ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Jeep’s long-awaited Ram 1500-based Grand Wagoneer will likely become its biggest model to date when it goes on sale in 2021. It won’t be the world’s largest Jeep, though, far from it. That honor goes to a fully-functional, 21-foot-tall replica of a World War II-era Willys built and displayed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
This colossal off-roader wasn’t created to star in a multi-million dollar marketing campaign, and it’s not the product of a major misunderstanding in the company’s research and development department. It was commissioned by Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan al Nahyan, a member of the UAE’s royal family sometimes known as the Rainbow Sheikh and famous globally for his eclectic collection of over 200 cars. It’s too big to fit inside the pyramid-shaped museum he opened on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, so it’s propped up on four pieces of wood right outside of it, next to a nine-bedroom globe-shaped trailer that’s exactly one million times smaller than the Earth.
It’s hard to get a sense of scale of the thing, but check out the third photo in the gallery, which shows it alongside normal-sized vehicles.
Some of the Jeep’s details aren’t historically correct. Its grille is closer to a CJ’s than to the one worn by the Willys, but it’s by and large a surprisingly accurate replica. An enormous ax and a huge shovel are attached to the driver’s side of the body, and a gas can that’s taller than the average adult is strapped to the rear end.
It runs and drives, too. Peek through the grille’s slats and you’ll spot the normal-sized three-spoke steering wheel used to turn the front wheels. There’s an engine right in front of it, though technical specifications have never been published, and we couldn’t climb up to pop the hood when we took the photos. It evidently hasn’t moved much in recent years, but it was crowned the world’s largest motorized car by Guinness Records in 2010.
The cost of building this jumbo Jeep has never been made public, either, but it must be substantial. There was no donor car to start with and no template to follow; nearly every part was made from scratch and assembled by hand. Then again, we’re talking about a billionaire who once paid to have his name carved into a private island (it stretched two miles wide and could be seen from space) and later paid to have it removed when he changed his mind. Building a giant Jeep is comparatively affordable. And, at least he had past projects to gain experience from: He also commissioned a replica of a Dodge Power Wagon (shown above) that dwarfs the original.
Once inside the pyramid, you’re surrounded by a stunningly diverse assortment of cars that includes a rainbow-colored Mercedes-Benz W126 with flared rear fenders and side exhausts, a Dodge Viper, a hot-rodded Chevrolet Nova, a Volkswagen Beetle-based dune buggy made in the UAE, plus a jaw-dropping assortment of 4x4s built by Suzuki, Toyota, Land Rover, Jeep, Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz. It’s also the only place in the world where you can find an AMC Pacer, a Mini Moke, a Daihatsu Midget II, and a Premier Padmini, and a San Diego-built Crofton Bug under the same roof. Viewed in this light, the mammoth Jeep parked out front almost looks normal.