Part 2: Detroit Based Innovation Takes On Moab

The boys from Detroit/Missoula-based American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) are in Moab, Utah this week for the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari.

 The boys from Detroit/Missoula-based American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) are in Moab, Utah this week for the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari. AEV Principal Michael Chetcuti will blog daily from Moab, where off-road Jeepers descend by the thousands to ride the legendary, challenging, and breathtaking red-rocks terrain. The day-long organized trail runs culminate in a huge Saturday ride always the day before Easter.

Off-roaders love to tinker with their Jeeps. It’s spawned a huge industry in itself and includes companies like AEV, which both manufactures parts and upfits vehicles, as well as hundreds of small operators that purchase parts and customize Jeeps to order for their customers.

Trail Jeeps of Boulder, Colorado was recently acquired by Weston Blackie, and is one of these smaller shops that has found its stride and is now operating at a high level of quality. Shop manager, Oliver Crane was working commercial real estate in Boulder and slowly building his Jeep on the weekends. He’s now devoted full-time to Trail Jeeps and has turned his passion for off-road 4-wheeling into his livelihood.

Last night we fed about 25 industry friends and customers, including Oliver, at a cool modern house I’m renting for the week here in Moab. “I have been working with Trail Jeeps now for two years,” Oliver told me as we dined on pulled pork, cole slaw and black-eyed peas in the shadow of the LaSalle Mountain Range.

“The company is unique in that we have a working partnership with our local Jeep dealer, Pollard Friendly Motors. New Wrangler owners will come to us at the beginning of their Jeep ownership and we will help them build the Jeep they want.”

Trail Jeeps is exactly the type of customer we like to deal with. They will do everything from “mild to wild,” from good daily driver vehicles to extreme off-road beasts and everything in between. And they love AEV.

“A lot of our customers insist on USA-made components and horsepower,” Oliver said. Ninety percent of AEV parts are manufactured within a 100-mile radius of Detroit, and the AEV Hemi-conversion kit is seamlessly integrated and fully-developed to an OEM standard. For on-road driving, the Hemi delivers serious power, and it provides the heavy torque 4-wheelers need on difficult terrain. So, check-check.

“Who better than AEV?” Oliver said.

Moab is huge for Jeep off-roaders, of course, but Oliver also likes to plug his hometown. “Boulder is ten minutes from some of the most scenic and challenging terrain in the country. We have trails out there at 14,000 feet. People in Boulder like to quote the Curse of Chief Niwot: ‘People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay.’ ”