Our favorite vintage trucks and 4x4s from Off-Road Expo
The Off-Road Expo in Pomona, California, brings together hundreds of companies from across the country that cater to the wide-ranging off-road vehicle market. Due in part to its southern California location, rock-crawling, desert-racing, and overlanding are the most popular niches, with many companies bringing vehicles that highlight their products or services. In turn, thousands of spectators show up to be inspired to tackle their own build, collect some swag, and perhaps hop into a lifted Jeep and get a ride around 4 Wheel Parts’ ’wheeling course.
The most popular vehicles were there to show off the latest in wheels, tires, suspensions, bumpers, and camping gear: Raptors, Colorados, Tacomas, and of course, Jeep Wranglers and the new Gladiator. However, we’ve got a soft spot for vintage metal and sought out the older pickups and 4x4s. Here are our favorite finds.
The early International Harvester Scout designs, the 80 and 800, had the same 100-inch wheelbase as the later Scout II, but with more compact dimensions and less overhanging sheet metal to get banged up off-road. This custom Scout takes those dimensions to the extreme with a chopped top, raised wheel openings, and a stretched wheelbase for an even better departure angle. It got rid of most of its rocker panels in the quest for better ground clearance, replacing them with rock rails capped with spider gears. The visible welds show exactly how the surgery was done to eliminate the Scout’s minimal flab and completely transform its look.
When that new Gladiator just isn’t big enough, it’s time for the Lobsterwagon. This Power Ram 250 had us nostalgic for 12-valve Cummins Rams and its eight-foot bed has so much room for off-road toys. Load up the cab with friends and hit the desert!
Square-body Chevy trucks were platforms for plenty of successful desert racers, but they never looked this good. Jake Velasco at JV Race Prep built this two-wheel-drive ’81 Chevy with modern off-road race tech and proven durability. It’s powered by a GM LSX V-8 and Turbo 400 transmission. The ECU is from Motec and inside, both driver and passenger/navigator have access to vitals from two separate Motec digital dashboards. We’re not sure there’s a name for this kind of build just yet, but it’s pretty much off-road Pro-Touring.
This 1983 Scrambler was built by WFO Concepts. It’s powered by a GM LQ9 6.0-liter V-8 and four-speed auto mated to an Atlas transfer case. The CJ’s suspension was scrapped in favor of Fox coilovers and a three-link in the front with a narrowed Ford Dana 60. The Dana 70 rear axle was moved back to reduce the significant overhang of the CJ-8 and was mounted with a triangulated four-link.
Rtech Fabrications builds beautiful, burly ’67–72 Chevy and GMC trucks and Suburbans using medium-duty front sheet metal. The result is a vintage truck with amazing presence. This 1972 crew-cab conversion is powered by a 12-valve Cummins and five-speed manual and rides on Chevrolet one-ton axles. Its paint scheme is perfect and it even has appropriate dealership emblems on the fenders.
What off-road show would be complete without a VW Bug? Simple, air-cooled construction and low cost meant that these VWs were a hit among desert racers and this lovely orange example looks like it could have been lifted from a ’70s magazine cover.
OK, this is kind of cheating, because nothing about this pickup is vintage except for its style. This ’35 Ford pickup from the movie Hobbs & Shaw is actually a fiberglass body from Factory Five dropped on top of a Pro 2 race truck chassis. As the name implies, it’s two-wheel drive. This one is powered by a GM LS V-8.
We didn’t find much information about this gorgeous ’63–66 Chevy pickup, but its crew cab conversion was top notch and it appeared to be powered by a Cummins inline-six diesel. The interior was flawless, as well.
Flexing on 40-inch Nitto Trial Grapplers, this 4Runner wore Toyota V6 badges, but under the hood was a GM LS V-8. Early, two-door 4Runners are becoming more and more valuable, with many off-roaders preferring the early, solid-axle examples.
How’s that for an approach angle? The Baja Boot won the 1969 Baja 500 when stuntman and motorcyclist Bud Ekins shared driving duties with Guy Jones. Its revolutionary design has spawned a recently-introduced new interpretation by Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus.
Griffen Fab Works didn’t build any old engine for this ’81 Chevy crew cab desert runner—they dropped a twin-turbo, 408-cubic-inch LS V-8 that churns out 1200 horsepower before the entire truck was coated in deep red metallic paint. Yeah, it’s got a lot of lights up top, but they’ll come in handy when the sun sets and the yucca and ocotillo whiz past the flared fenders.