Redusernab Asks- What Country Makes the Best Off-Roaders?
Modern four by fouring evolved out of the military work trucks that helped the Allies win WWII. Thanks to the Marshall Plan, even our vanquished former foes have had the opportunity to get in on the game, some initially building near-clones of existing trucks. Over the years since, what were once utilitarian workhorses have evolved into the brawny status symbols we see today. But that’s not to say there haven’t been a lot of stellar contenders for toughest truck sprinkled along the way.
Of course here in the States we’ve anointed the Ford-designed and Willys-built Jeep as our iconic off-roader, and in one form or another it’s been in steady production since the war. Jeep, it seems, has defined the genre here in the States, despite worthy competition from other makers, including that of its military replacement.
Britain’s Land Rover Series, debuting in 1948, was inspired by America’s Jeep, and in many ways the Brit could go toe to toe with the Yank. Rather than military use, the Land Rover was intended to be an all-purpose utility vehicle for farmers, and a another major difference between it and the Jeep was the use of aluminum for the bodywork. That was driven, not by plan, but by necessity as steel was being rationed in Britain after the war, but there was a god bit of sur aluminum around.
Over on the Continent, manufacturers with nearly unpronounceable names were developing off-roaders with capabilities of near biblical scale. The Pinzgauer was created by the Austrian maker of all things moped – Steyr-Daimler-Puch – in the late ’60s, and brought a new level of prowess to the breed. Portal axles, a central transmission and differential, all helped to give the military-aimed truck legendary capabilities. An edelweiss field away in Germany, Unimog built a truck with similar features.
There’s few product niches in which the Japanese fail to compete, and the off-roader is one where they can tout success. Nissans have been Patrolling the globe for decades, and Toyota’s Land Cruiser has become almost as beloved and esteemed as either the Land Rover or Jeep. In fact, while the Land Rover was inspired by the Jeep, the Land Cruiser’s ancestors were actually based on the specs of a Bantam Mk II captured during the war. The Toyota trucks of today are luxo-barges, but the originals could seriously rock the rocks.
So with of all those, the multitude of others, each country has bona fides to extol in claiming the crown of producer of the world’s best off-roaders. But which one is it?
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