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Years of Amazing Offroading!
When you hear the shout to action, "Let's head offroad!" how do you feel? Does it cause your heart to skip a beat and a smile to come across your face? Well for a long time - since around World War II days in fact - those words have done exactly that for millions of people around the world.
Talk about 4x4 Bronco's and Chevy Pickups and offroading and you can see the blink in their eyes - that is where the magic happens!
4WD and off roading go hand in hand - or should I say tire by tire. Sure it costs money, but offroading has been a hobby and even a lifestyle for close to 3 quarters of a century, now. There are good reasons why.
As you probably know a 4x4 ("four-by-four") is a vehicle with four wheels where all wheels are connected to the drivetrain. That way you get all four wheels helping out in low traction situations like when you are driving on rough trails or off-road. Although many 4x4s are never taken off-road we at 4x4OffRoads are of course focusing on the REAL 4x4 trucks and SUVs.
Four wheel drive machinery really got essential and necessary overseas during WWII. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers traversed the war arena in Jeeps and Willy's and other four wheel drive army trucks and war machines. After that, the 4x4 became more popular, but did you know that the 1st 4 wheel drive patent in England, and the world, was way back 1893? A guy named Diplock (sounds like a 4 wheeler's name, somehow, doesn't it?) introduced a four wheel steered and four wheel driven tractor of sorts. It was steam propelled and slow and probably not very fun.
After that, there were many innovations and designs that came along including Ferninand Porche's electric vehicle. It had electric motors at each wheel. the Lohner-Porsche as it was known came out for exhibition in 1900 and boasted a whopping 7hp, but only for short bursts. It was heavy, clunky and had what was described as a sinister appearance. All that sounds pretty, cool, really, but still not fast, and not fun.
Other examples came along over the years, many versions of automobiles, trucks, military vehicles and other experimental machines were coming on the scene. A lot of these have become collectible relics and are certainly fascinating, but the real fun began around World War II - even though all the flying bullets kind of dampered some of the fun of four wheeling around the European country side!
A new sport
During those days, when American Bantam developed the Jeep the whole game changed. Originally developed by Bantam but produced by Willy's and Ford, the Jeep became the symbol of stump-jumping at its finest. How can anyone look at one of those old, black and white photos of the soldiers careening through the air and not want to try that? Apparently the soldiers thought it would be fun when they got back home, and that is potentially where the "sport" began.
Civilian people all over the world noticed how capable the 4x4 vehicles turned out to be. Here in Iceland for example, farmers started using Jeeps and later Land Rovers and same happened with regular travellers.
These guys found that using a 4x4 is an awesome way to experience the great outdoors.
Recreational four-wheeling was off to its start.
Willy's introduced the CJ-2A in '45 and that was pretty much the 1st full-production 4WD passenger vehicle. They assumed ownership of the name in 1950. As for why the Jeep was named "Jeep", there are only theories. It could be named after the cartoon character on Popeye cartoons (Eugene the Jeep), or it could be the soldiers rendition and interpretation of the G.P. abbreviation for either "General Purpose" or "Government Purpose" and they shortened it to Jeep, like what has happened to the High Mobility Multi Purpose Wheeled Vehicle aka, the Humvee. Either way, many people today that own Jeeps and work them hard understand that Jeep stands for "Just Expect Every Paycheck" to go for repairs and parts.
After the Jeep was out of the blocks, the Land Rover came out. It was great for serious off-roading, but didn't catch traction in the US market until a few decades later. Dodge rolled out the Power Wagon in 1946, which was a civilian-use version of a produced-for-military purposes vehicle. In 1951 NAPCO started producing the parts needed to convert pickups to four wheel drive. Then, it was on, baby. Back in '57 Ford and Chevy where spitting out 4x4 trucks in cooperation with NAPCO.. Jeep then came out with the Wagoneer in 1963 and they continued to build off-road vehicles all the way through to the '70s when the Ford Bronco was introduced and later Toyota, Suzuki and Mitsubishi. The market for 4 wheel driven, off-road adventure-seeking had pushed even into the sedan world - creating the first 4x4 SUVs.
Other parts of the world have seen usable 4x4s like the Nissan Patrol, the Russian GAZ 64 and the Mercedes Benz G-landewagen - not to mention the Unimog!
While AWD (all wheel drive) is almost the same as 4 wheel drive, it is intended for cars and luxury vehicles and doesn't have the low range option. Making them less capable offroad.
To discover more about the magic of 4x4s and 4 wheeling head on over to 4x4OffRoads.com!
By Thrandur Arnthorsson
Thrandur is the chief-editor and owner of 4x4 Off Roads and an off-road enthusiast. Living in Iceland he loves to share the coolest 4x4 trucks and more 4-wheeling freedom.
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