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Just because Centaurs aren’t real, it doesn’t make them any less awesome. Imagine being a half-man, half-horse hybrid. You’d be able to run like the wind and answer to no one (you know, because you’re a Centaur, after all), not to mention the part about being hung like Seabiscuit. Alas, that’s not going to happen anytime soon (c’mon, stem cell research), but all is not lost. Much like the mythical hybrid creatures of yore, the Brute Double Cab by American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) is half mind-blowing and half kick-ass – only this one is a reality.

Gone are the days of wishing you had the off-road capabilities of a Jeep JK and the hauling capacity of a pickup truck. The AEV Brute Double Cab is everything you’re looking for in a daily driven grocery getter, off-road toy and possible lifesaving bug-out rig. AEV’s Jeep-pickup hybrid was originally designed with the overlanding community in mind, with seating for five and the expanded cargo capacity of a pickup truck.

If you’re unfamiliar with overlanding, it’s a style of travel, primarily in motor vehicles, to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal and self-reliance is the foundation. Many principles of overlanding are shared with those who have a survival mind-set. Overland enthusiasts and survivalists alike look for reliable vehicles that can traverse a variety of terrain while carrying a full load of passengers and equipment. The Brute Double Cab is designed and built with these requirements as its main objectives.

Hand-Built in Detroit

Each Brute Double Cab is built to order at its headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. Every vehicle that rolls out of the facility is as bespoke as any hand-built coach can be.

Taking the website’s Brute build and price feature for a spin (it’s fun to day-dream; try it, you’ll see), we discovered that AEV offers 16 exterior color choices, six different 17-inch wheel choices, two trim levels including the rugged DC350 or blinged-out Filson Edition, and a seemingly endless list of exterior, interior, suspension, wheel and tire, powertrain, underbody armor and accessories choices.

Want your DC350 fitted with an Air Ram Snorkel, front seat heaters, a 4.5-inch lift, 37-inch tires, Dynatrac ProRock Axles, a differential gear upgrade and a manual 6.4L HEMI? They can do it. Oh, yes, you read that right, we said 6.4L HEMI.

HEMI Time

The 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited comes factory with a choice between a 3.6L Pentastar V6 that has 285 horsepower (hp) and is good for 260 foot-pounds (ft-lbs) of torque and … oh, that’s it. Your only choice is a 3.6L V6. Well, that’s not going to get us out of Mount Doom when it erupts, is it? The correct thing to do is to opt for AEV’s HEMI transplant, where they swap out the Pentastar for your choice of 5.7L or 6.4L HEMIs, both available with manual or automatic transmissions. The 5.7L HEMI is capable of 360 hp and 390 ft-lbs of torque, while the 6.4L is rated for 470 hp and 465 ft-lbs of torque. We’d select the 6.4L, because nothing exceeds like excess.

2 + 2 = More

It may look factory, but the Brute’s cab is an all-AEV creation. The cab is closed out with stamped steel, just like the original body panels, so it maintains a pristine factory appearance. The stock look continues on to the Brute’s hardtop, which retains the use of Jeep’s original Freedom Panels. No functionality is lost; the panels are removable, just as Jeep intended them to be.

Stretched & Extended

The Brute’s 139-inch wheelbase is achieved by adding an impressive length of 23 inches in front of the rear axle. The frame is then further extended 16 inches in the rear to accommodate the installation of a bed. AEV says that the frame’s extensions not only lengthen the chassis but also strengthen it too.

Sitting on top of the elongated frame is a 61-inch by 60-inch cored composite bed that is injection-molded for strength and corrosion resistance. AEV claims that the composite bed is both lighter and stronger than steel. The interior of the bed is finished off with a skid-resistant coating and fitted with integrated tie-down anchors at each corner. To increase its carrying and storage capabilities, we like having a bed rack installed over the Brute’s bed.

Chill in the Hood

The Heat Reduction Hood is constructed out of steel and provides both fresh intake air for the engine and under-hood cooling. According to AEV, “The central vent takes advantage of the low-pressure area created at the front edge of the hood when the vehicle is in motion. Since air moves from high pressure to low pressure areas, the placement of the center vent causes cooler outside air to be drawn through the radiator and up through the hood.”

Not only does it look good, it’s designed with safety in mind too. The stamped steel hood incorporates factory-style crumple zones. For further customization options and with the removal of its side mesh inserts, the hood can accept AEV’s Snorkel Kit.

Looks Factory, Isn’t

If you haven’t already noticed, AEV’s entire design approach is to match the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) look as much as possible. In other words, they don’t want what they make to stand out from what Jeep originally did – appearance and quality-wise that is. Functionality is a whole ’nother story. AEV’s DualSport Suspension Systems are engineered with a factory approach in order to build a truly dual-purpose suspension that can take on some seriously rough off-road terrain without sacrificing on-road performance or reliability.

Bash Bars

AEV’s Premium Front Bumper houses not only the stock Jeep fog lamps for a refined look, but also has crush cans to help correct low-speed airbag deployment to optimize front-impact safety. It has a pair of night-piercing IPF 901 Off-Road Lights installed in front of its grille and is capable of accepting a winch (good thing, since a Warn Zeon 10s is an available option). Finally, the bumper is finished off with an OEM-level double stage paint process for durability.

At first glance you probably wouldn’t guess that even the rear bumper is built to higher specifications than the one sitting on your stock Jeep. Sure, you can see that it has heavy-duty mandrel bent steel tubing for armor to protect the bed from impacts, but it also has seven gallons of hidden water storage in it as well. As we all know, water is life, and having extra storage for it without sacrificing traditional storage space is always welcome. On top of those features, the bumper also has built-in recovery hard points for winching and other activities. Can the OEM Jeep bumper top that? Definitely not.

Prepared with a Spare

Now that there’s a bed on the JK, where does the spare tire go? Tucked underneath the Brute’s bed is a hidden Under Mount Tire Carrier that keeps the full-sized spare out of the way until it’s required. When you do need it, you can lower the tire manually with the use of a hand-operated winch.

If you already have a qualifying JK, you’re in luck. AEV can convert any 2007 and newer 4-door Jeep JK Wrangler, including yours. Or they can source you a brand-new model through their extensive network of AEV-certified Jeep partner dealerships. AEV told us that most of the Brutes they sell are built from brand-new Jeeps.

At press time, brand-new builds as listed on the AEV website – not including the Jeep itself, mind you – start at $39,999 for the DC350 and $59,600 for the Filson Edition. Who says rich guys have all the fun? Everyone? Well, that sounds about right. But if you have the means, have at it. The AEV Brute Double Cab certainly gets our vote for a ride we’d like to bug out in when the time comes.

For more information on the Brute Double Cab, please visit AEV-conversions.com.

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