The Toyota Tacoma is a very popular truck, and not just for every-day errands. Although the TRD Pro models can get pricey, they’re well-regarded for their off-road capabilities. The Tacoma is also incredibly reliable, partially due to its lack of recent major updates. Which is great for longevity and resale value, but it also means used Tacomas can lack certain features. And if you’re going to invest some serious money into off-roading, there are other classic options. Such as importable trucks.
Various safety, emissions, and tax regulations means certain vehicles were never sold in the US. That’s also the hassle that Europeans have to go through when importing American pickup trucks. And just as with them, there are some non-US trucks that have a lot to offer. Especially when it comes to off-roading. Luckily, as soon as a vehicle is 25 years old, it can be imported without restriction.
The Toyota Tacoma and Hilux were actually, at one point, one and the same truck. However, to avoid the infamous ‘chicken tax’, Toyota started making pickup trucks in the US. There, the company widened the Hilux and changed out the suspension and frame for better on-pavement behavior. This was the first Tacoma.
The Hilux, meanwhile, stayed as a relentlessly durable, stout off-roader. With extra skid plates, stouter frame, and solid axles, the Hilux is even more of a workhorse than the Tacoma is. Unlike the Tacoma, the Hilux is still available with a single cab. It also takes Toyota’s reputation for reliability to ludicrous heights.
Top Gear literally dropped one from a building after trying to drown it in the ocean, and the engine still fired up. And you wouldn’t take just any truck into a warzone, now would you?
As The Drive reported, the Hilux is still being updated overseas. However, because Toyota had no plans to sell it in the US, it doesn’t meet US regulations. But with such a bulletproof reputation, even 25-year-old Hiluxes will crawl trails and haul gear with the best of them. And unlike the Tacoma, you can get an importable Hilux truck with a diesel engine.
Although the Mercedes G-Wagen (aka ‘G-Wagon’, ‘G-Class’) is currently sold as an SUV, that wasn’t always the case. The first-gen G-Wagen could be ordered with a pickup body, as can the current-gen G-Class Professional.
While importing a G-Class Professional isn’t possible, it’s actually easier to import a G-Wagen pickup than you’d think. For one, the first-gen models are now old enough to import without modification.
The second-gen, ‘463’ G-Wagens, although more luxurious, were never sold as pickups. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get one. Doug DeMuro reported that one company in Europe can convert a second-gen G-Wagen into a pickup. And importing a customized G-Wagen pickup wouldn’t be as difficult as you might expect. The earliest 463 models also pass the 25-year rule. In addition, the second-gen G-Wagen was so popular, a California company started federalizing and importing them. Someone’s already done all the hard work.
G-Wagens, regardless of age, aren’t necessarily cheap. US-legal ones can cost in the realm of $100k. Restored ones are easily more. But with three locking differentials and four-wheel drive, a G-Wagen pickup can conquer a lot of terrain.
However, the G-Wagen isn’t necessarily the most capable off-roader that Mercedes-Benz makes. That honor would go to the Unimog.
As Automobile described, the Unimog steers severely to the utilitarian side of truck nature. These trucks have portal axles, locking differentials, and multiple gears for both forward and reverse. Motor Trend’s Jonny Lieberman rode in one that drove over boulders, hills, a staircase, on its own door—then did it all backward. Don’t want to wait for that electric F-150? The Unimog can pull a train, too.
Finding these trucks in the US is somewhat difficult, but there’s an incredibly passionate fanbase here to help. Not only are the older trucks free to enter via the 25-year rule, Automobile reported that Unimogs were actually certified and imported legally several times. Road & Track reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger had a customized one. Mercedes at one point even imported Unimogs through Freightliner dealers, though that only lasted a few years.
Nevertheless, tracking down a Unimog is well-worth the time. And, if you look especially hard, you may be able to find a 1994 Funmog. That’s a luxurious version that, according to Car and Driver, is for “going to the disco by Unimog.” Actual name, actual Mercedes-Benz brochure quote.
But even without leather seats or wood trim, the Unimog is an amazing off-road importable truck. When you own a truck that can plow both snow and a field, conquering an off-road trail will be taking a stroll through the woods.
Toyota Land Cruiser 70
One of these is the Land Cruiser 70-Series, the successor to the original FJ40. Although North America received the slightly more luxurious 60-Series, the more rugged and utilitarian 70-Series was sold elsewhere. In fact, it’s proved so popular, it’s still being made and sold in Australia. And just like the FJ40, there’s a pickup available.
Although the newest 70-Series, as Autotrader reported, aren’t eligible for importation, older ones are. And although the US Land Cruisers after the FJ40 weren’t offered with a diesel, the 70-Series was. If the latest, close-to-$90k Land Cruisers are just a little too luxurious and expensive, a classic 70-Series may just be the importable truck for you.