Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40
Toyota produced the legendary Land Cruiser FJ40 from 1960 to 1984. It was one of the best classic off-road SUVs, proving itself in numerous wars and expeditions. Especially popular in Africa and South America, the FJ40 is still roaming vast deserts and jungle areas with ease. Toyota conceived it as a copy of the Jeep CJ2, which they later called the Wrangler.
The Toyota Land Cruiser featured the famous rugged body on frame design. It also had a selection of four-cylinder diesel and gasoline six-cylinder engines and several body styles. The FJ40 came in a two and four-door model with a long or short wheelbase, as well as a pickup truck. Various military versions were also available.
In its last few years, the FJ40 became popular with the new generation of off-road enthusiasts. As a result, prices are starting to go up. But most car fans think Toyota should bring back this model in a modern form and not as an FJ Cruiser model. This is because the Land Cruiser has become a luxury SUV, abandoning its off-road roots.
The Jeepster Commando is a forgotten Jeep model they produced between 1966 and 1973. It was an upscale version of pure off-road models with a removable hardtop. It also had a small truck bed behind the front seats. The Commando was a practical model that drivers could use for cruising.
And it was also good for carrying smaller items and going off-road. Car buyers had a wide selection of engines from a small inline four and six-cylinder, to a V6 or V8 engine. AMC produced most of the engines because they owned the Jeep brand at the time.
Also, Buick produced a 225 V6 known as the Dauntless V6. But despite the solid sales results, Jeep decided the Commando had no future in the market. So they discontinued this interesting, capable convertible SUV in the early 70’s.
In Mopar nomenclature, Plymouth was always an economy or muscle car brand. They were dedicated to family cars, small sedans and two-door coupes. During their history, Plymouth produced some pickup trucks, but never any SUVs. But Dodge focused on the car market with a series of SUV models, gaining big success in that field.
However, in the late ’70s, Plymouth decided to try its luck in the off-road SUV market with the Trailduster. It was a two-door, four-passenger, all-wheel drive vehicle identical to the Dodge Ramcharger SUV. And the Trailduster was an attractive truck. Basically, it was identical to the Ramcharger, but with different trim and details.
To promote their product, Plymouth offered an all-wheel drive at an affordable price. Even though they added more equipment than Dodge, sales were sluggish. So after a couple of years, they discontinued the Trailduster, although the Ramcharger stayed on the market. Today, many Mopar fans want the Trailduster back since it was more dependable than other Dodge products from the period.
Isuzu introduced the Trooper in 1981, and it was the perfect car for the times. It was a relatively spacious, great-handling off-road SUV with dependable mechanics. It featured a nice design and lots of character; something that Japanese cars often lack. The Trooper was a capable off-road vehicle.
Yet it still retained a certain level of on-road highway manners. This made it equally at home on dirt roads as well as on the interstates. Even though most U.S. competitors had V8s and bigger engines, the Isuzu 2.8-liter V6 didn’t sound as good. But it was enough for most purposes as well as off-road driving.
Ford Centurion Classic
Ford offered the Bronco as their prime off-road SUV model as well as a lineup of full-size trucks they designed for towing and carrying. However, this left space for the Centurion company of White Pigeon, Michigan to produce and sell a combination of Bronco closed bodies and big F- Series chassis.
The result was the Ford Centurion Classic. It was an attractive conversion job they sold in two versions. They based the smaller one on the F-150 with AWD as an option. And the bigger version they based on the F-250 truck with AWD as standard. Also, Centurion produced interior kits to transform the crew cab F-series trucks into nine passenger, fully operational SUVs.
The success of the Blazer and the Bronco inspired Dodge to offer its own off-road model. So, they based it on a shortened truck chassis and with a closed body style. They called the new model the Ramcharger. And Dodge presented it in 1974, along with the identical Plymouth Trailduster.
The base engine was the Chrysler venerable 225 slant six unit. But buyers could choose between four more engines, including the mighty 440 V8. The power level of this famous big block was not that high for 1974. However, it had loads of torque, which was more important for off-road driving and pulling the Ramcharger out of the mud.
Today, most U.S. customers recognize the Nissan Patrol as the Armada. It was a big and heavy luxury SUV often in a two-wheel drive configuration. But long ago, the Patrol was a serious off-road vehicle they intended for heavy duty use with mechanics to cope with the toughest terrain. Nissan designed it as a competitor to the FJ 40 Land Cruiser.
But the Patrol grew and matured, so by the early ’80s, it was a modern SUV with global appeal. Nissan redesigned its chassis, interior and engine, introducing the third generation of Patrol in 1980. Many car fanatics would love to see this boxy SUV with lots of interior room, tough mechanical components and undeniable off-road capabilities return.
During the ’80s and ’90s, thanks to cooperation with General Motors, Isuzu sold numerous models on the American market. And they gained a reputation for being durable and dependable vehicles. However, Isuzu realized that the future was in SUV models. So, in the early ’90s, they decided to produce a new, highly capable lifestyle model they called the VehiCross.
Behind this strange name was an even stranger vehicle that they only sold in a three-door specification. Also, it only came with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and automatic transmission. Isuzu designed the VehiCross to be a futuristic off-roader, giving it their best all-terrain technology and components.
In the late ’80s, the Suzuki Motor Company needed something to make buyers forget the Samurai scandal. They wanted to regain the position they lost on the compact SUV market. And the answer was a new model they called the Escudo in Japan, as well as the Sidekick or Vitara. It was Suzuki’s global project to introduce a contemporary, on-road oriented model.
They hoped it would appeal to the younger crowd because it was safer, better equipped and more usable than the small, problematic Samurai. So, they presented the first-generation Sidekick or Vitara in 1988. Immediately, it met universal praise from car buyers and the motoring press.
It was the right model for the times with its cool looks and updated options. Also, they offered long and short wheelbase versions and optional open top. The Vitara worked well as a family SUV, as well as a fun vehicle for weekend trips to the forest.
Most car enthusiasts would love to see the 20 discontinued SUVs on this list make a comeback. They would probably do better nowadays due to the huge popularity of this type of vehicle. In fact, most people finally appreciate the versatility of the SUV.