Some Strong 4x4s That Are a Little Different

Updated on January 20, 2019
ttravis5446 profile image

The author knows a lot about cars and motorcycles, especially older and more affordable ones.

Have you been considering purchasing a 4x4 for the winter or for recreation, but don't want the same Toyota pickup, Jeep Wrangler, or Ford pickup that everyone else is driving? There are alternatives out there. Whether you want something that will seat ten people and drive over a mountain, or you're looking for something that you can park in a compact parking spot, there is something for you.

You probably won't be able to buy these vehicles at your local used car lot, and most likely you won't be able to find parts at your local auto parts store, but luckily the internet can put almost any part for any of these vehicles on your doorstep in only a couple of days. Another plus is that most of these vehicles were designed as military vehicles and are therefore very simple mechanically. This means that they can be repaired by even novice hobby mechanics, usually with very simple tools.

Steyr-Puch Pinzgauer 710K and 710M 1971-1979

Pinzgauer 710M
Pinzgauer 710M

I hold these early Pinzgauers to be some of the most versatile vehicles ever made. A 710K is the hardtop model and the 710M is the soft-top model. They are equipped with a four-cylinder in-line air cooled engine with twin carbs. They are far from being fast, but not undrivable on the road. These have excellent ground clearance due to their portal hubs and independent suspension. The 710M's have seating for ten people, and the rear seats fold into a flat bed for hauling. These vehicles are factory equipped with axle lockers from the factory. Most of them available in the American market were either Swiss or Austrian military surplus. Parts availability is generally pretty good with several businesses on the Internet specializing in them.

Country of Origin: Austria

Volvo C-303 1974-1984

Volvo C303
Volvo C303

The Volvo C303 was a military vehicle along the same lines as the Pinzgaur and Unimog. It used portal axles with factory lockers. It used the B30 Volvo gas engine, just like many Volvo cars. In my opinion, these are more comfortable than the Pinzgaurs and Unimogs. Top speed is about 60mph. They are available with four or six wheel drive. Hardtop and Soft top models are available, though I have only seen hardtops in the U.S. These are a little harder to find than the Pinz and the Mog, but they are out there.

Country of Origin: Sweden

Mercedes Benz Unimog 404 1955-1980

Unimog 404
Unimog 404

The Unimog was originally designed to be an agricultural implement, then adapted to military use. The largest customer for Unimogs was the West German army. They are really tall, slow, and leave a lot to be desired as far as cab comfort goes. On the plus side, they have huge amounts of articulation, ground clearance, and character. The portal axles give great ground clearance. The coil springs and flexible frame allow for massive articulation. The height of the cab gives great visibility. Unfortunately, the 404 received gas engines instead of diesel engines, they have either the MB M-180 or MB M-130 in-line 6 gas engines. 404's feature 6-speed transmissions with 2 reverse gears. Axle lockers are standard from the factory. Both closed and open cab models are available. Radio Box models would make excellent expedition style campers with some interior modifications.

Country of Origin: Germany

Nissan Patrol 1960-1980

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 6 cylinder engines and 3-speed manual transmissions were standard.

Country of Origin: Japan

Chevrolet/ GMC CUCV 1983-1986

GM CUCV Blazer
GM CUCV Blazer

These are military versions of the popular Chevy / GMC pickups and Blazer/ Jimmy SUVs. The running gear is about the best you can get in a Domestic 4x4. The GM 6.2 diesel V8 isn't the most popular powerplant in the world, but it has its fans. The Turbo 400 Automatic Transmission is great. The Dana 60 front axle and 14-bolt G.M. rear axle are well renowned. The NP-208 transfer case is beefy.

They are generally pretty slow in stock form, but are a still a great value. The pickup versions have the same beds as the civilian versions so hauling any pickup bed camper won't be a problem. They are fairly common and can be found on Craigslist and Ebay. If you want to be the first civilian owner of one of these, you can buy direct from the government through the Government Liquidation website list in the links section.

Country of Origin: U.S.A.

Toyota Land Cruiser FJ55 1967-1980

Toyota Land Cruiser FJ55
Toyota Land Cruiser FJ55

These Land Cruisers used to be pretty common and cheap, but time and rust have taken their toll. This model is a 4-door hardtop Land Cruiser that was designed to replace the Hard Top 4 Door FJ45. They use the same running gear as the popular FJ40 Land Cruisers, which means that parts are not unobtainable. Most that you find will be modified to a certain degree, bone stock ones in decent shape are hard to find. One of the most common modifications is the replacement of the in-line 6 cylinder Toyota engine with a small block Chevy engine. These seem to be most plentiful in the western U.S., especially California, which seems to be the case with most of the earlier Japanese imports.

Country of Origin: Japan

Land Rover Series 2A-3 1961-1971

Everybody knows these Land Rovers; when you see one, it makes you think of all the old T.V. shows and movies about Africa that used them extensively. Land Rovers were developed after World War II by the English using the Jeep as a reference. They had a steel frame and an aluminum body. Many enthusiasts consider the series 2A to be the most hardy of all of the Land Rovers. These were imported into the U.S. for the entirety of their model run and aren't too hard to get your hands on. They seem to be most prevalent in New England and the Pacific Northwest, along with other areas along the Canadian border. Parts are readily available from many Internet parts houses. Many shops specialize in classic Land Rover repair and restoration. Many body styles and wheel bases were available. Gas and diesel engines were also available.

Country of Origin: U.K.

Mercedes Benz G-Wagen Euro Spec 1979-1990

The first-generation civilian Galandewagen was a very burly off roader. It came with locking diffs and a center diff lock, as well. This generation was never officially imported into the U.S. and is therefore somewhat rare here. They look a lot like the G-Wagens that were eventually imported to the U.S., but they are much plainer and more utilitarian. A short wheelbase and a long wheelbase were offered; the short was available either as a hardtop wagon or a soft-top, while the long was only offered as a wagon. The main advantages of these early G-Wagens were the available soft-top, the available 3.0L diesel engine, and the manual transmission, none of which were ever offered on any officially imported G-Wagens. These cars are considered enthusiast vehicles and have a cult-like following.

Country of Origin: Germany

Kaiser M715
Kaiser M715

Kaiser Jeep M-715 1967-1969

There weren't too many of these trucks built, but they are still around. Usually there are two or three on Ebay at any given time. Most of these were of the pickup body style, but Ambulance models pop up sometimes. While they are based on civilian Jeep Gladiator pickups, they were beefed up massively for military service. They are officially listed as 1 and 1/4 ton trucks, which means massively strong drive train components. Dana 60 front axles and full float Dana 70 rear axles were stuffed with 5.87:1 gears. Kaiser used their 230CI Overhead Cam "Tornado" engine and WarnerT-98 transmissions in the M715, which means parts mechanical parts aren't too hard to track down. Most of the pickup models have convertible tops, a rare occurrence on full-size pickup trucks.

Country of Origin: U.S.A.

M151 Ford, Kaiser, AM General 1959-1982

These little trucks are kind of hard to find because they were not widely distributed on the surplus market after they were phased out of the military. The main problem with these was the rear suspension; they used a swing axle design similar to early VW Beetles or Chevrolet Corvairs. At high speeds the rear suspension would float and had the possibility of causing a rollover during turns. If you really want one of these, make sure to get an A2 variant, which has a much improved semi-trailing arm rear suspension. The M151 is roomier than the M38 Jeeps they replaced due to revised chassis designs; the M151 used an integrated frame rather than a body on frame design. Performance was also greatly improved from the M38. Ebay seems to be the best place to track these down, as well.

Country of Origin: U.S.A.

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.


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    • profile image

      Britni Hormander 

      6 years ago

      [quote]8192 characters left.[/quote]

      Valuable information, With thanks!.

      Nicely put. Kudos.

    • ttravis5446 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from U.S.

      The military Hummers usually come up for around $30k when they do come up for sale.

    • GAWjr profile image


      10 years ago from Denver, CO

      I would love to get my hands on a M998 HMMWV, but I've never even seen one for sale anywhere. And, I wouldn't want to pay more than I could get a comparable Toyota FJ55 for. But, the basic stripped down soft-top military issue Hummers couldn't be that pricey. Maybe I'd be surprised.


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