Home Cars Top-Rated Classic Off-Road Trucks in the U.S.

Top-Rated Classic Off-Road Trucks in the U.S.

Vukasin Herbez July 3, 2019

For a long period of time, true 4×4 off-road vehicles were the only specialty models they designed for terrain use and the military. However, during the ’50s and ’60s, the American car industry started producing capable passenger cars that could go on and off-road, which started the trend. Derived from military or industrial machines, classic American off-road SUVs were interesting and charming machines.

And that was even though they were rough and rugged contraptions with few luxury options. So here are the best, most interesting classic SUVs or off-roaders that created the American love for terrain vehicles. But most importantly, they established the SUV class as you know it today.

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30. Jeep Willys

Off-road vehicles were born out of necessity and the legendary Jeep Willys is the best example. Jeep conceived it just before World War II as a light military vehicle. It was capable of going over any terrain, withstanding bullets, explosions, and surviving harsh conditions. In fact, 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 as the U.S. entered the war. It ended in 1946 after they built more than 600,000, exporting them to all parts of the world. They called it the Willys MB or Ford GPW. The Willys was a simple yet incredibly tough and dependable car.

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It got its power from a diminutive 2.2-liter four-cylinder producing 60 HP. Also, 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. Jeep Willys could tow and plow and worked well on the farm for agricultural use. The unique concept of a rugged, compact, and extremely capable off-road machine evolved to the Jeep brand. In fact, they are the biggest producer of off-road vehicles and SUVs, and a true legend of the segment.

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29. International Harvester Scout

International Harvester is a well-known American company dedicated to producing trucks and agricultural machinery. However, from the ’50s to the early ’80s, International was producing two SUV models, the Travelall and the Scout. The Travelall was a big, seven-seat SUV with massive engines and tough mechanics for professional users and extreme challenges. But, the Scout was more compact and popular. It was a usable off-road SUV with choices of engines ranging from 2.5-liter straight four to 4.4-liter V8. Also, it came with a removable hardtop, which meant that every Scout was also a convertible with a fold-down windshield. The first models were basic and mostly used by nature lovers, hunters, and forest patrols. However, the second generation introduced a more luxurious Scout with more options, better engines, and exterior trim.

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This model proved to be popular in some European countries as well, but with a diesel engine under the hood. Although the Scout was discontinued in 1980 after 19 years of production, it’s still popular and a desirable model. Unfortunately, rust claimed most Scouts, but the surviving ones are commanding high prices. The International Harvester company still exists today, and it has the capacity to produce a new-age Scout. Unfortunately, there aren’t any rumors of this happening anytime soon. Still, there is an army of classic SUV fans craving a small, compact, and good-looking SUV with unmistakable design and off-road capabilities.

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28. Chevrolet Blazer

Back in 1969, Chevrolet was caught off guard with the success of the Ford Bronco, Jeep CJ, and International Harvester Scout. The market wanted small, good-looking, and capable off-road SUVs and Chevrolet didn’t have any in its model lineup. Something had to be done so the Chevrolet engineers thought of a brilliant idea. Why not use their existing pickup truck and mount a full interior, roof and call it the Blazer or GMC Jimmy? The idea was great so soon Chevrolet fans had a new SUV model with bigger dimensions than the competitors. But it also came with some bigger engines under the hood. At first, all-wheel drive was only an option, so some versions came with rear-wheel drive only. However, soon AWD became standard. The Blazer became popular and it was used not only by civilians but also by the U.S. military.

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It sold well in America as well as in the rest of the world, especially with the 6.2-liter diesel V8 engine. The Blazer was so popular that the second generation stayed in production from 1973 to 1991 with minimal modifications. However, in the early ’90s, Chevrolet introduced a smaller, more modern-looking Blazer that wasn’t so tough and off-road capable. Also, in the mid-’90s, they replaced the Blazer line with the Tahoe. Ever since then, Chevrolet fans called for the introduction of a modern Blazer. They want a model with all the characteristics of the old one but up to date technology, safety, and fuel economy. Chevrolet keeps introducing new SUV and crossover models, but there is no confirmation the new Blazer is in the works. The “Bow tie” guys from Detroit need to understand how big of a market success they will have if they bring the Blazer back.

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27. Ford Bronco

Everything started in the mid-60s when Ford realized the market for compact and off-road capable SUVs was emerging. So Ford invested a lot of effort and money into constructing the Bronco, giving it its own platform, suspension, and drivetrain components. Finally, they equipped it with straight-six and V8 engines, giving it enough power and decent performance numbers. The Bronco was compact, which helped it to be maneuverable on and off the road, making this Ford quite capable when the asphalt stopped. Its small dimensions meant that the interior was cramped, but the buyers loved it nonetheless.

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Soon, sales numbers were through the roof. The second and third generations were even more successful. But they were also bigger and more comfortable vehicles with a longer list of options and better equipment. Despite solid sales, Ford decided to retire the Bronco in 1996 to concentrate on its pickup truck and SUV lineup. However, the fans of the Bronco were always vocal in their requests to see the legendary off-roader again. So finally, last year, Ford announced that the Bronco would be back in 2020 in a new form but with the same old spirit and appeal.

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26. Jeep Wagoneer

Currently, SUVs are bloated sedans with little or no off-road performance that look like big off-roaders and have lots of space and luxuries. On the other hand, the Jeep Wagoneer looked like a big off-roader and was quite luxurious for the era. It included an enormous amount of space and respectable off-road skills. All that makes the Wagoneer the ultimate vintage luxury off-road vehicle. The fact that they produced it from 1963 all the way to 1991 with just a few tweaks is true proof of its qualities. At first, the Wagoneer was available as a two-door or four-door SUV, or a two-door panel truck. However, as the model progressed, it became available with more luxurious features like these classic wooden side panels.

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Another interesting fact about the Wagoneer is that a compass was available as standard equipment. That showed they never meant this vehicle to be a car for the streets, but rather a luxurious land barge for navigating through ranches, fields, and mountain trails. They powered the Wagoneer with numerous inline-six and V8 engines. Interestingly, it had both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive. The most coveted models came from the 1987 to 1991 Chrysler era when the car went through a series of upgrades. With air conditioning, high-quality audio, comfortable power seats, lots of chrome, and optional woodwork, the Wagoneer was truly a well-equipped car.

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25. Plymouth Trailduster

In Mopar nomenclature, Plymouth was always an economy or muscle car brand, dedicated to family cars, small sedans, or two-door coupes. During its history, it did produce some pickup trucks but never any off-road models. Dodge was more into that market with a series of SUV models and big success in that field. However, in the late ’70s, Plymouth decided to try its luck in the off-road market with the Trailduster. It was a two-door, all-wheel-drive vehicle that was identical to the Dodge Ramcharger. The idea worked and the Trailduster was an attractive truck. Basically, it was identical to the Ramcharger but with different trim and details.

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So to promote the product in that market, Plymouth offered all-wheel drive at a less expensive price with more equipment than Dodge. But it had no luck, so after a couple of years, they discontinued the Trailduster, although the Ramcharger stayed on the market. Today, some Mopar fans claim the Trailduster was better and more dependable than other Dodge products from the period. However, no one will ever know since they are rare and forgotten off-roaders.

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24. Hummer H1

Back in the mid-1980s, the U.S. Military started using the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), affectionately known as the Humvee. This was a big and heavy military truck capable of running over anything and surviving even land mines. But despite the fact they made the Humvee for the military, constant requests for a street-legal version made AM General think about entering the lucrative civilian market. So finally in 1992, they presented the civilian Hummer H1. It looked almost the same as the military version and it featured the same technology and engine. The power came from a 6.2-liter diesel V8 with just 165 HP, but loads of torque.

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Basically, the only real difference between military and civilian Hummer was the interior. The street-legal model had a much plusher interior with air conditioning, leather upholstery, and a premium audio system. The Hummer H1 was expensive and terrible to drive so it was impractical and as big as a house. However, it was extremely popular with customers who wanted something different and opulent and didn’t care about practicality and fuel economy.

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23. International Harvester Travelall

Even though the International Scout is the most famous and sought-after SUV model from this factory, it is not the only one. Even before they introduced the Scout, International produced a big SUV model they named the Travelall. This model was a step beyond the Chevrolet Suburban since it offered powerful engines and all-wheel drive. Also, the build quality was second to none. Some say the Travelall was a car built with industrial-strength materials for building trucks.

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So that was the secret of its durability. International presented the first generation in 1953, and the fourth and the last one in 1969. Sadly, they discontinued the Travelall in 1975. This was a shame since the company had high owner loyalty and satisfaction due to the quality and power of its vehicles. Customers could get the Travelall with a choice of six or eight-cylinder engines. AMC provided the smaller V6 engine, and International designed and produced the V8. The International Harvester company is still in business, but it is concentrating on medium and heavy trucks and equipment. But ever since they discontinued the Travelall, the car world hasn’t produced a model of similar quality, power, and dimensions.

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22. Jeepster Commando

The Jeepster Commando is a forgotten Jeep model they produced between 1966 and 1973. It was an upscale version of those pure off-road models featuring removable hardtops and a small truck bed behind the front seats. It was a practical model that drivers could use for cruising, as well as carrying smaller items and going off-road.

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Buyers had a wide selection of engines, from small inline-four and six cylinders to V6 and V8 engines. 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. Despite solid sales results, Jeep decided the Commando had no future in the market. So they discontinued this interesting, capable convertible SUV in the early ’70s.

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21. Dodge Ramcharger

The success of the Blazer and the Bronco inspired Dodge to offer its own off-road model. They based it on a shortened truck chassis with a closed body style. They named their new model the Ramcharger, introducing it in 1974, along with the identical Plymouth Trailduster. The base engine was a Chrysler venerable 225 slant six unit. However, buyers could choose between four more engines including the mighty 440 V8.

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The power level of this famous big block was not that high for 1974. However, loads of torque are more important for off-road driving and pulling the Ramcharger out of the mud. They presented the second generation in 1981 and discontinued it in 1994. Basically, it was just an update of the original design.

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20. Chevrolet Suburban

An interesting thing about the Suburban is that this is the longest-serving nameplate in car history. In fact, the first model under this name debuted in 1935. And right from the start, the Suburban defined itself as a people carrier in a body style closer to a minivan than to a regular wagon or SUV. During the ’50s and ’60s, the Suburban moved to the truck platform and benefited from advanced construction, a tough suspension, and a long list of engines and options.

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But at the same time, Chevrolet started introducing the all-wheel-drive option for its truck line. So, drivers could get the Suburban with the AWD drivetrain as well. This was the moment when the Suburban became an off-road model. The all-wheel-drive option proved popular during later generations. Soon, it became an almost mandatory option for the famous and long-serving seventh generation. They introduced it in 1973 and discontinued it in 1991.

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19. Jeep Wrangler

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, extremely capable, and everyday usable all-terrain vehicle. Jeep presented the Wrangler in 1985 to replace the Jeep CJ model.

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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.

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18. Dodge Carryall WC53

Not many people know that Dodge is one of the pioneers of off-road vehicles and trucks on the American market. One of the first was the innovative and influential Carryall WC53 they introduced at the beginning of WWII as a military vehicle. The Carryall got its name by using a 1939 Carryall body they mounted on the WC53 chassis.

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The WC Series Dodges were military vehicles with a three-quarter-ton capacity, tough underpinnings, and durable 4.0-liter straight six cylinders providing around 90 HP. This was one of the first closed off-road vehicles for transporting important military personnel. After the war, Dodge concentrated on Power Wagon truck production and decided the Carryall closed body was too rugged for the civilian market.

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17. Ford F-1 Marmon-Herrington Ranger

Ford offered their first 4×4 truck in 1959 and the first off-roader was the Bronco in 1966. However, even though those mainline Ford models were lagging behind the competition when it comes to all-wheel-drive, Blue Oval fans could get a closed off-road vehicle with a Ford badge on it with a factory warranty. They just sent their F-1 truck to Marmon-Herrington in Indianapolis and they would return it as a fully capable off-road model.

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The Marmon-Herrington company did significant changes to the drivetrain, suspension, and gearbox of the stock F-1, turning it into an extremely capable machine. However, this was an expensive process. Also, in the early ’50s, not many people knew about the possibility of owning a fully enclosed, new, and all-terrain capable Ford model. That’s why they only built 54 of them.

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16. Jeep Willys Wagon

After the war, there were lots of used Jeep Willys military vehicles that proved their worth on battlefields all over the world. However, most post-war buyers wanted something a bit more civilized and with a closed body. So Jeep produced the Willys Overland SUV, as well as a panel truck.

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Those cars used Jeep’s rugged mechanics and chassis construction but offered a bit more comfort, usability, and features. Using proven, four and six-cylinder drivetrains, the Willys Overland Jeep came in a pickup, station wagon, or panel wagon version. The buyers loved these models and besides the U.S., they assemble these Jeeps in South America, as well.

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15. Meyers Manx

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, 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. They finished the first prototypes in 1964 and full production followed.

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So by the early ’70s, they made more than 6,000. The construction was simple using a fiberglass tub they mounted on 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 the surfing culture.

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14. GMC Jimmy

GMC introduced the Jimmy as a mechanically identical car to the Chevrolet Blazer. However, the GMC Jimmy was still different thanks to the better-looking front end. Also, it had a bit more equipment and all-wheel drive came as standard. From the start, they intended the Blazer for a wide audience. But they also aimed the Jimmy towards the off-road enthusiast market. And that is why the GMC Jimmy is rare. The most popular versions are the early ones from the late ’60s and early ’70s.

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The engine lineup started with straight-six, but most buyers opted for the more powerful V8 engines. Just like the Blazer, the GMC Jimmy had a removable hardtop. These are the classic vehicles before those plastic SUVs took over. In fact, they are the best American off-road trucks they ever made. And although most SUV fans would like to see them return, they want them to retain their sturdy and rugged features.

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13. Jeep Cherokee XJ

Introduced in 1984, the Cherokee XJ generation was an enormous success for Jeep. It had a boxy-yet-elegant looks, great build quality, and lots of useful features. In fact, the second-generation Cherokee was the SUV of the ‘80s as well as a globally-successful model.

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Despite being a modern, comfortable vehicle, the Cherokee XJ retained all the Jeep characteristics like rugged mechanics and a dependable AWD drive train. Also, the engines were great, which helped it claim the title of one of the best SUVs of all time. In some foreign markets, they produced the Cherokee XJ until 2014. And that just shows how good of a car this Jeep was. The XJ is the next big thing since decent examples are hard to find yet people fondly remember this great vehicle.

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12. Ford Bronco II

Although the original Bronco was a capable off-road vehicle, its smaller and less powerful cousin Bronco II was not. Ford presented it in 1983 and sold it until 1990. And although the Bronco II had a V6 engine, they sold most of them with rear-wheel drive only. The Bronco II was an inexpensive way to get a compact SUV.

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However, they trimmed the suspension for paved roads. Also, it had relatively low power and not much in terms of rugged construction. So, the Bronco II wasn’t the wilderness-conquering vehicle everybody expected it to be. It also had some stability issues, so people have largely forgotten about it.

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11. Hummer H2

The Hummer H2 was the definitive useless SUV from the past decade that is a common sight on the roads. And this is despite being replaced by newer and more expensive yet still unnecessary luxury SUVs. When GM decided to put the Hummer into civilian production, the H1 was still too rugged for most buyers.

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So, the logical step was for GM to introduce the H2, which they built on a truck base and with a thirsty V8. Although it had a plush interior and a long list of options, it still looks like a battle tank. Even with its looks and V8 power, the H2 was not so good off-road. In fact, it was too big and heavy to manage any terrain course. Sadly, the people who bought it for its off-road capabilities wasted their money.

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10. Chevrolet S-10 Blazer

Like the Bronco II, the S-10 Blazer was a simpler, less expensive, and less capable version of a respected off-roader. Chevy introduced it in the early ‘80s, but this version of the Blazer was much smaller. Also, it was less powerful than the models from the late ‘70s that earned their reputation in the dust, mud, and deserts all over America.

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They sold the S-10 Blazer in rear-wheel-drive form and only with 4×4 as optional. Chevy based it on the S-10 truck chassis. Sadly, it came with the choice of four and six-cylinder engines that lacked power and torque.

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9. Legacy Power Wagon

Located in rural Wyoming, Legacy Classic Trucks specializes in restoring and restomoding 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. There are several classic trucks on offer, but the most interesting is the Legacy Power Wagon.

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Legacy based it on the legendary Dodge Power Wagon. But Legacy’s interpretation keeps the original design, durability, and usability. They also add a ton of modern features and encasements. This transformed this rugged truck from 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 in your Legacy Power Wagon, as well as an extended cab or double cab configuration. Best of all, the latest state-of-the-art electronics, suspensions, and comforts are part of the package.

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8. Jeep Willys Pickup

Willys was an economy car manufacturer before the Second World War. They produced Jeeps for the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1946. But when the war ended, Willys found it hard to transfer to passenger car production. They were left with a big amount of Jeep engines, chassis, and components. So the logical decision was to produce Jeeps for civilian use, mostly as farm and utility vehicles. Willys thought that ex-military personnel would buy Jeeps as everyday cars after they got to know them on the battlefield. It turned out that Willys was right and civilian Jeeps did, in fact, have a market in post-war America. However, the company wanted to go further, so they introduced a line of pickup trucks with Jeep mechanics, engines, and design but with a twist.

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The Willys pickups they introduced in 1947 had four-wheel drive, making them much more capable than any regular pickup truck available at the time. Today, four-wheel-drive trucks are nothing special since most new models come with 4×4 as standard. But back then, the four-wheel-drive was revolutionary. Although those early Willys Jeep truck had small 2.3-liter four-cylinder engines delivering 63 HP, they were tough, capable trucks with great traction, pulling power, and durability. Willys produced a couple of variants including a bare-bones chassis for custom bodywork. Over the years, Willys introduced bigger six-cylinder engines. However, they ceased the production of this original model in 1965 after building more than 200,000.

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7. Jeep Gladiator

A direct descendant of the legendary Willys Jeep Pickup, they unveiled the Gladiator in 1963 with fresh new styling and great new features. However, the most important upgrade was the independent front suspension similar to the Chevrolet C/K. Jeep wasn’t the first, but it was the first four-wheel-drive truck with that kind of front suspension.

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It was not hard to mount a double-wishbone suspension or A-arms with coil springs to the front end of a truck, which Chevy did in 1960. It was hard to do the same with the front axle going through the suspension components and powering the front wheels. As an all-wheel-drive and off-road authority, Jeep was able to make it work. The result was the first truck ever with an independent front suspension and 4×4 drivetrain, which was a huge achievement. The Gladiator immediately became the best off-road truck on the market. Even the U.S. Army used special versions for various duties. With powerful six-cylinder and V8 engines, the Gladiator was one of the best, most versatile trucks of the era.

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6. International Harvester Travelette

For those who don’t know, a crew cab configuration means that a truck has four doors and a truck bed. Today, the crew cab is a common option, so most new models, full size or compact have it as standard. But, back in the day, trucks only came in a single cab configuration with two doors. Back then, no one could imagine a truck with more than two doors that could carry more than two or three people inside.

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But in the early ’60s, International Harvester presented the Travelette version of their C-Series truck, which changed the industry with the first crew cab. Today, International Harvester is the famous producer of agricultural machinery and big trucks. But during those days, it was active in the pickup truck market. Their products were always heavy duty for professional users. They came with tough mechanics, big engines and durable components. The idea behind the Travelette was simple. Allow a group of six workers to travel together with their tools and equipment in the back of the truck.

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5. Kaiser Jeep M715

This interesting vehicle is primarily a military truck. But they sold a few of them to civilian customers. They based the M715 on the Jeep Gladiator pickup, introducing it in the late ‘60s for the U.S. Army. The engine was a dependable, strong six-cylinder with just 130 HP.

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However, it had a lot of torque, which was necessary to move this three-ton truck. They built the M715 to be easy to service and extremely durable, which is proved in the Vietnam War as well as several other conflicts. Kaiser Jeep produced over 30,000 M715s until 1969.

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4. Dodge Ram Cummins

There were diesel trucks before the ’80s-’90s Ram Cummins, but they weren’t as good as this one. Under the hood was a venerable 5.9-liter straight-six diesel engine with only 160 HP but a healthy 400 lb-ft of torque. However, for the 1991 model year, Dodge updated the truck, giving it more power and options.

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As a matter of fact, most diesel truck fans consider this to be the best year in the series. The power and torque figures seem low considering today’s engines, but this is an old truck with old technology. However, old technology doesn’t mean that the ’91 Ram Cummins is not a capable vehicle. With a 4×4 drivetrain, it is an extremely good truck.

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3. Chevrolet C/K “Square Body”

Chevy introduced the third generation of their popular C/K trucks in 1973. It was one of the biggest, most important trucks in their history. Not only it was advanced and well-engineered, but it also featured many firsts for Chevrolet and for the entire truck segment, as well. Chevy called it the “Square Body” for its boxy design.

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This third-generation C/K featured a computer-designed body with more space and comfort than ever before. The truck was bigger and tougher due to the new platform, revised suspension, and tougher axles. Customers had numerous cab configurations, special editions, engine options, and details to choose from, too. This made the third-generation C/K one of the best trucks in the world at the time. Chevy produced the C/K from 1973 to 1991 in the U.S. They also produced this model was in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and South Korea. During the long production run, Chevrolet introduced a diesel engine as an option. This proved to be a highly popular choice in Europe and South America.

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2. Jeep FC

All Jeeps are capable off-road SUV models with a characteristic design and signature appearance. However, in 1956, Jeep introduced a strange model they called the Forward Control or FC. It was a cab-forward, bulldog-style truck with the engine underneath the passengers and all-wheel drive.

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Even though the FC was a Jeep, which means it was a capable, tough, and durable machine, the market didn’t respond well. So, in its nine years of production, Jeep made just around 30,000 of them, mostly for the export market. Jeep thought the FC would be a bestseller, but on the domestic market, most buyers preferred models with a more formal look.

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1. Jeep CJ-6

When they presented the popular Jeep CJ-5, some customers complained about the lack of interior space since the CJ-5 was just a bit bigger than the classic military Jeep Willys. For those buyers, Jeep introduced the CJ-6 model in 1956. It was basically a CJ-5, but with a longer wheelbase and more space in the back.

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Even though it was more practical, the CJ-6 wasn’t popular with most buyers. Interestingly, there was also a military version they called the M170. But the easiest way to recognize the CJ-6 is with its increased length over the standard CJ-5. Also, some versions had a spare tire they mounted on the rear fenders.

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