Trackhawk yesterday and I’m showing you around the new Wrangler tomorrow, so I decided to just add another one into the mix: Jeep’s concept cars. Jeep’s really, really weird concept cars.
Over the years, I’ve peripherally been aware that Jeep has built some odd concept cars — but it wasn’t until a few nights ago, when I happened to be browsing through them with my friend David, that I realized, as a full picture, that Jeep has really had some oddities come through over the years. I have no idea why this is, and why Jeep specifically, but it strikes me that Jeep has had a weirder array of concept cars than most automakers. Behold, the five weirdest examples: See the Jeep models for sale near you
Really, though: What is this thing? An apparent attempt to kick off the subcompact crossover trend way early, the Ecco Concept was released at the Detroit Auto Show in 1993. It’s only 143 inches long, it has two doors and what appears to be a removable soft top, and it looks like it’s using late-production XJ Cherokee wheels, except painted in the inexplicable vomit green color they chose for this car’s debut. The powertrain was an 85-horsepower 3-cylinder.
Undoubtedly, Jeep’s strangest-ever concept car is the Hurricane, which came out for the 2005 Detroit Auto Show. On the surface, it doesn’t seem all that unusual: It’s just a Wrangler that looks even more extreme than normal, with huge tires and no doors. Fine. But then … the wheels fold in. Seriously, check out a video on this thing: This vehicle has 4-wheel steering, to the point where its turning circle is zero. It can turn itself around in a complete circle. It can move sideways. It would make parallel parking a breeze. It’s worth noting, in addition to the craziness with the steering, this thing can do 0-to-60 in 4.9 seconds — courtesy of not one but two Chrysler Hemi V8 engines, presumably one for each pair of wheels.
Although the “Trailhawk” name has now become a trim level of Jeep’s normal models, it was once a concept car. That “once” was the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, when Jeep showed off the Trailhawk concept — a vehicle that was basically the Grand Cherokee from that era, except with crazier styling and t-tops. Yes, it had t-tops, even though it was a 4-door vehicle. There was a giant bar going down the middle, and you could remove the four glass panels above the giant bar, giving it the open-air feeling best known in the Wrangler. According to Jeep, the styling was reminiscent of “a drawn arrow in the bow of a skilled archer.” Sure.
In terms of ultra-weirdness, the Jeep Treo Concept gives the Hurricane a run for its money. Most of the reason is the styling: You can see above that the Treo looks absolutely bizarre, with Jeep-style off-road tires and flared fenders, and then … are those wings in back? Like an airplane’s tail? The Treo was designed to seat two people in front and one single person in back, hence the name (“trio”), and it was theoretically an electric vehicle. Oh, and those wings in back were designed to help you mount bikes. Not surprisingly, this one was too weird for Detroit, and it debuted at the 2003 Tokyo Auto Show — known for bizarre concept vehicles.
Like the Treo, the Willys2 Concept was presented at the Tokyo Auto Show — this time, in 2001. Power wasn’t this thing’s forte: Despite its brutish styling, it had only a 160-horsepower 4-cylinder, and could do 0-to-60 in around 10 seconds. The main thing that I find interesting about the Willys2 is just how much, in my opinion, it previewed the design of the Toyota FJ Cruiser, which came out six years later, for the 2007 model year. Am I wrong?! They look very similar! Either way, the Willys2 (obviously) never saw production, as Jeep never deviated this dramatically from the standard Wrangler. Find a Jeep for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.