No list of classic American off-road vehicles would be complete without the Jeep Wrangler. It was the direct descendant of the famous original Jeep Willys. The Wrangler is the evolution of a small, compact, and everyday usable all-terrain vehicle. Jeep presented the Wrangler in 1985 (via Car and Driver) to replace the Jeep CJ model.
The Wrangler is one of the models that endured all the market changes, yet it never compromised the characteristics that made it legendary. But despite the necessary improvements in design, safety, and fuel efficiency, the Wrangler is still the rugged and dependable Jeep it has always been. That will always make it one of the rare models that didn’t crumble under the wave of plastic SUV models.
The Mercedes G-Class is one of the longest-running models in the car world. First emerging in 1979 as a primarily military off-road SUV and truck, it’s still on the market today with the same basic design. During the course of almost 40 years, it survived many modifications and redesigns, but never changed its distinct appearance and layout. Over the years, the G-Class evolved from a pure military truck without any luxury items to an overpriced, premium full-size SUV.
Mercedes created a monster of a truck and a monster with its sticker price too. Under the hood is the 5.5-litre twin-turbo engine with 540 hp, which delivers power to all six wheels through a specially-built automatic transmission. Inside the truck, it’s all about luxury. This 6×6 may not be so capable in the wild since it is such a heavy truck, but it looks like it can tackle the sand dunes well. And, of course, there is the matter of price (via Motor Authority). When it was new, this G63 had a sticker price of $450,000. But if you can find one today, expect to pay close to one million dollars for it.
Rarely will you find a genuine zombie apocalypse car for sale straight off the showroom floor. The Local Motors Rally Fighter is just that. Debuting in 2010, the Rally Fighter is an American-made off-road sports car (via Road and Track) with incredible features, racing mechanics, and a 6.2-liter V8 with 430 HP.
Also, it comes with a state-of-the-art suspension set for off-road driving, a fiberglass body to save weight, and a full roll cage for security. The Rally Fighter is street-legal in all 50 states and costs around $100,000. That may be expensive, but once those zombies start rolling in, you’ll be glad you bought this car.
Ford presented the SVT Raptor in 2010 and it took the pickup world by storm. Never had there been a fully prepared off-road truck capable of stunts like jumping dunes and running through the desert at high speeds (via Motor Trend).
Although Ford conceived it as an off-road beast, the SVT Raptor also had muscle car credentials thanks to its 6.2-liter V8 producing a whopping 411 HP. A 0 to 60 mph sprint took 6.9 seconds. That’s not bad considering they designed the Raptor to run through the jungle, not drag race on urban streets.
Although Chevrolet has the Colorado ZR2 on this list, the Bow Tie wanted more and decided to make a proper competitor for the F-150 Raptor and Ram TRX in the form of the 2022 Silverado ZR2.
GM’s engineers took standard Silverado frame, beefed it up, and put 6.2-liter V8 with 420 hp. Even though it is less powerful than the TRX, Silverado ZR2 is equipped with specific components and is more useful as an everyday truck that can be used on extreme off-road trails (via Motor1).
The LM002 is somewhere between a truck and an off-road SUV/truck since it has four doors, a double cab, and a truck bed. This crazy creation debuted in the mid-’80s as Lamborghini’s attempt to enter the world of luxury SUVs and widen its appeal. The LM002 uses a special chassis (via Lamborghini), suspension, and Lambo’s famous V12 engine.
The 5.2-liter engine with 400 hp was the same one you’d find in a legendary Countach. The LM002 also had a 7.3-liter monster V12 engine from a racing boat. Nicknamed “The Rambo Lambo,” this truck was a rugged and desert-going version of the famous supercar. Despite the enormous power and tough looks, LM002 was a failure since it was hard to drive on the road. It had an enormous thirst for fuel and problems with stability. It was extremely expensive. Only 301 models left the Lamborghini factory, a considerable number knowing all the facts.
Off-road vehicles were once born out of necessity and the legendary Jeep Willys is the greatest example. Jeep conceived it just before World War II as a light military vehicle capable of going over any terrain, and withstanding bullets in addition to harsh conditions. This Jeep turned out to be one of the weapons that won the biggest war in history. The production of the original Jeep started in 1942. They called it the Willys MB or Ford GPW. The Willys was a simple yet incredibly tough and dependable car (via Jeep).
It got its power from a diminutive 2.2-liter four-cylinder producing only 60 HP. It used a simple four-wheel drive layout that was an innovative concept for the 1940s. Despite being a military vehicle, Jeep proved its worth after the war as a practical machine. Drivers could equip it to do numerous things like tow and plow for agricultural use. The unique concept of a rugged, compact, and capable off-road machine evolved to the entire Jeep brand, the biggest producer of off-road vehicles and SUVs.
Located in rural Wyoming, Legacy Classic Trucks specializes in restoring legendary pieces of American car history. Legacy Classic Trucks introduced a series of restomod models that amaze truck fans with the quality of craftsmanship, engineering, and original ideas (via Robbreport). There are several classic trucks on offer, but arguably the most interesting is the Legacy Power Wagon.
Legacy’s interpretation keeps the original design, durability, and usability with a ton of modern features. This transformed this rugged truck fromc the 1930s into one of the best off-road vehicles of the 2010s. The prices start at just below $200,000 for a basic model powered by a 6.2-liter Chevrolet LS3 V8 engine with 430 HP. If you want, you can get a modern V8 diesel engine as well as an extended cab or double cab configuration.
If Ford has cornered the market in full-size trucks with the amazing new F-150, Chevrolet is leading the pack in mid-size trucks with its Colorado. But its ZR2 version (via Cnet) is the most influential because it’s a perfectly designed off-road pickup.
Better yet, it has the economy of a diesel engine and the usability of a regular truck. Its diesel engine delivers just 181 HP but 365 lb-ft of torque. That makes the Colorado ZR2 an astonishingly capable off-road machine with great fuel economy and towing capacity.
As one of the longest-running models in Jeep’s history, the CJ-5 dates to 1954. The Kaiser used an M38A1 Jeep in the Korean War. It’s worth noting that the CJ-5 was a basic car (via Motor Trend), even by classic SUV standards. But it is on the top of the list as the most influential car that started the SUV craze. The Willys CJ-5, which followed the Jeep CJ-5 after 1964, was an extremely durable car. Also, it was the vehicle of choice for many generations of driving enthusiasts. Apart from regular versions powered by a wide palette of engines, this Jeep also had numerous special editions to attract even more customers.
Then there was the 1970 Renegade I and 1971 Renegade II, with their own special sets of colors and low production numbers. They produced the CJ-5 until 1983 in more than 600,000 vehicles. This means there are still hundreds if not thousands of these off-roaders to keep fans entertained as restoration projects. You’ll have tons of fun while driving this capable, legendary American icon.
If the first Raptor lacked acceleration, the second generation managed to earn the crown back for Ford. The latest Ford Raptor includes a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 with 450 HP and 510 lb-ft. It also has a 10-speed automatic transmission with sub-five-second acceleration times. Although that suggests it’s an exotic supercar, it’s also a full-size truck with room for five people and a regular bed. The Raptor is the closest thing to a full Baja 1000 racing vehicle drivers can buy today (via Edmunds). The truck-buying public didn’t expect such a move, but they were fascinated by the truck’s looks, performance, and capability.
The idea behind the Raptor was to construct the fastest off-road truck money could buy. Ford did just that, installing numerous chassis and suspension upgrades as well as a powerful engine. The best thing about the Raptor is that Ford prepared an extreme off-road truck with a customer warranty. With multiple driving modes, a 10-speed automatic gearbox, and an adaptive suspension, you can take this truck rock crawling. Ford did a great job of combining the toughness of an extreme off-road truck with the usability of a regular pickup.
When there is something that the manufacturer cannot or doesn’t have the courage to do, Hennessey was usually the company to make it a reality. Offered for a whopping $350,000, it is one of the most extreme trucks ever produced. So what is it?
It’s essentially a F-150 Raptor but enhanced in almost every way. First, it has one additional axle, making this a proper 6×6 vehicle (via Road and Track) and one of the most extreme trucks. Second, it has upgraded shocks, suspension, and a totally modified drive train. Third, it has a 600 hp engine, quite an improvement over factory specifications.
With a price of $500,000 and a weight of almost 23,000 pounds as well as space for 10 people and military equipment, the Marauder is the perfect urban assault vehicle (via YouTube). Of course, it is as tall as a Greyhound bus and almost as long too. But you can still register it and drive it around town.
It even has a working climate control system. Even though they designed the Marauder primarily for military use, you can get one, but it may take a while since production is almost sold out.
Available in a 4×4 or 6×6 configuration, the Pinzgauer 710 is a highly capable military vehicle that has been in production since the early 1970s. It is also available to civilian customers and some emergency services.
They build it in Austria and test it in the Alps (via Facebook) in all kinds of rough conditions and snowy mountain roads. The 710 is a basic military truck that is somewhat expensive. But most military vehicle enthusiasts praise it since this model is quite capable even in war conditions.
Polaris is famous for its ATV-style vehicles and off-road models. However, in the last several years, the U.S. Army has shown an interest in a special ATV they designed especially for Special Forces. And it is high maneuverability on rough terrain, so Polaris responded with the MV850, a special, extremely capable ATV (via Top Speed).
There are several interesting features of the MV850. First, it can carry up to 600 pounds and tow a small trailer if necessary. Second, it doesn’t have regular tires, but special tire-like covers that are far better on rough terrain as well as puncture-proof.
The original Meyers Manx is a kit car based on the VW Beetle blueprint and engines. But this car was so important to the American off-road scene that it has to be on this list. They introduced it in 1964. The Meyers Manx was a brainchild of Bruce F. Meyers, an American boat builder and surfer who wanted a dependable-yet-cool beach car (via Mayers Manx). They finished the first prototypes in 1964 and full production soon followed.
So by the early ’70s, they had made more than 6,000. The construction was simple. using a fiberglass tub mounted to VW Beetle mechanics. This rear-wheel-drive car was light and could tackle almost any terrain. Some owners even installed more powerful boxer engines from the Corvair or even from the Porsche. Due to its characteristic design and great driving capabilities, the Meyers Manx became one of the symbols of surfing culture.
Everything started in the mid-’60s when Ford realized that a market for compact and off-road capable SUVs was emerging. So Ford invested a lot of effort and money into constructing the Bronco since it had its own platform, suspension, and drivetrain components. Finally, they equipped it with straight-six and V8 engines, giving it enough power.
The Bronco was compact (via Bronco Bastards), making this Ford capable when the asphalt stops. The small dimensions meant that the interior was cramped, but buyers loved it nonetheless and sales went through the roof. The second and third generations were even more successful. However, despite solid sales, Ford decided to retire the Bronco in 1996 to concentrate on their pickup truck line as well as new SUV models. The first-generation Bronco is rapidly gaining popularity. Soon, it will be beyond the reach of the average customer.
In America, the Land Cruiser is a luxury SUV. But in Asia, Africa, Australia, the Land Cruiser is also a diesel truck (via Gear Patrol). It comes without any comforts but with maximum usability and unbelievable durability.
Interestingly, Toyota still produced the classic early 1980’s shape Land Cruiser. It comes with tough mechanics, a heavy-duty suspension, and a 4×4 drive. Also, they topped it off with a few modern features like an automatic gearbox and climate control.
For most SUVs on this list, the future is uncertain, but not for the Defender. Despite the fact they discontinued it in 2016 after staying in production for almost 70 years, Land Rover announced it will replace it with a new improved model suitable for the 21st century. The history of the Defender started out of necessity due to the after war shortages in Great Britain. With its numerous qualities, small weight and off-road capabilities, the Land Rover soon became the ultimate off-road SUV (via Auto Trader) capable of crossing deserts, jungles, and all kinds of rough terrain.
The Defender soon became a popular military vehicle, so they produced it in numerous variants. Land Rover later introduced the Range Rover, a plush and comfortable off-road SUV, but the Defender remained in production. In the last couple of years, despite the popularity of the Defender, it was obvious that its days were numbered. The modern safety and environmental standards made the 70-year-old model obsolete. Land Rover didn’t have any choice but to retire the old model and announce a new one. They have revealed the Defender concept, but they have yet to present the final production version.
It’s often interesting to see how some car manufacturers were ahead of their time. One of those manufacturers is the American Motors Company (AMC). One of their models was the Eagle, a passenger car lineup with a Jeep-derived all-wheel drive (via Silodrome). Also, it had great off-road capabilities in the form of a regular sedan, wagon or even a coupe. AMC conceived it in the late ’70s as their answer to the rising popularity of AWD vehicles and SUVs.
AMC wanted to combine their compact sedan and wagon lineup with the tough and proven Jeep AWD system. The result was a surprisingly capable vehicle with the comfort and luxury of a sedan. It had compact dimensions, a relatively low weight, and rugged off-road characteristics. The Eagle was one of the first crossover models in the world. It’s only today that people can see how important and influential this car was. AMC produced the Eagle with standard AWD.
Although Carroll Shelby never got a chance to see this truck, he would certainly approve of the insane 750 HP Shelby F-150 (via Motor Trend). After all, his company and legacy inspired the Ford Motor Company to build it.
Under the hood is a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 producing 750 HP and delivering Raptor-beating performance. With its insane price tag and eye-catching appearance, this Shelby F-150 is the definitive continuation of the iconic Shelby legend.
The Zetros is another all-wheel-drive beast on the list and a 6WD, for that matter. The 2733 A is based on an Actros platform. Some Unimog DNA is also involved, helping it offer amazing traction due to its proven mechanics and 6WD system. It has highly customizable living quarters. The weight of this six-wheeler ranges from 25 to 27 tons, which is a formidable number.
The Zetros 273A 6WD is a machine with a 7.2l inline 6-cylinder engine. It has approximately 1,000 feet per pound of torque at a low RPM, somewhere between 1,200 and 1,600. With those torque figures in mind, it’s clear the Zetros 2733 A 6WD can go anywhere (via Pktrucks). The interior of this RV is utilitarian to the max, which is expected because this is a car for hardcore outdoor use.