So you like off roading

If you live in a rural area and like to hit the trails, you’ll probably love off-roading. Including everything from mudding, to rock-climbing, to overland expeditions, it’s a multidisciplinary scene. Pickup trucks of all stripes aren’t on here because really, they’re all good and brand loyalty usually has a lot to do with which one people pick (I’m personally guilty of that). Also look at pickup-derived SUVs like Ramchargers, and later Blazers and Broncos.

A lot of 4x4s make great restoration candidates because they’re so modular. A Jeep’s body tub or a pickup truck cab and bed are pretty compact, and meanwhile the frame can be rolled around on its own and mechanically restored while the bodywork is being prettified.

Jeep CJ2A/CJ3A:

This is the civilian version of the legendary military Jeep of WW2. Iconic is an understatement for one of the most recognizable vehicles ever produced. In person they’re more like a side-by-side or ATV in size, but built like a tank. The original military examples have a dedicated following, committed to authenticity and historical accuracy. But don’t expect to drive them like a regular car; 45-50 mph is about the fastest you’ll comfortably go and don’t even think about the highway.

  • Purchase cost: 2-3 (depending on condition)
  • Maintenance cost: 3
  • Maintenance difficulty: 1
  • Rarity: 3

Jeep CJ5 and CJ7:

Classic Jeep looks and a good compromise between vintage character and modern usability. Though they look comparable at first glance, the CJ5 is more similar to the CJ3 in utility as it’s not great for highway use and is rather small. The CJ7 makes a much more usable vehicle, capable of steady highway speeds. The long wheelbase version of the CJ7, the CJ8 Scrambler, is highly desirable and expensive but occasionally come up cheap.

  • Purchase cost: 2-3
  • Maintenance cost: 2
  • Maintenance difficulty: 1
  • Rarity: 2 (rarity of good trucks increases significantly as you reach the rust belt)

Jeep Wrangler YJ:

The YJ is almost too new to be on this list. The square headlights alienated some fans but the Jeep DNA is strong in this one. It’s one of the most capable vehicles in the Wrangler line and at great prices too.

  • Purchase cost: 1
  • Maintenance cost: 2
  • Maintenance difficulty: 2
  • Rarity: 1

Jeep Cherokee XJ:

The XJ is simply the Miata of the off-roading world. Light, cheap, and highly capable. Bang for your buck, this is the best way to get dirty in a vehicle. The 4.0L has great torque and amazing reliability. Throw a rock and you can hit a cheap 4 door automatic XJ but most enthusiasts hold out for the 2 doors or manual gearboxes.

  • Purchase cost: 1
  • Maintenance cost: 1
  • Maintenance difficulty: 1
  • Rarity: 1

International Scout:

The Scout was a trailblazer in more ways than one. It split the difference between the utilitarian Jeeps and more comfortable on road trucks. Available in a number of fun body styles, the simple styling is very appealing. Rust have eaten a lot of these but they’re still available. Anemic original power plants make this a prime candidate for fun motor swaps.

  • Purchase cost: 2-4 (rusty Scouts are cheap, rust-free Scouts are expensive)
  • Maintenance cost: 2
  • Maintenance difficulty: 2
  • Rarity: 3

Ford Bronco:

Almost as iconic as the similar Scout. The Bronco was offered in almost the same configurations with almost the same power plants but many would say it did it better than the Scout. Later Broncos are available and cheap but the first generation with round headlights are almost as rare as the Scouts.

  • Purchase cost: 1-3 (later and earlier Broncos have very different availability)
  • Maintenance cost: 2
  • Maintenance difficulty: 2
  • Rarity: 1-4 (see purchase cost)

Baja Bug

The modification happy VW Beetle has a very popular off road version, the Baja Bug. With various levels of fiberglass replacement bodies and suspension modification, the classic Beetle can be a potent desert racer. See the Euro section for more on the Beetle.

  • Purchase cost: 1
  • Maintenance cost: 2
  • Maintenance difficulty: 2
  • Rarity: 1

Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60:

Along with the FJ40, the Land Cruiser is the preferred vehicle for going anywhere in the world. Superior build quality and engineering set this vehicle apart from similar American rigs. Look for a Toyota 6 cylinder diesel or a V8 swap for more power but even stock these are an amazingly capable vehicle. Friends who served in the Peace Corps have recounted harrowing tales of traversing treacherous mountain trails in this Toyota.

  • Purchase cost: 3
  • Maintenance cost: 2
  • Maintenance difficulty: 2
  • Rarity: 4

Toyota FJ40:

Toyotas answer to the Jeep craze, the FJ40 was a bit bigger and likely a bit better manufactured. These were a true international vehicle, and along with the FJ60 are still one of the preferred rigs for underdeveloped parts of the world. Much rarer than a comparable CJ or Wrangler.

  • Purchase cost: 3
  • Maintenance cost: 2
  • Maintenance difficulty: 2
  • Rarity: 3

Toyota Hilux/4Runner:

Is “legendary” even a strong enough word for these? Some of the most bulletproof vehicles ever made, these are also great platforms for off-roaders from prerunners to rock crawlers. The 22RE engine is known to be bulletproof but the later 4 cylinder and V6s are nothing to shake a stick at either.

  • Purchase cost: 1-2
  • Maintenance cost: 2
  • Maintenance difficulty: 1
  • Rarity: 2-3 (Toyota supply is very regional; in northern climates they’ve all rusted out but other parts of the country still have them in good supply)

 

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