The deepest ravines, the highest mountains, the widest oceans? Ha! Kid’s play. You want to take off-roading to the max then you need to go to where there are no roads-- anywhere. The Moon. In 2019, NASA will roll out with their brand new Lunar Rover. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t already have a working prototype. When you’re on the Moon a break down can not happen, so testing and re-testing is literally a matter of life and death. The new rover, called the “Chariot”, is a six wheel drive vehicle with active suspension, a 62 mile range, and computerized navigation. Newest of all is the option of applying a pressurized cabin to the chassis complete with a pantry, bath, beds, and two space suits. Unlike the old rover, which could only travel a few miles, the Chariot will be capable of being off on its own for up to two weeks. Impressive indeed.
Most RV companies brag about what you get to take with you. Unicat, however, brags about where you get to go. Founded in Europe over 25 years ago, Unicat is a company that creates RV’s based on high-end, off-road trucks, and military vehicles. The interiors are surprisingly pleasant, while the exterior has an appearance that would give any other vehicle pause. The Unicat is not about driving down the highway and pulling into an RV park. The Unicat is about driving off into the wilderness where no one goes, and taking your beautiful home with you. Prices in the United States range between $400,000 to $600,000.
Located in New Hamburg, Ontario, Canada, Ontario Drive & Gear Limited is responsible for an amazing little vehicle called the Argo. This amphibious off-roader comes in both 6x6 and 8x8 models. Yep, that means each Argo has either six or eight fully powered wheels. The Argo is completely amphibious without need for any modification to drive straight from a field and onto a lake. Both 6x6 and 8x8 models seat six people on land and four while afloat. Accessories include everything from a convertible top, to tank-like tracks for the toughest terrain. There’s even a fully amphibious trailer.
High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle. Also known as a HMMWV, or “Humvee”, “Hummer”, or for the civilian version, “H1”. During Operation Desert Storm, in the early 90’s, civilians got their first real taste of the US Military’s “Humvee” and they wanted one. It wouldn’t be much later in 1992 when the first civilian model rolled off the line and was purchased by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Civilian Hummers are amazing vehicles. Their wide stance makes them ridiculously stable. They are capable of fording through waist deep water without a snorkel, and they can climb over a step almost two feet high.
The drive-train, brakes, and many other components are specially fitted up inside the vehicle to protect them and allow for an immense 16 inches of ground clearance. Steep gradients are also no problem for the Hummer whether going up or down hill. The vehicle was produced until 2006 when emissions laws no longer justified the costs. Suggested retail price in 2006 was $129,399 to $140,796. Today, the Hummer division of General Motors still produces the H2 and H3, sports utility vehicles built along the same vein as the legendary H1, but without the military heritage.
It is the ultimate off-road vehicle. Period. Mainly because it can drive over, if not through, every single other vehicle on this list. Tanks first came into service in World War I by the British in hopes of breaking the stalemate created by trench warfare. The term “tank” comes from the British referring to the vehicles as “water tanks for the Russians” to throw off spies. But enough history; can you actually drive one, let alone own one? Around the world, there are several tank ranges where one can pay to drive a tank over hills (and cars). Owning a tank is a different matter. Buying a tank is simple enough. It’ll probably cost you the same as a Mercedes-Benz or BMW luxury sedan. If you live in the United States, however, the trick is getting your new toy into the country. Obtaining an import license for a tank will be tricky to say the least. Other countries, on the other hand, just flat out don’t care. You could even get away with driving your kids to school in one, like one guy does in the Czech Republic.
Who needs wheels when you’ve got a cushion of air? The idea for a hovercraft had been toyed with since the beginning of the twentieth century. It even went into limited use for the military and civilians as they both experimented with its feasibility. These trials went on throughout the first half of the twentieth century, culminating in a hovercraft crossing the English Channel on the 50th anniversary of the first cross-channel flight. Three years later, the segmented skirt would finally be invented solving all of the hovercraft’s problems. Hovercrafts are now used as ferries as well as military transports. But to heck with that, we want one of our own. Personal hovercrafts can easily be ordered online for a few thousand dollars.
Take a nitro-injected, thousand horsepower V8 engine, bolt it onto a pair of truck axles sporting large off-road tires, then tie it all together with some welded tubing, and you’ve got yourself an Icelandic Jeep. Iceland is known for its volcanic landscape full of gullies, hills, and glaciers. The whole point of these custom made vehicles seems to be to just lob them at the countryside, in a desperate search to find out just how much they can take before they break. It gets even better though. Between the enormous horsepower and huge tires these jeeps are able to drive across water. Now sure, monster trucks and even the previously mentioned Argo will float across water. The thing is, Icelandic Jeeps don’t float. If the engine stops spinning the tires at maximum RPM the jeep will sink like a brick. Suffice to say, it takes guts to drive your jeep on water.
To finish up this list, a special salute must be given to the grand-daddy of all off-road vehicles, the Willys MB, more commonly known as the World War 2 Jeep. Referred by many as “The hero of World War II” the Jeep served with every allied army in every conceivable role in every theater of the war. General Eisenhower himself cited the Jeep as one of the key tools that won the war. Quite a resume, quite a reputation, and quite a foundation for all of the off-road vehicles that would follow.