Today, we cannot imagine any, even remotely capable pickup without a four-wheel-drive system. It seems that 4WD is an obligatory part of the pickup truck scene for decades, but it wasn’t always like that. For a long time, pickups were only sold in rear-wheel-drive, and even after the Willys Overland truck brought 4×4 to the truck market, most big-name manufacturers didn’t care for this layout offered just 2×4 drivetrains.
There were several reasons for that, and the first was the price. In those days, the 4×4 option was costly, and just a small percentage of the customer could afford it. Second, it was still a new technology, and it wasn’t as good or dependable as it is today. However, the four-wheel-drive advantages soon became apparent, and more and more trucks started offering it. Here are the ten-best classic 4×4 trucks you can get.
Best Classic 4×4 Trucks: Toyota Hilux
Toyota’s eponymous Hilux saw the use of the four-wheel-drive system in its 3rd generation, introduced in 1978. This model was sold in America, and it was one of the cheapest and most durable 4WD models you could get.
Powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, Hilux wasn’t swift, but it had extreme build quality, small weight, and a very capable 4×4 drive train, making it legendary.
The original Jeep Gladiator was a cool-looking, single-cab pickup truck that was sold from 1962 to 1988 and available in a wide range of versions. It was based on Wagoneer chassis and introduced when Jeep realized that the market for four-wheel-drive trucks exists, but manufacturers don’t offer enough choice.
With dependable mechanics, numerous trim levels, and engine choices, the Gladiator was a tough and legendary truck. At the time, the Jeep’s parent company, Kaiser-Jeep, even made a military version that served in Vietnam.
Best Classic 4×4 Trucks: Dodge W-Series
Dodge was one of the pioneers of four-wheel-drive in full-size trucks and started offering this option in 1961. The D-Series trucks were regular rear-wheel-drive models while W-Series were 4WD equipped ones.
Powered by six-cylinder engines first and then with a string of Chrysler’s V8, the W-Series truck remained in production, in more or less, unchanged form for almost 20 years.
Chevrolet Task Force NAPCO
Back in the late ’50s, Chevrolet was on top of the truck game with its gorgeous Task Force generation of full-size pickups. But those trucks weren’t remembered just for their fantastic design; they were also very advanced and used V8 engines and the first, factory-installed four-wheel-drive train.
The system was the product of The Northwest Auto Parts Co. of Minneapolis, MN (NAPCO), which was GM’s partner company. The NAPCO designed and assembled capable 4×4 drive trains, making its way into Chevy’s trucks from 1957 onwards.
Best Classic 4×4 Trucks: Ford F-250
Ford didn’t wait long after the Chevrolet introduced the four-wheel-drive option, and in 1959, the first F-Series model came with 4WD. The system was simple but durable and paired with a V8 engine and manual transmission.
In the late ’50s, Ford trucks also introduced a new design with four headlights, which helped the Blue Oval claim an even more significant market share.
Willys Overland Pickup
The Willys Overland Pickup was somewhat smaller than regular offerings from Dodge, Chevrolet, and Ford, but in the early ’50s, it was the ultimate four-wheel-drive truck.
Based on the Jeep Willys platform and sharing the engine and mechanics, it was a compact truck and more off-road tool than a typical farm truck. Customers loved it, but its small dimensions and limited tow capacity made Jeep discontinue it and replace it with a bigger and more capable Gladiator.
Best Classic 4×4 Trucks: Land Rover Series II A
Even though pickups were never as popular in Europe as they were here, Land Rover Series II A, produced from 1961 to 1971, was available as a pickup with a short or long wheelbase and mandatory four-wheel-drive.
As an already immensely capable off-road vehicle, the pickup version gave Land Rover a totally new set of skills, which made it unique in the European market at the time. That is why this body style remained in production all the way till the end of the classic Defender model.
Dodge Power Wagon
Dodge had even more experience with four-wheel-drive trucks than the rest of Detroit’s manufacturers, and their first big truck was eponymous Power Wagon, sold from 1946. This model was bigger than pickups of the time and used Dodge WC mechanics from Dodge’s military model.
The Power Wagon soon gained legendary status for its capabilities, ruggedness, quality, and power. It had simple but very effective four-wheel-drive, six-cylinder engines, and it was irreplaceable when the job demanded traction and stamina.
Ford Bronco Halfcab
Along with Bronco Roadster and regular Bronco, Ford introduced a Bronco Halfcab in 1966. It wasn’t convenient due to the small truck bed, but it could pull and carry big objects, and it was moderately popular.
It was a kind of SUV truck before that was even a thing. However, in the early ’70s, Ford decided to discontinue this model and concentrate on Bronco’s one body style.
Even though you might not recognize Subaru’s legendary BRAT as a capable four-wheel-drive truck, the truth is that this Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter can do things you wouldn’t believe. This model came to be when the US Government imposed high taxes on import pickups.
The Subaru decide to install two rear-facing seats in the truck bed and call it a four-seater. The stunt work and BRAT was sold with signature Subaru’s all-wheel-drive, small but capable 1.6-liter engine with or without turbocharging. Most owners removed the rear seats and used them as a regular compact truck.