Take On an Adventure with the Best Off-Road Vehicles from Then and Now

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Take On an Adventure with the Best Off-Road Vehicles from Then and Now
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

It is the month of May and we here at RacingJunk are celebrating a great time of the year for an outdoor adventure. Those of you who follow this website closely probably had the opportunity to read up on the history of one of our favorite pastimes: overlanding.

Now that you know more about this interesting activity and the adventurous lifestyle it offers, allow your friends here on the best performance classified site available to give you some background on the best off-the-grid vehicles throughout history that will give you, your friends and family the opportunity to enjoy a self-contained, go-anywhere ride where the trip is more about the journey than the destination.


Land Rover Defender

Take On an Adventure with the Best Off-Road Vehicles from Then and Now
Land Rover Defender on RacingJunk

One of the greatest 4x4s ever built is made with one specific mission in mind – to rove the land, regardless of the terrain or weather conditions. Evolved from a lineage that reaches as far back as the 1940’s, the first special edition Land Rover Defender was launched in the early 1990’s. Since the introduction, this British-born Land Rover model far outlived its expected lifespan due to its power, capability and adventurous features that far outweigh the competition.

With three special editions, including the:

• Adventure Edition: Great for those who prefer overlanding adventures in the true great outdoors, the Land Rover Defender Adventure Edition often comes standard with skid plates, Goodyear MT/R off-road tires, a roof rack, LED headlights, and a roof-level air intake.

• Autobiography Edition: For those who prefer their overlanding adventures with a twist of luxury, might be a bit more interested ultra extravagant Land Rover Defender Autobiography Edition. Offered as a 90-station wagon only, the Autobiography receives a full leather interior, and bright exterior trim. The final year of its release (2015), also includes a 2.2-liter turbodiesel that is tuned to produce 148 HP and up to 295 lb.-ft. of torque.

• Heritage Edition: The final release of the highly popular Land Rover Defender Heritage Edition gives a nod towards a retro-style front grille, steel wheels, and the HUE166 logo that graced an early prototype. This 4×4 Land Rover model also comes standard with an old-school Grasmere green paint job that evokes the look of the 1940s and 1950s models.

While Land Rover ceased production of the Defender in 2015, after 67 years of continual service as well as fame in movies like James Bond’s Skyfall and Ace Ventura: Nature Calls, you can see why this historically famous vehicle is one you should check out before taking your next off-road adventure.


Toyota FJ Land Cruiser

Take On an Adventure with the Best Off-Road Vehicles from Then and Now
Toyota FJ Land Cruiser on RacingJunk

Toyota’s off-road icon offers decades of adventuresome spirit. An offshoot of the Land Cruiser nameplate, the story of this hard-working machine began in 1941 after an American-made Willys Jeep was captured during World War II. After being sent to Toyota, the engineers decided to develop a reverse-engineered copy that looked just different enough from this Jeep model.

While this build would ultimately find its way to Land Rover, Toyota began the rebuild of its off-road focused vehicle – the Toyota FJ Land Cruiser – in the early 1960’s. Originally designed as two-door, highly capable body on frame SUV with four-wheel drive and either a gasoline or diesel engine in the FJ40 edition, the early 1980’s would give birth to the FJ Cruiser model, which remained one of Toyota’s most popular adventure vehicles until it ceased production of this historically adventurous vehicle in 2001.


Jeep Grand Cherokee

Take On an Adventure with the Best Off-Road Vehicles from Then and Now
Jeep Grand Cherokee on RacingJunk

First introduced as the Jeep Cherokee in 1974, one of Jeep’s most well-known vehicles has long been a family favorite for those who crave a vehicle that can handle an adventure and go anywhere (both on and off-road). In fact, this vehicle solidified the SUV market in the United States many years ago.

What was once a station-wagon looking SUV that had the feeling of a Vista Cruiser, the newly revamped Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was first introduced over 15 years ago, combines the legendary off-roading capability of most Jeep models with the on-road and interior comfort of a daily driver.

Thanks to its constant upgrades, this model continues to be one of the most awarded SUV’s and is still a force to be reckoned with no matter what adventure awaits you this summer.


Ford Ranger

Take On an Adventure with the Best Off-Road Vehicles from Then and Now
Ford Ranger on RacingJunk

While most who think about going for an adventure off the beaten path would probably consider taking along a boxy framed SUV, this type of vehicle is not your only option. If you are a hard core off-roader, whose next adventure is one with your adrenaline-junkie buddies, then you should check out two of the hardest working and most capable pickup trucks available.

The first of these trucks is one of the best-selling and most popular compact trucks on the road for the last 30 years. Launched in 1983, the Ranger was intended to be a domestic answer to the poplar import mini trucks. Now available with either a four- or six-cylinder engine, each 4×4 platform also includes Twin Traction Beam front and leaf-sprung solid-axle rear suspension and a front end that is more durable than most. This truck also includes an easily modifiable suspension system that can turn it into an off-road juggernaut. Now over 30 years since its inception, the Ranger even offers a best-in-class maximum 1,860-lbs. payload as well as a tow rating of up to 7,500-lbs.


Toyota Tacoma

Take On an Adventure with the Best Off-Road Vehicles from Then and Now
Toyota Tacoma on RacingJunk

The go-to pickup truck for many overlanding enthusiasts these days, the rugged yet fun-loving Toyota Tacoma was born into society over 20 years ago. Since its birth this truck has been a workhorse for drivers who have a job to do. In fact, this typical work truck took home the Truck of the Year award in 2005. It wasn’t until 10 years later that Toyota rolled out the TRD Pro Series Tacoma, turning this truck into an off-road genius thanks to TRD-tuned springs with 2.0 inches of lift in the front, a decreased spring rate. These off-road improvements have continued throughout the years and today even the standard model of the Toyota Tacoma includes off-the-grid features including Multi-terrain Select and Crawl Control.


Jeep Gladiator

Take On an Adventure with the Best Off-Road Vehicles from Then and Now
Image courtesy of Jeep

The latest wave of the adventurous future offers a vehicle that is part Jeep Wrangler and part pickup truck. First teased by the brand made famous for off-road warriors in 2005, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is built with adventure in mind thanks to a combination of impressive equipment like front and rear Tru-Lok locking differentials, FOX shocks and an available forward-facing TrailCam Off-Road Camera.

Along with impressive equipment, this unique pickup truck will also be powered by a Pentastar V6 that is capable of 285 HP and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. Being the powerful Jeep vehicle that it is, the newest vehicle in the SUV/pickup truck game is also capable of towing up to 7,650 lbs. and can even carry up to 1,600 lbs. The best part about the most futuristic vehicle on this adventuresome list is that the Gladiator includes an Overland trim. This model will also come standard with 18-inch wheels and tires, a fully steel bed with an aluminum drop down tailgate, 11.1-inches of ground clearance between the underside of the truck and the terrain so you can drive over obstacles without underbody damage, rock rails and an electronic disconnecting sway bar.

So, what are you waiting for? Whether you choose an old school classic or the newest adventure vehicle on the block, it is time to get out there and enjoy life in a whole new way.

About Ellen Richardson 436 Articles
Ellen Richardson is the author of Behind The Wheel for RacingJunk.com. This automotive sports junkie has a passion for telling an athlete's story while also covering various racing activities. Find out more about her at ellennrichardson.wordpress.com or follow Ellen on Twitter at @ellennrich or Instagram at elnrich33.

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