Classic SUVs That Can Still Conquer Winter

Although classic and antique SUVs are becoming popular investments, it’s due in part to them being extremely capable machines. While not as safe as newer models, they were designed to work hard. That includes shrugging off the worst that winter can throw at them. So, while their age requires some concessions, there’s no reason to hide your classic SUV away from the snow and cold. And there are several models that are particularly good at dashing through it.

Toyota FJ Series/Land Cruiser

Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser
Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser | Fj40365 via YouTube

One of the all-time greats of the off-roading world, Toyota’s Land Cruiser is arguably the best example of how old SUVs have risen in popularity. Particularly the original FJ40. Over 300,000 examples were sold in the US before it was replaced by the 60 Series.

Jalopnik has described multiple times how tough and capable the original FJ40 is. And if the stock inline-6 engine and 3-speed transmission don’t provide enough day-to-day passing power, there are modern solutions. The FJ Company can upgrade the components to better-than-factory spec. Then there’s Icon, which according to Car and Driver, uses a 3500-hour-long restoration process to turn old Land Cruisers into rolling works of off-road art.

But even unrestored Land Cruisers can still serve winter drivers well. Just shift into 4Lo, and crush winter beneath your tires. And if an FJ40 is outside your budget, the FJ62 offers all the utility with more modern amenities.

International Harvester Scout

The Toyota Land Cruiser wasn’t the only early off-road SUV. Debuting in 1961, before either the Bronco or Blazer, was the International Harvester Scout. The Scout competed directly with the CJ Jeep but offered better weather protection and refinement. Over 500,000 Scouts were built before production ended in 1980.

Although prices have risen with the classic SUV boom, Hagerty reports Scouts are still an affordable alternative to the Bronco. Especially the later ’71-’80 Scout II models, which have better parts availability. But even the first-gen Scouts have a reputation for robust mechanics and reliability.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer

There’s a reason Jeep is bringing back the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. The original Grand Wagoneer was perhaps the first luxury SUV and remarkably advanced for its day. Even the early base Wagoneer was able to carry 1,200 lbs of payload. Today’s Grand Cherokee can trace its roots directly back to the Grand Wagoneer. The Wagoneer line was also popular enough to enjoy a production run from 1962 to 1991.

In that time, the SUV changed fairly little. The engines were updated, as was the four-wheel drive system. Luxury touches like a leather interior and faux-wood paneling added weight, but the suspension and frame were reinforced to keep up. But safety features and emissions regulations meant the Grand Wagoneer had to bow out.

Today, pristine examples can cost up to $70,000. But as The Smoking Tire discovered, it still has its charm. And how better to conquer winter than from a leather-lined throne?

Ford Bronco

First-Gen Ford Bronco | Ford-006
First-Gen Ford Bronco | Ford

Hype continues to build over the Ford Bronco’s return. And that’s because, if Instagram had existed in 1966, Bronco owners would definitely have been influencers. The first-gen was available as a pickup, a hardtop SUV, and even as a convertible. The new one may bring these options back.

Jay Leno 1968 Ford Bronco SEMA | Ford-00
Jay Leno 1968 Ford Bronco SEMA | Ford

Every model, from 1966 to 1996, came with four-wheel drive. And while the International Scout came first, the Bronco was more compact and was better at the daily commute. It was also more refined than either the Scout or CJ Jeep.

In a way, today’s do-it-all AWD crossovers wouldn’t exist without the Bronco. That legacy alone should prove how capable the Bronco can be in the snow.

Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen

1979 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen 460 Series Range
1979 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen 460 Series Range | Mercedes-Benz

The G-Wagon (or ‘G-Wagen’, to use the proper German spelling) wasn’t officially sold in the US until 2002. But earlier models were legally imported by California-based Europa. The first-gen G-Wagons were no-frills, utilitarian off-roaders directly derived from military-spec vehicles. But starting from 1990, Mercedes-Benz introduced the more luxurious second-gen ‘463’ model. And people couldn’t get enough.

Like today’s 100%-grade-climbing G-Class, the 463 G-wagon has three locking differentials and a ladder frame. But while we can’t get the latest G-Class Professional pickup models in the US, early 463 models can still be found here. And because of their age, they are considered classics.

They are fairly expensive: Doug DeMuro spent over $100k on his G500 Cabriolet (the Cabriolet is admittedly rare, to begin with). But there’s a reason the G-Class became so popular with celebrities: it’s just that capable. Shame the Starks didn’t have G-Wagons.

Caring for classic SUVs in the winter

Obviously, as older vehicles, classic SUVs won’t have the latest technology or features. That doesn’t only include safety features like airbags or automatic braking, though. Their engines will also be less fuel-efficient, and their brakes won’t be as effective. And many classic SUVs also had poor heaters, which is a necessity in winter.

Luckily, as FourWheeler reports, there are ways to upgrade an old SUV’s heater or install a better one. And to make sure your SUV can plow through the snow, FJ40 YouTuber Fj04365 recommends fitting a winch and even tire chains. Check with local law enforcement, though, before fitting chains or tire studs.

Beyond that, the same modern truck and SUV winter driving tips also apply to classic SUVs. Especially when it comes to tires and cleanliness. Many owners worry about exposing their classic vehicles to road salt, but Hagerty reports that with regular rust-proofing and careful washing, it shouldn’t be a problem. And with modern snow/winter tires, even a 90-year-old Ford Model A can skip over the snow.