The Jeep Lower Forty is, in essence, a Wrangler that is taken to an extreme as an off-roading vehicle. And we couldn’t be happier. Wranglers of recent years have lost some of their off-road mystique, particularly with the introduction of the four-door Unlimited models. But the Lower Forty brings by the model back to its mud-churning glory. And it has a huge V8 engine.
The chassis of the Lower Forty is that same as that found on a Wrangler Rubicon. In fact, a lot of the factors that lend the Lower Forty a more aggressive styling than the Wrangler aren’t from additions, but rather subtractions. In order to fit the massive 40-inch Mickey Thompson tires, Jeep designers had to remove a fair bit of the body work to keep the tires from rubbing. And while the Lower Forty does look taller than a regular Wrangler, that height is mainly from the larger tires, as there has been no suspension lift added to the model. The fender flares have been widened by 1 inch to cover the new tires, and are mounted a few inches higher to make room.
The slicked back windshield has been modified, but not as much as you’d think. Basically, Jeep chopped off the top three inches, and then slanted it back at a 10 degree angle. It’s amazing that such a small change could help to offset the more rebellious design features of a car. The bikini top is custom, but with the altered windshield angle, a stock one wouldn’t fit anyway, so that’s not such a big deal.
Two big changes to exterior design are found at the front and rear. The stock hood has been replaced by a one-piece carbon fiber piece that features the “power dome” shape from the old CJ models. And at the rear, the spare tire is no longer mounted at the back. Instead, there’s a drop down tailgate. The spare tire sits on the floor here, covered by a cargo rack. And, to top it all off, the Lower Forty gets a fresh coat of Red Eye No. 3 paint.
Okay, enough of the cosmetic changes, let’s get to the big stuff: a 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The current engine option for a Wrangler, without a custom retrofit, is a 3.8-liter V6, so anybody wanting more power will love the idea of sinking the same engine from the Dodge Challenger into the Lower Forty. Jeep didn’t release any power details, but it’ll be in the neighborhood of 350 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque if the Challenger is any indication. The engine is mated to a Getrag 238 six-speed manual transmission, and the power is channeled to a Dana 44 axle in the front and a Dana 60 in the rear.
So will it hit dealers? It’s hard to say. Jeep’s press release kept a wraps on plans by completely avoiding the subject, denoting the Lower Forty as neither a production concept or a technical exercise. On the one hand, the Jeep brand is one of the few money-making divisions of Chrysler, so they’d be foolish to ignore possible revenue streams. But, on the other hand, with new engineering input from Fiat, Chrysler may decide to adopt a more global platform for the next generation of Wranglers, which would leave the Lower Forty behind. Speaking for most off-road enthusiasts, let’s hope that the Lower Forty, or at least a conversion kit, makes it to market at some point. And, if you really want Hemi power in your Wrangler, check out Burnsville Off-Road; they’re the guys who did it for this car.