Earlier today, we posted a series of spy photos showcasing a unique looking Wrangler Unlimited, testing on the roads in Auburn Hills, Michigan. A lot of people have been sending us e-mails and messages on social media questioning the vehicle and if it really is a prototype or something confused with a personally owned vehicle. So we figured we would dig deeper into the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392 Concept and its possibility for production.
Only July 13th, only hours before the official debut of the all-new Ford Bronco, the Jeep® brand decided to unveil a 6.4-liter 392 cubic-inch HEMI V8-powered Wrangler Unlimited to steal some of Ford’s thunder. Upon its release, Jeep only released a short video and a couple of images of the Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept, something that is odd considering the brand releases several concept vehicles a year with lots of images and video content. Especially odd, since we are in the middle of a pandemic without any mass public gatherings for the media to observe and photograph the vehicle.
While its the first sibling of the legendary Willys MB to feature a V8 engine since the iconic 1981 Jeep® CJ, with its 5.0-liter V8 that delivered 125 horsepower and 220 lb.-ft. of torque, there have been rumors of a V8-powered Wrangler from the factory for some time. Companies like our friends at America’s Most Wanted 4×4 have noticed the need for such a vehicle from enthusiasts and have made their own HEMI-powered Wranglers using Mopar factory-backed parts. So there is no surprise that such a vehicle would be in development. The Jeep brand also said in their own press release to the media that “the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept is an indication they [enthusiasts] may soon get their wish”.
According to sources close to MoparInsiders.com, several of these HEMI-powered prototypes have left the production floor at the Toledo Assembly Complex in Toledo, Ohio. These prototypes are near production-specification and are running reliability testing in several places across the country. The prototypes, just like the concept are fitted with the ZF-based 8HP75 8-speed automatic transmission, full-time Rock-Trac 4×4 system (a new option on the 2021 Wrangler Rubicon), as well as 3.73 gear ratio for improved highway efficiency and a greater range of off-road capability.
What tells us this is more than just someone’s personal Wrangler with aftermarket parts, it is fitted with the exact same conceptual ram-air-scoop as the Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept, but also features the conceptual custom 17-inch Beadlock wheels – a dead giveaway. Also, if you look from the back, the same rear exhaust system tips are appearing underneath the rear bumper, like the ones shown on the concept. Also just like the concept, this particular one was fitted with the optional Wrangler Sky One-touch powertop
A lot of our readers have questioned the Florida license plate and decals on the rear window, however, the SRT engineering team did a similar thing when the launched early Dodge Charger Widebody prototypes that featured similar Florida plates and SRT livery graphics across the car as shown below. The decals were added to throw spy photographers off to think that this is simply someone’s personal rig – a kind of hidden in plain slight look.
The reason for the Florida plates is very simple. FCA owns a test facility called the Chrysler Florida Evaluation Center, located near Naples, Florida. The facility features two test tracks, one being a two-mile-long, three-lane straightway, and the other being a 1.2-mile road course. The facility is also used by Harley Davidson Motorcycles and sits at the foot of the Everglades. This is how FCA can obtain Florida license plates for its test vehicles.
So is the Wrangler Rubicon 392 a real vehicle? Yes. Is it coming to production? Yes. When will be it arrive? We aren’t sure yet, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Jeep doesn’t make an official announcement around the time the Bronco arrives in showrooms in 2021.