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Rugged Off-Roaders

Most off-roaders were tough, basic trucks intended for military, agricultural, and emergency service uses, or for hardy outdoor types, but changing attitudes saw them evolve into multipurpose vehicles that had just as much appeal on the road as off it. Trucktype leaf springs were replaced by coils for a more comfortable ride, with no loss of off-road ability, and some vehicles adopted car-like monocoque construction to cut weight while also improving refinement and driving dynamics. Demand rocketed as buyers caught on to the idea of tough, practical vehicles that could cope with any situation.

Lamborghini LM002, 1986


Engine5,167 cc, V12
Top speed125 mph (201 km/h)

Italian supercar-maker Lamborghini opened up a whole new market with the “Rambo Lambo”. Power came from a new version of the Countach’s huge V12 engine, feeding from six Weber carburettors. Huge, aggressive, and superfast on sand, the vehicle became a favorite among Arab oil sheikhs.

Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, 1979


OriginGermany / Austria
Engine2,746 cc, straight-six
Top speed92 mph (148 km/h)

Coil-sprung live axles gave the G-Wagen a smoother ride than its rival Land Rover, and it had axle differential locks for genuine, go-anywhere ability. But a high price and basic looks limited sales until Mercedes-Benz improved these in 1991, gradually taking the G-wagen upmarket.

Mitsubishi Pajero/Shogun, 1982


Engine2,838 cc, V6
Top speed96 mph (154 km/h)

Designed as a recreational vehicle rather than a workhorse, the Pajero offered car-like qualities with off-road abilities. Standard equipment was generous, and there was a wide range of engine choices, including a turbo diesel. A long wheelbase was launched to appeal to families.

Jeep Cherokee, 1984


Engine2,836 cc, V6
Top speed96 mph (154 km/h)

The XJ-series Cherokee was the first Jeep to have its chassis built into a monocoque, welded-steel bodyshell and was a much more civilized car to drive on the road than its predecessors. As a result, the jeep stole sales away from the conventional estate cars available at the time.

Rayton Fissore Magnum, 1985


Engine2,492 cc, V6
Top speed104 mph (168 km/h)

The Magnum was built by Fissore using a shortened, military, Iveco four-wheel-drive chassis. It had Fiat/VM/Alfa 4- or 6-cylinder engines—or a V8 in the US, where it was sold as a Laforza. A luxury model, the Magnum was designed to compete with the Range Rover.

Land Rover Discovery, 1989


Engine2,495 cc, straight-four
Top speed107mph (172km/h)

Bridging the gap between the basic Land Rover and the luxury Range Rover, the Discovery was superb off-road thanks to its coil-sprung beam axles, locking centre differential, and gusty engine. It also had a plush, Conran-designed interior, and won a British Design Council award.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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