Jeep Stitch: 2013 Easter Jeep Safari Concept Vehicle
In its 47th year in Moab, Utah, the Easter Jeep Safari has become a must-attend event for many hard-core off-road and Jeep enthusiasts. Jeep and Mopar have been very involved in EJS in recent years, with one of the week’s highlights being its showcase of concept vehicles the design teams unveil at the event each year.
These vehicles really represent many things – a conceptual design outlet for engineers and designers, prototype test platforms, and sometimes they are simply vehicles the teams wish they could build. Speaking with Jeep’s Head of Design Mark Allen during the event, he reemphasized the idea that no other manufacturer really does this. The idea of producing concept vehicles is nothing new, but allowing the vehicles to be driven and actually tested shows that not only does Jeep and Mopar want to produce vehicles that actually perform – they actually truly care about the job in which they are tasked to create vehicles.
One of Allen’s favorite vehicles in recent years was the Pork Chop, a two-door JK Wrangler with serious weight reduction of more than 850 lbs. This weight savings made the JK much more playful in off-road conditions such as sand dunes. For 2013, Allen and the Jeep design team produced the Stitch, which takes the weights savings concept from the Pork Chop and ups the ante by reducing this weight of this two-door JK Wrangler to just over 3,000 lbs. (nearly 350 lbs. lighter than the Pork Chop).
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
The Stitch doesn’t feature a monster HEMI V8; on the contrary, it features the stock 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Allen said the idea was to retain the stock powerplant, as the 290-horsepower engine offers plenty of performance – especially when weights savings is factored into the equation. The stock suspension is also retained, as the weight reduction lifts up the vehicle enough to clear the 35-inch Mickey Thompson MTZ tires on the vehicle, though King internal bypass shocks and bump stops employed.
“This vehicles started out as about 4200 pounds; we’ve removed about 1100 pounds from the vehicle,” Allen said. “We took that route of lightening the vehicle rather than going after performance on the engine, which is getting more and more difficult to do. But it also livens the vehicle up, makes it a lot more enjoyable to drive, it crawls better, it drives better, it’s quicker. It’s actually a giggle to drive – it really is.”
Allen isn’t kidding about it being fun to drive, as we were left in a cloud of dust at the end of the day when he went blazing past us on the trail. A number of items were removed lose the 1100 lbs. of the Stitch. The body panels were replaced with a lightweight architectural cloth. The steel roll cage is replaced with a custom-made chromoly piece, and the stock fender flares were swapped out for lightweight ABS units. The stock hood, which is about 30 lbs., is replaced with a lightweight carbon-fiber modified Rubicon 10th Anniversary hood weighing only 8 lbs. The entire frame was cross-drilled and the brackets trimmed for additional weight reduction on the Stitch.
A number of things were also removed from the interior, including the soft trim, carpet, sound-deadening material in the floorboard, the floorboards themselves for aluminum replacements, the A/C, heater and stereo were ditched (only the faceplate remains), and the stock seats were replaced with lightweight ones found in the Dodge Viper that were re-trimmed by Soft Trim Concepts.
The team also didn’t compromise serious off-road performance on the Stitch. The team equipped it with Dynatrac ProRock 44 front and rear axles with selectable ARB lockers front and rear. Aluminum control arms from Full Traction are also employed for further weight reduction without compromising strength, while a custom-made Tom Woods driveshaft can be found under the Stitch as well.
Although the stock Pentastar engine is retained, the Jeep team did install a Mopar Cold Air Intake on the motor for an additional boost in power. A rather costly but lightweight 4-pound battery from Lithium Pros provides juice for the Stitch while helping reduce weight. The stock fuel tank was ditched for 0-gallon GenRight fuel cell with skid plate. The front and rear bumpers are really not bumpers at all; they are tubular cross members roughly 3 inches in diameter.
The end result of this serious JK diet is an agile two-door Wrangler that is a blast to drive. The 3.6-liter motor offers plenty of power to make the lightweight Stitch snappy and playful, while the host of serious off-road parts means the Stitch can still tackle the rocks with confidence. It would be easy to toss on a lift kit and stick the larger 35-inch under the Stitch, but the low-center-of-gravity design of the vehicle shows that the team put some serious thought into the overall handling of the vehicle to make sure it actually performs how intended – not just something that can be shown off to the media that looks cool.
For more information about some of the parts available on the Stitch, visit http://www.mopar.com/. Be sure to check back with Off-Road.com for more stories on other Jeep and Mopar concept vehicles from the 2013 Easter Jeep Safari.
MORE 2013 Easter Jeep Safari
Jeep Unveils 2014 Jeep Cherokee