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  5. The Greatest Adventure Vehicles of All Time

The Greatest Adventure Vehicles of All Time

These Legendary RVs, Off-Roaders, and Overlanding Rigs are Built to Take On Everything You Throw at Them

Image Caption: Photo Credit: Monica Garza Maldonado/Getty

Adventure vehicles come in all shapes and sizes. From small and lightweight to large and powerful, these cars, trucks, SUVs, and RVs inspire travel and exploration. Some are designed to tackle the most demanding off-road routes imaginable, while others are built to go where roads don’t exist at all. All of them are objects of desire for anyone who appreciates a motorized masterpiece that can take us anywhere we want to go.

In the latest issue of Wildsam, we shared some thoughts on how to choose your own personal adventure ride. But if you’re still looking for options, we have a rundown of iconic vehicles that will definitely get your motor running. These are our picks for the greatest adventure vehicles of all time:

Jeep CJ

Photo Credit: DarthArt/Getty

Jeep CJ Series

Based on the legendary Willys MB used in WWII, the Jeep CJ was one of the first off-road vehicles designed for civilians. The rugged, go-anywhere 4×4 helped jumpstart the off-roading craze in the US, with the CJ-7 model becoming especially popular. The CJ line was retired in 1986, just as the Jeep Wrangler made its debut, but it remains one of the most iconic and fun adventure vehicles ever made.

Land Rover Series

Photo Credit: umdash9/Getty

Land Rover Series I/II/III

Like the Jeep CJ, the Land Rover Series can trace its roots back to the Second World War, although it served the British military rather than the Americans. The first consumer model—the Series I— was introduced in 1948, with the Series II and III following in 1958 and 1971, respectively. Over the decades, these compact 4x4s were widely used not just in the UK but also in Asia, Africa, Australis, and South America, setting a new standard for exploration and adventure vehicles.

Toyota FJ

Photo Credit: Chase D’animulls/Getty

Toyota FJ Series

Japan’s answer to the Willys MB was the FJ Series of four-wheel drive vehicles, which resembled their American counterparts in many ways. Following World War II, Toyota put the FJ into production, creating several models that became legendary for their reliability and off-road capabilities. Over the years, the FJ became a popular option for off-roaders, overlanders, and explorers, with new additions throughout the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Toyota even offered a modern version called the FJ Cruiser that was available from 2006 to 2022.

Airstream Clipper

Photo Credit: Airstream

Airstream Clipper

Airstream travel trailers are proof that an adventure vehicle doesn’t have to be an automobile designed for use off-road. The Airstream Clipper debuted in 1936, predating the Jeep CJ, Land Rover Series I, and Toyota FJ by a decade. These so-called “land yachts” grew in popularity after WWII, opening up new avenues for travel as the American road trip grew from a novelty into a family tradition. Some Airstream owners even shipped their trailers overseas, taking them on extended journeys across Europe and Africa.

Volkswagen Westfalia camper van

Photo Credit: DarthArt/Getty

Volkswagen Westfalia Camper

In the 1950s, a very different type of adventure vehicle first arrived on the scene. The Volkswagen Westfalia Camper was introduced in 1951 when VW subcontracted construction of the van—based on the Type 2 microbus—to a company called Westfalia-Werke. Thanks to their simplicity, ease of repair and maintenance, and ability to pull double duty as a camper and daily driver, the vans became cultural icons throughout the 60s and 70s. The Westy remained popular in the 80s and 90s but was eventually discontinued in 2003. A modern version makes a welcome return in 2024.

Shasta Travel Trailer

Photo Credit: Mr. Satterly via Wikimedia

Shasta Travel Trailers

The original “canned ham” travel trailer was first introduced in 1941 but really caught on with the general public in the 1950s. These affordable towables helped spawn a boom in travel and camping over the next few decades, becoming the most popular RV model in the US by 1972. Lightweight, comfortable, and easy to tow, Shasta trailers allowed couples and families to explore the country like never before, becoming familiar sights on highways and at campgrounds. The brand name lives on to this day, but the original still evokes a wistful sense of nostalgia for the open road.

International Harvester Scout

Photo Credit: Jeremy from Sydney, Australia via Wikimedia

International Harvester Scout

First introduced in 1960, the International Harvester Scout is generally seen as the ancestor of the modern SUV. The vehicle was designed to compete with the Jeep CJ and was available with a soft or hard-top roof and in a pickup truck configuration. The Scout quickly built a loyal following thanks to its off-road prowess, making it a popular option for hunters, anglers, and campers. Discontinued in 1980, the Scout is now ready to make a comeback as an all-electric model under the Volkswagen banner.

Ford Bronco classic

Photo Credit: Greg Gjerdingen via Wikimedia

Ford Bronco

In 1966, Ford introduced the first-generation Bronco, a compact 4×4 designed to compete against the Jeep CJ and International Scout. Over time, the Bronco would evolve into a larger vehicle, although it remained a highly capable off-roader throughout its original 30-year run. In 1996, the Bronco was put out to pasture, but the iconic nameplate returned in 2021 with an all-new, thoroughly modern edition that lives up to its heritage while offering performance its predecessors could only dream of.

Mercedes G-Class

Photo Credit: BogdanV/Getty

Mercedes-Benz G-Class

The Mercedes G-Class—better known as the G-Wagon—first went on sale in 1979 after the German company built a military version specifically for the King of Iran. Since then, the vehicle has become a status symbol for wealthy drivers, although, beneath its boxy exterior, it remains one of the best adventure vehicles of all time. Like Land Rovers and Toyota FJs, this 4×4 has been the workhorse on numerous expeditions to remote corners of the globe. Unlike those vehicles, the drivers usually traveled with a bit more style and comfort.

Fleetwood Bounder classic RV

Photo Credit: RV Hall of Fame

Fleetwood Bounder

One of the most popular campers of the 1980s, the Fleetwood Bounder served as the basecamp for many family adventures. While most recognize it today as the RV from the television show Breaking Bad, this model broke new ground in terms of design, layout, and onboard amenities, allowing owners to hit the road with all of the comforts of home. The Bounder remains in production today, and Fleetwood describes it as “the greatest-selling motorhome of all time.”

BMW adventure motorcycle

Photo Credit: Aljndr/Getty

BMW GS Series Motorcycles

The BMW GS Series of motorcycles has become synonymous with long-distance travel over nearly any type of terrain. So much so that these two-wheeled wonders are often labeled as “adventure bikes” designed for use on and off-road. Rugged, dependable, and powerful, the GS Series has been around since the 1980s and remains in production today. In 2004, the GS Series achieved new levels of popularity thanks to the television series Long Way Round. The show followed actors Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman as they circumnavigated the planet on their trusty BMWs, covering over 19,000 miles across Europe, Asia, and North America.

Mercedes Benz Sprinter van

Photo Credit: marekuliasz/Getty

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van

Originally built as a cargo van, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has served as the platform for countless adventure vehicles. Thanks to its reliability, outstanding build quality, and excellent all-wheel drive system, the Sprinter chassis is popular with many RV manufacturers and a favorite amongst custom conversion van builders, too. The vehicle has found its way into numerous Class B and C models, offering a unique blend of high-quality features and impressive driving performance.

Subaru Forester

Photo Credit: yocamon/Getty

Subaru Forester

Easily the most affordable and accessible adventure vehicle on this list, the Subaru Forester is a favorite among weekend warriors, road trippers, and dedicated outdoor enthusiasts alike. The car first rolled off the assembly line in 1997 and has been a staple in mountain towns, beach communities, and suburban driveways ever since. The wagon’s all-wheel-drive system provides stability and traction on snow, sand, mud, and even gnarly off-road trails. But the Forester’s legendary reliability has contributed most to its popularity, with older models racking up hundreds of thousands of miles over many years of use.

EarthRoamer SX

Photo Credit: EarthRoamer

EarthRoamer SX

When EarthRoamer started making bespoke adventure vehicles in 1998, the goal was to create an RV unlike anything else on the planet. The EarthRoamer SX is the culmination of that dream, offering an RV that is both luxurious and rugged at the same time. This model is built on a heavy-duty Chevy 6500 chassis and is made for hardcore overlanders and explorers. And while the SX can park at a traditional campground, it is far more comfortable boondocking at a site so remote that it probably hasn’t been visited by humans before. Those capabilities don’t come cheap, though, as prices start north of $1 million and require seven to ten months to build.

Land Rover Defender

Photo Credit: Gaschwald/Getty

Honorable Mentions

Land Rover Defender: One of the most capable off-road vehicles ever created.
Jeep Wrangler: The replacement for the CJ is arguably the most well-known and iconic off-road vehicle ever produced.
Toyota Tacoma: A mid-size pickup truck with a loyal following unlike any other.
Toyota Land Cruiser: A versatile four-wheel drive SUV equally adept at cruising city streets as it is the African bush or the Australian Outback.
Chevy Blazer: More than just a knock-off of the Ford Bronco, this classic 4×4 was a mainstay on roads and trails throughout the 1970s and 80s.
Nissan Xterra: Nissan’s entry into the off-road market remains a favorite with fans long after it was discontinued in 2015.
Hummer H1: Big, bold, and brash, the Hummer gained notoriety during the First Gulf War before earning its stripes with civilian drivers.
Porshe 911 Safari: A high-performance sports car designed for off-road events like the infamous Dakar Rally? Where do we sign up?

How’s our list? What did we leave out? What’s your favorite adventure vehicle of all time? Let us know by leaving a comment.

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