Vintage truck built for SEMA on display during Spring Off-Road Expo | Nicole James photos
When wanderlust takes us through the mountains, mud, water, or simply on the road less traveled, the best off-road vehicles to use are those that were built when capability mattered more than connectivity.
More and more enthusiasts are venturing off-road in older four-wheel-drive pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles because they are tough, stylish, and offer plenty of room for gear. The mechanical simplicity of these 4x4s makes for fun driving, and a thriving aftermarket industry means they can be built into near-heroic off-road machines with off-the-shelf parts.
Vintage VW Bug set up for off-road
Classic off-roaders certainly are becoming more popular with collectors — and with the auction companies that supply their needs — but there are many events in which they can exercise them just like a vintage sports car in a road rally and in vintage racing.
The Spring Edition of the Off-Road Expo, held recently with sponsorship from Nitto Tire and the City of Scottsdale, was inspired by the Off-Road Expo traditionally held in Pomona, California, each October. Like the established event, the Arizona show offered a collection of off-road companies, parts, equipment, gear, and experts in activities from off-road racing to rock crawling, trail riding to sand sports, and from camping and adventure travel in vehicles on two or four wheels.
Other popular events in the genre include the Vintage Offroad Nationals, held in mid-September and featuring classes such as Heavey Metal, Wheelie, 2WD, 4WD, and stadium trucks. Additionally, the Men’s Art Council, known for organizing the Copperstate vintage sports car road rally, stages a Copperstate Overland event for vintage 4x4s.
While not classified as events specifically for vintage off-road vehicles, they also participate in the Baja1000 each November, the Jeepers Jamboree in July, the King of the Hammers and the Texas Heatwave.
Vintage display vehicles
Vaughn Gittin Jr., self-declared professional fun-haver and Formula Drift driver, competed in the 2015 King of the Hammers and earned a top 10 finish. Afterward, he. built a vehicle to use in the Ultra4 Racing Series, a 1966 Ford Bronco he likes to call “Bronky.”
The series holds events across the United States, each featuring a variety of terrain from wide-open desert to rock crawling areas and demanding short courses. To be successful, a team needs both a machine and a pilot that can excel in all driving conditions.
Other events are expected to arise, along with aftermarket support, as the vintage off-road category grows.
And that growth also figures to be experienced in the collector vehicle marketplace as Ford rolls out new versions of the Bronco and Ranger in the next couple of years. As with other reborn vehicles, the introduction of new ones should boost the values of the older models.