If you drive something other than a Jeep or a Toyota, you might be discouraged by the lack of aftermarket support for your vehicle. An ace fabricator can probably turn any vehicle into a rock-slaying machine, but most of us would probably go broke paying some
Even if you don’t drive a Jeep, there are products for your 4x4
If you drive something other than a Jeep or a Toyota, you might be discouraged by the lack of aftermarket support for your vehicle. An ace fabricator can probably turn any vehicle into a rock-slaying machine, but most of us would probably go broke paying someone to put coilovers and Dana 60s under our Isuzu VehiCross. Are there so many Jeeps on the trail because they benefit from aftermarket support, or do they benefit from so much aftermarket support because there are so many on the trail? It is like the chicken and the egg.
All hope is not lost. There is a thriving aftermarket of niche companies dedicated to making components specifically for Isuzus, Mitsubishis, Nissans, and other capable 4-wheel platforms.
Ford Bronco II & E-Series Van
The low price and small size of the Bronco II makes it a great choice for tight trails. Bronco IIs have the same, 94-inch wheelbase of a YJ or TJ Wrangler. They use body-on-frame construction and a Twin Traction Beam Dana 28 front end and Ford 71⁄2-inch solid rear axle with leaf springs. Currently no 4WD vans are offered from the factory in the U.S., which is a shame. All vans have plenty of cargo space, and Ford’s E-Series vans are built on heavy-duty platforms and are even available with diesel engines.
Mitsubishi 4x4s have an excellent reputation globally, having won the Dakar Rally 15 times. Somehow that did not translate to the U.S. though, where they are seldom seen on the trails. The boxy first-generation Montero (’83-’91) came in two- and four-door configurations and was also sold in the U.S. as the Dodge Raider. The second-gen Montero was rounder and had a more powerful engine, but retained the body-on-frame construction through the ’99 model. The swoopy third generation (’00-’06) had unibody construction and independent suspension front and rear, but still retained a true low range.
Kia Sportage & Sorento
The Kia Sportage may offer the most bang for the buck of any small four-door SUV. These vehicles use body-on-frame construction and a solid rear axle with coil springs. They have a great power-to-weight ratio, and some even came from the factory with rear limited slip differentials. For 2002 Kia came out with the larger Sorento, which, through the ’09 model year, had body-on-frame construction, a rear solid axle, and low-range capability.
Isuzu Amigo, Trooper, Rodeo & VehiCross
Isuzu made a wide variety of 4x4s, from the boxy Trooper to the convertible Amigo to the unique VehiCross. All use body-on-frame construction and the same common six-lug bolt pattern as Toyotas. The two-door Amigo is a great alternative to a Wrangler, with a short wheelbase and rear solid axle and leaf springs. The Trooper was the upscale offering from Isuzu, with the boxy first gen (’81-’91) and the more powerful second gen (’92-’02). Two generations of Rodeo were also produced (and offered as the Honda Passport as well). Rodeos use a very desirable rear Dana 44 axle that comes from the factory with disc brakes. The VehiCross was built on the Trooper chassis but used a short, 92-inch wheelbase. Only 4,150 VehiCrosses were imported into the United States, making it rare on the streets, much less the trail.
Nissan Frontier, Hardbody, Pathfinder & Xterra
Nissan makes a wonderful 4x4, but despite great dimensions for the trail and reliable drivetrains these 4x4s have never experienced the same aftermarket support as their Toyota counterparts. The Hardbody (D21), introduced for the ’86 model year, was offered for over a decade before being replaced by the Frontier (D22). The Pathfider was introduced at the same time and shared many components with the Hardbody before being redesigned with unibody construction for 1995. As the Pathfinder grew larger and more pavement-oriented, Nissan introduced the Xterra for 1999, a smaller, more capable SUV with body-on-frame construction and an available manual transmission.