Jeep Wrangler Sand Trooper (© Rod Hatfield)Click to enlarge picture

Jeep Wrangler Sand Trooper

The Jeep Wrangler Sand Trooper was one of the most eye-catching displays at the SEMA show. Wearing 42-inch swamp-ready tires and using Hemi V8 power, the Jeep presided prominently over the Mopar stand in Las Vegas.

But the Sand Trooper also symbolized the launch of Mopar's new off-road division: a team of hard-core Jeep enthusiasts who work "night and day" in the words of Mopar boss Pietro Gorlier.

One of those, Jeep designer Mark Allen, is a noted off-roader, which was exhibited in the Sand Trooper. Allen said the Jeep also received LED lights, a CB radio (yes, people still use those on the trails), lockable storage, custom skid plates and extra vents to help the 375-hp V8 engine breathe. Notably, there is five extra inches of ground clearance.

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Mopar has always had a group of off-roaders, but the division was formally recognized Tuesday at SEMA. There are about 15 dedicated engineers/product people working on the off-roading custom parts at Mopar headquarters in Center Line, Mich., developing specific parts. The Wrangler, for example has 300 Mopar accessories.

Gorlier said the goal of the off-road unit is to cater to serious off-roaders: "Really to come out for what the hard-core enthusiasts are looking for," he said.