Road-tripping is the great American summer vacation. There are few people who don’t have fond childhood memories about piling into the family car and heading off into the sunset for adventures unknown. There are some great choices for classic outdoorsy vehicles you can road trip to your next destination, especially if you plan to hit up some campsites along the way.
What Does Your Road Trip Look Like?
There are many ways to road trip or caravan, and your choice of classic vehicle is going to depend on how you will use it. Will you be road tripping with friends? Are you taking the family across the United States for a Disney World vacation? Thinking about finding the best camper to go with your fabulous classic car so you can fit in some camping?
Your classic vehicle should speak to your personal comfort and style; after all, who doesn’t love the feeling of others staring in envy as they cruise on by in their choice of perfectly restored classic vehicles.
1. 1969 Pontiac Firebird
I grew up in a time when pony and muscle cars were “the” cars to drive, and for good reason. I took many road trips in my beautiful “Bird.” Pile in a couple of friends, and this gorgeous, roaring machine turned heads everywhere we went. With its high-performance V-8 400, 4-barrel, pushing 325 horsepower, you could hear her purr before you ever saw her sleek lines. The 1969 Firebird was available in hardtop and convertible styles with bucket driver and front passenger seats; a typical bench seat in the rear; a wood-grain dash; and generous trunk space.
2. 1995 Volvo 850 T-5R
According to Car and Driver, the more family-oriented “Flying Yellow Brick” has much to offer a more sedate lifestyle. While it may not be fancy, it hides some powerful secrets; the T-5R wagon sports five-passenger capability, a 20-valve, 2.3-liter, five-cylinder engine, and it blazes through to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds! Not that I’d dare to take it down to the quarter-mile track and have a go, but nothing to sneeze at for sure. This wagon is tough, with anti-roll bars, tauter shocks, and precision steering, making it a solid choice for the family. Now all you need is one of the best campers in the world to tow along behind all that power!
3. Honda Element
The 2003-2011 Honda Element, with its 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, was a compact crossover SUV perfectly modeled as an outdoorsy vehicle for an active lifestyle, so it naturally made our list for one of the best outdoor vehicles for adventurers! It unfortunately never gained traction because of its, well, boxy, “van-like” qualities. But those exact qualities make it such an impressive vehicle for an extended road trip!
A lot of thought went into the design. Dirt, mud and debris are no problem with the Honda Element’s industrial floor liner in the completely flat cargo area. And it can hold all that outdoor equipment in the surprisingly large space. The rear seats are removable, and you can configure the space into a sleeping area for a camping couple. For more camping fun, a AWD option was available, and it came with a standard rear sunroof.
4. 1969 Mercury Marauder
This beefy, aggressive-looking machine was billed as a high-performance ride with a side of luxury for the driver who wanted to have his cake and eat it too. A 390-cubic-inch, V-8 engine came standard with a 427-cubic-inch, V-8, Super Marauder option offered in models after 1964. Other options included bench- or bucket-style front seats; a matte-finish deck and cove lid for that extra flash; and a leather and vinyl interior for superior style. This is a premium machine that offers all the power and comfort you could ask for in a car that can tow a camper for that perfect getaway vacation romp to Yellowstone National Forest!
5. 1970 Dodge Challenger
No road tripping car list would be complete without the Dodge Challenger on it. Not only is it a drop-dead, gorgeous ride, but it’s bold and has the grit for some serious power. The base model of this ride came with two powerful options: an inline V-6 or a V-8 engine. The swanky SE model has a 3.7 L, straight six engine with options all the way through 7.2 L, V-8 engines. There is absolutely no shortage of performance here!
6. 1967-79 Type 2 Volkswagen Mini Bus
Yep, it just has to be said. The VW minibus. Just the thought of this classic road-tripping vehicle from days gone by brings thoughts of peace and love, of hippies and Woodstock. From your straight cargo van type to the more personalized with pop-up tops, these were the forerunners of the modern cargo and passenger vans you see today.
But, if we are to be really honest, the VW Bus is the symbol of counterculture in the U.S. It was popular because of the sheer amount of cargo and people it could hold. It was roomy, with rear-wheel drive and an air-cooled 1.1 L, flat-four, rear-mounted engine, but power wasn’t its forte. However, it was an inexpensive and economy-loving alternative to the family station wagon. But as cool as having a minibus is, you’d better get familiar with some basic maintenance if you plan on taking this one on long road trips. It’s not like today’s vans that you can jump into and just go without a thought.
So, there you are, some great outdoorsy vehicles to pull the best campers with or just to ride in style down the road. Everyone’s needs are different, so this eclectic mix should give you some options to think about for your next classic road-tripping car. Jump in, have fun, and just cruise down the road!
Guest post from Tim Setterfield