Jeep Crew Chief 715 Dissected: The Details on One of Jeep’s Coolest-Ever Concepts
Moab, Utah, with its geologically stunning slickrock, is a special place for the Jeep faithful and an idyllic playground for the brand’s 4x4s. It’s also the site of the Easter Jeep Safari, an annual off-roading celebration held around the holiday weekend that draws thousands of four-wheelers to this desert outpost. While the event isn’t exclusive to Jeeps, the brand’s enthusiasm for it has resulted in the creation of some shut-up-and-take-my-money concepts over the years [see sidebar, below]. For this year’s shindig, which marked Jeep’s 75th anniversary and the Safari’s 50th, Jeep shipped out an array of one-offs that ranged from pet-bunny cute to mouth-foamingly crazy. The retro-militarized Crew Chief 715, however, was the one we most wish we could buy.
Coated in Tactical Green paint, the Crew Chief’s design was inspired by the Kaiser M715 military utility rig of the late 1960s, which was based on the civilian-issue Jeep Gladiator pickup. The M715’s two-plus-year production run was short, but it still resonates loudly within the Jeep community. The concept’s strongest ties to the M715 lineage are its blunt, forward-canted snout and narrow, mesh grille. Styling flourishes are about as critical here as they are to a latrine, so the rugged Crew Chief presents as all business: custom five-foot truck bed, minimalist top, and front and rear winches integrated into sturdy steel bumpers.
The Crew Chief concept may look ready for the frontline, but it’s mostly a stretched Wrangler Unlimited underneath. While the truck’s narrow, 40-inch-tall, nondirectional-tread military tires look properly old school, they’re wrapped around modern 20-inch beadlock wheels. Jeep upgraded the Wrangler’s live front and rear axles to beefier Dana 60 units, lifted the body by four inches, and fitted Fox Racing 2.0 remote-reservoir dampers. Keeping with the Kaiser’s functional mission, the Crew Chief features an onboard air compressor for inflating the tires and running air-powered accessories while in the shit.
Though the original Kaiser M715 was powered by Jeep’s 133-hp Tornado inline-six, the Crew Chief retains the Wrangler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, which is rated at 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque from the factory. That’s hardly impressive next to some of Jeep’s other Moab concepts, but enough to get the Crew Chief wherever it’s needed. The concept adds the requisite cold-air intake and freer-flowing exhaust for improved breathing, while a stock five-speed automatic transmission handles shifting duties.
The Crew Chief’s modern Wrangler interior stands in stark contrast to its nostalgic bodywork, and it’s more luxurious than any 1960s-era Jeep driver could imagine. Inside, Jeep changed very little for concept duty, save for the canvas inserts in the leather seats. There’s also a huge navigational compass bolted to the center stack and four military-style toggle switches atop the dash for accessories, the air compressor, and front and rear locking differentials. Presence on the trail—and the auto-show stand—was the priority for this build, which is fine with us. We still want one.