Many years ago all cars were very simple: an engine drove a gearbox which in turn moved a few gears in a differential or two, which resulted in the wheels that were in contact with the ground pulling the car forwards or backwards depending upon the whim of the driver. This was before the modern era of ABS, ABD, ETC and many other electronic “assistances” that help to seemingly make us all splendid drivers, especially off road.
I teach many drivers the skills needed to enjoy off road driving, both in Great Britain and abroad and I am often asked which of the many off road cars “is the best”: there is no answer really. This is because at the end of the day the most important “nut” is the one behind the steering wheel, even if the car is bristling with the most up to date electronics, locking differentials and a couple of thousand horses running about under the bonnet.
My answer often surprises many and a few raise their eyebrows at the thought of it. The old cars that were built simply and often sit on leaf springs (Land Rovers, Jeeps and Toyotas) require great skill to drive across challenging landscapes and in my mind this makes them the “best to drive”. In the right hands these underpowered machines, without many gears and definitely not a locking differential in sight, will go where a modern car with its assisted systems will do. If you can drive off road then old cars like these will confirm that you can or kick you in the teeth if you are found wanting.
This picture of my Old Faithful Land Rover Series 2a, which my brother Manley and I won two Warn Challenges in and enjoyed an adventure to Morocco, is one of my favourites. I remember getting my feet wet as the ford got deeper and the water poured in, but that was all part of the fun with these old cars.