A company best known in the United States for stock car racing has reportedly joined British defence contractor BAE Systems to produce global tactical response vehicles based on the Jeep Wrangler.
Jeep itself might be trotting out new concepts for its annual safari in Utah (pictured further down the page), but Henrick Dynamics, a subsidiary of NASCAR contributor Henrick Motorsports, is building toughened Rubicon Wranglers for tactical military and civilian use.
They come at a time when the US Army has asked defence suppliers for a lightweight, inexpensive, all-terrain vehicle that can be airlifted more easily into remote areas than the bigger Humvee or Oshkosh’s Light Armored Tactical Vehicle (L-ATV).
Enter South Carolina-based Hendrick Dynamics with the modified Wranglers – the two-door Commando 2, four-door Commando 4, and the Commando S, a pick-up based on the Unlimited and with the cargo bed strengthened to carry a payload of 1500kg .
The idea behind the Commando was to create a tactical vehicle based on the mass-produced Wrangler Unlimited platform. Jeep’s global aftermarket support also allowed Hendrick Dynamics to check off important US government requirements: low cost, increased safety, and the US military’s one-fuel rule.
The rule requires all military vehicles to run on JP-8 fuel, roughly a cross between kerosene and diesel. Therefore Jeep’s Pentastar petrol V6 engine has been ditched in favour of the Italian VM Motori 2.8-litre diesel, a 147kW/455Nm unit modified to run on JP-8.
The Commandos also get robust military-style steel bumpers and Kevlar-reinforced tyres. Options include machine-gun mounts infra-red headlights and tail-lights.
Meanwhile, Jeep itself heads to its annual Easter safari outing in Moab, Utah, with seven concepts (three pictured below) built to celebrate two milestones: Jeep’s 75th birthday and the safari’s 50th.
Jeep Trailcat: Described as the ‘ultimate off-road machine’, it uses a supercharged 6.2-litre Hemi Hellcat V8 delivering 525kW/880Nm and mated to a six-speed manual ‘box. Engineers had to stretch the wheelbase by 30cm to squeeze the engine in under the bonnet. They also chopped 5cm of the windscreen for a sleeker look. Trailcat gets front and rear Dana 60 axles, Fox shocks, 17-inch beadlock wheels and 39.5-inch tyres. Inside are bucket seats from the Dodge Viper.
Jeep Crew Chief 715: A salute to Jeep military vehicles, in particular the Kaiser M715 of 1965. It is based on the four-door Wrangler chassis, gets a 10cm lift kit, Dana 60 front and rear axles, and sits on 20-inch beadlock wheels and 40-inch military tyres. Front and rear bumpers are steel. The cargo bed is 1.5m long. Inside is a large compass mounted high on the centre console. Engine is a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 mated to a five-speed auto.
Jeep Shortcut: A take on the Jeep CJ-5 of the 1950s and ‘60s and based on a 30cm-shorter Wrangler chassis. It gets a 5cm lift kit, front and rear Dana 44 axles with Fox shocks, rides on 17-inch steel wheels and 35-inch tyres, and runs the five-speed Pentastar drivetrain. Exterior styling cues include a unique grille, bonnet, tailgate, front and rear wheel flares and custom chrome front and rear bumpers.