A product of World War II, the jeep set the bar for overland vehicles that could accomplish just about anything, be it in desert, mountain or jungle environment. However it also spawned an entire class of vehicles that aimed to do the same thing in their own way, and some of these classics deserve to stand alone in their own right.
Toyota J40 Land Cruiser
When the Japanese Army found a couple U.S. Army jeeps laying around the Philippines in 1942, they promptly shipped them back home and soon were cranking out a vehicle that was more or less a reversed-engineered jeep. This light off road truck, the AK10, was made by Toyota who in the 1950s refined the design into a vehicle that became the J40 series Land Cruiser by the end of the decade.
This handy little 4×4 with its 90-inch wheelbase and F-series OHV inline-6-cylinder engines, was a torque-monster. These heart of these beasts had cast-iron blocks and heads that just exuded reliability even if they only generated 105-horses. In production from 1960-1984, these Japanese jeeps have a huge body of collectors and admirers for good reason.
International Harvester Scout
In 1961, International Harvester, best known for their tractors and farm trucks, decided to enter the off-road vehicle market. Their offering, the Scout, was the closest thing to a sport utility vehicle of the time. Round headlights and flat sides with gentle contours gave it a very jeepy-appearance but Dana axles kept it relevant. Since the company only made huge V8s for their truck line, they simply chopped one in half and produced a massive 93 and then later 152-horse four-cylinder chunk of a motor that while not very fast, had enough torque to pull a house down if needed. Popular with sportsmen of the day, these vehicles helped inspire a number of further imitators. The last Scout was made in 1980.
Ford Bronco I
If you take the proven formula of a 90-ish inch wheelbase, strait-six engine, rugged styling, and add Dana hubs and transfer case as well as coil springs rather than leaf-type designs, you have the Ford Bronco in its earliest concept. Introduced in 1966 following the lead of the original Jeeps, Scouts, and Land Cruisers, the Bronc upped the ante and used a frame and body that its competitors would have to play catch up to match. Powered by Ford’s 2.8L inline six engine, it inspired the Chevy Blazer long before OJ used a modernized Bronc on his famous ride. These reliable land beasts were a favorite of the early Baja 1000 races through some of the worst desert in the world, with perhaps the most famous being Parnelli Jones’s 1971-era “Big Oly.”
Land Rover III
The British Leyland Motor Corporation owned the Land Rover company in the 70s and 80s. This group took the original rovers of the 1950s, which were a very English homage to the Jeep, and improved them to become one of the most popular safari vehicles of the 20th Century. These vehicles, the Series III or S3, were in production for nearly two decades.
Beginning in 1960, these 88-inch wheelbase off road vehicles, most commonly seen with either a gentle 73-horse four-cylinder or a more beefy 2.6L inline six that produced a more reliable 86-horses, were a staple of the British military. Nearly a half million were produced, making them very common around the world with a fair share of these in the U.S. Bottom line is, no matter which of these you choose, any are guaranteed to catch the eye of those you pass. Even jeep owners.