Off roading. Old cars. Why not combine the two?
Unlike sports cars, which have gotten better with the advent of sophisticated electronics, off-roaders rely on simple mechanicals and brute force, and there are plenty of vintage trucks that can wheel just as well as (if not better than) the automakers’ latest and greatest. Here are 10 vintage vehicles that make great off-road rigs.
Let’s start with the obvious choice: The Jeep CJ. There are a million reasons to choose a CJ as your vintage off-roader, not least of which is their sheer out-of-the-box ability, though you’re unlikely to find a CJ that hasn’t been modified in some way. CJs have been valued as off-roaders since they day they were new, and vehicle selection and parts availability is about as good as it gets. As with any popular classic, buyers are spoiled for choice: You’ll find everything from rebuildable basketcases under $1,000 to shiny bro-dozers priced over $20k. We recommend the Great Middle Ground, where you’ll find plenty of perfectly serviceable CJs in the $5,000 to $8,000 range.
Find your Jeep CJ for sale here.
Toyota Land Cruiser
More rare and more interesting than the CJ, but no less capable, is its trans-Pacific rival, the Toyota Land Cruiser. The classic short-wheelbase FJ40 is the most proficient and the most collectible, and it commands very high prices: Nicely restored examples go for $25,000 to $40,000, and even the rustbuckets can go for three to five grand. That said, don’t rule out the bigger Cruisers of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s: Though not as capable as the FJ40s, they are spacious family haulers that can hold their own off-road, and you’ll find plenty in the $5,000 to $8,000 range.
Find your Toyota FJ40 for sale here.
It’s been a while since Ford had a serious go at the off-road market, and today the original (1966-1977) Bronco is a prized collectible. Prices generally range from around five grand up to 40 (though the old girl in the photo above sold for $3,151), and there are plenty of clean (and often modified) Broncos in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. And don’t rule out the bigger (’78-’96) Bronco, fielded as a competitor to the Chevrolet Blazer. It’s big enough to haul gear and small enough to take on more aggressive trails. Clean originals can be had for around $15,000, and if you’re looking for a blank canvas, you’ll find plenty under $10,000 and a few under five grand.
Find your Ford Bronco for sale here.
Another classic, the Chevy Blazer was (and, as the Tahoe, still is) a shortened version of the haul-it-all Suburban with the axles close enough together to do a decent amount of off-roading. Parts are plentiful, especially engine and driveline parts, where the popularity of the small-block V8 among hot-rodders works to the Blazer owner’s advantage. Buyers have plenty of choices, from $2,500 runners to $25,000 restorations. Cheaper still are the small S-10 Blazers, which probably don’t get the respect they deserve, as can be seen by the low prices they command—peruse eBay and you’ll be shocked to see how many nice examples you can buy for less than three grand.
Find your Chevy Blazer for sale here.
How many XJ Cherokees did we let go to the crusher before we realized how good they were? The market is just now starting to appreciate these capable mini-wagons, but prices are still good: Clean high-milers can be found for less than two grand, low-milers for four to 10, and rebuildables for less than a thousand. Even nicely modified Cherokees rarely break the $15,000 barrier. Though there were several engines offered, you’ll want the 4.0-liter straight-six; its low-end torque makes off-roading a breeze. Keep in mind that Jeep did make rear-wheel-drive Cherokees, so be sure you crawl underneath and verify that you’re getting a four-by-four.
Find your Jeep Cherokee for sale here.
The Toyota 4Runner was designed as a family hauler in the days when all SUVs were based on pickup truck chassis, and while many of its competitors went to a crossover format, the 4Runner remains a proper off-roader to this day. It’s hard to go wrong with any vintage of 4Runner so long as it’s a 4×4. Mid- to late-90s 4Runners are probably the best choice for budget buyers, with plenty of serviceable trucks selling for a few hundred bucks up to $3,500 or so, while five to 10 thousand will get you one of the newer examples with V8 power and more creature comforts.
Find your Toyota 4Runner for sale here.
The Samurai was largely unloved when new, but today it is appreciated for the outstanding off-roader it is. Small size and light weight are the key to the Samurai’s abilities, and its smaller-size parts also make it easier to fix out on the trail. The Suzuki Samurai disappeared from the U.S. market around 1995, but it continued to be built around the world, and that means parts are easy to find but vehicles are a bit more rare: Anything priced at less than two grand will probably be pretty well clapped out, though nicely modified Samurais top out around ten thousand, and there are plenty of good examples to be had in the middle range.
Find your Suzuki Samurai for sale here.
The Geländewagen (man, is that fun to say!) is Mercedes’ answer to the Land Cruiser, and it’s become something of a poser icon, with late-model AMG examples still selling for six figures. Underneath the glitz, however, is an exceptionally competent off-roader. If you’re not looking to empty your bank account, your best bet is to go vintage. Look for an older gray-market vehicle; you should be able to pick up a decent one for less than $20,000. If you’d rather go newer or strictly US-spec (or if you just have money to burn), there are mid-mileage examples to be had for $50,000 or less.
Find your Mercedes G-Wagen for sale here.
For a while—that while being the 1960s and ‘70s—truck builder International-Harvester tried to take on the Big Three in the small truck business with the Scout (and its imaginatively named successor, the Scout II). The Scout is a good vintage off-roader and (generally) tough as nails, but finding parts can be very difficult, as IH didn’t stay in the truck light truck business very long. Prices aren’t cheap, but neither are they outrageous: We’ve seen non-runners and rustbuckets going for up to $3,500, but $6000 should get you a good running project and $10,000 will buy you a nicely restored example.
Find your International Scout for sale here.
First-generation Range Rover
Long before it became known as a Beverly Hills cruiser, the Range Rover was intended to take over from the Defender as Land Rover’s jungle basher of choice. Forget about the newer and blingier models and look for one of the older (and simpler) Range Rovers; you’re buying British, so it’s best to avoid all the high-tech gee-gaws that are invariably going to break and require six months with a multi-meter to diagnose. The general public are distrustful of aging Rovers (and perhaps justifiably so), and that keeps prices low: Selling prices range from $1,500 to $15,000, with lots of good trucks in between.
Find your first generation Range Rover for sale here.
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