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Here's Why The 1970s Were A Golden Era For Off-Roaders

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Gif: Nick Wardley (YouTube)

The ’70s was hardly a high point for automotive technology. However, it was a formative era for recreational four-wheeling. While practical SUVs like the Bronco, Blazer, Scout, and Range Rover were getting good; old army Jeeps and other simple-but-stout 4x4s were extremely cheap and readily available.

At a time before a lot of land use restrictions, all that made for some great wheeling.


Jalopnik reader John U. showed me this video he found on the LR4x4 forums, uploaded there by user Nick 1. It’s a recording of the BBC show Wheelbase, which was the predecessor to a program you might have heard of called Top Gear.

In this Wheelbase episode, host Michael Frostick brings us to a “hillclimb rally” in Wales, the likes of which people apparently hadn’t really seen before. His impressions are a classicly British combination of befuddlement and reserved amusement. But the action looks awesome. And, I dare say, the cinematography’s pretty damn impressive considering how many far-away shots they got in bumpy conditions.

The “race,” such as it was, looks like a run-what-ya-brung showdown between 4x4s that would have been pretty cheap at the time, plus the then-new Range Rover in the mix.


There are no 40-inch tires, no LED lights, and no GPS systems here. But there is a whole lot of sending it. Just people, stick axles, and strong guts.

I’m a little jealous of the folks in these clips, driving off-road in an era when the sport was new, the technology was simple, and restrictions were minimal. It must have been incredible to find the limitations of these machines in real time, when vehicles were just capable enough to get you into trouble and everything had to be learned the hard way.