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Jeep Hurricane: the awesome dual-Hemi concept car

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Take the Hemi engine, shove it into a Jeep. Been there, done that. How about two Hemi engines? Okay, that's new. Well, maybe not that new. In 2005, two Hemis were shoved into a custom body to create the Jeep Hurricane.

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Chrysler's Design Director at the time, John Sgalia, called the Hurricane "our pride and joy." He said the idea was planted after Dieter Zetsche said that Dodge had made jaws drop with the Tomahawk, and then Chrysler had made jaws drop with the ME-412; now, "it's Jeep's turn, you guys come up with something."

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The challenge was daunting, because whatever they did, "it still has to be an expression of Jeep - the ultimate Jeep."

The idea of dual Hemi engines came from Eric Azutti, who also set up the basic design and architecture. The exterior styling is mainly functional; the use of carbon fiber and billet aluminum resulted in a light (okay, 3,850 pounds, but it has two Hemis), strong, and expensive body.

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Rock-climbing is aided by crab-steer to go to the side, and a spin mode to get through mud or turn around. The Hurricane had twenty inches of suspension travel, using coilover shocks with remote reservoirs. Grand clearance was a hefty 14.3 inches, while approach and departure angles were a stunning 64.0° and 86.7°.

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Controls for the various steering modes were designed to be as easy to understand as possible; and the interior, designed by Dan Zimmerman, is well instrumented, with a consistent look but enough difference between various displays to allow for rapid comprehension.

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The entire vehicle was designed in ten months, with "not a whole lot that's off the shelf." Everything but an early plywood model was done electronically. There was no frame; it was a unibody design. An aluminum "spine" ran underneath to connect the underside, increasing stiffness and creating a skid plate system. The front and rear suspensions are both short/long arm designs.

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The Hurricane is loud, with both Hemis lightly muffled. Under hard acceleration, the front rises up and the rear squeezes down noticeably - but it moves with great speed. Acceleration is thrilling; and only a trained Chrysler driver operated the Hurricane when it was shown.

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Design chief Trevor Creed called the Jeep Hurricane "simply the most maneuverable, most capable and most powerful 4x4 ever is the extreme example for Jeep."

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Both engines delivered 335 horsepower and 370 lb-ft of torque, and both had the cylinder cutoff system, so it could in theory run on four, eight, twelve or, sixteen cylinders. The zero-to-sixty time was under five seconds. Power was delivered through a central transfer case and split axles, using a mechanical torque distribution system.

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Thanks to a turning radius of zero feet, enabled by four wheel steering, the Hurricane could be its own turntable at car shows. (There were actually two four-wheel-steering modes, one with the rear tire moving in the opposite direction of the front, and one to get all four wheels in the same direction - for crab steering.)

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The numbers:

  • 151.8 inches long by 80.0 inches wide by 68.2 inches high, on a 108.1 inch wheelbase
  • Track: 67.5 inches, front and rear, with 305/70R20 tires
  • Transfer case: custom, multi-mode with 1:1, 2:1, and 4:1 ratios
  • Transmission: five-speed automatic
  • Breakover angle: 31.5° (see text for other angels)

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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.

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