Off-Road Vehicles: A Brief History
Innovative minds and modernization have been the catalyst for the astounding number of off-road vehicles that are available on the market today. Rock crawlers, rally trucks, ATVs, and sand rails are just a few of the enormous amount of options out there. It doesn’t matter if you want to drive through snow, sand, mountains, or mud, there is an off-road transportation method designed specifically for that terrain. So who do we give credit to? Who do we have to thank for the UTVs and ATVs that we enjoy today? A common narrative is that we have “redneck ingenuity” to thank. Another is that we should be patting the backs of high-thinking engineers. Though both of those groups certainly deserve some credit, the truth is found in looking even further into the past – to 20th century Russia, in fact.
The development of the first off-road vehicle is often attributed to a Russian man named Adolphe Kegresse. This early model made use of a caterpillar-style track. The belt was flexible so that it could be customized to fit either a truck or car. Think of a much larger ATV track kit (much larger). This early Russian off-roader really began to gain some traction when, in 1917, Kegresse went back to his homeland in France after the Russian Revolution died down. He found success when multiple expeditions found funding and used his model, mostly in Africa and Asia. In the beginning, the technology he developed was used for things like big rigs meant for traversing the Antarctic terrain. Around the time World War II ended, Kegresse’s concept skyrocketed when the military made available a large amount of fantastic off-road vehicles. People began purchasing 4-wheel drive machines, like Jeeps and a few other vehicles of the light-duty variety. Very soon people began modifying and customizing them as a hobby. This was the time when recreational use of off-road vehicles started.
It turned out that these vehicles acquired from the military, almost all of which were once used for war purposes, didn’t last long. Customer demand surfaced and a market niche was born wherein numerous amounts of manufacturers – Mitsubishi, Nissan, Land Rover, Toyota, Jeep – starting to build and sell 4x4s (albeit light duty). Other companies joined the party over time, but those 5 were the first.
After these automakers got into the off-road vehicle business on the ground level, other companies during the second wave (so to speak) decided to make the vehicles more appealing by adding aspects of luxury. Accessories like radio, air conditioning, and more spacious seating arrangements become not only popular but commonplace during the 60’s and 70’s when Chevy and Ford got into the game.
Fast forwarding to today, the customization options are virtually endless. Anything that you could ever want to be added or built into your machine is likely possible. Many off-road vehicles are legal to drive on traditional roads as well. Many people use UTVs and ATVs to take their kids to practice, pick them up from school, or haul a Christmas tree on top of all the recreational riding. Modern technology along with innovation and the love of riding means that all off-road vehicles continue to get better and better with every passing year.
A Brief History of Off-Road Vehicles