Behind the Scenes: Jeep Concept Design Head Talks Special Project SUVs

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Mark Trostle (Head of Jeep Concept Design)

If you’ve been to Moab for the Jeep Safari, then you know it has become a staple for Jeep and Mopar to showcase anything and everything you can dream of when it comes to customizing Jeeps.

Considering how much buzz the SUVs generate, chances are even if you haven’t been to the event, you’re aware of the hot concept models displayed at the Jeep affair. This year’s lineup at the 48th-annual Jeep Safari included projects ranging from the “Max Performance” Wrangler to the “Dakar” Cherokee, which JK-Forum covered here a couple months ago.

However, during the Chrysler Group’s recent “What’s New Program” held in Michigan, I had a chance to do a walkaround of the vehicles with Mark Trostle, who lead the design team for the concepts, to get a more personal scoop on what inspired the SUVs. It’s interesting insight that might prove valuable to those who are trying to come up with a few custom touches for their own Jeeps.

Max Performance

Jeep Wrangler Maximum Performance

The Trostle Scoop: “This is the ‘Mack Daddy’ of performance. It has a “Stinger” prototype bumper that’s going to be in the catalog. It has what we called the high-top fenders on it … that are raised two inches and the vehicle is actually raised four inches. It allows for a 37-inch tire. There are other simple things such as paint and graphics and the Rubicon hood. It has an outline of Arches National Park in Moab, another piece that we’re going to offer through the catalog, and the unique light bracket on the windshield. Then it has the badge of honor as well showing trails that it went through in Moab, and it has a Jeep Performance Parts rock rail.”

Jeep Wrangler Level Red

Jeep Wrangler Level Red

The Trostle Scoop: “This is one of my favorites. It’s pretty subtle, but then you start looking at it, and all the details are there. This has stock wheel flares on it, but it has what we call the “Aero” bumper. It changes the look a little bit. It has our Jeep Performance Parts beadlock wheel, the Warren wench and we’ve developed some red graphics that we’ve used all the way around the [vehicle]. The Jeep obviously is not a ‘boy racer’ kind of sports car, but the red and black […] create this unique image on a Wrangler. It’s what I call ‘simple attitude’. It’s one that you’d maybe do a double-take on and say, ‘oh, that’s kind of cool.’”

Jeep Wrangler Mojo

Jeep Wrangler MOJO

The Trostle Scoop: “This is one where the nickname we had for it in the studio is the name we ended up calling it: MOJO. The idea was that you got your ‘mojo’ back with the ‘OJ’ for orange Jeep. It’s amazing what you can do with paint and simple graphics to give a vehicle identity. Sometimes you can go overboard with it, but if they’re done just right to complement the theme, they can go so far. I think we’ve nailed it with this. If features the typographical map on the hood and the fender, which we just launched for the Cherokee, the Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler at” Read the related JK-Forum article here. “That’s something that we conceptually did at Moab and launched. This also has the shorty bumpers, where we pull the ends off for more attitude.”

Jeep Cherokee Adventurer

Jeep Cherokee Adventurer

The Trostle Scoop: “The color is something we refer to as polarizing. We developed this color specifically for Moab, and when we got this thing in the desert out there it was perfect because it fit with those colors in that area. It was great. It has the Jeep Performance Parts wheels and […] more aggressive tires as well. It also has a roof rack and rock rails. It really was a great way to showcase what the new Cherokee is.”

Jeep Cherokee Trail Warrior

Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Trail Warrior

The Trostle Scoop: “This was an exercise in simplicity. I think good design is timeless, and it doesn’t always have to have splashes of things. There’s a place for that, but I wanted to do something very simple to just showcase the pieces on it. That’s why we chose this straight-shade color. There is no metallic in it; something that looked very at-home at Moab in the desert accented by the black hood and the black front fascia. The wheels are something we’re developing for the catalog, so that Grand Cherokee customers can use them. The same goes for the roof rack — a one-size-fits-all for our Jeep customers … and then we raised the vehicle as well.

Jeep Cherokee Dakar

Jeep Cherokee Dakar

The Trostle Scoop: “This is the one we had the most fun with. We wanted to take it a little bit further and do two things: One, to show customers what they can do with the Cherokee, and what we could potentially do with the Cherokee in the future. We actually cut about four inches out of the sheet metal, and then we did new flares on it so it allowed for a much larger tire. We put some paint on the stock wheels with the new tires, and added rock rails, and it really changes the look. It would be something where customers could cut things up, but we could offer those things as a kit. We put a new front-fascia lower and rear-fascia lower on it as well to increase the approach and departure angles on it. We had some fun with the colors on it, too.”

Photos Above by Marcus Amick

Moab Overlay

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