Outdoors Cars Redux

Eric Sharp points out that U.S. automakers seem to pay less and less attention to features that might appeal to those actually participating in outdoors activities like hunting and fishing, and suggests that there’s plenty of room for lower-priced, well-thought-out designs. Remembering a recent auto show, he says “Why not build a vehicle that’s really designed for outdoors people and instead of tarting it up with leather seats, high-end stereo systems and similar useless bling, give us stuff we can really use while keeping the price down.” In the Detroit Free Press.
Sharp’s comments reminded us of last spring’s terrific article by Kit Kiefer in The New York Times about the 1940s Nash Airflyte and its connection to humorist Ed Zern. “Fly-fishing in the Catskills was the preferred sport of the outdoor writer Ed Zern, and the Au Sable was where Nash’s chairman, George Mason, persuaded Zern in 1950 to write the ads that did as much for Nash’s reputation as an outdoors vehicle as its comfy convertible beds.”

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  • Brian

    In a word, profit.
    I’ve had this same discussion with a number of auto salespeople. Seems the manufacturers feel there is no profit in a simplified vehicle designed to satisfy the whims and needs of the true outdoorsman. Rubber floor coverings instead of carpet? Sorry, not available. Bench seat instead of buckets? Nope, not on this model. Simplified interiors with crank down windows? Check with another dealer. Beefed up off-road suspension? Not an option this year.
    Heck, most pickups and SUVs can’t even be special ordered by individual customers in a simplified configuration. Even if they can, many dealers don’t want to be bothered. No profit.
    Your best bet is to try to find a truck or SUV that was ordered as part of a large fleet buy by a customer that spec’d out the stripped model. Many of the dealers who do a lot of commercial fleet sales will have one or two of these on the lot.
    And yet, I still maintain there is a market for a simplified, lower cost 4wd (or even 2wd with a limited slip differential) that is purpose built for hunting and fishing trips. There is a reason old Suburbans, the original Broncos, old pickups and old Land Rovers are so popular as backwoods rides – they meet the need. Relatively inexpensive, easy to fix and maintain, easy to operate and originally designed to effectively haul stuff off road.
    So come on auto makers – take a break from designing 600 mph electrics and gas sipping hybrids. Make us a simple, rugged and effective off road vehicle that doesn’t cost as much as a vacation home!

  • Marshall Cutchin

    Interestingly, the Explorer tops the cash-for-clunkers trade-in list. Imagine if that car had been designed for true utility instead of as a “concept car” for baby boomers.
    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/08/the-suv-is-officially-dead-as-explorer-tops-cash-for-clunkers-trades/

  • Ben Fuller

    There is a answer to your problem. The Toyota FJ cruiser is spot on to what you are looking for if you are traveling w/less than 2 people. Rubber floor mats, 4×4, beef-up suspension, it has most of what your looking for w/really only on problem, length. Length works in your favor when it comes to mobility but not storage so if your the type that doesn’t pack alot of gear it’s golden.