8 1970s and 1980s SUVs to Buy Right Now

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For a long time, older SUVs were just that: Old. They got used and abused, and ended up horribly modified and trashed. But in 2018, vintage SUVs are picking up steam in the collector market.

McKeel Hagerty is Hagerty Classic Car Insurance, a leading provider of insurance for vintage vehicles. There probably isn’t another entity in the country that has a better handle on the actual value of an older vehicle, because its has to pay out claims when something goes terribly wrong.

In a recent interview with Automotive News, Hagerty pointed out that older SUVs are the fastest-growing segment in classic vehicles. “I don’t really have the best term for this; you could call it vintage SUVs, or you could call it earlier off-road vehicles,” he told Automotive News. “But obviously, the Broncos, International Scouts, Jeeps, Land Rovers, that whole class of earlier four-wheel-drive vehicles seems to be among the hottest growth segments at the entry to midlevel.”

Hagerty suggested that the reason for the sudden growth in interest is that these vehicles are “inexpensive, plentiful and easy to work on,” but there’s a lot more to it than that.

1970s SUVs has a long shelf life. The third generation Ford Bronco, for example, went sixteen years with only relatively minor cosmetic changes. Even the second-gen Bronco (below) — which was only around for two years — sold like crazy.

The second generation Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Jimmy hung on from 1973 all the way to 1991, four years after the pickup it was based upon moved to the GMT400 platform. As a result, several generations of kids spent their formative years banging around in the back seat of these trucks, making them appealing to the Baby Boomers who originally purchased them, Gen X’ers who were the first generation of kids to ride in them, and millennials who caught the tail end of their popularity.

Another reason for their popularity is how frequently they seem to pop up in popular culture. If you get a catalog in the mail from any outdoor-oriented clothing product around the holidays, there’s a better than even chance that the catalog is going to feature a vintage Bronco, Jimmy or Scout II.

We’re primarily going to focus on the SUVs that Hagerty was talking about in this Automotive News story, meaning pickup-based, two-door, four-wheel drive sporty utility vehicles from 1970 to 1985 or so.

That doesn’t mean that Jeep CJs or their competitors — the IH Scout 80s and 800s, the Land Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers of the world — aren’t worth preserving. They most certainly are. And yes, there were tons of pickup-based two-door SUVs built after 1985, but they’re all pretty much the same as those that came from our 15 year time period.

Second Generation Chevrolet Blazer/GMC Jimmy (1973 to 1991)

Blazers and Jimmys are exactly the same vehicle, with a few interchangeable trim pieces differentiating the two.

There are a few major differences in the Blazer/Jimmy’s 18 year life span that make a pretty sizable difference in how much they’re worth. The first two full years — 1973 to 1975 — had full removable fiberglass hardtops that extended all the way to the windshield. The hardtop made up the top half of the door frame, as well, so when the tops were removed, the driver and passenger were open to the elements.

That changed for the 1976 model year. From that point forward, the hardtop over the driver and passenger was steel and non-removable. Only the back half over the rear passengers and cargo area came off. It makes the first two years more valuable than any of the later versions.

The next big transformation was in 1981. 1973 to 1980 Blazers are known informally as “Roundeye Squarebodies,” because of their single round headlights. In 1981, the design moved to single or stacked dual rectangular headlamps. Later, the design changed again to more emulate the GMT400 pickups that arrived in 1988. In general, Roundeye Blazers and Jimmys are worth a bit more, but that’s not a hard and fast rule.

This 1974 Jimmy, with its fully removable top and in decent overall condition, is pretty fairly priced at $17,500.

Second Generation Ford Bronco (1978-1979)

After the Jeep CJ-like first generation Ford Bronco (which also had a long run from 1966 to 1977), the second generation Bronco arrived as an answer to GM’s popular (and cheap to build) Blazer and Jimmy twins, which launched in 1967.

These second generation SUVs were only around for two short years, but they were an instant home run. Ford wasn’t ready to launch its new F-series platform in 1977, so it struck while the iron was hot and introduced the Bronco on the old F-series chassis, creating an instant home run. In its first year of this design, Ford sold 77,000 Broncos, five and a half times the number of first generation Broncos it sold in 1976. The second year, it topped 104,000 sales. In the next generation, Bronco sales were brisk, but never came close to that record year.

As a result, even though the second-gen Bronco was only available for two years, there are still a whole ton of these trucks around. They’re getting more expensive by the minute, though, especially in nice condition. This example is priced at $19,995.

Third Generation Bronco (1980 to 1996)

The third generation Bronco launched concurrent with the all-new F-Series that hit the streets in 1980. It was a much more modern truck, with boxier sides and a more upright grille than the truck it replaced. Inside, the Bronco started to be more — well-appointed, we guess is a better description than “luxurious.” More luxury would come late in the Bronco’s run when trims like the popular Eddie Bauer signature editions came along.

From 1980 to 1986, the trucks were largely unchanged, identified by their rectangular, sealed-beam headlamps. In 1987, a redesigned Bronco arrived with something resembling “aerodynamics,” including composite headlamps and a smoother bumper. That design lasted until 1991, when the Bronco received another redesign, reducing the size of the headlamps for a sleeker appearance. This design — the “OJ Bronco” — stuck around until the end of Bronco production in 1996.

Clean, inexpensive third generation Broncos are getting harder to find. This one is priced at $11,995, which might seem expensive until you try to find one cheaper.

International Harvester Scout II/Traveler (1971 to 1980)

The original Scout 80 and 800 were like the first generation Ford Bronco, in that they were Jeep CJ competitors, rather than full-sized SUVs. In 1971, International Harvester introduced the Scout II, based on its all-new line of pickups.

To give an idea of how different the automotive industry was in the 1970s — and possibly why International Harvester eventually got out of the consumer market — the Scout II was available with five different engines when it launched. Engine choices ranged from a 196-cu.in. four-cylinder to either a 232- or a 258-cu.in. inline six, to two V-8s in 304-cu.in. and 345-cu.in. sizes. By 1976, you could also order a four-cylinder diesel engine supplied by Nissan.

Scout IIs are pretty rare today, but they sold surprisingly well in the early years. Between 1971 and 1973, International Harvester sold 300,000 Scout IIs. By the end of its run in 1980, I-H sold about half a million Scout IIs.

The Traveler version of the Scout II introduced in 1976 had a full fiberglass top, but it also had a longer wheelbase, adding 18 inches between the trailing edge of the door and the leading edge of the rear wheel arch.

Scout IIs are not cheap anymore. Nearly every entry in Hemmings Motor News was presented at more than $20,000. This slightly modified version was one of a few under $20,000.

Jeep Cherokee (1974 to 1983)

The Cherokee was the two-door version of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Jeep had previously offered a two-door version of the Wagoneer between 1963 and 1967. It reintroduced the two-door Cherokee in 1974 as a response to the popularity of the Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy.

The whole idea was that the Cherokee was supposed to be “sporty,” in contrast to the Grand Wagoneer, which was marketed as a “station wagon.” In fact, the first time the three words “sport,” “utility” and “vehicle” were strung together, it was in a Jeep Cherokee brochure.

The crazy thing about Cherokees is that while they’re significantly more rare than the four-door Grand Wagoneers, they’re much less expensive. Apparently, full-size Jeeps have to have shelf-paper on the sides, leather in the interior and dubious build quality to be worth anything.

A recent search of Hemmings Motor News reveals a beautiful 1974 Cherokee priced attractively¬† under $10,000. A similar search of Grand Cherokees reveals pages of examples listed between $35,000 and $49,000. This isn’t going to last forever.

Dodge Ramcharger/Plymouth Trailduster

The Dodge Ramcharger and the much more rare Plymouth Trailduster were based on the good-looking Dodge D-Series pickups introduced in 1974. Mopar beat Ford to the full-sized SUV punch by four years and sold a good number of these SUVs while the gap at Ford existed.

The roof design of the early Ramchargers was unique. The top was removable like the Bronco and Blazer, and it extended all the way to the windshield header, too. But instead the top incorporating the doorframe like the Blazer (which was more complicated and led to misalignment issues) the Ramcharger used a conventional D-Series door, and the window frame stayed in place when the top was removed.

Unique to the Ramcharger, the hardtop was optional. If you ordered a bare-bones Ramcharger, it came with a soft top. The optional hardtop was also constructed of steel versus fiberglass. Dodge pitched it as an advantage because it was not only available in black or white textured finishes, but could also be ordered in body color.

In 1981, the Ramcharger underwent a design change, and with it went the removable top. The fixed top featured a full rear hatch that incorporated what would be a traditional pickup-style tailgate. It offered the advantage of some weather protection when it was in the up position.

Today, Ramchargers are relatively hard to come by, but they’re not terribly expensive. This example from Michigan is listed with a reasonable price of $11,900.

Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at BestRide.com.