Jeep Trailhawk concept vehicle: 2006 and 2012
2012 Jeep Trailhawk
While the Trailhawk is painted Stone White, the grille surround, lower front applique, mirror caps and rear light bar join the wheels in Mineral Gray, while the upper grille mesh, front and rear tow hooks, Jeep logos on wheel center caps and bolt holes in the alloy wheels are red; a Red trim line outlines a matte black hood applique that slashes glare.
Other unique touches include black headlamp surrounds, black exterior front and rear badging, Red “Trail Rated” badges on the front fenders and a unique “Trailhawk” badge on the rear tailgate.
This concept is apparently slated for actual production. Expect 9 inches of ground clearances that can, with air suspension, go to 11 inches; special tires for off-road traction; and real side lower rocker panels to protect the body.
2006 Jeep Trailhawk
The 2006 Jeep Trailhawk, according to Chrysler, “takes the core off-road features of the new four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and uses them as the basis for a more refined highway cruiser.”
Nick Vardis, principal exterior designer, said, “The key to the look of the Trailhawk is the vehicle’s distinctive proportions, due in part to its 116-inch wheelbase. The dash-to-front-axle dimension is dramatically long, giving the vehicle a sense of forward motion, while the front and rear overhangs are tight and abbreviated.” An Automotive News article cites the 1998 Jeepster concept as his inspiration for the open-air styling; he also thought that a Jeep “is about utility but also adventure, the wind in your hair, a feeling of openness,” according to the article. His drawing was originally meant for a production Jeep, but his managers felt it was too futuristic, and suggested it as a concept instead. Trevor Creed asked for a completely new body shell to ride on the Wrangler Unlimited platform, for concept-car purposes, and John Sgalia thought of using Vardis’ drawing on the Unlimited to create the concept (then titled Jeepster II). Doug Quigley, Trevor Creed, and Ralph Gilles got together and decided on the basic framework, including the use of the Mercedes diesel engine.
Vardis said the body side is muscular and broad-shouldered, with the sheet metal pulled into shape, much like a drawn arrow in the bow of a skilled archer. Even the pillars are pulled back. The forward motion of the body is further accented by the drive of the raising beltline.
The stance is broad, and the wheels, pushed to the corners of the vehicle, are enclosed in robust flares dramatically offset from the body. Partly trapezoidal in shape, yet not asymmetrical, these angular, crisply-contoured wheel flares reinterpret one of Jeep’s fundamental design cues. The flares enclose large 22-inch, five-spoke wheels, each with a hefty 34-inch overall diameter. The tires are accented by a red stripe, with the red color repeated on the exposed brake calipers.
“The flares are stretched and pulled taut at one end,” Vardis said. “Each presents a ‘long side’ angled toward the center of the body.”
The lower body, which kicks outward along the bottoms of the doors, intersects the flares crisply. Beneath their clear flush lenses, HID projector beam quad lamps in twin polished aluminum barrels light the way while LEDs, configured in parallel stripes, provide park and turn signals.
“The main headlamp units are cropped diagonally across the top,” said Vardis. “They peer out from an angled brow, giving the vehicle its bold, sinister look. In front view, the left and right lamps evoke the hooded eyes of a bird of prey.
Vardis said, “Like other concepts, we first viewed the math surface of the grille and headlamps together in the computer. We immediately noticed the hawkish expression, hence the name ‘Trailhawk.’”
The vehicle’s upper structure is set onto the lower body, encased by a crisp, chamfered 360-degree molding that runs around the greenhouse, accenting the high, arching beltline. At the base of the windshield is a seven-slot cowl screen that reprises the grille. The body is painted in Argent Pearl high-gloss, with the flares and lower body a slightly darker low-gloss variant.
The side windows retract fully into the body, leaving no B-pillar above the belt, while the diagonal quarter windows are also fully retractable. Gray-tinted twin longitudinal glass panels over the first- and second-row seats and the glass panel over the cargo compartment are removable, as is the swing-up backlight. With all the glass lowered and removed, the Trailhawk offers occupants virtually the same open-air ambience as a typical soft top Jeep. The fixed central spine contains overhead lighting and several integrated storage bins.
“The Jeep Trailhawk interior emphasizes the vehicle’s open air-freedom, inviting elements of the exterior theme into the interior,“said Cliff Wilkins, responsible for the interior design. “Tough mechanical elements which evoke exterior details are contrasted with sophisticated materials and finishes to give a modern, rugged, purposeful interior while delivering a premium off-road experience.” According to Automotive News, Wilkins had been working on production vehicles, but he had a prototype interior that worked well with Vardis’ sketch, and wasn’t sure if the interior was appropriate for a production vehicle. He suggested using it to Vardis. La Shirl Turner worked with the two to find fabrics and other materials for the interior, and to get the best paint color for the exterior. Doug Quigley arranged for Metalcrafters to build the vehicle, and worked with the team to keep it buildable and functional.
The four-passenger interior is dominated by the cross-car instrument panel form and a full-length central spine which forms the floor console. The AC outlets, center stack compass/inclinometer, and the dimensional, double-deck “biplane” gauges are housed in circular casings having the appearance of machined aluminum, with detailing matching headlamp surrounds. The two-tone leather-wrapped aluminum steering wheel features vertical individual switches for lights and speed control.
The console’s raised walls create a full-length open bin, handy for the storage of sundry items. Within the console’s side rails, two front/rear combination armrest/storage bin modules, movable via concealed tracks, can be positioned fore-aft at the occupants’ discretion. Using the familiar touchpad technology of laptop computers, a flip-out pad for the remote control fold-away flat screen navigation unit is housed in the forward armrest.
“The open console’s unique utility is enhanced by the relocation of the transfer case ‘Terrain Selector’ switch to the center stack of the instrument panel,” said Wilkins. “Also, there is the use of an electronic gear selector/park brake lever mounted to the right side of the steering column to continue this effect.”
Additional storage is available forward of the drop-open center stack control module, and in the lower door trim panels.
The driver and three passengers can relax in leather seats in Bark Black and Firewood Orange. The vehicle’s floor is a durable spray-finish with integrated non-slip heel pads, practical for all-weather use.
In the cargo area, each quarter panel houses a removable, portable “audio pod” sound system, which not surprisingly is seen with an iPod embedded in it. In dark gray cases with silver circular speaker bezels, each pod has a dock for an MP3 player. For first aid or road hazard gear, jerry-can style boxes in Firewood Orange are mounted forward of the speaker “pods.”
The cargo area has a drop-down tailgate with concealed storage, four cup holders, and a sliding Load ‘N Go cargo tray with movable partitions that roll rearward for easy retrieval of stored items.
“One of the most remarkable things about the interior,” concludes Wilkins, “is that it was designed and surfaced entirely electronically — there were no traditional sketches or 3-D models. Even so, the interior turned out just as we had envisioned.”
After the exterior drawings were made, 3-D models were created (the interior, as Wilkins noted, was created directly on the computer); Vardis had to fill in gaps not visible on the drawing, and figure out what kind of tailgate the Trailhawk would have. A full-sized clay model was created, supported by plywood, steel, and foam. The model revealed some problems: the front end looked too short, and the door sides too flat. The wheels and tires were too large, resulting in an excessive step-in height. A full foot of clay was added to the front end, extending the hoodline, based on Ralph Gilles’ suggestion; both Gilles and Creed reportedly kept the designers focused on the original drawing. Once the clay model was finsihed, it was covered in Dinoc, a film that made it look as though it was really made of metal and glass; it wore real tires, and cardboard cutouts represented rims. Metalcrafters arrived, and the team described details that would have to be added, such as tow hooks. Tom LaSorda and other executives reviewed the finished product, and approved it.
From that point on, the Chrysler team worked to get data and material samples to Metalcrafters, which built the vehicle. From start to finish, the process took about 18 months; from the clay model to the final debut was about seven months.
Jeep Trailhawk Weight and Dimensions
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.