Walk into a dealership, and you’ll find a new SUV capable of meeting any challenge you can think of. Looking for off-road capability? Check. Advanced sound system? Semi-automated driving assistance? Check and check. Their adaptability has fuelled the popularity of SUVs and crossovers today. But for those who want a simpler truck without all the bells and whistles, modern cars may not fit the bill. Like other rare vehicles, classic SUVs are now increasing in value. With unique design features, dependability, and easy repairs, the trucks of the 70s and 80s offer drivers old-school strength and capability.
The SUV is a much more common beast now than it was three decades ago, and designs and features have started to converge along with the increased competition. Now, many modern SUVs look eerily similar, and branded front grilles are recognizable from a mile away. Before the push for differentiated corporate branding, carmakers still played around with logos, materials, and finishes within their line-ups. So, turning back the clock on your ride means you can enjoy more unique styling. Real wood details and extra cushy seats were the highlights of game-changing luxury 4x4s such as the Jeep Wagoneer of the 80s. This first luxury SUV had wood accents throughout the interior, tons of room, and a fully carpeted rear cargo area, says Autotrader.com contributor Doug DeMuro. These older SUVs were not just everyday cars, but were built to give drivers a memorable ride.
The technology in early 4x4s also paved the way for luxuries we take for granted today. Although there were no media screens, adjustable suspension, or terrain response systems, the Jeep Wagoneer already offered a useful key-turn activated automatic back window. Today, the Ford Highlander, the T4Runner, and others still have similar features. In 1986, the Wagoneer had power windows, seats, locks, and mirrors- but was also practical enough to allow the change to 4 Wheel Drive with just a switch. With no crash protection to take up space, SUVs like the 80s Toyota Land Cruiser had larger windows and superior visibility compared to today’s SUVs.
It’s counter-intuitive, but simpler may actually be safer. Some point out that the lack of driver assistant warnings in older SUVs encourages drivers to keep their eyes on the road. At the same time, their hefty frames and no crumple zones ensure they’re tough and dependable even without added safety features. Plus, if components fail, older trucks are much easier to diagnose than modern cars that run on computers. Your mechanic won’t have to plug into a diagnostic computer, and you’ll often be able to buy the part you need over the counter without a fuss. In the internet age, it doesn’t have to be hard to locate the parts for an older car.
For all these reasons, more people are now in the market searching for the SUVs they grew up with. For those who are looking for a driveable truck that will drag a load up a cliff without warning, an older SUV may be the way to go. In the automotive world, nostalgia often equals value. But when it comes to classic trucks, simple, tough design and an engaged driving experience is where it’s at.