Nostalgia sells. Just look at many of the car names and styles at your local dealer. Now, Volkswagen is bringing back the 1960s International Scout SUV as an all-electric SUV. Ford has brought back the Bronco. Ram brought back the Power Wagon, and the Jeep is capitalizing on 1980s nostalgia with the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Retro SUV names, even if the SUV itself is modern, seem to sell well.
Here are five retro UVs that made a mark in their day. But like the Scout, these are quickly being forgotten about. Maybe it’s time that someone brought these nameplates back?
Any Toyota with an FJ name would be a retro SUV winner
We think it’s time that Toyota revived the FJ moniker. The FJ Cruiser was sold in the U.S. from 2007 to 2014. It was a spiritual successor to the original FJ40 but was thoroughly modern. If you own an FJ today, you’re a lucky ducky. They are selling for big money used because they have gained a cult following for being off-road animals, reliable, and fun to drive.
Toyota has teased us with an all-electric concept version of the FJ that could make waves. In 2021, the Compact Cruiser concept showed up looking like an 80%-sized FJ Cruiser that was fully electric.
We’d love to see a new Xterra based on the 2022 Frontier
It’s hard to say a vehicle that was discontinued in 2015 is a retro SUV. Nissan took a Frontier truck and made it an SUV to get the Xterra. The original Xterra was a five-passenger, two or four-wheel-drive, SUV that had all of the charms of the old Nissan Frontier but with the practicality of an SUV. It came in a budget model that was two-wheel-drive and had a small four-cylinder engine. But even today the Pro4X models command a premium. They came lifted and had a stout four-wheel drive with a locking differential, as well as leather seats and more. The Xterra was discontinued in 2015, but they still command a premium on the used market.
Nissan released an updated version of the Frontier for 2022, maybe it’s time to make an SUV from it?
The AMC Eagle was ugly but ahead of its time
Ok, the AMC Eagle was terrible. It was ugly. It was slow. But they were probably the closest thing to a modern crossover built in the 1980s and now have a hipster following. Was AMC ahead of its time? Probably. If AMC had been able to continue as a car company, there’s no telling what would have happened to the four-wheel-drive AMC Eagle or Eagle Wagon. AMC, which was absorbed by Chrysler, had no need for a go-anywhere wagon at the time, even though it had a four-wheel-drive system borrowed from Jeep and could go anywhere. By 1990, SUVs were catching on as the hottest thing in the auto world, but the Eagle was out of production after 1988, and say that was for the best.
There are some, though, that say a modern Eagle does exist, it’s just a modern Mercedes Benz GLE.
The Jeep Cherokee Sport was a two-door Cherokee
Take a Jeep Cherokee and remove half the functionality by taking out the rear doors, then add acres of glass in the back that acted as a giant magnifying glass and you get the Cherokee Sport. The Sport may have been the “lesser” of the XJ Cherokee models built in the 1980s, but it was cool. While the four-door looked like something that you shuttled the kids to school in, the two-door was the sports car of off-road SUVs. It told the world you had a go-anywhere personality but a daring lack of responsibilities.
The original Isuzu Trooper looked like a G-Class
Any of us who were alive in the 1980s and 1990s remember seeing these all over. The Trooper and Trooper II looked like a bargain-basement version of a Mercedes G-Class. They were tall, boxy, and capable SUVs. The Trooper lasted until 1991 and was replaced by the Trooper 2 that soldiered on for another decade. But retro SUV fans know the original was durable, even though it had just 120 horsepower from its big V6 engine. It wasn’t known for being groundbreaking, but it was one of the first off-road vehicles to feature auto-locking hubs, which meant you could switch into 4WD from inside the cabin.