5 4WDs that need to rise from the dead

4WDrive - - Contents - Words by Budd Stan­ley, photos courtesy of Toy­ota, Nis­san Land Rover and Ford

We here at 4W Drive Mag­a­zine love the Jeep Wran­gler for ob­vi­ous reasons. In terms of new ve­hi­cles, the Wran­gler in Ru­bi­con trim is the finest out-of-the-box 4WD money can buy from a Cana­dian show­room. How­ever, our big­gest is­sue with the Wran­gler – other than some build quality is­sues – is that it has an en­tire seg­ment all to it­self. Our plight is that the Wran­gler has no real com­pe­ti­tion.

Stuck in a sealed tube seated next to edi­tor Irons for three hours on a re­cent flight, his se­ries of grunts and moans could only be trans­lated into co­her­ent speech once the topic of Jeeps arose. My ques­tion to him was, “what ve­hi­cle sold today does the Jeep Wran­gler do bat­tle with in the 4WD mar­ket?” Af­ter much head and tummy scratch­ing, we re­ally couldn’t place a di­rect com­peti­tor. The Mercedes G-Class and Land Rover LR4 are both very ca­pa­ble off-road­ers, but both have low hang­ing body­work, come with ridicu­lously low­pro­file tires, and let’s not even get into the price. The cost of mend­ing a torn up bumper on a G-Wagon or Landy is about the same as buy­ing a new Wran­gler.

Our con­clu­sion, the Wran­gler is in a league of its own. It has no real com­pe­ti­tion. The only com­peti­tors we could find were ve­hi­cles that are long since ex­tinct. Which brought us to an in­ter­est­ing con­clu­sion; which ded­i­cated 4WD’s need to rise from the dead. This is what our nim­ble minds came up with.

Toy­ota Land Cruiser/FJ Cruiser

The Land Cruiser has long since left Cana­dian shores, only slightly rep­re­sented in spirit by the Lexus LX570. Then, when the FJ Cruiser was abol­ished, we were left with no real off-road equiv­a­lent. Yes, Toy­ota has sup­plied us with the TRD Pro-Se­ries ver­sions of the Tacoma and Tun­dra, but when it comes to an off-road SUV with high-clear­ance over­hangs and a rea­son­able wheel­base fit for cross­ing deep

trenches, Toy­ota’s Land Cruiser line was one of the world’s best.

Iron­i­cally, the FJ Cruiser was cre­ated just for this rea­son, but af­ter ten years, we’ve lost it once again. We are go­ing to blame both the cus­tomer base and Toy­ota on the death of the FJ. When Toy­ota did just as we asked, and brought a true off-roader to mar­ket, we re­warded them with only two good years of sales. From 2008 on, the FJ’s sales plum­meted and never re­cov­ered. That be­ing said, Toy­ota ne­glected to up­date the FJ dur­ing its ten-year life­span to help at­tract cus­tomers. Re­gard­less, we sure do miss a Land Cruiser op­tion in the Toy­ota lineup, es­pe­cially since so many other coun­tries still get one. There is hope how­ever. Toy­ota USA builds a TRD Pro-se­ries ver­sion of the 4Run­ner. With the Pro-Se­ries name start­ing to in­fect Toy­ota’s Cana­dian fleet, a Pro-Se­ries 4Run­ner could very well be the clos­est com­pe­ti­tion the Wran­gler could have in this modern era.

In­ter­na­tional Scout

Ah the Scout, a no­ble and iconic off-road fo­cused Ute that un­for­tu­nately did not pass the test of time here in Canada. Un­like our first two brands, In­ter­na­tional Har­vester isn’t around any­more, mor­ph­ing into Nav­is­tar who con­cen­trate on medium and heavy­duty com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles. So, there is lit­tle to no hope that the Scout could make a re­turn.

Re­gard­less, we miss the Scout’s sim­plis­tic de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing, its big V-8 noises… some of its power, and its avail­abil­ity in so many con­fig­u­ra­tions. It won off-road races and spawned spe­cial edi­tions based on its plat­form all over the world. Un­for­tu­nately, the fail­ures of the In­ter­na­tional CXT and MXT likely proved to be the nail in the cof­fin for any fu­ture en­deav­ors Nav­is­tar may want to take in the pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle mar­ket. So, if you hap­pen to have one rest­ing in a field or barn, bring it in out of the rain and re­store it back to run­ning con­di­tion, don’t let the Scout die off com­pletely.

Nis­san Pa­trol

Not many peo­ple know this, but the Nis­san Pa­trol was once sold in Canada for a short pe­riod of time back in the 60’s. It

may not have had the pop­u­lar­ity or the rugged re­li­a­bil­ity of the Land Cruiser, but the lit­tle Nis­san (yes, it was called a Nis­san de­spite be­ing sold in Dat­sun deal­er­ships) was very sim­i­lar and had the same “go any­where” na­ture of its Ja­panese coun­ter­part.

The Pa­trol was slightly smaller than its Toy­ota cousin, but still made use of a 4.0L straight-six that put 133 hp to all four wheels. Un­for­tu­nately, while the Pa­trol be­came an off-road icon in other coun­tries, the name left Canada long ago. Today, only the Nis­san Ar­mada holds any family lin­eage to the over­seas Pa­trol. Any hope for a fu­ture Wran­gler com­peti­tor is not likely, as Nis­san has cho­sen to axe their only off-road in­spired SUV – the Xterra.

Land Rover Se­ries

Like the Pa­trol, the De­fender was once sold in Canada, al­beit for a very short pe­riod of time. But be­fore the 25 De­fend­ers rolled off the boat from Soli­hull, the Land Rover Se­ries I, II and III were a com­mon site in the moun­tains of BC and the agri­cul­tural lands right across the na­tion. Un­like today’s ‘pretty’ Land Rovers; the orig­i­nal Landys were any­thing but. They were born from the suc­cess of the Willy’s Jeep and brought 4WD ca­pa­bil­i­ties to farm­ers and out­doors­man through­out the Com­mon­wealth and the rest of the world.

While the pre­vi­ous three ve­hi­cles on our list have very lit­tle chance of mak­ing a re­turn to the mar­ket, there is a small chance that the Se­ries Land Rover could be rein­car­nated as the next gen­er­a­tion De­fender. While we ea­gerly await word that the De­fender will in fact come back to mar­ket, let’s also hope that this 4WD will be res­ur­rected to its his­tor­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties, be avail­able on Cana­dian shores, and be within the fi­nan­cial reach of the com­mon man. I know, we’re ask­ing a lot, but let’s hope Land Rover see value in a Wran­gler com­peti­tor.

Ford Bronco

The Bronco is yet an­other off-road icon that left us all too soon, and back in the 70’s was quite likely the Wran­gler’s great­est threat. That threat soon de­flated, then died off com­pletely, leav­ing the Wran­gler in the un­chal­lenged mar­ket it en­joys today. How­ever, it is with the Ford Bronco where the great­est hope of a com­peti­tor lies.

It seems as though all the prod­uct plan­ning peo­ple in Dear­born are get­ting tired of see­ing so many Wran­glers pass­ing by their win­dow on a daily ba­sis. Fields of Wran­glers with no com­mon preda­tor to keep their num­bers in check. While un­con­firmed ru­mours that the Bronco could be mak­ing a re­turn to the SUV mar­ket in 2020 are just that – ru­mours – but there is some ev­i­dence to back this up. Ford is ex­pand­ing pro­duc­tion lines and have an­nounced that five new SUV names will be launched in the next five years. They also hinted that these SUVs would swim in mar­kets Ford doesn’t al­ready tread water. That means an of­froad fo­cused SUV could quite likely be on the way. Enough is enough, the Wran­gler needs a ri­val.

One of the most char­ac­ter­ful 4WDs sold; we’ll likely never see the Scout again. Both the Wran­gler and the Land Cruiser were born from the suc­cess of the Willy’s Jeep. But only one re­mains.

The Nis­san Pa­trol was not a widely pop­u­lar 4WD, but it was a wor­thy Wran­gler ri­val.

An old ri­valry could be reignited with the pos­si­ble re­turn of the Bronco.

Be­fore all the pomp and cir­cum­stance, Land Rover built proper down and dirty al­ter­na­tives to the Wran­gler.

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