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.