BBC Autos

The Roundabout Blog

Wrangler Willys v Filson Brute: The $100,000 question

About the author

Deputy editor of BBC Autos, Jonathan was formerly the editor of The New York Times' Wheels blog. His automotive writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Details, Surface, Intersection and Design Observer. He has an affinity for the Citroën DS and Toyota pickup trucks of the early 1990s.


(Filson/Chrysler Group)

Going off road is a Wrangler’s raison d'être, but the path towards Jeep ownership is a winding one, filled with alluring gullies and washouts to explore.

Take, for instance, the Filson Edition AEV Brute. It starts life as a Wrangler Unlimited four-door model, and it leaves the AEV skunk works with virtually no bolt, bracket or brace left untouched en route to amassing a $130,000 price tag.

Then there is the Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition, a bare-bones mudder bearing the name of Jeep’s World War II-era ancestor. It will make its debut on 20 November at the 2013 Los Angeles auto show with a starting price of $25,795 (excluding undisclosed destination charge).

Two Jeeps serving two very different masters.

The AEV Brute is the product of American Expedition Vehicles, a Michigan-based Wrangler customiser, which swaps out the basic vehicle’s 3.6-litre V6 engine for a 6.4-litre V8 Hemi – virtually doubling the engine displacement. A 61in (1.5 metre) covered pickup flatbed is added, as is a Warn winch, skid plates, a water pump and a number of architectural upgrades. Filson, an upscale hunting and fishing outfitter with a pedigree dating to the California Gold Rush, steps in with brown leather, quick-dry fabrics and “a pair of Rugged Twill bags”.

Jeep’s back-to-basics Wrangler receives upgraded traction components and a raft of exterior signatures, including “Willys” decals and glossy trim paint – and not much else.