The Easter Jeep Safari concepts just debuted at the brand’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, and the star of the show—by far—is this 1965 Jeep Wagoneer with a Hemi V8 and the most beautiful and tasteful modifications ever done to an old SJ-platform Jeep.
Head Jeep designer Mark Allen and his team went out and bought this 1965 Wagoneer from “out west,” and then resto-modded it without ruining its classic looks. They threw in the powertrain from an old Ram pickup, meaning there’s a 5.7-liter V8 under the hood sending torque through a four-speed automatic. The C-channel frame has been boxed, the power steering is from a JK (the outgoing Wrangler), and the leaf springs are now gone, having been replaced by coilovers bolted to wide Dana 44 axles with lockers.
One thing you’ll notice is that the original vehicle that Jeep bought from Craigslist had the square-shape “Rhino” grille. It’s a beautiful and classic look, but Jeep decided to remove it and use the long Razor grille—a move that will cause a bit of controversy among Wagoneer enthusiasts, though everyone will admit that the Razor still looks fantastic.
What also looks fantastic is the interior, which, like the outside, is coated in “Mintage Green” paint. Take in the “Oxblood” bench seat, the white steering wheel with a horn ring and the lovely white gauge cluster. This interior is perfection.
The wheelbase has been stretched five inches, and the flares have been raised six inches to accommodate the 33-inch mud-terrain tires on 17-inch steel wheels. But, remarkably, despite these significant modifications, the Jeep doesn’t look that far from stock, which is why it works so well aesthetically, I think.
Jeep always likes to throw in a few quirky touches, and this concept is no different. There’s a fake dog hanging its head out of the window to enjoy the breeze, the luggage in the back has been converted to a cooler, and there’s a valve cover from the Jeep’s original engine, the 230 Tornado inline-six, acting as the lid for a tool kit:
The fact that my hideous 1986 Grand Wagoneer is built on the same platform as this concept is mind-boggling. But who knows, maybe my Jeep will see its potential when the two meet at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab next week.