5 all terrain vehicles to have fun in the wilds

Published on Wednesday, February 27, 2019.
Updated on Monday, April 29, 2019.

Winter is ending, but this doesn’t stop the desire for a pass-everywhere-by-all-weathers-vehicle.The snow may fall, as might the rain but the call of on outing in full sun, in the mountains or elsewhere, is still so tempting no matter the season. Here is a little selection of all terrain cars that are either iconic, or unknown. This way we can enjoy ourselves in a less ordinary fashion.

Mercedes Classe G

Just like the Land Rover Defender or the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Classe G is an automobile legend, one of the old fashioned four by fours’ last representatives made for military or utilitarian usages but that has become the diamond in the ruff for the rich of this world. In any case the advantage with such a car is its longevity and large production numbers which allows it to be accessible to most consumers.

Launched in 1979 by Mercedes and Steyr-Puch (who made it in Graz, Austria, the G has its Puch name on certain “alpine” markets such as in Austria, Switzerland or in Slovenia), it was to respond to a call to tender from the German army (a no-go) and then from the iranian army (failed again since the revolution came around then). Luckily the civil market seemed promising, while an agreement with Peugeot allowed the German four by four to disguise itself as French (with a 504 motor and a 604 gearbox) with 15,000 copies under the name of P4.

Bertone Freeclimber

This is truly an interesting curiosity : the fruit of Bertone’s design (and its needs to fill its industrial lines in Grugliasco, a german mechanic (BMW gasoline or diesel) and a Japanese 4 x 4 (the Daihatsu Rocky). The Freeclimber was a niche product , a connoisseurs car joining together performance, Japanese quality, german mechanics and Italian Luxury.

Here is the Freeclimbers true interest:  a specialized vehicle, but usable daily, particularly in the mountains.Rather compact, a bit rare (2,795 copies in the first series and 2,860 for the second). The little 4×4 signed Bertone that followed around the lines of the X1/9, the Spider Europa and the Ritmo Cabriolet is an initiated whim : it is very fun to not want what everyone else has.

The first series produced from 1989 to 1992 is esthetically heavier, while the second series, carried by a Daihatsu restyling and some Bertone touch ups seems more aerial. A 4×4 not to forget when making ones choice…

International Harvester Scout

Here is a rather unknown all terrain vehicle : the International Harvester is a brand that never crossed the Atlantique, unless you count sporadic exportations, or rather Europeanized confidential versions like the Monteverdi Safari. In the US on the other hand the Scout was for example, the Jeep CJs direct competitor with a very sixties look…You could almost hear the Beach Boys.

Born in 1961 in a utilitary logic but with a big American V8, the Scout slowly, little by little won over the American public while always going towards becoming more civilized. In 1971 it became the Scout II with a modernized design and a L6 Diesel Nissan to compliment the V8 AMC. However the two oil crisis’ of 1973 and 1979 put the car out of the game. It disappeared rather discreetly in 1980 after almost 200,000 copies sold.

If you like a change of scenery without giving up on obstruction clearance, if you like big V8s and the American Dream without sacrificing utility, here is the car for you. The trickiest  part will be undoubtedly to find a copy in Europe. But the heart wants what it wants, even when it seems impossible.

Santana Samuraï

Here is a totally little cute 4×4 that will fulfill it’s two missions : take you everywhere while being a beach car and vica versa.It is an excellent alternative to the age old Mehari but with 4 wheel drive and a modern seductive face. For a time it was distributed in France under the Spanish brand Santana.In the 80s it was Suzukis European Trojan horse when the quotas got stricker. The Samuraï (ou SJ410) knows how to do everything.

A Samurai is stylish in the city, useful in the country, and indispensable in the mountains. It is not the warrior that you would believe : it is small, light years away from the SUVs that invade our cities. Rustic, and economical (both to buy and to upkeep) it never complains at any task, all the while turning heads reminding people of Gerard Depardieu, in “ My father the hero” (among other films). This is an original, quirky  and rational choice at the same time.

They can be found at many prices under the Suzuki or more often the Santana brand. A good way to have fun at a low price while impressing the neighbors. A multitask 4 x4 that is a connoisseurs choice.

Citroën C15

All you need to do is take a few drives into the French countryside to see the true all-terrain, all-path car in vogue there since 1984. It is the Citroën C15 with its half-of-a Visa look. This utility vehicle with the double chevron has crossed through the decades to the continue to populate the fields and paths of Frances pretty provinces.

No need to check in Frenchy country the C15 is everywhere and despite the absence of the integral transmission it combines all the Citroën know-how to go everywhere in every circumstances in a 2CV, a Dyane or an Acadiane. Of course the C15 has not yet successfully been fashionable probably because it is still used on the farm, for hunting or on outdoor markets confirming its country image. All the same it is part of the French landscape a rare car that in France everybody knows! I dare any French person to raise his hand if he doesn’t have a memory associated with this car!

At this time when the utilitarian versions have already started to accumulate value (the 2CV AU, AZU, AK and AKS, but also the Acadiane) taking a bet on a C15 with proved robustness can be a way to associate usefulness and fun?

Other probable alternatives : Hummer H1 or possibly Lamborghini LM002

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