Photography: Harry Wagner

Vintage is all the rage right now, from using distressed wood in home-building to growing a beard and dressing like a lumberjack. Of course, to complete the look you need a retro 4×4, like an Early Bronco, FJ40 Land Cruiser, or Jeep Grand Wagoneer. All these vehicles have skyrocketing values, but does buying one make sense for you? Despite images of sunny days at the shore that you might see on social media, there are plenty of quirks associated with classic vehicles — regardless of make or model.

For starters, they don’t always start. Older vehicles are simply made and generally devoid of electronics, trading fuel injection and adaptive cruise control for a carburetor and drive-by-wire throttle pedal. Glass fuses, miles of vacuum lines, and age itself can cause issues to surface at the least-opportune moments. If you plan to drive an older vehicle, keep some hand tools and spare parts with you. A pair of coveralls under the seat isn’t a bad idea, either. While dressing like a garbage collector might not be as en vogue as, say, dressing like a lumberjack, coveralls come in handy when the u-joint straps come loose on your driveline. Driving an older vehicle means it doesn’t come with a warranty, so plan to work on it fairly regularly. Performing your own maintenance and repairs will save you money, and give you the opportunity to gain familiarity with your vehicle. Since older vehicles are relatively simple, there’s no need to be intimidated by them.

Many consider tinkering with vehicles a relaxing pastime, and we at Off Road Adventures are among them. One caveat: it’s much less stressful to work on a vehicle when it’s not your primary form of transportation. The more often you drive and the further you go, the newer and more reliable (and comfortable) your vehicle should be. But this just applies to the pavement. On the trail, a vintage vehicle can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they tend to come with solid axles, are rugged, and smaller in size when compared to modern vehicles. On the other hand, they tend to have leaf springs, short wheelbases, and ride like a tank. Take your time and enjoy the scenery; it will be easier on both your body and your vehicle.

At this point, it might sound like we’re discouraging you from buying a vintage 4×4. Nothing could be further from the truth. We aren’t trying to talk anyone out of getting their childhood dream vehicle, but maintaining realistic expectations can be the difference between being excited about your purchase and wincing every time you get behind the wheel. Vintage 4x4s stand out in a sea of Camrys and Accords, and let people know there is more to your life than miles per gallon. They are also a decent investment; many continue to increase in value. But if you require eight cup holders and 12-volt power ports, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. And, if you don’t like getting your hands dirty, or know how to wrench on a vehicle, you’re going to be in a world of hurt. A modern 4×4, such as a Wrangler or Tacoma, might be a better choice to get you to work on Monday morning, and the trails on the weekend.