The author knows a lot about cars and motorcycles, especially older and more affordable ones.
Top 10 Classic 4x4s
Although new trucks and SUVs can be pretty cool, I don't think any of them have as much character or are as easy to fix yourself as these 10. These trucks are from the days before automatic locks, shift on the fly 4x4, and in some cases before radial tires were the norm. Many of these didn't even leave the factory with seatbelts. These machines were built when durability and utility were more important than safety and looks. They don't make them like these anymore.
Here are the top 10 classic 4x4s:
- Willys CJ2-1 and CJ3-a
- International Scout 80/800
- Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser
- Ford Bronco (1st Gen)
- Land Rover Series 2 and 2a
- Nissan Patrol
- Chevrolet Blazer (1st Gen)
- Willys Pickup and Wagon
- Chevrolet/GMC Suburban (1960–1966)
- Dodge Power Wagon (1st Gen)
1. Willys CJ2-a and CJ3-a
When many people think "Jeep," this is what pops into their head. These are the first generation of Jeeps produced for civilian consumption: the original and most iconic SUV. These Jeeps are incredibly easy to fix thanks to their military heritage. They have amazing parts availability even to this day with many small companies selling nothing but early Jeep parts. There were enough of these units produced that they can still be considered common in many places in the country.
While these Jeeps are very drivable in their stock form, they lend themselves very easily to modifications. V6 and V8 engine swaps are common, as are axle swaps, suspension and body lifts, and transmission and transfer case modifications. Many tall people will probably prefer later model Jeeps since legroom is nearly non-existent in these.
2. International Scout 80/800
A lot of people will prefer the second generation of Scout, but I much prefer the originals. What it lacks in interior space and powertrain options it makes up in build quality and style. These rigs are very bare-bones in stock form and are almost agonizing to drive if you are in a hurry to get anywhere. Four-cylinder engines and manual transmissions were mandatory from the factory, but countless numbers of them have been converted by now.
These can be found fairly cheap compared to the second generation Scouts due to most people considering them less desirable; I don't see this lasting since they are rapidly gaining in popularity.
3. Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser
These Land Cruisers are some of the most well-known 4x4s in the world, right up there with the Willys Jeep and the Land Rover Series vehicles. These trucks are much more substantial than the early Jeeps, interior comfort is much better and the inline 6-cylinder engines are much more refined. The removable hardtop was great for those living in cold climates.
The reliability of these trucks is legendary and pushed Toyota to the top in many 4x4 heavy markets. The later ones included refinements such as disk brakes, optional air conditioning, and power brakes. These are common sights on the roads of many areas.
4. Ford Bronco (1st Gen)
The Bronco was Ford's answer to the Jeep CJ5 and the International Scout. Some interesting things about the Bronco were the use of coil springs on the front axle and the shift on the fly transfer case. The near bulletproof Ford 170ci and 200ci inline 6's and optional 289ci and 302ci V8s were all excellent engines. These are very popular today and tend to be more expensive than Jeeps and Scouts of the same age.
Unfortunately, Ford was a little late with the Bronco, and it couldn't compete with the much larger Blazer that appeared in 1969, which had an optional 350ci engine and automatic transmission.
5. Land Rover Series 2 and 2a
While the Series 1 Land Rovers have a rabid cult following, they are out of the ballpark financially more for most of us. The Series 2 and 2a are also legendary and more obtainable than the Series 1s. There are many variations to these vehicles. 88" and 109" wheelbases are available, and gas and diesel engines were also available. Hard tops, soft tops, and pickup tops were available. Parts availability is great, and there is a huge fanbase in the U.S. that swaps parts between themselves.
The body is made of aluminum which protects the vehicles from rusting away completely, though the steel floors and frames have considerable rust issues. RHD drive examples are also unusually common in the U.S. which could be a cool touch. I personally would love to have one of these trucks.
6. Nissan Patrol
Nissan still makes a Patrol to this day. It is a competitor of the Toyota Land Cruiser. They were only imported into the U.S. for a couple of years in the 1960s, so they are much rarer than the Land Cruisers. Only the short wheelbase, soft top models were imported here as far as I know, so if you want something different, you will have to import it yourself. In line six-cylinder engines and three-speed manual transmissions were standard. I love the looks of these, especially when they are original paint with a lot of patina.
7. Chevrolet Blazer (1st Gen)
When the Blazer first appeared in 1969, it was instantly a hit. It was based on the short-wheelbase half-ton trucks and featured many options common to pickups in those days. A/C was optional, as was a TH350 Automatic Transmission. Engine choices included the 250ci and 292 inline 6's, the 307ci and 350ci V8s. Parts are cheap, and the vehicles themselves are fairly easy to get ahold of.
8. Willys Pickup and Wagon
These trucks were extremely popular when they came out and remained in production for nearly 20 years. Early ones are hard to come by and tend to command higher prices. Pickups, panel deliveries, and two- and four-door station wagons were available. Four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines were available, though many received V6 and V8 conversions over the years. I wouldn't mind having one of these as a daily driver.
9. Chevrolet/GMC Suburban (1960–1966)
This was the first generation of Suburban to have a 4x4 option available from the factory. In my opinion, these have the best styling of any Suburban. The option of a panel delivery version was also a very cool thing. Engine choices included inline 6's, small-block V8s, and in the GMC the 305ci V6 was available. Many parts cross over to Chevy/GMC pickups of the same year, which means that parts are readily available.
10. Dodge Power Wagon (1st Gen)
The Dodge Power Wagon entered production in 1946; it was a civilian truck based on the 3/4 ton military truck produced by Dodge during WW2. These trucks were produced with very few changes for over 20 years, staying in production until 1968 for the U.S. market. These trucks are not easy to find in good original condition. They are incredibly tough and have really good looks. They are very bare-bones compared to other trucks that were being sold at the time they left production. Inline 5 cylinders and manual transmissions were standard for the whole production run.
More Articles About Older Cars and 4x4s
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- The Best Affordable Used 4x4s: 12 Models Compared
- Some Strong 4x4s That Are a Little Different
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.