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A popular vehicle for Cleveland car sales, an orange 1950's Jeep CJ-5, is shown.

The Best-Ever Out-Of-Production Off-Road Vehicles

Most people spend their lives looking for a thrill, whether it be the thrill of asking your crush on a date or diving out of a perfectly good airplane. Thrills come in all shapes and sizes, as do cars. When you put them together, you get off-roading.

Off-roading can take you to places you have never been before—but, to do it, you need a vehicle that can take you there. If you are looking for an off-road vehicle and are scouring Cleveland car sales, consider the vehicles on this list and what made them stand out as the ultimate off-roading machines.

The Jeep CJ-5

Production of the CJ-5 started in 1954 and lasted until 1983—a sign of its popularity. The CJ callsign stands for “civilian Jeep,” owing to its former prevalence as a military vehicle. Plenty of upgrades and variations were made throughout its long run, and the later years provided a great foundation for the off-roader, offering upgrades previously unavailable. Models produced in the late ’70s featured a V8, while later models sported an inline six-cylinder.

A strong box-welded frame supported the V8 or six-cylinder, depending on your chosen model. The welded design has carried on, serving as the base of all present-day Jeeps. The Jeep CJ-5 was equipped with a Quadra-Trac system, the Jeep’s four-wheel drive system. The CJ-5 was designed wide, with a short wheelbase, making it easy to maneuver. It was also fairly lightweight—another attribute that makes off-roading easier. During the later years, a special edition called the Renegade was released, providing a sportier look to the Jeep. The Renegade persisted until the CJ-5 ended its reign in 1983.

The Suzuki Samurai

The Suzuki Samurai was a rather small vehicle, but that is one of the things that made it such a great off-road vehicle. Thanks to its pint-sized design, it was easy to maneuver when faced with tight spaces. The engine was a four-cylinder 1.3L aluminum dream machine. Its total power may seem mediocre compared to today’s standards, but the engine could definitely pull its own.

The Samurai had a four-wheel drive that used rear-wheel when necessary. It could be shifted to four-wheel drive at any time, assuming you were rolling in a straight line. Thanks to its lightweight design and stiff suspension, the Samurai had no qualms about climbing rocks or fording thick mud.

The Isuzu VehiCROSS

The Isuzu VehiCROSS was an SUV designed to conquer the unpaved roads of adventure. It was a limited-run vehicle, done through a pretty cool ceramic stamping process. Unfortunately, this means that, if you want one to go exploring in, it may be a bit harder to find. This is disappointing because, honestly, the Isuzu VehiCROSS almost beat out all the others on this list due to how purely awesome it is.

The bones of the VehiCROSS were the chassis of the Japanese Trooper RS. It was made available in either a two-door or a four-door, and a stiff suspension kept the VehiCROSS rolling even over the toughest and roughest of terrain.

The front rocked a torsion bar and double wishbone suspension. The torsion bar enabled improved self-leveling by twisting to climb over obstacles. The double wishbone suspension allowed the wheels to operate separately, thus ensuring a smoother ride. The rear was a four-link and coil spring set-up, offering exquisite articulation.

One of the coolest features of the suspension, however, was the shocks. The monotube dampers were designed with 6061-T8 aerospace-grade aluminum. This unique design helped to keep the shocks cool and keep the vehicle from running out of steam too quickly when dealing with difficult terrain.

Under the hood of the VehiCROSS was a dual overhead cam V6 3.5L engine. This was paired with a four-speed automatic transmission and primarily rear-wheel drive; it could, however, revert to a four-wheel drive when needed, allowing the front axle to kick in to improve traction whenever you needed that extra grip.

The 1973 Chevy K5 Blazer

In 1973, the Chevy K5 Blazer had already been on the market for a few years, impressing enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike. The first generation was based on the C/K pickup platform, but 1973 marked a redesign that blew the K5 out, stretching its form. The new square-body design boosted the Blazer’s aggressive personality.

Some positive features that were introduced with the first generation made the jump, like a spacious cabin and the fully removable top, which transformed it into a convertible-style SUV. The K5 also featured a small-block V8 paired with a three-speed automatic transmission. An upgrade to a Dana 44 front axle—including heavy-duty front springs—added real might to the Blazer’s strength. This improved suspension made it ideal for off-roading adventures whenever the road would bite back.

The Hummer H1 Alpha

The Hummer H1 Alpha was one tough cookie. Created from the militaristic monster that is the M998 Humvee, the Hummer H1 Alpha didn’t take guff from anyone or anything. The H1 was first unleashed in 1992, but it was in 2006 that it received the serious upgrade it deserved. It was “out with the old and in with the new” when a Duramax 6600 6.6L V8 diesel engine fell from the off-roading heavens and landed in the front block of this beast.

The Duramax was paired with an Allison transmission, which is rather exciting given that the Allison 1000 five-speed automatic is renowned for being smooth and reliable. It was the perfect pairing for the Duramax, which pumped out 300 hp and an impressive 520 lb-ft of torque—plenty of power to climb, crawl, or cruise down a trail.

Of course, it wasn’t just about the engine and transmission; there were many components behind why the H1 was so incredible. For one, the wheels were double bead locked. This means an insert pinched the tires to keep them sealed tightly so the air pressure within could be adjusted. (Lowering a tire’s air pressure creates a larger footprint and makes it easier to tackle terrain.) The tires also included a run-flat system inside. Run flats are designed to take damage and keep going. This is great if you are on the trail and a tire gets punctured; you will still be able to make it home on the punctured tire without worrying about lugging around a tire that’s bigger than you are.

Providing some assistance to the meaty tires and the burly engine was a body designed to survive almost anything. The H1 was crafted from hardened aircraft aluminum and had remarkable approach and departure angles. Sitting 16 inches off the ground, the H1 was ready to clear almost anything, especially with the addition of bash plates protecting the undercarriage. Plus, the designers of the H1 made sure to keep the tidbits that kept this monster alive tucked away for safekeeping. The engine sat high as well, allowing for a water-fording depth of 30 inches, making it possible to puddle-jump through the deepest of potholes.

The suspension was finely tuned for off-roading, too. Independent front and rear suspension, with shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar, helped keep the trails an easy ride. A steel frame, five crossbars, and a wide wheelbase kept this brute stable. Sure, the widened wheelbase didn’t make for nimble maneuvering, but it kept you firmly on the ground.

To Each Their Own

Okay—so the Hummer H1 Alpha may not be everyone’s ideal off-road vehicle. The fact that it was the size and weight of a boulder made it less agile than some other off-road vehicles. Plus, the initial cost—not to mention the cost to keep it fueled—was enough to bring water to your eyes, but that didn’t do much to lessen the appeal. It was an aggressive and exciting off-road vehicle that was guaranteed to bring thrills.

So, it comes down to the kind of off-roading you plan to do and what you value. With that in mind, all of these candidates are fantastic options. Now, you just have to, well, find one!

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