Back in the early 1980’s there was no such thing as an SUV. There were merely cars, station wagons and trucks that had four-wheel drive. Up here in the Northeast those who knew well enough to buy a four-wheel drive vehicle would simply laugh as the rest of us lay stuck on the side of the road. It actually wasn’t until the mid-1980’s with the release of the compact Jeep Grand Cherokee that consumers actually got bit by the 4×4 bug. Once bitten however people seldom went back to their old ways and more importantly their old two-wheeled drive vehicles. Below is a listing of some 4×4’s (I mean SUV’s) from the 1980’s that can be credited with starting the whole SUV movement that we have today. Even though these babies weren’t overly complex, they did have the ability to get us through the snow and to work on time and they did it without all the electronic gizmos that we have today.
• 1980 International Scout
The International Scout was actually one of the first SUV’s in existence sold to the consumer public. It was originally created as a competitor to the Jeep Willy’s and had a production run that ran from 1961-1980.
• 1981 Jeep Cherokee Chief
The Cherokee Chief was another pioneer in the SUV market that was produced by the now defunct American Motors Corporation (AMC). With a production run that lasted from 1974-1983, the Cherokee’s were full size trucks that looked good and went anyplace.
• 1984 Jeep Cherokee
The 1984 Jeep Cherokee is generally credited with starting the modern SUV craze. It was small and compact and handled more like a car than a truck. It was also perfect for small suburban families who needed a four-wheel drive vehicle but wanted something that was aesthetically pleasing as well.
• 1985 Chevrolet Suburban
Meet the Great Grandfather of the SUV movement. The Chevrolet Suburban has been around in one form or another since 1935 and GM has no plans to make it go away. It’s big, has always had plenty of power and can carry a family with all their belongings with ease.
• 1985 Range Rover
Aside from the 80’s versions of these trucks having terrible electronics, I have to say that they were pretty darn good. When taken off-road Range Rovers were pretty unstoppable, but due to their higher price tags they didn’t really become popular in the U.S. until the early 1990’s.
• 1986 Ford Bronco
The Ford Bronco has been around since the mid-1960’s where it debuted to compete with the International Scout. The 1980’s though was where the Bronco really came into its own as Ford made them not only comfortable, but very user friendly. They were relatively quiet for a big 4×4, had great off-road capabilities and more than enough room for a family of four. There only hindrance was that it was only a two door. The Bronco was also one of the best looking early SUV’s on the market.
• 1986 Toyota 4Runner
Toyota knew that it had something special with its legendary SR5 pick-up truck. The compact truck was dead reliable, went anyplace and in its compact form, was a very attractive ride. So, in 1984 they put a hard top on it with two back seats and presto – instant SUV.
• 1987 K5 Chevrolet Blazer
Like the full size Ford Bronco the Chevrolet Blazer was one of the last big 4×4’s to be sold in the U.S.. From the inside it was big and comfortable, but unfortunately it wasn’t as attractive as the Bronco which hurt its sale towards the end of its life cycle. Today K5 Blazers are coming back with a vengeance on the collector market, so if you see a clean one, you may want to pick it up.
• 1988 Dodge Ram Charger
The Dodge Ram Charger was the black sheep of the full size 4×4 market in the 1980’s. It wasn’t nearly as attractive as the Blazer or Bronco and was also a bit cumbersome from an exterior perspective. Still, if you wanted to go against the grain the Ram Charger was the truck to get.
• 1989 Ford Bronco II
The Ford Bronco II was the beginning of the end for the big 4X4’s from Ford. It was small and compact and quickly became a favorite amongst off-roaders. The Bronco II eventually morphed into the first generation Ford Explorer when the wheelbase was stretched and two more doors were added.