Jeep Mighty FC Concept: First DriveS

Despite the iconic seven-slot grille, the Jeep Mighty FC Concept is as American as a Katyusha rocket. The retro-fantastic rock crawler shares its design lineage with the Soviet GAZ-66 and the arsenal of atom bombs that terrorized the nightmares of '50s schoolchildren.

Regardless of whether its roots are red, white and blue or just red, the Mighty FC — i.e. Forward Control — has the stature and I-don't-give-a-crap-about-your-human rights might befitting a superpower. Thank you, my Jeep comrades, for blessing me with the chance to drive it yesterday in Moab.

The cab over layout is nothing new for Jeep, which — under the auspices of Willy's and Kaiser — produced something similar between 1956 and 1965. But amongst the now Chrysler-owned division's array of rock-crawling Wrangler variants, it stands out as something special, and definitely bears more than passing resemblance to a Soviet missile hauler.

Not many American drivers have had the opportunity to pilot a truck which juts the driver's feet out ahead of the front axle. Mark Allen — head of Jeep's design department — and his team of like-minded Jeep aficionados admitted to geeking out about the ass-over-axle design, which garnered a lot of attention Monday as Jeep showed off its lineup at the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. Fitted with massive portal axles and bead-locked offroad tires, the Mighty FC is more or less made from parts they found lying around the Jeep factory.

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Powered by an aluminum, dual overhead cam Pentastar V6 — which, rated at nearly 300hp, is no slouch — the FC is basically a mutated four-door 2012 Rubicon. It has the same automatic transmission and dual range transfer case, with the front axle position tweaked to accommodate the cab, which looks like a Wrangler body with its nose lopped off and reaffixed without an old-style snout. Allen made sure air lockers were added to both beefy axles, so the truck can crawl over challenging terrain without much of a problem.

Jeep wanted to show off its quiver of souped up rockcrawlers bad enough to wine and dine the cadre of journos willing to make the trek to the tiny desert town, but getting a crack at driving them was enough of a lure for most (it certainly was for me).

Driving the Mighty FC is absolutely bizarre. There's something foreign about riding in front of the wheels that steer the vehicle (driving behind it, I watched the FC drift all over the highway as its newly-minted driver learned the eccentricities of its tiller), and with its high stance, going up and down steep inclines provides a heightened sense of adventure.

Ascending, all you see is sky, and descending, you get an intimate view of the downward slope. Its relatively short wheelbase makes the FC difficult to high-center, and there's absolutely no front or rear overhang to worry about scraping as you go from one impossible pitch to the next.

Jeep Mighty FC Concept: First DriveS

"Going uphill is great; going downhill is ... whoa," Allen said at the Safari Monday.

The bottom line: if you have a load of RPGs that absolutely must be delivered over brutal terrain in a timely manner, the Mighty FC isn't a bad choice of conveyance. Don't expect to see it in production anytime soon, though. Allen hinted that modern NHSTA crash safety regulations would make producing the vehicular equivalent of dangling your legs over the front bumper a near impossibility.

As an offroad journalist schralped a huge rock pile in the animal-like machine Monday, someone in the crowd of onlookers bellowed, "Americaaaa, f&$# yeah!" But somewhere on the breeze hung the last notes of a Soviet hymn.