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1997 Jeep Dakar concept car: the first four-door Wrangler

Long before the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited created the first four-door Wrangler, Jeep showed off the Dakar concept. They stretched the wheelbase by over 15 inches, to 108.5”, which also helped improve the ride by putting rear passengers in front of the rear axle rather than over it.

jeep dakar concept

John Herlitz said, “Compared to our 1997 Jeep Wrangler, Dakar comes complete with twice as many doors and is prepared for twice the adventure.”

The Dakar concept also had a new windshield, side glass, and steel roof; the roof had a full-length built-in tubular roof rack, sliding canvas sunroof, rally lamps, and access handrails. The spare tire was clamped on to the roof bars, using a sliding mechanism for easy removal.

Jeep Dakar interior

Other concept touches included a folding shovel integrated into the Jeep Dakar’s front fender, jerricans (portable gasoline containers) mounted on the tailgate, and a pack fit into the rear door with a night vision scope, binoculars, flashlight, and compass.

The Jeep Dakar’s earth-toned interior shared much with the 1997 Jeep Wrangler, but also had wood trim, woven leather seats and Berber carpeting.

dakar concept

The Dakar seemed to be a study for production, aside from some of the flourishes: it was fully functional, which is unusual for a concept, and had an instrument panel from the Wrangler rather an outlandish design study. The engine was not constrained, the turn signals and gauges worked, and the steering felt normal.

jeep dakar

The light brown interior, looked classy with the woodgrain door accents. The different colors made the interior look brighter and upscale. The ride felt softer than the standard Wrangler, due partly to the longer wheelbase. The rear space was adequate, yet cargo capacity was much better than the Wrangler. The Dakar could easily have been a production car, based on our test drive, yet it took many years to get the first Wrangler Unlimited off the ground — and that was a success from the start.

Dimensions (in) 72.0 wide, 75.0 high, 166.5 long
Wheelbase 108.5
Track 58.0 (F/R)
Power 4.0 I-6 with four-speed automatic
Suspension Standard Wrangler front and rear
Brakes ABS: Disc front, drum rear

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