OBSCURE 4WDS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

How many do your recognise?

Despite the fact that if you listen to the online chatter, it’d seem as though everyone who has ever been offroad is a hardline, lifelong LandCruiser or Patrol fanboy, there are actually a great, great many other 4WD vehicles out there that have been developed and marketed by motoring companies around the world. Some of them are pretty great, some of them… not so much.
However you look at it though, the world is always a more interesting place for diversity. Take a look at five 4WDs that you don’t see out on the tracks too often. Do you recognise ‘em all?

LADA NIVA – IN SOVIET RUSSIA, 4WD DRIVE YOU!

The Lada Niva is a wagon style 4WD vehicle, which has been produced by Russian automotive manufacturer AvtoVAZ in various incarnations since the early ‘70s. The translation from Russian means, ‘crop-field’, which hints at the vehicle’s agricultural origins – although the designers initial brief was to create a ‘civilized’ 4WD vehicle.

Various models of the Lada Niva have been marketed and sold quite well throughout Russia and the former Soviet bloc, other parts of Europe, the UK and South America. Today, it’s marketed as the Lada 4X4 in most markets.

WILLYS JEEP – THE GRANDADDY OF ALL MODERN 4WDS

Willys-Overland was an early 20th century American automotive manufacturer which won its bid in the late 1930s to produce a series of light weight offroad trucks for the US War Department. Construction of the Willys MB, better known as the Jeep, began in 1941, and almost 360,000 were put together by the end of WWII.

After the war, Willys trademarked the name ‘Jeep’ and went on to produce a series of civilian and agricultural vehicles. The Willys Jeep Utility Wagon was made available with 4WD in 1948, making it the first ancestor of all modern SUVs.

HOLDEN OVERLANDER – THE AUSSIE FRANKENSTEIN!

Long before the Adventra, Holden’s first dedicated foray into the offroad scene, came the obscure Holden Overlander, of which just 120 were produced. The reason for their tiny production figures is that Holden never really built them. Well, not exactly.

From 1976 until the end of the 80s, a Tasmania-based company called Vehicle Engineering and Modifications used to perform Overlander conversions on Holden HJ-HZ models. The conversions were performed in conjunction with Holden, and involved the fitment of a Dana transfer case, front and rear axels, plus the addition of beefed-up offroad suspension and all terrain tyres.

An interesting idea in theory, and one for the serious collector or enthusiast, but in reality most people just bought a dedicated 4WD from the likes of Toyota or Nissan.

MAHINDRA PIK-UP – THE BUDGET TRUCK FROM BOMBAY

While Mahindra 4WDs have only shown up on Aussie radars since ’07, the Indian Automotive giant has been producing trucks and tractors on the subcontinent for six decades. The tractors have actually been available in Oz for some time, which probably explains why Mahindra chose to market the Pik-Up to the bush, where they hoped to find some brand recognition.

Essentially, the Pik-Up is a budget-priced 4WD work ute. Base models can be picked up for a little over twenty grand, while optioned-up dual cab models go for around thirty thousand – considerably cheaper than the competition! The Pik-Up certainly lacks finesse in many regards, and it’s safety rating leaves plenty to be desired, but for a budget work truck, it looks like it goes okay.

TOYOTA BUNDERA – THE PRADO PROTOTYPE

The J70 was first developed as a light-duty variant of Toyota’s 70 Series and was in production from 1984 until 1990. The Bundera sold well in Japan as well as parts of the Middle East and South America. It was a medium wheelbase two-door wagon with a plastic top and rear barn doors. These light duty LandCruisers were the prototype for the modern day Prado, the first model of which was introduced in 1990, the year the Bundera ceased production in most markets.

WORDS BY PAT WILLIAMS