2012 marked the 45th consecutive running of the Easter Jeep Safari in the high desert of Moab, Utah. Thousands of Jeep enthusiasts descend on the event which is held each year around - you guessed it - Easter. A word of advice - if you're going, make some time for it; 'EJS' is huge and has organized trail runs every day, and an exhibitor event that nearly every major Jeep parts supplier attends. Originally I wasn't even planning on going, but after Jeep launched it's new concept vehicles - including the ridiculously awesome 'Mighty FC' concept– it was clear that I needed to be there - the problem, a really tight, and full schedule. We could only get away for one day at the event, and it was already full of meetings - here's the best a few hours at Easter Jeep can bring you.
Unfortunately– a lack of time wasn't the only issue that tried to keep us from getting to Easter Jeep, first we had to figure out how we'd actually get there - we literally had no vehicles that could make it to Moab. Brian's Land Rover Discovery was unavailable, the company vehicles were taken; and my car, Ralph (a 1971 Land Rover Series IIA) had sprung a leak on the rear differential. Actually I'll be honest here, even if Ralph was in perfect functioning order, We'd still never make it to the Safari in time. We had an important meeting at 8AM Thursday morning which under punishment of death we couldn't miss and we couldn't leave until Wednesday night. Unfortunately for Ralph and his 45mph greatness; he wasn't going to be our chariot for this event. The solution? A mystery rental car– something I was surprised with hours before our departure after work. The only thing I knew about it? Brian said that he was packing Maxtrax and that I would love it. Clearly something awesome came through unbeknownst to my knowledge, perhaps Scott came back early with the Jeep J8?
Yes, we know. We're supposed to have the most insane 'expedition'd' Jeep imaginable at the Easter Jeep Safari– we're those guys. But I couldn't help but giggle like a school girl when I saw that Brian had rented us a Fiat 500, his reasoning? If we weren't rolling into Moab in a Jeep or some sort of 4WD, clearly we'd have to be taking the town by storm with the exact opposite. The Maxtrax were just for a little bit of humor and added flavor. After loading our personal gear, tents (which we'd never use) and one billion pounds of Overland Journal issues into the back of the Fiat, we left town around 6:30. I was actually pretty happy with the 500, it was comfortable with the scenic two lane highways all the way to Moab cruising at 65MPH, it even returned us over 40MPG– a welcome change of pace for the company credit card. After seemingly endless amounts of car talk and the ubiquitous 'what would you do with a million dollars' conversations that always happen to plague late night drives, we finally arrived in Moab. With the luxury of having 3 hours to sleep before the most important meeting of my career so far. It didn't matter though, I was pumped, a quick drive through Moab that night proved my dreams true, the town had turned into the Mecca of Jeep Enthusiasts.
If you read anything about the Easter Jeep Safari this year, it was definitely about The Jeep 'Mighty FC' Concept that was built for the event. It's an awesome vehicle, and you can read Scott Brady's First Drive Report here; but I've always been a sucker for the vehicles outside of the limelight. Like this 1960's Willys Wagon below, that was by-far my favorite vehicle at the show. A spin around the block in the 'Mighty FC' at Easter Jeep would surely result in a massive horde of people attacking you. On the other hand, The Willys-Wagon didn't look that special at all. Other than some kick-ass patina, and some well curated vintage accessories you could drive by the Wagon a million times before noticing not all is as it seems.
The interior? completely stock, other than being exceptionally clean, have you figured out what makes this vehicle so special? Hint: It's hiding behind the belt buckle.
This is what happens when you have a Jeep Wrangler LJ Rubicon and a Willys-Wagon that has been sitting in Jeep's basement for 30 years; and you let Mark Allen go wild– you get the coolest vehicle I think Jeep has ever made. I'm a bit biased though– I have a soft spot for the Wagon, I did what I'll call a 'farm restoration' to a 1951 model and drove the tires off of it - commuting 50-60 miles a day in it (until the original Hurricane 4-Cylinder gave up.) Getting the chance to drive this, and none-the-less having the person who built it hand you the keys brought back some memories. Even thought the vehicle on the outside looks old, once behind the drivers seat, it functions like a new vehicle. It's the first time I've been in a Willys-Wagon that stopped when you asked it to, accelerated without effort, and steered without it just being a mere suggestion. Putting a old chassis on a new frame and driveline isn't exactly a new thing– the aftermarket industry has been doing it for years; but to see a Jeep themselves create a vehicle like this shows, and says a lot about the companies dedication to their strong enthusiast base.
Now let's get onto the Vendor show and check out some of the newest Overlanding goodies we found!
Axial Racing was on hand, and they were doing their usual job; Keeping me from doing mine. Seriously, in addition to being great fantastic people; their remote control cars are a blast and they're huge believers in overlanding and making a 'full-sized connection' to the real thing. A note: they can effectively be used as a device to launch dirt at your co-workers. If you haven't checked out their products before, be warned they're addictive.
Even though it's the Easter Jeep Safari - Proffitts Cruisers was on hand with two seriously cool Land Cruiser's. The fantastic FJ45 below has a new Chevy V8 engine, and the crawler below it seemed to have more attention than any Jeep I saw at the event.
One of the cooler multipurpose products I saw at EJS was the Grub Hub it's a compact kitchen solution that would go perfect in nearly any overlanding vehicle; it folds up to a compact size and is portable on wheels. At $349 it represents an affordable complete kitchen solution for your adventures.
We ran into the Expedition Overland crew; hiding from their new-found celebrity after the launch of their newest episode 'Winter' rumor has it they were in the Moab area filming for the next episode– we'll be sure to keep you up to date on the latest overland gossip as we hear it.
After a long absence in the US market, TJM is finally ready to make a comeback; and they're going at it full-force. They're bringing a huge line of lighting, recovery gear, bumpers, and 4WD accessories that needless to say makes us a bit curious.
If machine-gun equipped Jeep Wrangler's are your thing– definitely check out EJS, they were everywhere this year. ExpeditionOne was on hand with this functional air-soft gatling gun military inspired Wrangler.
Tuffy Products has built a reputation in the industry for offering high-quality, durable security solutions for your valuables. For those times when you need something secured inside the vehicle, and outside the vehicle; they have a new box to help you out.
The concept below is a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Body that is sitting on a heavy-duty Ram 2500 chassis - It's seriously cool and reminiscent of the J8 we have, just a little bit bigger.
Oh, you're probably wondering about our close call with Bambi; in the madness that was our 36-hours-with-almost-no-sleep Moab run; we needed to be home the same day we were at Moab. Less than a mile away from Flagstaff at 2:30AM– we had a nice visit from Bambi who decided to jump into the side of our Fiat and essentially 'hip-check' us. A serious hat-tip to Brian for some excellent accident avoidance even after driving a good portion of the night; Bambi walked away unharmed, as did our little Fiat. A word of advice, the next time you're at Easter Jeep Safari - spend the extra time and don't rush, and if you've never been it's worth the drive.