A story I wrote a few years ago about an after-market Jeep pick-up gaining sales ground in the United States prompted many phone calls about such a vehicle’s availability in New Zealand.
The pick-up conversion kit wasn’t available through official Jeep channels here and I steered the many inquiries to a couple of addresses in the US.
One of them was American Expedition Vehicles, an engineering company in Michigan with a reputation for quality that critics say exceeds that of an Original Equipment Manufacturer.
AEV has been building special vehicles since the 1990s. Its latest Jeep conversion is the 2013 Brute Double Cab, a pick-up based on a stretched version of the four-door JK Wrangler’s chassis and inspired by the Land Rover Defender 130.
Engineers added 76cm of boxed frame rails to the chassis between the front and rear wheels, in much the same way as the Jeep factory stretches the two-door Wrangler to build the four-door JK. An additional small extension at the back beds in the composite honeycomb pick-up bed.
The overall length of the vehicle grows to just short of 5.5m, but the use of a composite instead of steel bed cuts weight by 81kg, meaning the Brute weighs roughly the same as a stock Wrangler Unlimited.
Unlike earlier single-cab AEV pick-ups, based on the two-door TJ Wrangler, the Brute Double Cab targets enthusiasts seeking the same capability but with added interior room and more room for cargo, all with the improved capabilities of the JK platform.
It is not meant to replace a traditional pick-up, but rather serve the market with more utility than a Jeep. The trade-off is a 3.5m wheelbase that all but destroys the standard Jeep’s turning circle.
The Brute pictured here is based on the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4×4 fitted with what AEV calls its DC350 package – a higher-riding mix of extensive mechanical and suspension upgrades, like Dynatrac Pro Rock axles, along with add-ons like a snorkel, Warn winch and splash guards. The finished product doubles the US$35,000 price of the JK Wrangler.
There are some clever touches, notably the fresh water storage tank built into the rear bumper.
The standard engine is Jeep’s 3.6-litre V6 Penastar unit, making 212kW and 350Nm. AEV offers a 6.4-litre V8 Hemi option, good for 373kW and 620Nm. Both engines drive all four wheels via a five-speed automatic gearbox.