AEV Brute, Jeep Scrambler, and Jeep JT: Wrangler-based Pickups
A Jeep pickup truck would have to be based on an existing body-on-frame architecture if approved, which brings us to the Wrangler pickup prototype we spotted in Detroit, as it was being transported between two off-site facilities for final assembly work. A Wrangler pickup has been rumored for quite some time, with the name Scrambler mentioned; lately, a concept called the Jeep JT, has emerged, but the idea is the same, and we suspect Jeep is still sticking toes into the water to see if the market is hot or cold. Small pickup sales have dwindled despite higher fuel costs, but the future may hold a different story; and a small four wheel drive pickup designed for off-roading hasn't been fielded for a while. The factor preventing Jeep from mass-producing the Scrambler may, in fact, be demand for the standard Wrangler; when demand for the Wrangler drops, the Scrambler may appear to keep the factories humming without resorting to price cuts.
AEV has taken the cab of a Jeep Wrangler and raised its roof with thin safari-inspired window slits, giving this truck a vintage greenhouse shape. The hood incorporates a grab handle, elongated blisters and a mesh grille most likely designed to allow heat from the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 to escape. New front fenders frame a traditional Wrangler grille, below which rests a winch for serious off-roading duty. The Rhino-lined truck bed design is old-school, so the Wrangler tail-lights plunked at the corners look right at home. A rear winch set-up further solidifies this truck's trail-cred.
Intrigued by what we saw, we dug a little deeper, and it appears we have unearthed a clever program. Sources familiar with the strategy tell us that Chrysler hopes to produce these pickups (through AEV) in small volumes, possibly at the Viper plant, using mechanicals from the 2007 Wrangler, while aftermarket kits will be made available to fit previous-generation Wranglers. AEV has been building a new plant which would allow for greatly increased volumes.
While we presume that the '07-based pickups will be sold through Jeep dealerships, the kits will be available to transform 1997-2006 Wranglers into the pickups you see here. Sources suggested that the kits will cost about $8,000-$10,000 (assembly not included), and would require lengthening the frame with parts supplied in the kit. The truck we photographed had a wheelbase extended to approximately 119-inches. Whether the 2007-based trucks will differ in its proportions, or will have any unique styling cues is currently unclear, but our insiders tell us that the modern-build and kit versions are very much the same in look and feel.
Update: AEV Conversions
The Wrangler-based pickups we photographed show an updated version of the AEV Brute pickup conversion done by American Expedition Vehicles. AEV has a strong history with Chrysler Corp., having Chrysler's Design Excellence Award at the 2002 SEMA show.
According to our sources, AEV has created a new version of the Brute based on the all-new 2007 Wrangler, and has discussed some level of joint-venture manufacturing with DCX, utilizing the Viper plant as a prime niche-production site. AEV would take their business and production volumes to a new level, while DCX could tap into AEV's experience with Wrangler-based pickup conversions. If such a relationship comes to fruition, it would most likely be offered through official Jeep channels, bringing an interesting pickup alternative to Jeep dealers for a very low overall investment. It would solve the cost issues that killed the Gladiator concept, which used its own unique platform.
It's our understanding that the arrangement between AEV and Chrysler is still in the concept stage, perhaps awaiting the public's response to the new 2007 Wrangler-based pickup at this year's SEMA show.
We had posted this update: These photos may actually be an AEV Conversions vehicle called the Brute, which has been on the market for some time (thanks, David G. and Jason West.) Jason West wrote, “Those are AEV Brute trucks which have been in production for a few years now, with AEV's new Highline fenders and hood. That top is all new though, I haven't seen that one yet. Very cool. Looks like they've also redesigned the bed a bit (gas filler is back on the driver-side and the side tiedowns are gone) and widened the tailgate.”
The truck you see here appears to be the resurrection of Jeep's pickup aspirations. We'll have to wait until the truck's official SEMA unveiling to see exactly how everything shakes out. It’s possible that this is a limited production that tests the concept and interest levels, and that if it works out, a full production Jeep Scrambler - a Jeep Wrangler pickup truck - will be made starting in 2008 or 2009 (this did not happen).
Chrysler has long had a gap in their product line for compact pickups; the company has not built one since the A pickups of long ago, and more recently the Mitsubishi-sourced Ram 50 line. The Dakota originally semi-filled that role, but long since grew too large to be considered anything near compact.
Update: Bob Sheaves wrote, “Those are TJs...the front fenders have been raised, the hood shortened, the wheelbase lengthened. The paint is an unpolished base coat. Basically, the same mods for tire and wheel clearance we did back in 1990 on the TJ prototypes to gain extra clearance without having to use silly body lift kits. Personally, I am glad to see it getting the recognition it deserves-the JK (2007) version will be nice. ... A show car with that engine? I don't think so-that has been used as a mule for development (way to dirty to be put in a show car-too much visible rust on everything).
Update: AEV Press Release
A new Jeep pickup conversion kit called “Brute” will likely shake up the compact pickup market and satisfy dedicated Jeep lovers with a rough-and-ready, street-worthy and off-road demon rarely seen on American roads for years.
Missoula-based American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), working in close affiliation with longtime supplier Quality Metalcraft (QMC) of Livonia, Michigan, will unveil an all-new, production-ready Jeep Brute conversion kit at the Las Vegas SEMA show in November, 2006.
The kit is production-ready and will fit all Jeep Wrangler TJ models built from 1997 to 2006. AEV has become legend in the aftermarket for its popular aftermarket parts for Jeep, and the eye-popping Brute is sure to draw attention on the street and off-road.
While American pickups have trended to larger sizes and more luxurious details, the AEV Jeep Brute conversion presents consumers with a compact, rugged alternative that stresses performance and attitude while preserving the highest Jeep TJ standards.
Demand for the TJ Brute kits is expected to be high. AEV will begin accepting deposits immediately and plans to start shipping kits in 8 weeks. Orders and further questions can be directed to AEV’s Kent Klein (phone: 406.251.2100; email: kent@ aev-conversions.com; web: www.aev-conversions.com).
In addition to kits that will allow Jeep fans to build their own Brute, AEV is currently developing a Detroit-based facility that will do the work for them. The new facility will ship everything from base-model, turn-key Brute conversions to Brutes with a wider range of options, including the popular AEV Hemi conversion, a Hi-Line Fender and Hood kit with XL flares to accommodate a larger wheel tire combination, and a number of other AEV innovations.
AEV founder Dave Harriton first introduced the Brute as a concept vehicle in 2002. Working closely with Jeep-Truck engineers, as well as QMC, Harriton had all Brute parts, materials, and finishes engineered and validated to rigorous OEM production standards.
QMC can now mass-produce Brute kits for AEV to meet consumer demand. Kits will include everything needed for the Brute conversion. Prices will be announced at this year’s SEMA and are expected to run between $8K to $10K per kit.
In addition to the Brute, AEV will show several new aftermarket products for the new 2007 Wrangler (JK) at SEMA, including:
- A formed-steel front bumper with integrated winch-mount and skid plate
- 3-dimensional formed-steel rear corner guards
- Newly-styled AEV wheels that will also fit Jeep Commander (XK) and Jeep Grand Cherokee (WK).
- Wheels will be conventional or with a bead-lock application for off-road performance; finish options include chrome, silver, or argent
- A JK Brute conversion is in the works and should be available soon
For further information on American Expedition Vehicles, please visit www.aev-conversions.com. To inquire about Quality Metalcraft, visit www.qualitymetalcraft.com. Also see our Earthroamer XVJP expedition vehicle coverage.
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