JPFreek Adventure Magazine recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Mark Allen, Jeep’s Chief Designer who has been integral in the development and design of a number of Jeep vehicles including the Wrangler & Grand Cherokee. Below is what he shared with JPFreek:[Not a valid template]
JPFreek – What was the inspiration for you and the Mopar team to design and build the Overland JK Wrangler?
MA – Inspiration to build is easy. We build what we ourselves would like to own. A small group of Jeep enthusiasts and I are involved each year in producing special one-off Jeep prototypes that we debut each year at Moab during the Easter Jeep Safari. This year we all admitted that we have done the mud / rock crawling thing to death and set out deliberately looking for another avenue. With the rise in popularity of overland travel and a vision of a clapped out Land Rover on African Safari, we sketched out a plan around a 4-door JK. Once we set out on that path it all fell together very naturally. I knew right away that a roof mounted tent was the way I wanted to go (mostly for the tree fort aspect!) and that was the biggest problem to solve: how to safely mount a cargo rack to a removable plastic roof? The answer we came up with was to attach the ARB cargo rack directly to the sport bar structure by passing through the plastic top. This has worked out very well and is really the key to the whole system. Having solved that, we moved on to clearing out the rear of the JK by removing the rear seats and adding a large, flat load floor. We didn’t fill it up with all the goodies on purpose so someone will look at it and project how he or she would customize it for their specific adventure. The look of the vehicle is purely driven by function. For instance, the color had to be white both for sun load and its basic appearance. Simple steel wheels, minimal lift, a “sane” 35 inch tire, hard wearing durable fabrics and rubber mats, and so on.
The JK Overland is also a great party trick. When I show it to people they think “Yeah, that’s um OK ” then I unfold the roof tent and roll out the awning and it’s always the same “Oh WOW!” I mean you can actually see the wheels start to spin in their head because up until that moment, they have never viewed a Wrangler doing much more for them than slingin’ a little mud or plowing the driveway.
JPFreek – Overland travel and adventure has continued to grow in popularity here in the U.S. How do you foresee the popularity of Jeep overlanding, and how do Mopar Underground and the Jeep brand plan to meet the increased demand for overland-capable vehicles?
MA – My job is to open the minds of people to the possibilities of the platforms we offer. When I say that I am not talking about retail customers as much as I mean people in our building that are only used to seeing our vehicles in their most traditional sense. The person interested in overland travel is a very small portion of the overall population, but I consider them ‘alphas’ in the sense that they are very tech savvy, well educated, and not driven by overly complex solutions. They value well-designed equipment with a high degree of function over flash styling. That is the design brief of a Jeep Wrangler: simple, tough, and capable. Hopefully the JK Overland concept helps to expand the traditional expectations.