12 of the Best Jeep 4x4s That Never Really Existed

The Easter Jeep Safari began in Utah in 1967 as a simple one-day trail tour, a bright idea dreamt up by the Moab Chamber of Commerce. Over the decades, however, it’s blossomed into an annual pilgrimage for diehard Jeep fans and expanded to become a nine-day extravaganza. (It literally is, “a Jeep thing.”) And each year, the American 4×4 brand brings a handful of one-off concepts built for the event, to bounce ideas off of its biggest fans.

The Easter Jeep Safari concepts range from weird to wonderful, including restomods, rock-crawlers, forward-control pickups, overlanders, electric conversions and more. We crawled through the archives to pick our favourites from the last decade-ish. But, do let us know if we missed your favourite.

The 57th annual Easter Jeep Safari is coming up April 1-9, 2023, and we’re eager to see what Jeep has in store for us this year.

2012 Jeep Mighty FC Concept

jeep fc concept

The Mighty FC is the one on the left, with the cab right over the wheels, hence FC, which stands for Forward Control. As Jeep explains: “The Jeep Forward Control was built from 1956 to 1965 and offered a clever packaging solution. It kept overall length at a minimum for maneuverability but maintained a full-length cargo box for utility. For 2012, Jeep has created a modern version of this classic: the Jeep Mighty FC concept. The design team started with a 2012 Wrangler Rubicon and repositioned the cabin over and ahead of the front axle, lengthened the wheelbase, and added a custom built drop-side cargo box. The cab utilizes a roof from the Mopar JK-8 conversion kit, as well as a custom-designed front clip. Off-road function is dramatically improved with the addition of Mopar’s new Portal Axle set. These offset axles offer the greatest amount of ground clearance without requiring excessive suspension lift.”

2012 Jeep J-12 Concept

jeep concept

If you had the time, and/or money, you could build one of these, but it probably wouldn’t look as good as this factory concept though. The modern Jeep Gladiator, however, clearly takes inspiration from this slam-dunk of a concept. “The J-12 concept is essentially an extended version of Mopar’s recently introduced JK-8 pickup conversion kit for the Jeep Wrangler,” explained the company. “With a new 2012 Wrangler Unlimited as the starting point, the rear of the vehicle’s frame is extended 18 inches, allowing the spare tire to be relocated under the bed floor and making the cargo box a full six feet in length. A custom hood and front fender set was created as a nod to aficionados of the beloved Jeep Gladiator series trucks. The cabin has been “dressed down” in support of a basic truck theme, with the carpet being replaced by rugged truck bed liner, and the bucket seats re-crafted into a modern version of a bench seat, trimmed in white with a whimsical plaid pattern.”

2015 Jeep Wrangler Africa

2015 Jeep Wrangler Africa

This one is giving real ‘Land Rover Defender’ vibes, and you know what? The mashup of US and UK off-roaders is really working. Per Jeep: “The Africa is the ultimate Jeep Wrangler for back-country and overland expeditions, with room for extra gear and auxiliary fuel tanks. The Wrangler 4-door-based vehicle sports a Desert Tan exterior paint, a high-clearance steel front bumper with winch, power step rock rails, power dome vented hood and an extended rear body and high-top roof. Powered by a 2.8-liter diesel engine mated to an automatic transmission, the Wrangler Africa also features fender-mounted auxiliary fuel cans. It’s outfitted with a two-inch lift kit with Fox shocks, sway bar links and front and rear Dana 44 axles from Jeep Performance Parts.”

2015 Jeep Chief

2015 Jeep Chief

Pair this with jean shorts and an unbuttoned shirt. “A tribute to the classic 1970s era full-size Jeep Cherokee, this Wrangler-based concept vehicle evokes the west coast surfer lifestyle of sun and fun with a nod to nostalgic beach rides. Custom exterior design cues include a vintage Ocean Blue exterior colour scheme with a white, French Bread roof; a custom modified razor grille that the original Wagoneer made famous; halogen headlamps; removable sides for an open-air feel and flexible hauling; chrome front and rear bumpers and classic, 17-inch slotted mag wheels for a true ’70s vibe.”

2016 Jeep FC 150

2016 Jeep FC 150

In case you haven’t noticed yet, we love a good forward control (FC) truck where the driver gets to sit up above the front wheels. This thing looks like The Little Truck That Could. “A true American workhorse, this 1960 Jeep FC 150 concept vehicle is rich with heritage and built to tackle both challenging rocky trails and the harshness of a western cattle ranch. Originally built from 1956 to 1965, the FC 150 offered a clever packaging solution. This heritage Jeep vehicle continues to utilize its original steel body that proudly bears battle scars while components underneath have been revamped. Inside, it features vinyl seat covers, a custom headliner wrapped in a vintage duck hunting pattern, CB radio, analog compass and Mopar all-weather mats.”

2017 Jeep Grand One

2017 Jeep Grand One

Jeep was ahead of the curve on ‘90s SUV restomods. This modern take on a 1993 Grand Cherokee was built to celebrate the model’s 25th anniversary. The boxy shape of the old Grand Cherokee is aging beautifully. If only it were possible to find one in such nice shape. Sigh. Jeep explains: “Inside, the interior continues the celebration of the original Grand Cherokee with ’90s-inspired materials and touches, a durable bed liner applied to replace the carpet and accessorized with an old-school car phone. On the exterior, the Grand One concept features custom 18-inch lace-style wheels, high-clearance fender flares, extended wheelbase, trimmed fascias and a subtle wood grain treatment on the body.”

2017 Jeep Quicksand

Jeep concept quicksand

A hot rod for the desert? Cool. Yes, we’re in. “The Quicksand concept is powered by a Mopar 392 Crate HEMI engine with eight-stack injection, mated to a six-speed Getrag manual transmission,” according to Jeep. “A “peekaboo” cutout in the hood and gasser-style downturned open headers add to the vintage hot rod feel. This Wrangler-based concept features a longer wheelbase, with trimmed front and rear body and a chopped hard top and windshield. An open top and open windows allow for full enjoyment of Quicksand’s sound and wind-in-your-face freedom. The concept also features a Warn winch concealed in a front-mounted Moon tank. A recovery rope is located in the rear, replacing the traditional drag racer’s parachute.”

2018 Jeep Wagoneer Roadtrip

jeep concept

This foreshadowed the return of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in 2021. We can’t help but wish the new SUV looked a little more like this one though. Anyway: “The Jeep Wagoneer Roadtrip stirs up nostalgic memories of going to Yellowstone National Park on a summer family vacation. This particular Wagoneer retains its heritage and charm as it continues to utilize its original steel body, while the chassis and drivetrain have been updated.”
 
“The wheelbase has been stretched five inches, and the body has been updated to accept the additional length, a wider track and custom fender flares. Other subtle exterior styling tweaks include reshaped wheel wells, bumpers and integrated rock rails. A razor grille freshens the look up front, while Bottle Green architectural glass replaces the original pieces.   Inside, the Wagoneer features original front and rear bench seats, door panels, kick and rear panels, all trimmed in Oxblood-colored leather. A wicker headliner gives the Wagoneer an open, lighter feel. Originally Built from 1963 to 1991, the Wagoneer was the first four-wheel-drive vehicle mated to an automatic transmission, pioneering the first modern SUV.”

2018 Jeep Sandstorm

2018 Jeep Sandstorm

The idea with a Baja truck is cushion: the more suspension travel you’ve got, and the better the damping is, the faster you can go flying across the whispy dunes of the Baja peninsula. The Sandstorm concept is Jeep going full-send. “Inspired by Baja desert racers, the Jeep Sandstorm concept is all about blitzing long, sandy straightaways while still being capable of handling the daily driving duties. The front axle has been moved forward four inches and utilizes a heavy-duty longarm four-link suspension and track bar. The rear axle has been moved back two inches and utilizes a triangulated trailing arm four-link suspension. The longer wheelbase allows for increased high-speed stability. Custom coilovers and bypass shocks allow the front wheels to travel 14 inches while the rear wheels can travel up to 18 inches.

Custom Baja-inspired touches include an integrated on-board air compressor, race-style fuel filler, KC Carbon series front auxiliary lights and a chase light. The Baja race truck theme continues throughout the interior, which features a custom cage that integrates the chassis, leather-trimmed front seats and unique low-back racing bucket seats in the rear. A racing-inspired cluster and 7-inch off-road GPS unit handle navigation while independent rocker switches control on-board electronics, air compressor and axle lockers.

2021 Jeep Farout

Jeep farout concept

The real surprise with here is that in more than 10 years of Jeep concepts, there have only been a couple of overland expedition trucks. The Gladiator pickup seems like an ideal base for an off-road vacation. As Jeep explains: “The main feature of this fully functional concept is a neatly contained, customized deployable AT Overland Equipment Habitat™ Truck Topper. The spacious 16-foot long and 7.5-foot tall recreational residence opens and retracts in a matter of seconds. Once unpacked, it comfortably sleeps up to four. The Farout’s warm, inviting wood-lined interior features soft ambient lighting, a fully functional refrigerator and stove, plus hanging storage racks, built-in seats and table space. Inside the Farout’s customized cab, outdoorsy fashion and style are celebrated with dark smoke blue leather, orange stitching and plaid flannel seat inserts. The exterior features a new Earl body colour with Chartreuse accents on the hood, rear tailgate tow hooks, springs, badging and shocks.”
 

2021 Jeepster Beach

2021 Jeepster Beach

Not another restomod, I hear you groan. But wait, give this one a closer look. This compact, low-slung candy-coloured dream machine nails the details, down to the chrome roll-cage, cut-off red leather seats and subtly reshaped bodywork. “Originally designed around the growing interest in leisure time use of 4×4 vehicles, the original Jeepster Commando was the first compact four-wheel-drive vehicle with an automatic transmission and, unlike the Jeep CJs of its day, it boasted modern amenities, such as doors, roll-up side glass, a heater and roof, as standard equipment,” says the company. “The Jeepster Beach concept started as a 1968 Jeepster Commando (C-101) and was seamlessly blended with a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Jeepster Commandos were made for fun in the sun, and this ultimate beach-themed cruiser continues that tradition by embodying a spirited, carefree attitude. The exterior fuses original chrome trim with an updated, brightly coloured two-tone paint scheme of Hazy IPA and Zinc Oxide.”

2022 Jeep Wrangler Magneto 2.0 Concept

jeep concepts magneto

The first all-electric Jeeps won’t arrive until 2024, but the company is already working to ease diehard Jeep fans into the idea of an electric 4×4. The company pitches it as “zero emissions freedom” and is leaning heavily into the performance aspect of EVs. Here’s how the company explains it: “The Magneto 2.0 team set their sights on the “strap in and hold on with both hands” end of the performance spectrum. Peak amperage in the propulsion system is more than doubled to 600 amps, which enables the Magneto 2.0 to instantly deliver up to 850 lb.-ft. of peak torque to the wheels – more than triple the torque output of last year’s concept – and 625 horsepower for serious rock-climbing challenges. A new electric powertrain calibration maintains the peak amperage for up to 10 seconds – think of it as electronic nitrous oxide. Getting all that torque to the ground calls for some hardware upgrades. It starts with 12 inches added to the wheelbase of the two-door Wrangler body style, creating some extra room for powertrain components and giving the Magneto 2.0 proportions similar to the “LJ” Wrangler Unlimited from 2004-06. Augmenting that stretch are a custom 3-inch lift kit and 40-inch off-road tires mounted on 20-inch wheels.”

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