When you think of some of the most iconic cars that have ever hit the market, chances are at least a few of the vehicles that come to mind will be SUVs. Sturdy and strong, SUVs are some of the most capable and useful cars out there. They are a key part of America’s post industrial revolution DNA, serving this country through war, hardship, and everyday life. Whether carrying families from one place to another, or helping single drivers find adventure, SUVs offer utility in any scenario, which is why these vehicles are so trusted by American drivers. Over the past 75 years, many popular SUVs have hit the scene, and there are many models that are sure to have you scouring your local used car dealer in the hopes of catching a glimpse. Some of the strongest and most distinct vehicles ever made have been SUVs, so there’s a lot to celebrate when it comes to vehicles like them.
From Chevy, to Jeep, to Nissan and beyond, there are many automotive brands that have contributed to the extensive lexicon of high-class SUVs over the years. The innovation and ingenuity that came from those names and many more not only redefined the automotive industry, but also changed what it meant to own a car at various points. SUVs led the charge on vehicles that were practical and built for everyday use in many ways, and their insurgence in the mid-1980s caused the automotive industry as a whole to focus more on quality of life features in vehicles rather than just power and performance. That’s not to say that SUVs have traditionally been built without performance in mind. Models such as the 1970 Range Rover or the 1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer will show just how powerful these vehicles could be, even in the early days.
With so many iconic SUVs over the years, buying a used SUV could mean that you’re buying a piece of history. From unbeatable performance specs to bold and striking style, classic SUVs are some of the most distinct vehicles you can find. Though some of these models are easier to find than others, you’ll definitely want to check nearby dealerships for these vehicles that kept Americans going further and faster than they ever thought possible in their day.
1960 Toyota Land Cruiser
Sporting a design that remained consistent with the wartime needs of previous decades, the 1960 Toyota Land Cruiser is a bulky powerhouse that was built to handle anything. Despite its militaristic style, the Toyota Land Cruiser was built with all sorts of purposes in mind, while still offering the power necessary to answer the call to action at the drop of a hat.
This earlier iteration of the Toyota Land Cruiser runs on a 3.9L I-6 engine that produces up to 115 horsepower, which was quite impressive in its day. This SUV brought the power of military vehicles to the public in many ways. While it wasn’t always practical for adventure use due to its bulkier frame, it was a sturdy companion for practical, everyday tasks. The 1960 Toyota Land Cruiser seated up to five riders, making it perfect for families or groups that wanted to hit the town, or the trails.
1966 Ford Bronco
A few years later, Ford would release the first ever generation of their now iconic Ford Bronco SUV in 1966. Touted as a car that could go everywhere and do anything, the Ford Bronco was built with adventure in mind since its very first iteration. This SUV came with a variety of amenities that made it highly practical for everyday use, while also featuring work utility and performance features that made it capable of handling tough jobs.
Powered by a 105-horsepower I-6 engine, it had the power to go wherever it wanted to at the time of its initial release. This model also had the option of doors without windows or frames, making it a comfortable open-air vehicle in warmer climates that could be shielded from the elements with a vinyl top. The first Ford Bronco also featured plenty of cargo space that made it possible to bring all sorts of toys along from the journey, solidifying this SUV as an adventure vehicle that was just as good for work as it was to play.
1989 Mitsubishi Montero / Dodge Raider
If there’s one SUV on this list that could command and rule any road confidently, it’s the 1989 Misubishi Montero. These SUVs were compact and intimidating, with a short length, but stocky build that exuded strength. Though the Montero got a slow start in the US, despite being rebadged and sold as the Dodge Raider as well as a Mitsubishi, it eventually gained enough traction to make a name for itself as a formidable family vehicle.
The 1989 Montero was quite powerful when compared to other models of its caliber, with a 143-horsepower 3.0L V6 engine that thoroughly beat most of the competition. The Montero came with all the off-roading capability you could ever want in an SUV, if at the cost of interior space. Its large, all-terrain tires helped with this, making the vehicle perfect for families that were looking for excitement. Later iterations of the Montero would increase the overall length and interior space of the vehicle, making it better suited for practical everyday use.
1990 Jeep Grand Wagoneer
When it comes to iconic SUVs, there is no model quite as recognizable as the 1990 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. This vehicle is the quintessential family car, with that classic wood paneling on its sides that so many grew up with. The Jeep Grand Wagoneer encapsulates the spirit of its generation in its peak eclectic style calling back to the 1970s. Being a Jeep, this SUV is also highly practical as well, making it clear that there was a reason this vehicle was so common in its heyday that went beyond its distinct style.
The 1990 Grand Wagoneer’s 5.9L V8 engine produced 144 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, making it great for all varieties of practical use. Whether you were taking the kids to school or hauling lighter weight machinery, this SUV could handle it. The Grand Wagoneer also featured four wheel drive, making it capable of taking on any elements you threw at it in all sorts of different climates. Its performance specs were, of course, complimented by its singular style, which is sure to stir memories in countless drivers the moment they lay eyes upon it.
The vast world of SUVs is an exciting one to explore. The way in which these vehicles have affected the automotive industry in America, and even the world, is immense, and they continue to redefine what it means to drive a practical car. Vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser, which captures the rugged utility of wartime vehicles, remind us of how far we’ve come in the past 70 years. All of these models illustrate how SUVs have gone from being vehicles created out of necessity to being vehicles that serve drivers in all-new ways. Whether you’re a car enthusiast or a casual driver who wants to take advantage of classic style and bold performance, vintage SUVs are sure to create excitement, so next time you’re perusing a used car lot, keep an eye out for iconic vehicles such as these.