A common question we get asked a lot around here is, “What’s the best 4x4 ever?” That question is usually followed by a long debate about why a certain vehicle is better than another, and it usually ends with a roomful of angry people.
Well, we’ve decided to open up a whole different can of worms and have narrowed down the worst 4x4s of all time. That’s right, we’re going to give you good reasons to overlook some of the biggest brain farts in the off-road world. Now, before we start, let us remind you that we could build an Oldsmobile Cutlass into a Trophy Truck with enough money, parts, and metal. We’re talking about generally stock vehicles here.
While these choices are sure to anger some hardcore fans out there, we have a simple reply for that: Whah! Tough nuts. This is an opinion piece, and we can think what we want. If you think we’re nuts, feel free to write into off-roadweb.com and tell us why you disagree.
The Suzuki Samurai is one of those rigs that you either love or hate, and most people hate them! Some go as far as to say they wouldn’t take one if you gave it to them as a gift.
It is actually quite capable off-road and its fuel economy is better than what some new cars can achieve. The Samurai came out-of-the-Crackerjack-box with solid axles and leaf springs all around, which were pretty heavy duty for stock tires. The interior room is actually decent (considering the size of the vehicle) and even those who are slightly over six feet tall can fit inside comfortably. If your Samurai doesn’t have carpeting, make sure your ignition tumbler isn’t worn out otherwise you’ll lose your keys to the drain hole on the floor board that’s directly underneath it (we have seen it happen on more than three occasions).
Despite Consumer Reports’ claim that it rolled over too easily, some would say the handling is pretty good on the ’88 Samurai, because it came with better sway bars than the previous models. The power on these little trucks was incredible…for a sewing machine. In fact, the drivetrain is so bad the transfer case decided to get divorced from it! There’s also no way you can sleep in a Samurai, so it’s no good for camping either. The Samurai is a fun little 4x4, but driving one means you’ll get compliments like, “Cute car, my sister had one of those!” and “They still make those?” Or you’ll get people pointing and laughing uncontrollably at stop signs.
The Jeep CJ-5 is probably one of the worst Jeeps to drive, because nobody over 5 feet tall can ride in it comfortably. None of the tubs were galvanized like the Wrangler, so solid rust-free body panels are almost nonexistent. The model 20 rear differential came with the dreaded two-piece axleshafts that break if you even think about venturing out in the dirt. Most CJ-5s leak oil from their Dana 300 transfer cases unless, of course, they’re out of oil. The 4.2L straight-six was a good, reliable engine unlike the underpowered 304 V-8 that came in some CJ-5s. Although very capable off road, the CJ-5’s short leaf-sprung wheelbase makes for white-knuckle driving at highway speeds. When you pair that with the interior room of a glove box, it’s not a Jeep we would ever want.
The Jeep CJ-5 is specifically what we’re picking on here, and not the CJ-7. Unlike the ’5, you can actually fit inside these without having to modify the seat frame. The ride isn’t too harsh even on bumpy roads thanks to the added wheelbase of the CJ-7. But the CJ-7’s later electrical system should also get an honorable mention here since it looks like it was put together at the last minute, overnight...in the dark!
The Bronco II
There’s no way we could write a story like this and leave out the absolute worst 4x4 of all time! It should have never been built in the first place since sequels are almost always horrible ideas. That’s right, we’re talking about the Ford Bronco II.
It was introduced in 1984 and had a production run that lasted until 1990. The early models came from the factory with an anemic 2.8L carbureted V-6. In 1986 the Bronco II came equipped with a 2.9L fuel-injected V-6 that pumped out 140 hp, but these engines were plagued by overheating issues which resulted in cracked cylinder heads. All but the later 1990 models came equipped with a Dana 28 twin-traction beam (TTB) front differential, which was unimpressive at best.
The later 1990 models came equipped with the more desirable Dana 35 TTB front differential, but all of them had a weak 7.5 inch rear. What really killed the Bronco II (besides sheer ugliness) was the fact that it didn’t have a removable top and the rear window didn’t roll down. It was obvious that it was destined to fail since everything about the Bronco II screamed cheap—especially the interior! The only way to increase the value of a Bronco II is by cutting off the roof and calling it a Ranger. And even then it’s still the worst 4x4 ever!