Mopar has been a one-stop-shop for factory-backed performance modifications and accessories on FCA products for a long time now. You want a 707-horsepower engine for your old Plymouth Belvedere? Mopar has you covered with the Hellcrate. Maybe you want a lift and off-roading lights on that newly-bought Wrangler? Mopar can accommodate those wants (or needs, we don’t judge) as well.
We get to see some of the company’s weirdest creations every now and then, but rarely do we get the opportunity to drive the FCA Mopar concepts. That’s what made this past Woodward Dream Cruise so special: We got to rip some of Mopar’s finest and most recent creations up and down Woodward Avenue. Everything from a 1971 Challenger restomod to the brand-new Easter Jeep Safari J6 concept was in attendance, so let’s get right to it.
1967 Plymouth Hellvedere
This car is near the pinnacle of what you can do with off-the-shelf Mopar purchases. It was only a humble 1967 Plymouth Belvedere before Mopar dropped the 707-horsepower supercharged V8 from the Hellcat into the engine bay. Sound ridiculous? Yeah, it is.
Other parts of it are new as well, including the disc brakes. Good call. However, Mopar didn’t remove the classic car charm from the entire driving experience. The steering, for example, is surely as slow and inaccurate as it was back in 1967. That doesn’t help matters when you’re trying to put 707 horsepower to the pavement with less-than-ideal rear rubber. Floor it in damn near any gear of the Tremec six-speed, and the front end rises straight up as the rear kicks sideways with the force of many mules. There are no electronics such as traction control or stability control to step in and wrangle the car into submission. But hey, who wants them, anyway?
The question remains: Should you buy a Hellcrate engine for your classic? If money were no object, the easy answer is yes. Have at it so long as you love smoky burnouts and excessive amounts of horsepower. Just make sure you know how to deal with that much power before you stick your right foot in it.
2016 Dodge Shakedown Challenger Concept
We’re going downhill in horsepower with this restomod, but the drivability and ease of driving goes way up. Dodge showed this “Shakedown” concept at SEMA awhile back, and as with most concept cars, getting a chance behind the wheel is a special opportunity.
Turns out a modern 6.4-liter V8 in a 1970s muscle car body is a hell of a lot of fun. This restomod goes about as far as you might want to go in the “new car” direction, even pasting on Challenger headlights and taillights to the front and rear ends. It looks menacing, squatting on the pavement with no wheel gap to speak of.
The transmission is spectacular, and one would assume it would be, after learning it’s the same Tremec six-speed found in the now-discontinued Dodge Viper. Throws are ludicrously short, and the power feels just right for the car, unlike the completely over-juiced Hellvedere. The ergonomics and seating position are far from ideal, but it's hard to care that much after mashing the throttle and hearing the burly, aggressive soundtrack we’re so used to from these wonderful V8s.
Jeep J6 Concept
Of all the Jeep truck concepts we’ve seen of late, the J6 is the most exciting. It’s a two-door, standard cab Jeep truck finished in paint blue enough to be seen from the next county over.
There is no two-door Jeep Gladiator, and Jeep has said many times over that it doesn’t have plans to produce one. That didn't stop us from asking again, nor the guy who pulled up next to us on Woodward to holler, “So when’s the two-door coming out!?!” Sadly, the Jeep rep riding shotgun was forced to deliver the disappointing news, informing him that this one was only a concept. What you can buy now (according to the same designer sitting next to me) is the epic body-color spray-in bedliner found on the J6. That was only a concept when it was revealed at Jeep’s Moab Easter Safari event. It was a neat modification then, and it's great to hear Mopar is going to be offering it for real in the aftermarket.
So, how’s driving a two-door Jeep truck? About the same as a four-door Jeep truck. FCA tells us the chassis on this one is about the same length as a Wrangler Unlimited, but it’s more of a shortened Gladiator underneath than a Wrangler with a bed. Awesome. Build it, Jeep.
Jeep Scrambler Concept
This Scrambler Concept is the most realistic vehicle of all that we drove. It's essentially a Gladiator with bigger tires, a two-inch lift, cold-air intake and catback exhaust (it sounds good, but not too loud) from a mechanical perspective. The appearance package is what this one is all about, though.
The orange striping, brown top, grab handle bars, roof lights … all of it just makes the Gladiator an even more appealing Jeep truck.
Jeep B-Ute Concept
Here’s a weird one. The Renegade isn’t the prime Jeep candidate for hardcore off-roading, but Jeep has turned this one into something more capable than most. It’s a modest lift of only about 1.5 inches, but combine that with the off-road bumpers and this thing actually looks kinda cool.
Taking it up and down Woodward proved to be a positive experience as well. Getting it higher off the ground with a more off-road-oriented suspension hasn’t done much (if anything) to the Renegade's normal ride quality. So sure, go ahead and lift those Renegades. It’s a Jeep, so embrace your inner Wrangler desires for half the price and get better fuel economy.
Ram 1500 Big Horn Low Down Concept
Finally, a concept that's not exactly our cup of tea. Mopar knows it has some kinks to work out if it ever plans on offering a lowering kit for the new Ram. We didn't so much drive down Woodward Avenue in the Low Down Concept as we pogoed. Beyond the remarkably bad “concept suspension” ride, it's hard to ascertain the appeal of such a modification. Being lower to the ground doesn’t offer any tangible benefits besides making it easier to get in and out and load up the bed. It probably does no favors to the payload or towing capacities, too. Visually, it's also not exactly a lowrider. That said, we saw plenty of other lowered trucks on Woodward, so to each his own.