Summer is a time for exploration. From cross-country road trips, to searching for the best new fishing spot, there’s no better vehicle than a capable 4x4.
We took a look at five rigs that can take you wherever your imagination can go. None of these vehicles just rolled off the production line, but don’t let their age fool you. Off-road enthusiasts value these vehicles for their resilience, dependability—and quite frankly—their cool factor. Well-maintained and restored models are easy for anyone with a few thousand dollars to get their hands on. People who own one know how fun they are. But in the back of their minds they also know that instead of waking up and doing the same commute to work, they could make a dash anywhere they wanted. In theory.
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Toyota created the off-road silver bullet with the Land Cruiser. Every model from 1951 to the present is a storied 4x4 machine, but the FJ40 is one of the most capable ever produced. With its venerable 4-wheel drive, heavy sheet-metal construction, and 4.2 inline 6 cylinder engine—introduced for the 1974 production year—the FJ40 is ready to tackle some serious terrain even in stock form.
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Ford hit a home-run when it created the Bronco in 1966. Prior to its introduction, Americans who wanted a 4x4 had two choices: the Jeep CJ-5 or the International Scout. The CJ was compact and stubby (80 inches) and the Scout was a full-sized land-yacht (100 inches). The Bronco was the perfect compromise in size at 92 inches, and its components and construction made it ready to challenge anything in its path.
Its 170 cubic-inch inline 6 cylinder engine boasted 105 hp, and later models had available 302 cubic inch V8 engines. The two-speed Dana 20 transfer case, Dana 30 front differential, and a nine-inch rear end enabled the Bronco to boldly go. In 1971 the Dana 30 was replaced with a beefier Dana 44.
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Many purists believe the Jeep era ended when the last CJ-7 rolled off the line in 1986. They’ll tell you everything after that—including the Wrangler—became car-like. The CJ-7 set the bar for all future Jeeps. Round headlights, a 94-inch wheel base, solid axles, a smooth transmission, and a strong 4-wheel drive all make it an off-road icon. The CJ-7 was produced with many drivetrains, trim packages, and engines—and inexpensive, easy-to-find parts, upgrades, and modifications make maintaining a Jeep CJ-7 an attainable goal for anyone with a little extra change.
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The K5 provides adventure seekers a full-sized 4x4 with many of the advantages of a smaller vehicle. Chevy offered the rig with both a 5.7 liter, 210 hp V8 engine and a whopping 6.2 liter, 130 hp V8 diesel engine. And for the 1990 model year, the Blazer received a redesigned rear crankshaft seal. The tighter turning radius gave the vehicle better maneuverability and allows it to travel farther in tighter places, compared to its full-sized counterparts.
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Few Land Rover 110s exist in the United States, but they’re known around the world as one of the most rugged off-road vehicles ever built. They earned that reputation by conquering terrain from deserts to mountains. The no-nonsense design is slightly more refined than a military vehicle, and drivers have been known to perform repairs deep in the wilderness with just a set of hand tools. And with an open interior and flat, rectangular roof, there’s plenty of room for gear and equipment both inside and strapped to the top. The Land Rover 110 comes equipped with a 3.5 liter V8 engine with a 5-speed manual transmission.