Up Close With Jeep's J8 'Sarge' Concept
By: Mike Levine Posted: 07-07-08 08:00 PT
© 2008 PickupTrucks.com

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If there's a pickup that Jeep enthusiasts wish they could draft into active service, it's the J8 "Sarge" concept.

Like the legendary Willys MB from World War II, the standard-issue Jeep J8 is a military-spec support vehicle built to serve a variety of missions in the field, from troop carrying to ambulance services. But it's not for American soldiers or civilians: The J8 is manufactured in Cairo, strictly for the Egyptian military.

Chrysler's Mopar Underground skunk works, led by Ralph Gilles, vice president of Jeep and truck design, got its hands on a J8 pickup and turned it into the Sarge, which debuted at the 2008 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah.

"We took the idea in the way that other military vehicles have made it to civilian use, but said, 'What if we were to create a civilian version (of the Jeep J8) but keep the basic message of the truck?' We wanted to pay tribute to its military roots," Gilles said.

The starting point for all Jeep J8s is the Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited platform. Special body and frame structural upgrades give the J8 its military rating, including a beefed-up frame, a Dana 60 rear axle mounted on leaf springs, larger front disc brakes, and exclusive-to-the-J8 17-by-8-inch steel wheels with larger 5-by-5.5-inch bolt patterns. Command-Trac four-wheel drive and a Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential give the J8 aggressive offroad capabilities.

The J8 powertrain consists of VM Moturi's 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel engine -- producing 158 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque -- mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. It's the same engine formerly offered in the Jeep Liberty compact SUV in 2005 and 2006, but cancelled due to stronger federal emissions standards.

To create the Sarge, Mopar Underground added a 3-inch lift, using Superlift front coil spacers, 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires, offroad rocker steps from Jeep's trail accessory catalog, and a custom cargo top. It's painted olive green with military markings that include silhouettes of toy soldiers.

The first question from Jeep enthusiasts, of course, is will they be able to buy the J8 Sarge (or its predecessor, the Jeep JT Concept).

According to Gilles, it's doubtful we'll see the Sarge in our driveways or on nearby trails anytime soon, but plans for a new Jeep pickup for American civilians appear to be in motion.

Heck, we'd be happy if one showed up simply to deliver our mail.

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