1969 - 1970 Bolide / Jeep XJ-002 concept car
The Jeep XJ-002 concept car was the only Jeep concept car to be built by an outside firm, and was the last concept car authorized by Kaiser-Jeep before the takeover by AMC. Built in 1969, using a Commando pickup frame and running gear (provided through Albro Leasing to Borg-Warner’s Marbon Chemical Division, Centaur Engineering Group), the car appears to be the first modern SUV concept vehicle. The literature described it as the first four wheel drive Jeep Sports Car and All Purpose Utility Vehicle. (T-top correction thanks to Tim Buck)
Direct donation of the car by Kaiser-Jeep was impossible due to the tenuous situation of Kaiser-Jeep senior staff regarding the pending takeover by AMC. The AMC takeover happened between the time the car was authorized and built, and the time the car was to be returned after the NYC auto show.
The Bolide was authorized by the factory and the then-President of Kaiser-Jeep to be a concept car for eventual production as a joint venture between Kaiser-Jeep and Borg Warner (manufacturer of Cycolac Thermoplastic) and an outside marketing firm (Andrew "Jack" Griffith previously of Griffith Motors) handling market testing and eventual distribution through selected Jeep dealers.
The XJ-002 was never returned to Kaiser-Jeep after the auto show because of the sale of the company to AMC and a purge of Kaiser-Jeep senior staff. The car went back to Borg Warner, Marbon Division in West Virginia.
While the original car had a plastic windshield and no doors, doors were being worked on; there are photos of the molds, which have been lost. Mechanicals are basically stock and remain intact in 2009, with a V6, Tubro-Hydramatic 400 automatic, and 3.31 rear all being original. The original interior, wheels, and tires are lost, but photos of the originals remain.
The designer / builder was Dann Deaver; it was built in West Virginia, with a fiberglass body (the production car was to use Cycolac thermoplastic). The Bolide Motor Car Company was based in Huntington, New York, and the car would have been sold through selected Jeep dealers.
The current owner is Daniel W. Kunz; there have been at least five other owners with titles, and another six without titles. The car was titled in Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia, and is currently titled in Virginia as a 1969 Jeep; it was found in West Virginia in 1996, with 9,049 original miles (as documented by the various titles); it was original yellow but has been painted, at various times, light blue, dark blue, black, hot pink, and camo. Daniel has numerous art and documentation photos, slides and some film (on video) footage of the original vehicle as well as an oral history (on tape by the designer/builder) of the vehicle regarding its design, build, testing and history.
Daniel also has the original brochure for the car and a photocopy of the only book that had a photo layout of the Bolide -- "The JEEP Book; America's Premier Recreational Vehicle (Martin Schorr, A Marque Series Book, Performance Publications).
The car was mentioned in the Standard Catalog of American Cars, but no picture was included as the car was assumed to have been destroyed and no photos could be found at the time of publication. The Bolide is currently mechanically disassembled and in the western portion of Virginia. It is available to someone who would pledge to restore the vehicle to original or near original condition.
This is a unique and historic vehicle and the first SUV … it started the trend … long before SUV’s became popular.
Concept cars are often made so a car’s feel can be evaluated, problems can be foreseen, and reactions of the public can be judged. Some concepts test specific ideas, colors, controls, or materials — either subtle or out of proportion, to hide what’s being tested. Some are created to help designers think “out of the box.” The Challenger, Prowler, PT Cruiser, and Viper were all tested as production-based concepts dressed up to hide the production intent.