Classics Reborn

What’s better than a classic 4×4? Well, one that actually runs. And has a decent interior. And can reach highway cruising speeds. A classic 4×4, in short, that’s been given a serious upgrade. Here are five awesome classics that have received the Robocop treatment.

Get involved in a conversation about the best 4×4s, and it won’t be long until some guy on the wrong side of 60 pipes up and starts telling you how the old-school off-roaders are still the best. He’ll start talking about solid axles and donkey levers and manual hubs. Inevitably, he’ll utter the sentence: “They don’t make ’em like they used to.” The statement is true, of course. They don’t make them like they used to; they make them a whole lot better these days.

Generally speaking, classic vehicles are just not as quick, comfortable or even as capable as their modern counterparts. But they are cool. No doubt about it. An old-school 4×4 has an inherent coolness that the latest and greatest can’t easily match. So, the solution, it would seem, is to not only restore a classic, but to modify it and to bring it into the 21st century. Purists will undoubtedly be greatly offended by this statement (“How dare you modify a classic!”), but think about it for a second. What’s better than a classic 4×4 with the performance and reliability of a new car? Nothing. Here are five awesome oldies with modern underpinnings.

5. Jeep Crew Chief 715

Okay, full disclosure, this isn’t actually a classic. It’s a brand-new 4×4. However, as its looks make clear, it is based on an old-school 4×4. The Crew Chief is inspired by the Jeep Gladiator/Kaiser M715 military vehicle from the 1960s, and was designed specifically for the 2016 Jeep Easter Safari. It’s a concept only (you can’t buy it) which is a massive shame. That 1960’s nose gives it a distinctive look, but it’s basically just a heavily modified Wrangler. You’ll recognise the doors and interior, and the chassis is also a lengthened Wrangler Unlimited one. The Kaiser M715 boasted Jeep’s 100kW Tornado inline-six engine, but the Crew Chief makes use of the well-known modern 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar and a five-speed auto gearbox. Off-road aids are the same as in the Wrangler, too.

As cool as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original Predator
Price Not for sale

4. Icon Bronco

It’s still a few years until Ford releases its all-new Bronco (the company is apparently aiming for 2020), but you can already buy a ‘new’ Bronco. Icon 4×4 is a company that searches for high-quality, unmodified old off-roaders, buys them, and goes to town on them. With its Bronco, Icon uses only vehicles that were built between 1966 and 1975. The reason for this is that Icon is after that specific body design. Everything under the metal shell is tossed in the bin. The old Ford motor is replaced with a 5.0-litre Coyote V8 from a Mustang (412kW, 530Nm), and mated to a five-speed manual transmission. It gets Dana axles, Eibach springs and Fox Racing shocks. To make sure it’s also great on the trail, it gets a 4WD system with low range, as well as ARB air lockers on both axles.

As cool as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in an Under Armour vest.
Price $200 000 (R2 700 000)

3. Range Rover reborn

Here’s something for the purists. They’ll undoubtedly be delighted to discover that this 1978 Range Rover Classic hasn’t been defiled in any way. This vehicle has been restored to its exact condition when it first left the factory. What makes this restoration project particularly special, though, is the fact it was done by the original factory. Land Rover has a special division called Land Rover Classic, which is in the business of restoring old vehicles to perfect factory condition, and then selling them to fans for an absolute fortune. This Classic is all-original, which means you get all the power and luxury that 1978 had to offer. You have to roll down the window, adjust the seat and open the tailgate by hand, and the 3 528cc Zenith-Stromberg V8 pushes out a paltry 98kW and 251Nm of torque. The price? Around £135 000 (R2 264 000). That’s a lot of cash, but Land Rover is producing just 10, so demand will definitely outstrip supply.

As cool as James Bond (Sean Connery version, of course).
Price £135 000 (R2 264 000)

2. Legacy Power Wagon

If you’re looking for cool but capable, it’s hard to beat the Legacy Power Wagon. It boasts exquisite old-school styling from the 1940s but underneath you’ll find only the best modern American muscle has to offer. The Legacy Power Wagon is a product of Legacy Classic Trucks, and is based on a 1942 Power Wagon. It apparently takes 1 000 hours to create every Power Wagon. Under the bonnet, you have a choice of four engines: three petrol powerplants and one oilburner. The engine you want, though, is the 6.2-litre supercharged Chevrolet LSA, which offers 462kW of power. Other highlights include Dana axles, premium Warn locking hubs, a Warn winch, ARB air lockers on both axles and massive 37-inch wheels.

As cool as Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western.
Price Starts at $185 000 (R2 480 000), but you can easily pay a lot more than that.

1. Icon FJ

It’s another creation by Icon, and this time it’s an update of the legendary FJ. As with the Bronco, Icon buys immaculate old FJs and then tears them apart. It’ll give you just about any body style you’re looking for. There’s the classic FJ40, of course, as well as the longer FJ44, an FJ43, or an FJ45. The standard powerplant is a GM LS 5.7-litre engine that develops 290kW, but you can also opt for a slightly more powerful version that develops 335kW. Want an oilburner? You’re in luck! At your request, Icon will drop in a 2.0-litre VW TDI engine. Like the Bronco, the Icon FJ gets Dana axles, Eibach springs and Fox Racing shocks.

As cool as Steve McQueen in aviator sunglasses.
Price $150 000 (R2 000 000)

Text: GG van Rooyen